FOR three days, last week, Vintage Press, the publishers of Bola Tinubu’s THE NATION newspapers, hosted a Legislative Summit on Regional Integration, in Ibadan, regional capital of the old Western Region of Nigeria. It brought legislators from the states that make up the Southwest of today’s Nigeria.The summit, predictably, ended by demanding for a new constitution, to reorder what it described as Nigeria’s “malfunctioning system”. In more ways than one, the three-day gathering offered us an aperture into the thought process of the most advanced segments of the politics of Yorubaland and a peek into their subtle and not too disguised agenda, in the contestation for Nigeria.
Of course, looming large on the entire roadshow, was the image of Bola Tinubu, whose newspaper not only organised the event, but who, in the past decade, has become the most important politician of the old West; he literally holds sole proprietorship of the politics of Western Nigeria!
One of Tinubu’s main sidekicks, Rauf Aregbesola, the Osun state governor, became the central orchestra conductor in what was a well-choreographed display. Aregbesola, in obvious flight of exaggeration, described the conclave as “the most important gathering of the Southwest people in the post-Awolowo era (this afterall, is the era of Bola Tinubu, one could almost hear him say!)”. Aregbesola was then quoted by THE NATION newspaper, as having “directed that the printed Osun State anthem, crest and logo should be distributed to all participants”.
That was no Freudian slip, but a piece in an elaborate political jigsaw, because the Deputy Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Adetunji Orisalade, also moved a motion “for the adoption of Osun State Anthem as the regional anthem”. Orisalade went further: “The time to start integration is now. I move that we start the integration by adopting the Osun State Anthem as the Yoruba anthem, so that our children should recite it in our schools”.
Lagos State Special Adviser on Regional Integration, Rev. Tunji Adebiyi, who seconded the motion, “clarified that the anthem is the Afenifere anthem sung by Yoruba at home and abroad”. So a “Yoruba Anthem” was let lose on Nigeria and the following day, a beaming Aregbesola, on the front page of THE NATION newspaper, displayed to all “the proposed Southwest flag”.
If anybody was worried that there was something suspiciously secessionist about these moves, Rauf Aregbesola, tried to allay fears: “the push for integration should not be misconstrued as the clamour for secession from Nigeria (either because it really is or it suspiciously appears so!).
A certain Prof. Adesegun Banjo did not calm worries about the implicitly secessionist motives embedded in the gathering, with his suggestion, that the Southwest states should “devise intelligent (intelligence?) agencies (!) to help combat internal and external threats”!
There were many items on the shopping list for Southwest Regional integration, but there are also obstacles that “are not easy to remove, but with determination and skillful political efforts, including bipartisan collaborative effort with the leadership of the Southsouth, southeast and Middle Belt (where is that?) geo-political zones, which are also for true federalism, we will succeed” (well, the cat finally was let out of the bag of intrigues; the effort as ever, was always to isolate the North; that old North that is the eternal enemy for the Yoruba political oligarchy!).
If anyone thought this was not a dress rehearsal for something grand, the doubt was removed by essayist Adebayo Williams, who presented a paper at the summit and also returned to the theme in his weekly column for THE NATION ON SUNDAY, of February 19, 2012. He argued that “the Lockean contract stipulates that while people freely and willingly give up their sovereignty to an elected ruler, they have the right to demand it back when the state fails in its sacred covenant of providing political, economic and spiritual security to the people.
When and where elections become an empty ritual for the perpetuation of a debased and thoroughly debauched status quo, the situation calls for a more fundamental reorganisation of the polity before anarchy takes over”.
In the Southwest, the political elite is forcibly attempting to “fundamentally reorganize” Nigeria, almost like ZionistIsrael does, through theft of Palestinian land, and the creation of what they call “facts on the ground”! The Ibadan conclave in Williams’ summation is “the most solid and constitutional challenge to federal overlordship in Nigeria. It is a charter of freedom and the right to self-determination. If the governors and leaders (of the Region) were to give muscle and teeth to the bill, it remains to be seen how the current structure of Nigeria could withstand the tidal wave of revulsion and indignation (contrived or real!)”. And he warned ominously: “This is not to be taken lightly. Ibadan is always where it all begins and ends”. An appropriate historic tour-de-force was then conscripted to make the case.
But strip of the flanking
manouevres, a triple-track policy seems to be unfolding before our eyes in Yorubaland. Bola Tinubu is consolidating his political hold on the region, as I stated earlier, almost with his sole proprietorship of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Party.
He has been able to plant loyal sidekicks in power in the different states, with the “painfully notable exception” of Ondo State under Olusegun Mimiko. So his removal is the main agenda of the next one year, to complete the Bola Tinubu takeover and his final coronation as the Obafemi Awolowoof the new era (the imitation pair of glasses isn’t just an empty metaphor of taking possession!).
Then there is the planning for 2015; because one of the most open secrets of Nigerian politics is Bola Tinubu’s presidential ambition. He needs the complete control at home, as Launchpad for the presidential bid. The final track is the secessionist card.
It has always been an important card for the Yoruba political elite. It is one of the supreme tragedies of Nigerian life, that the most advanced detachment of the nation’s bourgeoisie, the Yoruba faction, which controls the most important levers of economic power in Nigeria’s private sector, is also the most regionalist and sectional.
A nation building agenda for this very capable and enlightened faction of the Nigerian bourgeoisie starts and ends, either in retreat to its ethnic laager or a perpetual scheming for the break up of Nigeria. These three tracks were all brought together in Ibadan, last week
If Bola Tinubu did not show up, his absence was in fact a major statement of his dominance. His sidekicks adroitly choreographed the occasion, while he made a grand return to Nigeria from a trip abroad, and was making the right noises about finding the dialogue to end the Boko Haram insurgency, as a sop to a different constituency. It was not accidental.
The man has a presidential ambition to nurse and must therefore appear to be a pan-Nigerian patriot. But back home in the Southwest, the broth is cooking, with three main ingredients thrown in, as part of an overall political agenda. There is a remarkable interconnectedness in the political affairs of the Southwest that other Nigerian political actors must sit up and endeavour to understand!