What could have prompted Aunt Adelina to declare in The Feast of the Goat that “Well, that’s what politics is, you make your way over corpses…”? After seeing what politics and politicians do with us in Nigeria, should I have asked that question in the first instance? Optimists that Nigerian politicians are, they have started a race ahead of God to the year 2023; and they do not appear to mind stepping on the blood and the corpses of their brothers into that office they covet so badly. While at it, they are most times unmindful of how the people feel about their sprinting ahead of the Creator. Not even the perishability of their own selves do they give consideration. Being humans, can any sprinter be sure they will see that selfsame 2023? This time around, however, they seem to be hushing the 2023 permutations and projections.
So when last week, a group of loyalists of former governor of Lagos State and one of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stormed the ancient cities of Ibadan and Oyo, in Oyo State to canvass his 2023 presidency, the picturesque that was hitherto operating at the realm of conjecture, about a kingmaker who wants to transmute to become the king, began to take a life of its own.
A very instructive statement from leader of the group, Dayo Adeyeye, a former federal lawmaker, ex-AD, ex-PDP, currently in APC, brought home the raison d’être of the team, named South West Agenda (SWAGA ’23). While explaining SWAGA ’23’s agenda, Adeyeye said it was to “champion a common front for the Yoruba race.” It must be borne in mind that Tinubu has not publicly told anyone he is interested in the presidency. However, he has embarked on some gallivanting of recent to the North which some readers of Nigeria’s political barometer labeled political moves ahead of 2023. Counterpoising this is also an alleged attempt by the feudal north, desirous of eating its cake and having it, to bring back former Nigerian president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, into the presidential contest, so as to speed up the north’s return to power.
There is always a tomorrow. And when that tomorrow comes, the pounded yam of twenty years ago will burn the finger of the sinner. Adeyeye’s SWAGA ’23 reminds me of a sad occurrence that took place around 1969 in Ila Orangun, an ancient town in present day Osun State. It happened during the Agbekoya tax revolt in the Western Region. The General Adeyinka Adebayo government’s increment of tax in the region had engendered the peasants’ revolt. Shouting, “Oke mefa l’ao san! Oke mefa l’ao san! (we are only paying 30 shillings) the peasants marched from one village to another in the whole of the region, killing and destroying anything that had the imprimatur of government, from court houses to government buildings. In September, 1969, they broke prisons, especially the Ibadan Agodi prisons and set free thousands of prisoners. Chanting that they would only pay $1.10 as tax, they inflicted mayhem on the streets and made government ungovernable for General Adebayo. It took the avatar himself, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to quench the fire by walking into the forest on foot to negotiate with Tafa Adeoye, leader of the revolt. He was the only one the peasants trusted.
As an aside, let us note some historical trajectories in the above. First, did you notice some similarities in government concerns that Agbekoya revolt kingpins chose to unleash their mayhem on and that they bear some similarities with the targets of the recent EndSARS protesters? Did you notice that Awolowo, who just left the Calabar prisons during this time, was trusted by the Agbekoya and upon meeting them, there was détente? Can you recall that Tinubu also issued some placatory statement as Lagos boiled and did you notice that this did not prevent the destruction that was unleashed on Lagos?
The Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Olajide Adeoye, was killed right inside his palace, while the mayhem lords set the palace ablaze. Oba Adeoye’s body was dismembered by the rioters. In Ila Orangun, the rioters also attempted to replicate the Ogbomoso mayhem on the monarchy. A senior member of Ila traditional council, Chief Elemona, was killed in similar fashion as the Soun. The king, Oba Williams Adetona Ayemi, was forced to flee the palace for safety. It was suspected that the attack on the Oba and his chief was a carryover from Ila local first republic politics, the divide between First Republic rumps of S. L. Akintola’s NNDP and the Action Groupers in the town. The Oba was leader of the Action Group before he became king while the murdered chief was his main backer.
Then came 1978/79 and the return of party politics; the NPN group loyal to those who hounded Oba Ayeni out of the palace, moved to have an upper hand in the political equation of Ila Orangun and the UPN locals went into their vengeance archive. For those who know, payback is real in Yoruba politics. Indeed, from time immemorial, recriminations are permanent features of politicking and inter party relations in the land. Thus, as this Ila political rump attempted to secure ascendancy, the locals, through incendiary songs, vengefully reminded them that they had not forgotten how they sneaked murderous politics into the Agbekoya uprising, killing Elemona and hounding Oba Ayeni out of the palace. They sang: E gbagbe ibo ni? Igba ti e p’Elemona ti e l’Oba lu’gbo, e gbagbe ibo ni? translated, meaning, “did you forget that there would be elections when you killed Elemona and chased the Oba into the bush?”
