Dr. Frederick Fasehun is a man of distinction, both in learning and character. The Oduduwa Peoples Congress, which he founded, puts him in line for the succession to the leadership of the Yoruba people, by my reckoning.
He hardly needs to stress himself overmuch now, to defend their honour as a respectable and worthy integral part of the various nationalities, that are facing the onerous challenge of welding, or merging, themselves together into one nation.
That might be the motive for his stance on the indictment of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole. The ethnic undertones were too strident (if that is not a contradiction in terms) to pass muster.
The urge to acclaim the achievements of one’s ethnic section – or tribal unit, in plain language – while brushing aside the demerits as if they were mere cobwebs, is a general emotion shared by everyone who proclaims himself to be a Nigerian. Even those who would seriously aver that they believe in ONE Nigeria, and sincerely mean it too, still care very much about their place in the commonwealth of the federation to ensure that the tribe to which they belong can keep its image clean – or at least, relatively clean. It is a daunting task. The initial step demands that each part must close ranks to stand in unity. The fear that the other elements may claim ascendancy is constant. The efforts to save your place are continuous.
However, there are some standards of misbehaviour that are simply abhorrent. They are the very antithesis of what the Yoruba would describe as the behaviour of an omoluabi – that is a gentleman and son of a gentleman. An omoluabi would never be mentioned in connection with a dirty and ugly criminal misdemeanour involving the stealing of public funds. That is what Dimeji Bankole was arraigned for by the EFCC. Even if he was the favourite son of one’s own mother, a headlong rush to his defence might be ill advised.
But then, he still has to be proved guilty. According to the law, as we all know, until then he is innocent. Unfortunately, as we all also know, not many people are content to wait until then. They would rather allow the judgment to outpace the trial. That obviously interferes with natural justice which is based on fairness. To maintain the cause of justice, therefore, a matter that is under consideration in a court of law is ruled to be sub judice. Well, there I go again telling you something you already know all about. But would you believe, these days, that there was anything in law that puts any constraint on what may be said about a case that is being tried in court?
While the respect which is held, and even protected by the law, allows a truthful coverage of a court case in the media, comments and opinions on the conduct of the proceedings should be subdued. And to a large extent, it used to be so. But the cases arising from the past two national elections would appear to have blown the lid open. One used to squirm during the evening news on television, when counsel, both for the complainant and defendant, would step out of the court and discuss, and expatiate, on the points they had earlier made before the bench. Attorneys may indeed comment on their cases in public, but it has often been carried beyond the limit of good taste. If legal luminaries rode over the field at a trot, who could blame the ordinary folks if they indulged in a gallop?
One or two rumblings have been heard from the bench over this lapse in the past, but a louder and firmer point should be made about it. It does remove from the dignity of the law courts, as well as the sanctity of the proceedings that are therein conducted.
But, as long as the indulgence lasts, we may make bold as to take a second look at the brash statement credited to the beleaguered ex-speaker about his predicament. Let us quickly state that the remarks about which we are concerned were reportedly made outside the court of law. It is about the fact that it is his opinion that no court in the land could convict him for any and all the indictments he is facing at the moment. Could he be right?
The roar of silence in the wake of that statement, in the midst of a very articulate legal community, makes one wonder. I have been trying to find out what precisely is the substance of the immunity granted to certain officials like the President and Vice President, and State Governors and Deputy Governors. Is it that they could not be prosecuted, while in office, for any crime committed by them? Or that they could not be prosecuted for any crime committed in an official capacity while they are in office? In other words, does it mean that they cannot be held accountable for a crime they commit only while in office, but may be indicted thereafter for the same offence? Or that “no court in the land” can forever touch them? I wish someone would stop me from confusing myself any further, but please, do not do so on the distinguished steps of a courthouse.
The ancestral link from the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, running through the Action Group to the Unity Party of Nigeria and then to the Action Congress of Nigeria, has snapped. It took quite a while. After his departure, not even the charisma of the man they loved to call “The Sage”, Chief Obaferni Awolowo, could retain the tensile strength of his leadership that held the Yoruba people together in his lifetime. A new star has emerged, howbeit under the old title, Aswaju. The clouds have dispersed and Bola Tinubu now shines brightly in the political sky of the Southwest.
One could see it corning. The abandonment of Ikenne as a shrine of Yoruba leadership has now been openly demonstrated. The rest will be a history that may not fare better than its antecedents. Pardon me, and I say this as a Yoruba myself: it is in our character. So, a little bit of history.
In the olden days of regionalism at the dawn of Independence, it used to be a three-cornered contest among the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. The competition grew steadily as enlightenment spread all over the land. Those who belong to each section wanted the best for themselves. The shape of the competition has now changed with more participants in the arena, but the ambition, the desires and the mores remain the same.
The Yoruba appeared to have first caught the act through their proximity to Western civilization, enabled by the happy circumstance of the slaves who were carted away from the West Coast in the Seventeenth Century, returning in large numbers to the Western part of the country. So they were ahead of most of the other sections in the advantages of Western civilization brought back by the ex-slaves.
The Igbos, who formed the majority of the Eastern sector, were clearly disadvantaged at the beginning. But, being a hardy people, they were able to claw their way into reckoning through a grinding process of enterprise and self-denial. They discovered the importance of education early, and took every opportunity it offered for advancement.
Up North, a shroud of religion and rigid conservative traditions tended to obscure events. The educational development was muted. Social intercourse was curtailed. But everything seemed quiet on the Northern front. Yet there had been no little development all around, all the while.
Three leaders had emerged – Nnamdi Azikiwe in the East, Obafemi Awolowo in the West, and Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, in the North. Azikiwe was known as Zik in common parlance; Awolowo was known as Awo; but no one could give a nickname to someone who was greeted with a royal cognomen — rankai dede! The Sardauna remained as the royal prince of the caliphate that he was, in his own name and title. That separated him from the others in that respect.
When the time came for defining the leadership of the country, both Zik and Awo stepped forward. Only the Sardauna remained in dignified aloofness, preferring to watch over the progress of his home section.
Zik was probably more enlightened than his period, and sincerely subscribed to the idea of one egalitarian society, but he did not entirely forget to promote the interests of his people, as many of them keep claiming, especially in contrast to Awo. As far back as 1947, Zik had spoken of his ambition for the development of his kith and kin in a public lecture entitled, “Self-determination For the Ibo Nation.”. He was as true to the breast that suckled him as any other Nigerian.
The Sardauna had no problem in retaining his station. He was thus able to erect firm foundations for the self-awareness and progress of his people. The truth is that, while the Southerners were looking down on their brothers up North, the Hausas and the Fulanis were actually as literate as anyone else, though in the manner of the Arabic civilization. That helped to support the Sardauna’s project, the legacy of which has survived till this day.
But Awo, probably as a token of his faith in one Nigeria, relinquished his power base to his deputy, who subsequently supplanted him. That was from when the fracture started within the Yoruba people. Although was later able to regroup some elements of the scattered fold, it could never be the same again. The innate disloyalty in the Yoruba character had begun to fester and was sure, one day, to run like an open sore.
All the same, Dr. Frederick Fasehun’s gesture of unflinching loyalty to his heritage still makes him one of the heroes of the Yoruba race today.
And so, ‘wot’s up’, Asiwaju? Awo has played his part. Peace to his shades. Now you are in the arena. More grease to your elbow.