Introduction: When the West first went wild I was a year old. The politics in the west in the first republic was quite controversial with sundry narratives woven around ethnicity, Chief Awolowo’s dictatorship and inter-personal squabbles. The controversy is by no means over today. Fundamentally, why a study of Western Nigeria on the eve of the centenary of the amalgamation of the peoples of the western quadrant of the continent? My sense is that there is an ideological disorientation and a surrender to neoliberal politics. Secondly, there is a pervasive avarice among the politicians and their followers that is counterproductive to the goal of development. Thirdly, Western Nigeria is news, an event in the social order called Nigeria, always pointing up hitherto unimagined possibilities. Fourthly, and above all, it has an epistemological value as a controversial subject with potential for extending the frontiers of knowledge. I am equally aware of the class content of the social sciences especially in the interpretation of social realities. Therefore, I pose my second question: how best may this subject be approached? I choose the perspective of emancipatory politics. Politics is a social science endeavour and is often interpreted by bourgeois social science from a particular prism which is to strengthen its class position in the relations of production. Hence, as Gavin Williams rightly observed, “bourgeois social science emphasized then, as it continues to do tribalism or communalism, the need for national integration, and the disinterested pursuit of development by government and aid agencies. These themes represent, in an ideological fashion, the forms of political rivalry among the bourgeoisie, the problems of consolidating bourgeois class hegemony and imposing state control over the population, and the obstacles to the development of capitalist production in a neo-colonial society. Research in the social sciences is explicitly intended to provide governments and international agencies the information to carry out the goals of ‘development’. These goals are rarely subjected to critical scrutiny, nor are the capacities of government agencies to achieve these goals, or the interests which development agencies serve, critically questioned. “
So politics for me is emancipatory politics—for the empowerment of the toiling people of society. Its constituting elements are expressed in Amilcar Cabral’s conception of the national liberation which inheres in a people’s capacity to free themselves from the strictures of imperialism coextensive to inalienable rights of the people to own its own history. As he puts it in his Weapon of Theory, “We have also seen that this freedom alone can guarantee the normal development of the historical process of a people. We can therefore conclude that national liberation exists only when the national productive forces have been completely freed from every kind of foreign domination.” Emancipatory politics seeks to free the people from ‘magical consciousness’ which according to Paulo Freire “…simply apprehends facts and attributes them a superior power by which it is controlled and to which it must therefore submit. Magic consciousness is characterised by fatalism which leads men to fold their arms, resigned to the impossibility of resisting the power of facts.” This is to be replaced with critical consciousness which account for reality in their causal relationship in ways that humanity is able to emerge from the margins of prehistory. Emancipatory politics foregrounds the people and holds them as the centrepiece of development. It is counteractive to reactionary forces who collaborate with external force to arrest the cause of national development. It is in the words of Sean Sheehan “committed to a world not run by private profit” and thinking towards the liberation of the oppressed out of the existing unity or social order. It is from this perspective I attempt an overview of politics in Western Nigeria and draw lessons for today’s politicians/state actors.
In the Beginning: Between Power, freedom and Development
I begin this section by asking a question: was there a Yoruba nation/ consciousness before 1950? Did the sub-nationalities, namely, the Ijebus, the Ijeshas, the Ekiti, the Oyo, Egbas, and Egbados among others see themselves as one people? No! As Ade Ajayi and Samuel Akintoye rightly observed, “By 1800, though the Yoruba, were one people they were not always conscious of themselves as such” (emphasis mine). There were sub-national rivalries among the peoples of western Nigerian. Beginning from the 1800 onwards, the old Oyo was under pressure from the Fulanis in the north and Dahomey hordes from the west against a much earlier rebellion by General Afonja. The threat of the Ilorin forces led to an exodus of the peoples of old Oyo mainly southwards. This led to the emergence of new settlements, namely, Ibadan, Ijaye and Abeokuta among others. Sub-national rivalries further engendered the sixteen years war (1877-1893) in which the Ibadan and Ekitiparapo, Ijebu, and Egba forces were major players which ended with British pacification of yorubaland. From 1861 British took control of the Lagos colony and subsequently the entire south west. Without British colonization, it is probable, as indicated by the shifting alliances and treaties, that the Yoruba people would have on the basis of treaty evolved into multiple nation-states as a parallel to the Westphalia Treaty of 1648 which resolved the thirty years war in Europe. As an outcome, the Ekitiparapo, Ibadan, Ijebu and possibly Egba would have emerged as independent nations. However, old wounds of war nurtured distrust and fear of domination among the various sub-nationalities of the people. As not by Richard joseph, what “remained unresolved through Pax Britannica, and after a quarter of a century of independent government, was the absence of stable hegemony among the Yoruba dating back to the collapse of the Oyo Empire and the subsequent stalemating of a new political suzerainty centered on Ibadan. That the Yoruba continue to live through their history in the present is often culturally magnificent but also politically catastrophic.”
