Action Group Chieftains in 1953. (L-R) Chief Bode Thomas, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola. Courtesy:

By Wale Adedayo

I would have loved to pay an amount equivalent to my salary for two years to discover the feelings of Justice Adewale Thompson in the great beyond about the ‘acquittal’ of Senator Iyiola Omisore last Friday. Given his umbilical link to the slain Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, Thompson’s views would be important in view of the roles he played in the emergence of the current political order in Yorubaland.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, Thompson was a political guru. Anyone in doubt about this should review the period immediately before and after the formation of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE). His was a networking that effectively diluted, and even polluted the hitherto mythical influence of Afenifere. Whether in the realm of partisan politics or at the level of different militant groups that claim to be in the vanguard of the Yoruba Agenda, the late icon was able to implant the YCE agenda in the consciousness of those that mattered in the South-West. It was thus not a surprise that many in the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) sought his blessings, either directly on indirectly. This was more so for PDP ahead of the 2003 general elections.

Ige’s assassination would no doubt have jolted Thompson. I was not close to him, but one wonders how he felt about the fate that befell Ige, given the many attempts by both men to ensure that the Yoruba continued to advance in all areas of life. Unfortunately, the Yoruba were seen as the worst culprits. They are not only Yoruba, but those who had a political persuasion different from that of the late Minister of Justice. They are mainly of the rival PDP, as Ige was a pillar of AD.

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And with the YCE having diluted Afenifere, thus AD’s position among the Yoruba, PDP gained an ascendancy that many among the core followers of Ige and Thompson, till date, find it difficult to understand what went wrong and why. This has been compounded with the death of Ige’s wife, Justice Atinuke, shortly after discovering how Nigeria really is during the trial of the persons suspected of being responsible for her husband’s assassination. Now, Omisore has been discharged and acquitted of Ige’s murder, thus free to enjoy the fruits of his victory as a PDP senator.

As I wrote a few days before Ige was killed in 2001, I had fears about the future of this part of Nigeria. Miscalculations have been made, and are still being made, by our elders. Irrespective of the appellation given to any organisation that Yoruba leaders belong to, there is a need for those who truly believe they want to leave an enduring legacy for the younger generation to pause and think.

Of course, one is not addressing this piece to reactionary elements who are only interested in what is good for their children and families, the people concerned are the scattered members of the Obafemi Awolowo political household. Modern Yorubaland has witnessed the fragmentation of this group at different points in Nigerian history since 1960 with effects that are far from positive, whether at the individual or communal level.

Others, with long-term objectives, have often easily exploited the differences among the members of Afenifere without anyone within the group realising it. Man is not God. Thus, no one can lay claim to being omniscient. But I doubt if Ige would have died the way he did if Afenifere had remained one indivisible entity. This pressuposes that Justice Atinuke Ige would still have been withnus, while a traumatised immediate family may not have been in the condition they are now.

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Yet, the divisions have persisted with those who know little or nothing about Awolowo’s ideals now calling the shots from the vantage positions they have conveniently positioned themselves, courtesy of the contrived enmity among teh disciples of the late sage. Interestingly, at a period when serious efforts should be seen to be put into a revitalisation of Afenifere’s political body, AD, two old men, both supported equally by supposed Awolowo disciples, are doing everything to bury the party.

What is happening? Why is it difficult for these people to see beyond the present and sheathe their swords? In a period that hitherto ‘backward’ parts of the country are making steady advances in almost every sphere of life, the remnants of those who ensured a solid foundation for the South-West are bickering over mundane issues.

But it is not too late for the intransigent few among them to change their pattern of behaviour. Irrespective of the righteouness of one’s cause, there is often a time to concede certain positions for the larger benefit of the society. What this means is that if the two sides of an argument remain adamant till the very end, the group may suffer irreparable damage. And to whose advantage will this be?

It is my pleasure to leave our babas with the following:

E fu’ra o!

Pansa of fu’ra,

Pansa ja s’ina.

Aja o fu’ra,

Aja jin.

B’onile of ba fu’ra,

Ole ni yoo ko lo!!!

*Page 313, As It Is, published by Journal Communications Limited (2006).

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