*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.