This absence of a ‘stable hegemony’ manifested itself in the 1950 All-Nigerian Conference on constitutional future of the country held in Ibadan. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of the founders of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, did not miss the lessons of that conference. He observed, to quote John Mackintosh that “the performance of the people of the Western Region at the Regional and General conference for the review of the Richards Constitution had shown that they were unorganized and lacking in concerted programme and effective leadership.” Mackintosh further noted that Chief Awolowo qualified the outcome as “a wretched compromise between federalism and unitarism.” Indeed, the three regions bigoted in terms of preservation of their respective regional solidarities and cohesions, endorsed regional legislature and executives with variation on jurisdictional ambit of the new structure. However, the east wanted a strong central legislature which could wed the three regions together and the north wanted a weak central legislature while the colonial governor-general held the veto. The outcome was indeed a caricature of the guidelines which the Select Committee of the Legislative Council had drawn up, summarized by Peter Lloyd as “1) Do we wish to see a fully centralized system with all the legislative and executive power concentrated at the Centre, or do we wish to develop a federal system under which each different regions of the country would exercise a measure of internal autonomy? 2.) If we favour a federal system, should we return to the existing Regions with some modifications of existing regional boundaries, or should we form regions on some new basis such as the many linguistic groups in Nigeria?
We could infer that it was a delicate balance of power politics and gave inkling to turf politics that regions and their leaders were later to espouse in their respective spheres of influence ala Monroe Doctrine. However, the 1951 Macpherson Constitution gave self-government to the region and as a consequence opened up the arena of partisan politics in the regions as well as the centre where the contestation for power and control would gain full expression.
The Road to Modernisation
The regional self-government that came with the Macpherson Constitution of 1951 meant electoral politics and more concretely, it meant the road to modernization the pre-colonial relations of production having been substantially altered through commoditization. The engine for this project was the Action Group (AG). The party has in its ranks lawyers, school teachers, wealthy businessmen and in terms of party discipline there was no jostle for office and this could be accounted for in three ways. One was the personal charisma of Chief Awolowo to which many deferred. Two, the wealthy background of some of its members for whom holding of political offices would mean undermining their income status. And thirdly, the criterion for election was purely record of service at the local or in the sphere of education. Party discipline was in earnest as members contributed one tenth of their salaries to party funds. AG with the objectives of entrenching its political position in Western Region and run it effectively won the 1951 election. According to John Mackintosh, “The first was the 1951 elections conducted on a three-tier basis with taxpayer suffrage throughout western Region (except in Lagos where there was direct election and universal suffrage). The older and better known National Congress of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe has always claimed that it won a majority in the first stages of the elections, but by the last stage the AG was able to appeal to regional, tribal, and personal feelings of the remaining candidates and finished with a majority.”
