FIVE YEARS AFTER: Sunday Awoniyi’s big shoes and Okun people
CHIEF Sunday Awoniyi died five years ago aged 75 in a Londonhospital two weeks after he had an accident on the Kaduna-Abuja expressway on November 28, 2007.
But not in the minds of friends, associates and those he mentored especially among his Okun people of Kogi State, who held a three-day programme in Mopa, to mark the fifth anniversary of his demise last week.
The memorial activities began with prayers offered at Awoniyi’s grave side in Mopa, his home town, on Wednesday, November 28, followed by caring for the widows and less privileged with a visit to special persons and uplifting of the school of the deaf and dumb on Saturday. Curtains were drawn on the ceremonies at First Baptist Church, Mopa where a thanksgiving service was held on Sunday, December 2, 2012.
Awoniyi, who would have been 80 this year, was remembered variously for his contributions towards the building of the civil service inNorthern Nigeriaand a network of friends and political alliances, which endured for many years.
A Yoruba of Okun descent from the North Central; a Christian and minority, who successfully led the Muslim and majority Hausa/Fulani-dominated Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), he was also remembered for his last active days, thickened by organized resistance to the tenure elongation project of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was remembered for falling victim of the murky and vindictive Nigerian politics culminating in his celebrated exit from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which he helped in its formation.
Led by Governor Idris Wada, prominent sons and daughters of Okunland andKogiState who attended the Sunday thanksgiving service remembered Sunday Bolorunduro Ipineteyan Awoniyi as the brightest political star to have shone from the oldKabbaProvinceand as the father of modern Okun politics.
Awoniyi, many recalled, started active politics in the 1980s recruiting young politicians to help actualize his vision for the Yoruba-speaking people of the North, many of whom are still alive today.
Ideologically, the Okuns largely identified with their kith and kin in the western region which saw them embracing Action Group (AG), the mainstream Yoruba political association of theFirstRepublic.
He worked closely with young politicians he recruited during the formative stages of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC). His followers testified to the fact that he did not hide his feeling that he believed that the Okun people must belong to the core politics of the North and that to do that, they must distance themselves from the politics of the South-West. He came under severe criticisms for his efforts in this regard.
However, under his leadership, his group produced theThirdRepublicgovernor and deputy governor of the newly createdKogiState, in the abortedThirdRepublic, precisely 1991.
Despite these electoral successes, left wing politicians don’t agree that Awoniyi succeeded in drafting Okun people from the left political leaning of the core Yoruba to the right wing Northern political leaning. Awoniyi, they agree, became an institution by his nationalist attributes, which go beyond his role in Okun politics.
Okun people are republican by nature and would readily reject the modus operandi of any north-based conservative political movement as antithetical to the world view of the Okun nation.
It did not matter to them that ACF which Awoniyi led is not an ethnic organization. It is not peculiar to any ethnic group.
Therefore that Okunland has never been close to ACF was what the late former super permanent secretary learned to live with.
Some of the prominent Okun persons the late Awoniyi influenced their rise in their chosen careers included late Acting Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ahmadu Sheidu, Dr. Roland Adeleye and Dr. Eyitayo Aiyetoro, both former federal commissioners among others.
RALPH OMOLOLU GBANA is media assistant (Research & Documentation) to Kogi State Governor Idris Wada.