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Their Finest Hour

Their Finest Hour



“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”-Winston Churchill- commending the bravery of the British people (especially the youths) during the second world war.
“Everyone should lose a battle in his youth, so that he does not lose a war when he is old”- George Martin

The debt of tribute I owe the younger generation in Nigeria has accumulated since the martyrdom of Leah Sharibu. It is late in coming but God knows my appreciation of her supreme sacrifice resides in my heart since the beginning of her captivity. She stared terrorism in the face and rejected her captors’s offer of conditional freedom. In the circumstances, it was not really a demanding coercion. Just momentarily renounce Christianity for Islam and we will set you free. If there was ever a good bargain, this was it. Yet she rejected the offer. Remember she was even a child. As a matter of fact, the Islamic doctrine of taqqiya has a priori absolved her of culpability in specifically the kind of situation she found herself in. Faced with a similar burden, did the founder of christianity, Saint Peter, not deny Jesus Christ, thrice before cock crow at dawn?

I have been privileged by fate to be at the centre stage where her peers have decided to pick up the gauntlet for the political salvation of Nigeria. They call themselves the obidients movement, so christened as a rally for the personification of their ideal choice for the political leadership of Nigeria, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi.

Not too uncommon, at the latter part of middle age, I have been experiencing intermittent weariness of spirit on the sacrifices of the political choice I have made and the probability of Nigeria getting it right. If I will not succumb, the credit goes to the pact I have intrinsically made with this Nigerian demographic. I urged them on, all through the campaign, with the challenge and exhortation of Frantz Fanon, that, “out of relative obscurity, every generation must discover its destiny, to fulfil or betray it”. As the 2023 presidential election goes, they fulfilled their part of the bargain but their dream has been abbreviated by the depravity of the political status quo.

As a student of Nigerian politics, it would be remiss of me to give the impression that I did not anticipate all that has happened in the interim. But we human beings are a creature of hope. How could I have imagined that a Muhammadu Buhari presidency would, in repudiation of its soul and spirit, birth a new dawn for Nigerian politics? Wasn’t I the one who earlier spoke of the theory of social reproduction in which tendency, a regime reproduces itself, in form and character. So, welcome to the neo Buhari ideological dispensation where we are confronted with its manifestation in the weaponization of ethno religious bigotry and polarisation, not to talk of the intimate commonality of the physical and mental fragility of the man on whose desk the buck stops. An apple, they say, does not fall from the tree.

There is the aspect of furtive Yoruba triumphalism, or, to be more precise, the Yoruba of Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s persuasion. It is the difference between the legitimacy of the Ayo Adebanjo’s Afenifere and the illegitimacy of the contrived Reuben Fasonranti’s faction. So to say, the ‘election’ of Tinubu is inherently a tragedy for all concerned, beginning with the man of the moment himself. I cannot recall a precedent in modern world history where an incoming president arrives in office with the liability and illegitimacy of a most disreputable pedigree. Not even the infamous Donald Trump, matches him in this regard. At least Trump won his election, free and fair.

Tinubu is one of Nigeria’s political personages, I would rather not publicly discuss. For whatever it is worth, I shared a personal relationship with him, reinforced by the fact of our Yoruba consaguinity. Significantly, he was there for the Yoruba people, when duty beckoned in the annulment of the 1993 presidential election crisis. Regardless, it is equally a Yoruba tragedy, in the sense of a comparative analysis of the qualities of hitherto Yoruba representation at the height of political office in Nigeria. How does he fare compared to Obafemi Awolowo, Ladoke Akintola, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ernest Shonekan, Moshood Abiola. More significant is the applicability of the abiding Yoruba canon of omoluabi. Here is a pertinent illustration of what constitutes Omoluabi:

“We’ve had OBJ military, Sonekan and OBJ civilian. Tinubu would be 4th!!. This matter is first and foremost about Integrity, Conscience and the essence of Omoluabi, on which measures, those of us opposing Obi, and wanting a 4th Yoruba Presidency, when our neighbours have not hand ONCE, have woefully betrayed the Yoruba core ethos of Omoluabi. An Omoluabi is NOT greedy and self-centered!!!”