To be sure, this was a first important step towards development. Healthy for the growth of the AG was the subjective factor among the traditional elite that the electoral politics required. As Lloyd noted, “The Yoruba rulers remained largely illiterate and aged men, unable to discuss the necessary legislation, and power passed instead to the literate minority, a group rapidly becoming politically conscious.” By means of the Local Government Law of 1952, the AG government altered the composition of the local government councillorship in a manner that allowed three elected councillors for every traditional member. They worked in harmony in ways that reduced tension or rivalry between them. The western region government proceeded to establish a number of institutions for development of the region. These included the Western Region Finance Corporation. The Finance Corporation purchased the Epe Boatyard Company limited, the Lagos Airport Hotel and Arab Brothers Motors Limited. In 1959 the Western Region Development Corporation was created to plan and encourage economic expansion with shares of over 50 per cent in the Nigerian Plastics Company Limited, the Nigerian Plastics Company (Sales) Limited, Nidogas Limited, the Nigresol Construction Company Limited, and the Nigerian Water Resources Development Company Limited. The Western Nigeria marketing board was established ‘‘‘to secure the most favorable arrangements for the purchase for export and sale’ of the produce of the region and to use its accumulated reserves ‘to promote the development of the producing industries’” (See John P. Mackintosh, Politics in Nigeria: The Action Group Crisis of 1962)
The government also undertook agricultural and farming schemes. Free education policy was introduced in 1955. These modernization schemes were driven by tax policy that was perceived by the people as oppressive. The point must be made that the contradictions of AG policies became the points at issue which were used by its greatest rival in the region, NCNC to win electoral gains. The AG lost the federal elections of 1954. As Lloyd rightly noted, “The election was a straight fight between two parties, the main issues being the legislative record of Action Group. In many areas, the sentiment provided by local opposition leaders was so great that a N.C.N.C. candidate was elected in spite of personal unpopularity.”
The next most important political development in western region was of course the decision of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to leave the region and move to the federal to become prime minister in 1959 federal elections which turned out to be a failed mission. Once he resigned, Samuel Ladoke Akintola assumed the premiership of the region, though not his preferred candidate but owing to party supremacy. While Chief Awolowo remained in the opposition in Lagos, Akintola decided to exercise policy independence without deference to the party. The crisis could be explained in three ways, namely populist dilemma, crisis of democracy, and ideological difference. The free primary education had been implemented at cost and the decision by Akintola-led government to reduce the flat of taxation would result in loss of about 5 million pounds; and also the proposition to increase school fees among other policies were seen as counterproductive to the party polices/programmes. That the premier took these decisions without consulting the party leadership and structure undermined democratic principle. Akintola and Awolowo were never ideological co-travelers. Despite Awowolo espousal of democratic socialism, it would be an exaggeration to assume that it was internalized by all the party members. As observed by Mackintosh, “While most of the Obas and business leaders close to Chief Akintola knew that ideology played little part in AG policies, they had long resented Chief Awolowo’s intellectual arrogance, and this led them to sneer at his talk of democratic socialism. Some of them were sufficiently irritated to refer to the younger men gathered around the national President as ‘communists’”
While a combination of the aforementioned factors may have conspired to cause the impasses, the ‘point of no return’ may actually have been the rapprochement between Akintola and the feudal and irredentist forces in the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), the ruling party at the centre. Chief Awolowo would advert to this in advice to the prime minister not to declare a state of emergency.
