Is Yoruba Unity Threatened? Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

Since the return of the opposition to the political ladder of the South-West, all has not been well most especially between the so called progressive party which holds sway and all those who themselves as Awolowo apologists, sympathizers and adherents on the other side of the opposition. The reason for this forthright statement could be seen in the tug of war, hostile comments, ill-talk, bad blood, counter accusations and criticisms which trail any event or occassion which had to do with the Awolowos, most especially when such is organised or convened either by the Ooni of Ife or those who had lost in the political equation of that region.


Many were however surprised when sometime last year, a Pan-Yoruba Summit convened by both the Awolowo matriarch, Mama H.I.D Awolowo and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, was shunned by all the Action Congress of Nigeria leaders, governors and those whose political leanings were progressive in nature. Among the reasons given by one Ropo Sekoni was that the summit was not properly called, was shrouded in secrecy, the invitation to the meeting was not inclusive and lastly, that the meeting did not seem to have derived from wide consultations with the sub-ethnic groups which make up the Yoruba .


As an avid follower of political events in the South-West, one would agree that the Pan-Yoruba Summit held at Ikenne was one sided and only tilted towards vested interests, if the calibre of individuals and personalties in attendance was anything to go by. However, this writer is of the opinion that with all the rantings and criticisms that trailed the Ikenne path to Yoruba unity meeting, most especially from the other side of the divide, nothing was said or done thereafter to effect a change in the communique issued. It is quite easy to castigate, yet hard to proffer solutions to the myriads of problems confronting the . That was exactly what had happened during and in the aftermath of the Ikenne conference. If the ACN felt not much was done to persuade them to commit themselves towards the meeting, they would have patched up the communique with their own idea which they are known for but none of this was promoted.


Having said this, yet another of this obvious boycott of the Awolowo fanfare came up recently in Lagos, which was tagged the 2012 Obafemi Awolowo Memorial lecture. One would have thought all governors within the South-West region and their political affiliates were going to be in strict attendance simply because of their ideological affiliations with the late sage. However, only traditional rulers and politicians obviously from the main opposition party were .


It is such an irony that the crop of politicians who hold sway in the political ladder of the South-West lay claim at all times to be adherents of the late Chief Awolowo, who they believe laid a proper foundation for the region, yet turn their faces in anger when his person and all he stood for is being celebrated by either his family or die hard followers.


The event which was organised by The Awolowo Foundation saw both the Oyo and Ekiti state governors refusing to attend, though later giving reasons as ‘attendance to pressing state matters’ as excuse, while the governors of Lagos, Ogun, Osun and Edo states where conspicuously silent on their inability to grace the occassion. This action by the ruling party, its governors and leaders in the zone goes to show how far the crisis between the Awo legacy and the ACN adherents continues to deepen.


Not long ago however, Ibadan was agog with the progressive hue and leading lights of the South-West, who for three days deliberated on how the region could be returned to its heyday of development and sustainability (which surprisingly began with Awolowo). The event was the “Legislative Summit for Regional Integration” which was tagged “Achieveng Regional Collaboration for Rapid Development”. The event saw in attendance the old and new in the zone which included politicians, technocrats, university dons, captains of industries to mention a few.


At the end of the event, a communique was released and among its agenda was that regional integration and collaboration will not only translate to national economic prosperity, it will afford such regions the opportunity of benefiting from economy of scale.


This show of political wit in Ibadan, however, would certainly not be the first time such was held, for in the last seventeen years, several of it held was aimed at uniting the people and zone against regional imbalance as a result of the annulment of the June 12 election and its aftermath, the critical examination of the predicament of the Yoruba race which led to the convergance of the first Pan-Yoruba National Congress in 1993, the second in 1994, third in 1998 and fifth in 2000. The aftermath of all these congress led to the setting up of the Odua Development Council, ODC with several committees to look into past deliberations.


Today, however, all calls to unite the yoruba through a re-engineering and reconstruction agenda have led to the setting up of two different fronts, each proclaiming its own idea, yet failing to understand that their ideas are all but the same. These two fronts–the Pan-Yoruba Summit organised on the one hand by the Awo matriarch and Ooni of Ife and the Integration formula for the South-West on the other hand, by all governors and leaders of the ACN (except Ekiti) speaks of the same goal which is to actualise the authentic demands of the Yoruba within the Nigerian federation.


Failing to articulate these ideas into one and criticising each other gives the impression that all the past congress held were nothing but a farce which of course dents the pragmatic ideas of those years. This writer does not claim to be an Awolowo apologist as many might wont to believe and therefore cannot impose the Awolowo persona on the ACN, neither does this writer believe the ACN must attach itself all the time to anything that has to do with Awolowo. But the salient issue remains that if the Yoruba must progress and develop in a fast failing like Nigeria, they must forget their differences, most especially when the issue of political affiliation comes up. If we all claim to have come from Oduduwa and chant the name of Awolowo at all times as an epitome of political, economic and social progress, then it is imperative to sheathe our swords and claim our rightful place among the comity of ethnic groups struggling to outwit the other. In a where wealth, derivation and revenue sharing formula is fast becoming an issue between North and South, the West must unite and forge ahead as the champion of democracy which she has always been even though many would disagree.

Raheem Oluwafunminiyi is a social commentator and political analyst who wrote from Ibadan. He could be reached via [email protected]

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