Interview

August 3, 2019

1966 counter-coup issues in the air again – Wale Oshun, Arg President

1966 counter-coup issues in the air again  – Wale Oshun, Arg President

Wale Oshun

…How feud between Bola Ige and Ijebu mafias divided Afenifere
…Denies lobbying to be Osoba’s running mate

By Dapo Akinrefon

  1. Wale Oshun

    Wale Oshun is National President of the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, a splinter group of Afenifere. Oshun, Chief Whip in the botched Third Republic, in this interview highlights the factors responsible for the crisis that led to polarization of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, in 2003.

He, however, insisted that the feud between the late Bola Ige and those he described Ijebu mafias led to the crisis in Afenifere and the eventual break-up of the group.

He also denied lobbying to be running mate to the former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba during the botched Third Republic. Excerpts:

Many believe that the issues that led to the July 29, 1966 counter-coup are still here with us?

Yes, if you recall, the counter-coup came on the heels of the unitary constitution which Aguiyi Ironsi brought about. I think it is decree No. 34. When he introduced the decree, the whole of North was up in arms that the unitary degree should be reversed immediately, because they would have preferred the federal constitution to be the guarding constitution for them. And it must have been one of the remote causes of that counter-coup.

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In a way the agitation which they did not spearhead, asking Nigeria to return to a real federation both in the constitution and in practice, that agitation, which is still what we have today. Now the constitution we have is only federal in name, but unitary in nature and for a country that is as diverse both in culture, religion and language; the only constitution that will work is a federation constitution.

What we have now is a unitary constitution which was what Aguiyi Ironsi introduced by decree in 1966. Now we are up in arms against the 1999 unitary constitution that is used to govern the country as at today.

Agitations have been made that the 2014 National Conference report will address the problems facing the country, do you subscribe to it?

Incidentally, I was a member of the 2014 conference.   If you take a look at the members, whether it is a cursory look or a deep contextual analysis of the composition, you will find that it was fully Nigeria that was fully represented. I am saying this not because I was a member.

The outcome of such a conference should never be dismissed. If you take a look back, the recommendations were all based on consensual agreement. Because at all stage, there was a decision, and the basic understanding that the decision should be based on consensus, and the chairman of the conference, Justice Kutigi, was very meticulous. Even when there were several uproars, he set up mechanisms that calmed the uproar. What we arrived at were decisions that will benefit the country.

Even for the very delicate issue of derivation when the oil-producing states were insisting on total derivation, the decision was ultimately taken that it should be increased to 19 percent if I can remember correctly and that there should be a spaced increment process, so that while this is ongoing, deliberate efforts will be made to pay attention by making certain allocation to support the mining of mineral which many of the states have in abundance, but cannot be exploited, so that every part of the country could become self-sustaining. So, those who are opposing the implementation of that conference decision are not helping the country. If they have taken pains to study the recommendations, they would know it is at the best interest of the country.

Let’s assume that they are opposing it because they do not like the messenger, then let us have another conference because until we have a constitution that is acceptable to all, we do not have a country. The tension that we have now, that is what will continue.

How do you see the state of insecurity in the country and what should be done?

Incidentally, the insecurity is also a consequence of the dogmatic adherence to the unitary values of the constitution wherein all the responsibility for security, financing, and modern governors are put in center that cannot work.

That is why, for instance, we are having all these security collapses, because the policing system which is for civil security is largely inadequate and it is bound to fail because it did not address the differences and diversity of the nation. Unity can only be built where there are confidence and trust, and because unity is not there, security lapses can exist.

Should the South West resort to self-defence as being proposed by some Yoruba leaders?

One thing that I know is that there is increasing complexity in the security situation in the southwest. The complexity arises from the fact that a lot of attacks take place by bandits. The first thing must be the determination to bring out the criminals from where they are in the forest. I think that is fundamental.

There must be a basic admission that only animals live in the forest.

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These attacks come from the forest, so the mode of policing must now take that new method of criminal banditry into focus.

Some Yoruba leaders argued that they were not carried along when the South West Security summit was held. Do you agree?

The Yoruba, from all works of life, were invited, and the issue is even this, how much of a discussion can take place in the summit? The responsibility of maintaining security is that of the people and the government.

What led to the AD crisis and the polarisation of Afenifere which gave birth to the Afenifere Renewal Group of which you are the National Chairman?

I have written a whole book about Afenifere. This crisis about Afenifere, I will say, started just about the time that the Presidential primary of AD was to hold. The leadership created its platform for contestation. It was meant to be a democracy, primaries were to be held and they were held and somebody emerged as the Presidential candidate for AD.

But then, in every political setting, I think the issue of precedence, the argument which late Chief Bola Ige and most of his supporters had was that there was a kind of seniority placement within the group, and ordinarily Olu Falae should not have contested for that position which late Chief Bola Ige, or that the leadership should have opted for Chief Bola Ige in preference to Falae.

But those who would oppose that would also argue that Chief Bola Ige contested against a much more senior member of the group in the person of Pa Ayalande, in the 1979 governorship election.