At the 8th Annual Congress of AG held in February 1962, Akintola and his group were put on the spot and hemmed in by sweeping constitutional changes in the party were advantageous to the national president of the party and they formerly walked out of the Jos Conference. Akintola was subsequently summoned to the Regional Executive Council of the party where he was accused of mal-administration, antiparty activities and gross indiscipline, found guilty and asked to resign. The decision was endorsed by the Federal Executive Council but the Premier said he would not resign. He was dismissed based on a petition endorsed by majority of the Parliamentary Council and Alhaji Adegbenro was appointed as leader in place of Akintola. The May 25, 1962 supremacy battles led to the declaration of a state of emergency in region on May 29, 1962 under section 65 of the 1960 Constitution (for details of the party and parliamentary intrigues and maneouvres see mackintosh, Politics in Nigeria, pp. 139-159). The Federal Prime Minster rationalized his action thus: “That in pursuance of section sixty-five of the Constitution of the Federation it is declared that a state of public emergency exists and that this resolution shall remain in force until the end of the month of December, nineteen hundred and sixty-two. “
Both Awolowo and Tony Enahoro had warned the Prime minster against his course of action and their words in the federal parliament were very instructive. Chief Awolowo said “… this motion is discriminatory. I have already given instances to support this contention, and I do not want to go over those incidents again. I have made reference to the riots in the Tiv Division and the riots in Okrika and so on and so forth. I do not want to repeat them. But if this can be done to the Western Region, why was it not done to the Northern Region or the Eastern Region? I want the Prime Minister not only to project the image of being a state man in his dealing with the East and the North, I also want him to project the image of an impartial arbiter and statesman in his dealings with a Region which is not of his origin and a Region in which a party opposed to his party is in the power, a Region in which a party-the Action Group-has its base and from where it operates… Finally the step that is now being taken in this resolution is a violent assault on democratic institutions in Nigeria. It assumes that Parliament can only meet at the sufferance of a group of people who are hostile to that particular party and who are friendly to the Federal Government. That is a dangerous assumption and the Prime Minister must disabuse the minds of all right-thinking people that he had no intention at all to lend his weight to any group, however friendly they may be to him, in castrating the activities of Parliament.”
Nevertheless, in a predictive note, Enahoro said: “I am in a confused state because I think something has started today, something has begun today which is going to go much further than perhaps most of us here imagine. I can only hope and pray that in the exercise of the powers which the Prime Minister is going to seek later, he will be as careful and circumspect as he has promised to be, because I think that may well prove to be the salvation of this country.”
Thomas B. Reed once opined that “One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.” The state of emergency marked the death of civil society in western region. Although the new administrator appointed under the state of emergency had promised that his duty was: “to seek rapidly to reduce political tension and secure an atmosphere of calmness so that the people of Western Nigeria can have an early opportunity of resolving for themselves the difficulties which now confront the region. I shall do my utmost to be absolutely impartial to all factions and political parties. I am appealing to the Obas, Chiefs and peoples of Western Nigeria to reassure their people that it is not the intention of the Federal Government to substitute an oppressive regime for democratic government.”
Truly, the emergency rule was an era of inquisition characterized by the Coker Commission of Inquiry that probed public corporations and treasonable felony trial of the AG leader who was subsequently jailed. Wole Soyinka qualified the judicial mathematics of the period thus: “The trial had several unsatisfactory aspects. That some of the accused should turn State Evidence was normal proceeding in any trial, but the evidence of torture to extract confessions, bribery, intimidations and family blackmail – the threat to harm families of the accused by the use of state muscle – was not easily dismissed” (See his Ibadan, The Pekelemes Years , p. 334).
However, contrary to the Privy Council rule on fresh elections, Akintola was restored as the premier of Western Region in 1963. As Soyinka noted, “This jettisoning of an embarrassing colonial hangover was not universally lamented, however, but it did serve as a useful pointer to neutrality or otherwise of the Federal Government in a regional dispute”. Nonetheless, Akintola proceeded to win the controversial 1965 regional elections under his new party, Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in alliance with NPC. Soyinka has aptly captured the ensuing unrest: “Finally, 1965 and reckoning time. The people of the Western Region had borne their humiliations patiently; they had undergone privations that were unnecessary, being merely petty and vindictive. Chief Akintola’s party, nettled by an artificial victory in the 1964 Federal Election, a victory that was won by default, since the rival party had boycotted a clearly loaded contest, declared war on the people. It was a strange situation; here was the electorate, robbed, yet passive in conduct, content to wait for the next opportunity to redress their fortunes, and still the Government went to war against them, unleashing a violence that the robbed had eschewed. The resentment had become palpable. It was expressed in various ways, from the cold reception of Government officials to the quiet ostracism of party bigwigs, and these included traditional rulers, some of whom were chased from their thrones and took refuge in the policed safety of the capital, Ibadan. Some, like the Zaki of Arigidi, or the Olowo of Owo, would not return for decades; others died in forced exile. The media captured the mood of the people, even the media controlled by the Government, since these were simply boycotted and ceased to communicate with anyone, except incestuously within the insulated circle of party and Government, and that Government turned violent. Its most pacific weapon of control was the withdrawal of resources from hostile sectors – local governments, schools, hospitals. Traditional rulers who like the Odemo of Isara refused to take the oath of loyalty, covertly or overtly, had their salaries reduced to the derisory level of one penny a year precisely.”
