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Another ashiwaju yet

*Samsons on the field
*Another pulpit yet

By Bisi Lawrence
At the demise of Chief  Obafemi Awolowo, the  Yoruba people were not entirely without a leader capable of  stepping  into  his  shoes. As  a matter of  fact, there seemed to be a surfeit of capable leadership claims. Awoists of  various  hues and colours  were already poised  to pick up the august mantle, but they lacked the will necessary to drape it over their shoulders.

That effort required the popularity, the track record, the acknowledged sagacity of  the sage and his innate charisma. It was a daunting proposition. There  was  simply  no one who combined the age, the experience and the spread of  the followership to instantly emerge to succeed “the leader”.

Eventually, Chief Ajasin appeared to fit the bill, but only in certain areas. Anyway, he was eminently qualified in respect of age and political experience, though more sentiment than practical foresight was involved. The truth was that Awo did not seem to have considered  the quality of   his successor as part of   his success. He was the Ashiwaju, the Leader, with a great following, but scant followership.

In the absence of  a strong and viable leadership, the position of   the Yorubas suffered in the placing of ethnic groups in respect of  influence and power. The Unity Party of Nigeria,UPN, which he led, began to feel the harshness of  being in the wilderness of a lean opposition entity in the federation.

The so-called cultural group, Afenifere, gradually  assumed  more  and  more political strength, from being just an alter ego. The Afenifere, of course, has always been a politically designed body. It was, in fact, a Yoruba representation  of  the UPN and the two titles were interchangeable in several shades of meaning.

All the same, there was no leadership on the scene that could uplift the sprit of  the Yorubas, in the way Awolowo had done with first, the  Action Group, and then the UPN. Members of other cultural units openly dared them in on their own territory, particularly in Lagos, whose indigenity to Yoruland had sometime had been made an issue of  in the past. The pride of  the Yoruba in their heritage was almost whittled to the bone. And then, on the scene, popped the Oduduwa Peoples Congress.

It would indeed take no less than all of an institution to replace Awo. Nothing short of  that would fully express the towering dimensions of  that titanic figure that could take on the rest of  the federation in a routine manner and thrive, as though to the manner born. The founder of  the cultural, or socio-cultural, group was a medical practitioner by profession.

He got together the prescription which first raised the hopes of  the people, and then filled them with pride. But the OPC story is  for  another day. We only  need to  underline the fact that  Dr  Frederick Fasehun provided the leadership that filled the gap left by Awo, and that offered the breather  that  was  needed  for  the people  to  rise  to their former level of participation as one of  the major tribes of  this country.

You  may  recall the episode of  the banning of  the OPC or, should one say, one of  the episodes of   the banning of  the group, since it has been banned more than once. This is the one when President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered a “shoot-at-sight” decree on the members of the group. The atrocities ascribed to the  members  had  reached  such an irritating height  that  they were not to be afforded the luxury of due process any longer.

Although  some  people disagreed  with  that seemingly extreme measure, there were others even among the Yoruba community who felt that  it was like throwing out the baby  with  the bath water. The members of   the militant group cautiously went underground. But before the order could be generally effected,  Obasanjo’s presidency was running   into severe   weather.

The OPC then emerged with their pennants fluttering in the wind, and uttered a sever warning against any circumstance threatening  the presidency. There ensued an instant calm. The OPC came out to celebrate one of its traditional festivals two weeks later, under police “protection”. That episode was just to illustrate  how  seriously the OPC  took  its self-appointed  role of the “defenders” of the Yoruba heritage. But, as earlier stated, the story of the organization belongs to another day.

It  would seem, however, that  some Yoruba elders are in search of an Ashiwaju. All they have impressed us with is that Awolowo still  has no real successor.

***Everything about  the forthcoming elections will be truly credible, because it can only happen in “Naija”. What is really  happening is like a riddle, wrapped in a puzzle and presented through a of course, the party  usually  winning. elections. We seemed to have been reassured by a pronouncement of a Supreme Court Judge  that  the political party   had  the last say as to the processes of determining the result of a primary election, whether  it be by election, selection, or endorsement.

But  it did appear that a court injunction  could  pre-empt the INEC’s  acceptance of  a candidate forwarded by the political party pending due legal action – or is it totally? Or why else is there so much jubilation in the camp of  the Obasanjos, father and daughter? There are question  marks  all over  the  place.

However, if  the party has the right  to sponsor anyone it likes, what  would be grounds  for anyone to complain  of “imposition” of candidates? We would, in  fact, have a situation clamouring for the imposition of candidates. But  that has usually been the case, hasn’t it? It used to be the done thing from the time of the Action Group, the NCNC and the Northern Peoples Congress – years before independence. It  led to several incidents of defection from one political party  to another.

It was usually the battleground on which the politician and the party vie for supremacy with, of course, the party usually winning. An outlet of  the steam generated by the friction was through the vent of  the “independent candidate, the cancellation of which we lamented here last week. With its facility, a discontented candidate would simply move away to fend for himself by self-sponsorship. But the only avenue open now is through litigation.

Even right now, court orders are being waved around and others sought  for, in consequence of INEC’s position on some issues. It  is in the behaviour of a man who would live on a roof  in order to be higher than all the structures around  him, but  thus  exposing himself to the ravages of the  elements. The  Greeks had a name for that kind of  behaviour – they called it “hubris”, which  is  loosely  translated as “excessive pride”, the type epitomized  by Samson  in  the Holy Bible.

Samsons  abound on our political terrain today. They  have clawed  their  way  up  the  political  hierarchy  by  hook on crook  massing  immense wealth as they  climb, and creating outposts of  power as they go. When  there  is a clash between  two of  them, the rivalry divides the party, and sometimes claims a victim or two.

There is a fresh wrinkle these days. They attempt  to turn it all into a family business. ‘And why not?

***One  of  our  widely  respected clergymen  recently decreed that no member of his congregation should even as much as breath same air with a certain politician, if they could avoid it, on pain of excommunication. A normally rational human being and renowned Christian gentleman, he allowed his passion to get the better of   him.

Now  we are hearing of  a Niger Delta Christian Forum  located  in Warri, going to bat for the President Goodluck Jonathan’s ticket. But beyond that, Pastor Tunde Bakare, whom  we all know, is supposed  to run  as the Vice Presidential candidate of   Muhammadu Buhari . Haven’t we enough problems?

Don’t tell  me that the church is enjoined to  pray for our leaders. I know that. But all the leaders qualify for that, not any particular one. And why should someone who is a virtual prelate of a church organization, seek a further congregation   to whom to preach. Isn’t one pulpit enough? What other message could  he  have more than that of Christ crucified.
Time out.


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