But whichever way, both positions were right in the sense that there has been a pattern. There is a leadership structure which allows for seniority in the emergence of aspirants and candidates, but this also has been tested. With Chief Bola Ige, it was tested with Pa Ayalande, with C.O Adebayo, it was tested with Olawoyin in Kwara State.

What happened in 1999 regarding Chief Bola Ige, was that there were several miscalculations to my mind, and Chief Bola Ige, assumed that his colleague leaders would support him much more than they would support another person, and as a result, he entered into the race and traveled out of the country. Believing that the normal trajectory of Afenifere and Yoruba politics will take over, there were changes. Olu Falae must have gone round to campaign. In a way, the preponderate went to Olu Falae and he (Ige), with his supporters, felt that he was edged out because of a conspiracy by what I called the controlling leadership. Unfortunately, the controlling leadership was seen to be much like the Ijebu mafias including Adesanya, Adebanjo, Olaniyun Ajayi, Papa Onasanya and all that.

So, you then had the organization almost polarizing into two camps. For me, that was the beginning of that major crisis and once you had a split war, this would be the result. As soon as that polarization took place, it was easy for Chief Bola Ige to make up his mind with his colleagues (Adesanya, Adebanjo, Olaniwun Ajayi, Papa Onasanya) by accepting to work with Obasanjo. While his co-leaders were against him, he was working with Obasanjo.

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The argument with some of them (Afenifere leaders) was that, if Obasanjo would offer a seat to AD, it should be to AD and AD would present somebody, not to just one of them. They were opposed to him accepting, but because there was this polarization, it was easier for Chief Bola Ige and his supporters to accept Obasanjo precision. Once you have a situation like that, in a political setting, and it is not amended early enough, you will have people now lining up depending on what they perceived to be the situation.

When you have that polarization, you had Bola Ige one side, the other leaders on the other side. Unfortunately, Bola Ige was murdered in December 2001, but because at the point of the division there were already two camps. Chief Bisi Akande, Lam Adeshina, the governor of Ondo State, Adefarati. After sometime, it got to a point where only Adefarati remained with the elders. Many times, there was a lot of throwing stones across. But some of us who were much younger then, the young Yoruba professional, we started talking to each other and we all decided to hold series of consultations. After that, we convened a meeting at IITA, in Ibadan in December 2007.

We convened a meeting at IITA, Ibadan that lasted for three days, and we had various Yoruba leaders coming to talk with us on the need for unity because the Yoruba was beginning to lose its economic strides. But essentially, the issue of reconciliation was at the heart of it.

Unfortunately, at that time, Chief Ayo Adebanjo was preparing for his 80th birthday and he granted an interview to the Guardian newspaper where he lambasted all the governors.

Those who were almost reconciling now started replying, throwing stones, which affected the unity that already existed. It was after that debacle that we now got together.

We decided that it was necessary to extricate ourselves from this continuous melee of the governors and the elders. That it will not make sense for any one of us to be drawn one way or the other, whereas, if we remain, we will be drawn into it, because people had already been drawn into it.

Not all the governors and leaders were into it, but they had been drawn into it. We started meeting, we had a series of meeting held in Kayode Fayemi’s house in Lagos and another at Bisi Adegbuyi’s house also in Lagos. We started consultations and at the end of the day, we agreed that, rather than allow ourselves to be dragged into the problems or crisis that we were not part of and we could not help to solve, since our attempt to resolve it failed, it was better we established our group. That was what led to the Afenifere Renewal Group.

But it was alleged that former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu had a hand in the ARG?

None of the former governors had a hand in ARG. If you ask, Yinka Odumakin, who is one of the most viral critics of Bola Tinubu, he will confirm what I’ve just told you.

Former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba said you moved against him over his refusal to pick you as his running mate in 1992. How true is this?

In my life as a politician, all the contestations I have had, I have always had an open mind.

Speaking about the deputy governorship slot, it is true that, when he was aspiring to be governor, those who were working with him, particularly from my own ancestral home (Ijebu), in fact Ogun East as a whole at that time had already taken a position that if the governor goes to Ogun Central, the deputy will come from Ogun East. It was the political leadership that requested me to throw my heart into the ring and I did.

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People like Otunba Igbodimpe, late Chief Odulano and quite a number of them that asked me to step in for contestation, but everybody knows that at the end of the day, it is the prerogative for the governor to pick his running mate. Nobody in his right sense should be nursing anger because he/she was not selected. In fact, in my particular case, those who invited me from Lagos to come also insisted that when Chief Osoba was intent on picking another person also insisted that I must go to the House of Rep. Because, at that time, the decision-making process, is that of a party.

Incidentally, his deputy governor at that time imported another person to come and contest that same seat with me (HOR), but because it is a democracy, nobody had any objection. But his deputy would not have done that if he did not have a hand in it, but I still went into it because it is an open contest.

I have also read where he said it was him that enabled my election as the Chief Whip in the House of Reps, which also is false. These governors are afraid of their shadows.

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