Between 1963 and 1966, there were major reversals that were similarly captured by Soyinka: “The West was wealthy; its cocoa resources had been well managed – at least, before the arrival of the NNDP. The region was the envy of its neighbours: successful, free and compulsory primary education had set a standard and a goal for the others. Its health programme was efficient and spread wide to benefit the rural areas, not just the urban. Then it all began to dwindle away, and the paucity of resources was visited most viciously on communities that showed no overt love for their rulers – which embraced nearly the entire people of the West.”
Then, the west went wild! By 1966, the January boys came in to stop the perfidy that sealed the fate of the First Republic.
The Peasant Revolt
The Agbekoya revolt was a remarkable event with implication for the social assumption about the people of western Nigeria and explanation for it is to be sought in the political economy of the region. As Gavin Williams has rightly noted, “The basis of the colonial economy of Ibadan was, and still is, the cultivation of cocoa, which rapidly in the years 1892 to 1912. This entitled a migration of people from the city to the rural areas and the emergence of a peasantry which, in recent years, has come to develop a distant rural consciousness. The incident itself offered useful insight into the exploitative nature of the military regime that ran the country at the time. Military intervention engendered political instability and consequent economic recession. Cocoa price plummeted while marketing boards exploited the cocoa producers outside the logic of the market. Also government reduced drastically its expenditure, and inflationary pressure was palpable with increases in prices. There were multiple taxes due to the outbreak of the civil war. The Agbekoya rebellion which began in September 1968 rose from the bowels of these dynamics. By 1968 in the words of Williams, “the farmers saw themselves as exploited and oppressed by a government that refused to pay fair prices for their cocoa, sent corrupt officials to prosecute them, denied them the benefits and amenities that they had been promised, demanded higher and higher taxes, and now added a series of further tax demands when the farmers simply did not earn enough to meet their existing obligations.”
The outcome was easily predictable. Revolts spread through Ibadan, Egba, Remo, Ijebu, and the Osun divisions. And as noted Williams, “The arrest of tax defaulters was the main spark for attacks on the authorities. In several cases the oba’s palaces were attacked and burnt down because they had allegedly called for the soldiers to assist tax collections, and in some cases, they had embezzled public funds. Attempts at intercession by the Governor and the Olubadan provided fruitless; Ibadan farmers shouted them as ole [thieves].”
The Agbekoya rebellion was in a sense a rebellion against the exploitative nature of class rule and the logic of capitalism.