These excerpts are not my words but they adequately capture my sentiments. The sad commentary here is that no Yoruba can claim to support Tinubu on the grounds of any fine principle, idealism, altruism or patriotism. Neither have I heard any of such supporters make the claim. For them, it is a question of opportunism, survival of the fittest, my brother right or wrong. It is the difference between 1999 and 2023.

The implicit concession of the Nigerian presidency to the Yoruba in 1999 was a compensation for the annulment of the 1993 presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola. It was a political and moral victory for forward looking Nigerians and it set the stage for the adoption of the power rotation convention. The convention also serves as a responsive containment strategy to the destabilising zero sum dimensions of Nigerian politics.

Fast forward to 2023 where another Yoruba has been ‘elected’ the president, in a situation of direct contradiction of the moral imperative of the 1999 concession. As the saying goes, the revolutionaries of yesterday have become the reactionaries of today. It is the story of how the NADECO Progressives of yore have substantially morphed into the neo Buhari ideologues of today, a subsidiary bulwark of a criminally bent status quo. The difference between the Yoruba society of 1999 and the culpable one of 2023 is the gap that separates the hero from the mercenary.

Whereas the ascendance of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to the Nigerian presidency in 1999 was rectitude and remedy of a wrong that was perpetrated against Abiola inclusive of his Yoruba heritage; that of Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu (if the court so decides) 24 years after is a callous deprivation of a sense of belonging to the most conspicuous victim of Nigeria’s power politics.

It is ironical that the consolidation of the 1999 remedy into the equitable norm of power rotation would meet its nemesis
at the behest of Yoruba insensitivity and selfishness. The ensuing (potential) Tinubu Presidency thereby tantamount to the usurpation of a norm with manifest utility of restoring equilibrium to Nigerian politics. Whereas 1999 was cause celebre across the length and breadth of Nigeria, the 2023 outcome speaks for itself in the prevailing self-evident atmosphere of gloom and despondency stalking the land. Alienation from this explicit violation of a norm has been deepened by the 2023 farcical elections.

About two years ago, President Olusegun Obasanjo, in consultation with Professor Wole Soyinka, resolved to host a non-partisan Pan Yoruba summit. I was charged with the role of the coordinator, in which capacity I went to brief and invite Tinubu. After hearing me out, he proposed that the agenda should include two items. One is the call for a referendum on a putative constitutional review and the other is the demand for power shift to the South. I concurred with the caveat that my own support for presidential power rotation begins and stops with the South East zone. In fulfilment of a sense of personal obligation, I alerted him that this was going to be the subject matter of my column the following day. Nothing has since happened to warrant a variation of this position. As a matter of fact, intervening developments have made it more compelling.

As the cliche goes, a lot of water had since passed under the bridge. If there was any vindication for those of us who had conspicuously stood for the zoning of the Nigerian presidency to the South East, it was the emergence of Peter Obi as presidential candidate. Beyond fulfilling the righteousness of the national unity and integration prescribed concession of the Nigerian presidency to the South East, he has enjoyed national and global acclaim and attestation (as a befitting round peg in a round hole) on the kind of leadership that best serves the cause of Nigeria’s socioeconomic development going forward.

Buoyed by the obidents movement, he utilised the presidential campaign spanning several months to successfully pitch his candidacy. In him, the opportunity provided by the concatenation of the 2023 election circumstances found competence and capacity.
Against this generic background, I couldn’t have found myself in any position other than the one I presently hold, ideologically and morally. It is a position that was bound to come in conflict with that of sundry Yoruba nationalists and opportunists. The difference between us and this latter category, is the difference between a Yoruba nationalist and a Yoruba patriot. I had earlier clarified the distinction:

‘The compelling virtue of the Afenifere endorsement of the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi can be reduced to the theoretical distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Unlike nationalism, good citizenship or patriotism is not a function of racial/ethnic identity. It is a conscientious Yoruba and good Nigerian who concludes that it is the turn of the Igbo to be the beneficiary of the observance of power rotation to the South. All cultures are ennobled by the application of the fundamental scriptural dictum ‘to love your neighbour as you love yourself’.

‘You can be a Yoruba nationalist without being a good man but you cannot be a good Yoruba if you are not a good man. The difference between patriotism and nationalism is simple – a patriot loves his country and is proud of it for what it does whereas a nationalist loves his country and is proud of his country, no matter what it does’. 

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