Chief Obafemi Awolowo never claimed to own Nigeria. He neither claimed to own Ikene, his place of birth nor the Yorubaland, his cherished native tribe. But going by his method of handling both private and public affairs when he was alive, it would have been better for Nigeria if he had owned it. By his owning Nigeria, I do not mean that Nigeria should have become his personal property or possession. What I have in mind is that if he was the one who had the privilege to rule Nigeria in the number of years that Col. Muama Ghadafi spent in ruling Libya, in the number of years that Mugabe, the perpetual lord of Zimbabwe had been the numero uno citizen of that country or the unending tenure of the guerilla war king, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda or Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and etcetera, Nigeria as a country would have been better for it. This is not to support the sit-tighters of Africa or to claim that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was indispensable, but to show what Nigeria as a country would have benefited from his mien as a leader considering his character, transparency, personal discipline, love for the poor, honesty and sincererity of purpose while handling public affairs and so on in the old Western Region of Nigeria. I doubt it if he will not be turning in his grave were he to look back to see how those who profess to upholding his legacy have now bastardized the vestiges of his good work after him.
This piece is not to say that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the only person that possessed the kind of intelligence and capability needed to rule to bring an enduring development to Nigeria as there are many other Nigerians who have the qualities that Chief Awolowo possessed. The problem is that if such people are willing to serve, there are so many obstacles on their way. The biggest of the obstacles is the water-tight impediment in form of blockade often created by the conservative and quasi-conservative political elite to ensure that all lovers of the hoi polloi in Nigeria do not have access to positions of leadership. The same thing they did to Chief Awolowo himself when he offered to serve Nigeria as a whole. I know that people would ask questions about the essence of his coming back if he would not be allowed to get to where he could honestly serve the people. His coming back (if it were possible) becomes necessary in order to show to the present crop of politicians how not to be self-centered and greedy; and to let them know that what separate political parties is not the difference in the names they bear but some radical ideologies some of them possess. What stood out Chief Obafemi Awolowo among the rest during his time was his political ideology – “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Even in his quest to rule Nigeria as president, he did not compromise his age-long radical principle and ideology for any political opportunism. He knew all through that politics was a game of number but still did not because of that eat his vomit. He would not allow any desperation to grab power push him to become a political bed-fellow of those who had no scintilla of sense and time for the poor masses and who have no other agenda than to serve themselves, ruin Nigeria and its future. What he did was to seek alliances with like-mind political parties and people to confront the all-time conservatives ruling and retrogressing Nigeria since independence.
In my article titled: “Where are the progressives” published in The Guardian of Monday, 13 December 2010 and in some other national newspapers and online media outfits, I wrote: “If those who have loudly been calling themselves progressives truly bear that name, why is it impossible for them to come together and form a single party? Why can they not trust one another? Why must everybody become the captain of a single ship at the same time and at all cost? Why can they not form the mega party they have so much touted to Nigerians?” What I said in that piece is loud and clear – Like-mind progressive political parties/elements coming together to form a mega political party. I even mentioned specifically names like: Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Bisi Akande, General Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Pat Utomi, Peter Obi, Babatunde Fasola, Donald Duke etc as I knew them then. In the same article, I spoke about how the Afenifere chieftains, prior to 2003 general elections and later Atiku Abubakar trusted Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to their unforgettable regrets. The then governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the only one who escaped Obasanjo’s Tsunami among all the AD southwest governors because he did not buy into Obasanjo’s antics at the time.
It is an irony of time therefore that the same Tinubu was one of the APC leaders who now went to Obasanjo to court and persuade him to join their party – APC. I cannot but pity General Muhammadu Buhari for being a member of APC as it is presently constituted. He is worried but he has no choice and that is why he has been following them everywhere they go and even receiving indirect insults sometimes with a belief that he may be selected as APC’s presidential candidate. He is a one-way man in the mist of people with two faces. In the course of time, he is going to be a lone ranger in that party even if they pick him as APC’s presidential candidate and they win the 2015 presidential election. I say this because conservative political shenanigans and latter-day progressive elements are now in a total majority in the APC. They will use their number, tactics and impeachment threat to frustrate him to tow their line. That would be “back to square one” and Nigerians no longer deserve that.
In an article titled: “Man of the Year: Olusegun Obasanjo” published in The Punch newspaper on December 26 2013, Abimbola Adelakun the author of the piece wrote: “The dog-whistling politicians of the APC chased down Fani-Kayode’s lead with their remarkable zero-ideology expansion in November. For a party that ambushed the label of “progressives” as a marketing term, the APC’s act of political opportunism –probably the worst I have witnessed in our ever-increasing monstrosity of political illogicality- shows that contrary to its self-description, it is a congress of deadwoods and recycled-to-thinness garbage” (Abimbola Adelakun, (www.punchng.com/opinion/viewpoint/man-of-the-year-olusegun-obasanjo). I think this writer may have said it all. If not for their non-compromising stance for political ideology, the late Chief Bola Ige and the other Afenifere leaders who eventually formed Alliance for Democracy (AD) prior to 1999 elections would have been pioneer members of PDP or APP and that would have absolutely consumed their time-tested political stance and ideology. By their decision, they did not win the presidency in 1999 but they won their names and integrity.
In my humble view, four of the five governors who recently decamped from PDP to APC did so because of the zoning chicanery which tends to favour them through the present APC political structure. Like the Dr Chris Ngige and Uba the godfather of the 2003 – 2006 Anambra political debacle, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is at the moment fighting the political battle of his life. He is the only one decamping not primarily for office rotational benefit but for losing his base within the structure of PDP. As they say in Yorubaland, the cane that was used to whip the senior wife is surely being kept in the ceiling and waiting for the captivating junior wife too. There is certainly no assurance that what unsettled them within the PDP that made them to flee the party will not occur in their new APC party. When it rains, it pours. Therefore, if the episode repeats itself in their present political sanctuary, they will leave again for another party or go back to their original PDP because multiple cross-carpeting has been very common among the present crop of Nigerian politicians.
Besides this, the present APC and PDP as political parties are like six and half a dozen in theory and in practice. If the academic erudite, Prof Akin Oyebode would oblige me his words, I would say the political parties in Nigeria as presently constituted represent the same beer. It is only the labels on the bottle that are different (Prof Akin Oyebode, dailyindependentnig.com/2013/12/apc-npdp-vague-future-pdp). The national conference being proposed by the federal government if properly handled by them may change what has been the negative destiny of Nigeria since independence. The prayer of somebody like me is that it removes the mushroom states system in favour of the abandoned regional system of government. To me, that is the only way Nigeria can reduce corruption and see rapid progress if true federalism is incorporated to it. If Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a strong believer in political ideology, were to be alive, he cannot as a politician, be a member of PDP six years ago, dumped it to become a card-carrying member of Labour Party three years ago, dumped that again to become a member of APC in 2013. Political prostitution through serial decamping or courting of all sorts of people is borne out of desperation, lack of principle and ideology. Chief Obafemi Awolowo would consider such a behavior as anathema and anybody claiming to belong to his political persuasion and is now found in such buffoonery is not a true disciple of the late sage.
Olusina Akeredolu is the Executive Director of Detainees& Indigent Help Center.