In his Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria, Richard Joseph has identified the historical/political constraints that dogged the people of western Nigeria at the outset of Nigeria’s second republic, namely, “the collective memory of the historical lines of friendship and warfare”; “sub-ethnicity, “primary political factions” (NCNC and AG rivalry), “loyalty to or disaffection from Chief Obafemi Awolowo,” the NNDP model of collaboration between the Yoruba politicians and their northern counterparts. On an optimistic note a developmental ideological credo had been born of the crucibles of the turbulent 1960s. However, political activities were to draw considerably from the ideological and the collaboration with the conservative feudal forces of the north. The parties of the first republic merely reincarnated in 1978 when the military lifted the ban on politics. These parties were the unity party of Nigeria, an offshoot of AG; the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), an offshoot of NPC, the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), an offshoot of NEPU, and the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), an offshoot of NCNC and Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP), an enclave of the Kanuris of the North East. The first stage to party identity was local spatial domination and the second stage was the launch out to the trans-regional space. Against a background of a new presidential system with concentrated executive power and control of over 50 percent of national resources, the centre was simply the ultimate prize to be won. The UPN, with its populist tactics and pan-Yoruba politics mastered her own space and its position was underscored by its manifestos which substance were embedded in free education at all levels, free medical care for all, integrated rural development and full employment. With this manifesto, the UPN recovered it old regional control in what was known as LOOBO comprising Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Bendel and Ondo states as then constituted. Not all Yoruba line up behind UPN. This is a reflection of old animosities and elite dalliance with the feudal forces for the pie at the centre. It is therefore no surprising that the NPN the party that eventually won at the centre found collaboration in Chief Toye Coker, Chief MKO Abiola, Oba Lipede (Alake), and Oba Sikiru (Awujale) in Ogun and Oyo with Chief A. M. A. Akinloye and Richard Akinjide as linchpin. As Joseph rightly observed, “the NPN deliberately resurrected these ethnic and factional confrontations by such deeply symbolic acts as the placing of a wreath by Shehu Shagari on the tomb of Chief Akintola and his frequent praise of the latter as having been one of Nigeria’s finest politicians.” Ethnicity, religion and other cleavages may be natural to human society; they lead to crisis when they are exploited by politicians or power seeking elites (for Dynamics of cleavages and politics, See Lothar Brock et al, Fragile State)The balance sheet of UPN in the west showed the triumph of vision. Education was massified in the LOOBO state and had the potential of transforming social and primordial fault-lines for the goals of development. This fruits of fractionalization and a replay of the 1965 scenario by NPN and their local collaborators eclipsed the second republic in December 1983. Elections were rigged with rapid impunity and with dire consequences. The military came in and the country went into renewed authoritarian rule with a reification of the national questions that had beset the country.
The overthrow of the military regime of Buhari by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida led to a new transition to democracy. This was flagged off by the constitution of the political bureau. When the ban on politics was lifted, it was a zigzag movement to self-transmutation. The path was cleared of old breed and was later allowed to participate and two parties were imposed. The Military transition was decidedly a permanent transition which end goal was the self-transmutation of the general and his Khalifa, General Sani Abacha. MKO Abiola, opposed to the mainstream Yoruba ideological politics became the candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), one of the two political parties, the other being National Republican Convention (NRC). The denouement of that party process was the June 12 1993 Presidential elections won by MKO Abiola. The imposed two parties were a cocoon of multiple diversities and blurred to some extent ideological and ethnic lines. The subsequent annulment which altered the prospect of peaceful alternation of power between the North and South led to an epic struggle against the military. That struggle was at once national and local. It was largely led by the Yoruba with allies from the other regions in the country. The crisis accentuated sundry cleavages in the country and with a renewed demand for the restructuring of the country. The 1993-1999 was a period of brutal authoritarian rule. The country was headed for a civil war and the country was taken off the precipice by a historical compromised that produce Obasanjo as civilian president. It was pact. Pacts are useful and help to remove uncertainty from the transition process albeit temporary. There was no input of the Yoruba. Obasanjo was seen and evidentially so as the messenger of the hegemonic forces at the centre. His presidency was supposed to be a holding brief, in other words, an interregnum, allowing for suiting of nerves in the strategic south west and a subsequent reversion to status quo ante.
The fourth republic is a product of a pacted transition. A pact is sort of memorandum of understanding among a critical set of contenders for political power on how to share power and protect mutual interests in the context of deep antagonisms and seeming irreconcilable differences. It is often kept from public scrutiny. This became necessary on the part of the dominant political forces in the country to protect their long term interest in the polity (Guillermo O’Donnell and Karl Schmitter). Its essentially element was a single term for President Obasanjo and afterwards power was expected to revert back to the north (See Omo Omoruyi’s Interview, There Was a Pact). The pact that produced the Fourth Republic proceeded on the basis of a grafted constitution. The space for parties, the motorforce of democracy, was constricted to allow three political parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) All Peoples Party and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Political elites of western Nigeria were vagrants among these political parties. Indeed, the constitutions of the parties were alleged to have been drafted by late Chief Bola Ige. The AD which later turned to be the primary party of the people of the South West was grudgingly allowed by the junta even though it did not fulfil all the conditions for registration. In the ensuing general election, political aspirants for the presidency from other regions of the country were not allowed to field candidates and resulted in a pre-determined position in which the two presidential candidates, namely, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae were from the same region. The outcome was predictable due the nature of the pact. The elections were rigged to produce the desired outcome and the international community applauded with a Carter strain—though there were irregularities, they were not enough to warrant annulment. The parties had no manifestoes and the constitution was only decreed into law after the elections were conducted.
