By Yinka Odumakin
THE National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Party APC, was in the news in the past few weeks for standing up to the Lagos hegemony like a real man with good balls and eyeball -to -eyeball. He has attracted condemnations from some quarters with some of the political slaves he is trying to liberate forming what he called “rented crowds” pounding the streets and demanding his expulsion from their party.
Banire in a paid newspaper advertorial 48 hours to the council “elections ” in Lagos last Saturday explained why he is fighting: ”In the past few months APC has lost not less than four cases in the Supreme Court in which our candidates’ victories were nullified due to lack of valid primary election.
”As a democratic and a loyal party member, I state that unlike our brethren who engaged in anti-party activities at the Ondo State gubernatorial in 2016, I am not interested in the emergence of any particular candidate but the success of the party in any election. Consequently, I am not in the league of those who violate the constitution of our great party. These violators are those who ordinarily ought to be going through disciplinary process but are still indulged for now.” The APC Legal Adviser invited those he called ”rented demonstrators” to the Abuja headquarters of the party, ”and possibly Aso Villa for further demonstrations.
”At least, they have unrestricted access to peoples’ resources at present. I also wish to appreciate the protesters for helping to escalate the matter to the national level, the concept that has now developed its own life. I am not afraid of removal if my acts merit same but I know that it is the violators of our constitution that deserve to be punished. Let me remind them again that I am not a professional politician but a professional in politics. I serve the party gratuitously in the interest of good governance,” he added.
Banire’s grouse: I can identify with Banire because I was in his shoes over 10 years ago. I headed the mobilisation committee of the Action Congress in the South West at its formation. Hon. Wale Oshun and I drafted the guidelines to conduct primaries for elective offices working with Chief Bisi Akande. When it was a week to the primaries, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu called a meeting of party leaders in Lagos to the party headquarters in ACME and warned that candidates who were preparing themselves for the guidelines approved by the party were wasting their time “won a ka Whot mo yin lowo (the game would be won while you are still keeping your Whot cards).
Indeed, that was what happened. Mr. Babatunde Fashola emerged as governorship candidate of the AC without any primaries conducted. I handed over all the party materials in my care and told Chief Akande and Hon. Oshun that I was gone. Asiwaju called me and we spoke for almost an hour but I was emphatic I cannot be part of such a process. I explained to him that if Mr. Jimi Agbaje had in that process lost in a fair primary elections,I would gladly work with whosoever emerge but that my being was violently violated with impunity!
Ten years after, that impunity has grown so worse but it has produced its own seed of destruction in the resistance against it led by Banire who is more well placed than some of us 10 years ago. He had insisted the right thing be done from the time the party leadership in Lagos who occasionally speak of devolution of powers insisted they should go and pick candidates in a central place instead of the Ward and Local Council Headquarters.
That exercise ended in a fiasco as a big fight erupted at Onikan Stadium with my friend and brother Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi presiding. Interestingly, he was one of the victims of the imposition of 10 years ago I spoke about earlier. The charade continued unabated in spite of the protests that led to deaths in parts of the state of members and high profile thugs of the ruling party.The sorest point of the shenanigans was the Lagos State House of Assembly had five days to the “elections”amending the electoral law to enable parties substitute or withdraw candidates three days before the election.
Era of impunity: The amendment passed First, Second, and Third readings in the House the same day and was signed into law by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode a few hours later. The legislative process to amend the LASIEC Law came after the decision of the High Court of Lagos State nullifying the imposition of a candidate from Odi-Olowo Local Council Development Area.
The legislative disregard was to legalise the hurried primary election held in Odi-Olowo despite the fact that the time for nomination of candidates had elapsed and no new primary elections can be held by a party already in default. Added to this was the decision by the electoral body headed by a retired state chief judge that results would not be counted where people voted but at some designated centres. Even fools should not find it difficult to decode what that means.
And as if God wants a perfect storm to demolish the so-called civil society groups and “human rights lawyers” mostly domiciled in Lagos, their mouths were sealed by a glue yet to be identified as I write. All I know is that if any of these acts have been from Bukola Saraki’s Senate or Fayose’s Ekiti, they would have been foaming in the mouth! I have always believed that evil will always self-destruct only in a matter of time.
The Lagos hegemony could have succeeded in “winning” all the council seats but it has lost something bigger. That level of democratic brigandage at a time one of its prominent members is a heart beat away from the presidency is a big red flag. Is this how they would run Nigeria if they ever get a chance? It becomes more worrisome when the dot of the circumvention of the judicial decision in Lagos is connected with Vice President Osinbajo’s attempt to circumvent the Senate on Magu by adopting the “legal opinion” of Mr. Femi Falana that they should not have submitted to EFCC screening only after the nomination failed twice. That has already created a stand off between the legislature and the executive.
Banire should hold his head high no matter the outcome of the orchestrated charade in Lagos. He should not be discouraged that he could not get sufficient critical mass in this process in this atmosphere of poverty as a weapon of social engineering. The future is embedded in the present struggle which he leads to direct us to our past. He should take solace in the words of Harriet Tubman “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more, only if they knew they were slaves”.
The past I speak about is communal politics the Yoruba nation know and not the caliphate order that unsettles our land at the moment. A king is appointed for centuries in our history by kingmakers who are representatives. The most dominant political figure in the democratic dispensation that ever led the Yoruba was Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a man who respected the right of the people to choose at all times.
Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu told me in 1999 how Awo invited him and Chief Bola Ige to his Ikenne home in 1979 to appeal to them that Dawodu should step down for Alhaji Lateef Jakande in Lagos and Ige for Archdeacon Emmanuel Alayande in Oyo State. He said as they stepped out Ige asked him “Ganiyu, what is your position on what the Leader said?”and he told him it was an instruction but Ige said it was not acceptable to him.
Ige went ahead to contest the primaries with Alayande who was his principal in Secondary School and won. He became Awo’s candidate. Akin Omoboriowo was Awo’s preference for Ondo but party leaders in Ondo were for Chief Michael Ajasin and Awo accepted their choice.
In Kwara State, Awo wanted to reward Chief Joseph Olawoyin as Governor in 1983. Young Chief Cornelius Adebayo entered the race and a primary had to be conducted. CO won and Olawoyin protested. Awo ordered another primary and CO won.
At the UPN convention that followed at the National Theatre in Lagos, Awo was reading his address when he heard protesters outside. He inquired and they told him they were Olawoyin supporters “JS go out and hold the leash on your supporters, CO won you the first time and I ordered another primary which he also won, what am I suppose to do again?” thundered Awo.
That is the era Yoruba politics must return to. Where the decision of the people is respected by their leaders.It is my wish that every willing section of Nigeria key into that.