Riding on the euphoria of the prodemocracy struggle, the progressive forces, whose only objective linkage to chief Awolowo was a symbolic and rhetoric exhortation of the legacy of the sage, won the gubernatorial seats in the five state of the new western region minus Edo and Delta. Generally, it was proclaimed to be the triumph of Awo’s political heritage. The forces that emerged as political leaders were those who were on the fringe of the prodemocracy struggle and whose loyalties were in doubt, with the exception of Lagos and perhaps Osun. Little wonder that AD succumbed to the forces of reaction with joggling for political position. In 2003, the uncoordinated political forces laying claim to Awo’s legacy entered into alliance with Obasanjo who was only Yoruba in name represented other interests than Yoruba, and they paid a price for their political disorientation. As observed elsewhere, “The third largest party, Alliance for Democracy, AD was trounced, losing five states where it had hitherto held sway, to the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Claims of rigging preponderated, and the polity was tension-soaked. International community, acting as umpire, is calling for calm and sounding it clear to the aggrieved to resort to due process for electoral remedy (Electoral Monologue, Insider Weekly, 2003)
Again, Lagos was an exception because the man in Lagos knew the meaning of power and conceded nothing. The outcome of this political faux pas was loss of public space and a regression into what Kayode Fayemi has characterized as mediocrity (See his Resurgent Regionalism and Democratic Development in Western Nigeria, Challenges and prospects).
Lagos was to prove decisive for the reclaiming of the lost space in the west. In 2007, PDP dug in and the progressive forces under the Action Congress lost in elections that were rigged with impunity that the international observers had to admit that we went below the standard we set for ourselves.
Judiciary and Democratic Justice
One important trend dating back to the first republic is the recourse to the court of law instead of self-help. Akintola and AG forces went to court up to the Privy Council, the Nigerian state as then constituted defied constitutionalism. The losing ACN candidates especially in 2007 sought judicial review that resulted in the ACN administrations in Osun, and Ekiti and Labour administration in Ondo. Again, it was only Lagos and Ogun that were safe in the kitten. In what follows, I draw the curtain on my thoughts.
In the preceding sections of this paper, I have tried to focus on politics in western Nigeria along the spectrum of power, freedom and development. These currents as we could see preceded the Nigerian state. The warfare was about freedom and space for development. These assumed hegemonic status in post-independence Nigeria over which the schisms and political bickering revolved around. Indeed, they gained accent in 1952-1959 and 1979-1983, but in the prevailing fourth republic. Much of the ideological purity has been assaulted by neoliberal fundamentalism perpetrated by the Nigerian state to the extent that those who claim to lead the West today would privilege the market over social provisioning. Whether the newly articulated Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) in a new wave of regional resurgence will fill the vacuum, remains to be seen. The point must be made that what has kept alive the conversation around power, freedom and development are the activities of reactionary forces in the region including self-serving historical alliances with feudal forces. While these contradictions are a dialectical necessity for the maintenance of vigilance and nurturing of the goal of development, it must be remarked that the 2015 alliance has turned out to be a huge setback for progressive society and must be undone in 2019.
Akhaine, is an Associate Professor and Acting Chair of the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University. He first delivered this paper now revised on August 15, 2013 at the Instance of Comrade Ola Oni Centre and Omoluabi Initiative, Osun State. A fully annotated version will be published soon as a monograph.