If Adeyeye does not know, he should ask any deep Yoruba son or daughter to tell him the potency of payback politics of the people. Yoruba do not forget, they also very rarely forgive. As he mouthed his “a common front for the Yoruba race,” he probably had forgotten a woman named Mulikat Akande-Adeola. This Ogbomoso-born woman was a member of the House of Representatives and was highly favoured by all permutations, including the support of the presidency and a zoning formula which slated the House of Representatives Speakership to the Yoruba of the South West in 2011. All of a sudden, Tinubu and his Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Yoruba ensemble forgot the propriety of that same “common front for the Yoruba race.” Tinubu not only opposed the Yoruba woman, he strongly backed then 45-year old Aminu Tambuwal, lawmaker and lawyer from Tambuwal Federal constituency of Sokoto State, even though he was not of their party. Tinubu’s party ordered all its legislators to vote the Fulani as Speaker and ditch their own sister from Ogbomosho. Now, the selfsame actors who didn’t realize that Yoruba needed a common front in 2011 have suddenly realized the need for Yoruba interest to be protected in 2023.
The Ila Orangun anecdote is a strong dip into and reminder that, if not anywhere else, payback time politics is real and potent in Yorubaland. As we trudge towards 2023, Yoruba will remember those who had sacrificed the so-called Yoruba interest on the altar of self ambition in the past. They amusingly watch how same people who sold them for ten shekels of silver now appropriating the moral right to call them to queue behind them in 2023, “for the sake of the Yoruba race.”
On Wednesday 27 January, 1999, twenty three leaders of Afenifere/Alliance for Democracy converged in a hotel called D’Rovans in Ibadan. It was a concave for the purpose of choosing the presidential flag-bearer of the mainstream Yoruba party. Bola Tinubu, a new entrant in that circle, was a delegate there. The roles Tinubu and all other leaders played in that assembly are well documented. The messy details are contained in that must-read book entitled Yoruba Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria authored by one of the most brilliant Yoruba of this generation, Professor Wale Adebanwi, of the University of Oxford. Believing that Olusegun Obasanjo didn’t represent the Yoruba ideal, Afenifere chose to nominate its own candidate between Chiefs Bola Ige and Olu Falae. Against popular expectations, Falae defeated Bola Ige.
In dissecting who each of the Yoruba leaders voted or didn’t vote for, resulting in Ige’s loss, the author conducted a very diligent investigation. In Tinubu’s case, the issue was not really whom he voted for, but the reasons he gave for the choice he made. Adebanwi said: “Tinubu…ostensibly told both sides what they wanted to hear as the reason why he voted for Falae. (Bisi) Akande said Tinubu told him that he was threatened by the ‘old men,’ the Ijebu Four, to vote the way he did. On the other hand, during my fieldwork, the old men disclosed (to me) that Tinubu told them that he couldn’t have voted for Ige because Ige had supported Funso Williams against him in the party primaries in Lagos…” Interesting! Again, if you want to argue that Tinubu is a reincarnation of Awolowo, please take time to read this book, especially the difference between Awo’s ideologically driven politics and Tinubu’s power-driven politics.
The author submits on page 235 that Tinubu “has a prudent fancy for ideology but a fierce commitment to power.” Power here is euphemism for the end that justifies the means of that deadly French theorist, Niccolo Machiavelli. Indeed, “for him, whatever works and works well in politics is ‘good’ politics. That, perhaps, explains his politics of bringing down his Ogbomosho sister for the Sokoto/Fulani boy to rise in Speakership race of 2011. Awoism and Yoruba progressive politics would never endorse calling cow brother because you want to eat beef. Till today, Tinubu is held to be the one who single-handedly dissembled Afenifere and literally destroyed the Yoruba group.
Besides, the present focus of the Yoruba is how to stop Nigeria from further wrecking their lives. They call it restructuring. It is not the same as the presidency of Nigeria. The Yoruba are aware that, as it is presently constituted, Nigeria is an empty and spent shell deodorized from the outward by its demographics. That shell, even if bequeathed to any of their children in 2023, will explode in their very before. Today’s Nigeria, the Yoruba know, is retarding their progress. The beautifully decorated shell will end up worse than the current fate of the North in the hands of Muhammadu Buhari.
In 2015 when Buhari contested for the Nigerian presidency, the North obsessively campaigned for him, believing that with him in the saddle, there would be a revamp of their worsening destiny. As it is now, apart from a coterie of northerners whose nape of babanriga had widened diametrically through cronyistic awards of contracts and unmerited juicy positions from government, the north’s situation has worsened terribly in the last five and half years. It will seem that Satan and his minions had effectively relocated to the North and made it their empire. No prophet needs tell the South or South West that an empty Nigeria in this form, without a proper restructuring of its failing institutions, would end up an unmitigated disaster.
Today, terrorism and violence have torn the north apart. Emir palaces, hitherto sacred grooves, are targets of bandits and jihadists. Northern feudal lord politicians hardly live within the space of their places of birth. They run to neighbouring countries to hide their heads from insipid violence. Perhaps, if the north had insisted on producing the best of the north and not a man they all knew his serial and manifest incompetence and health failings, that region would have been spared this unenviable tag of one of the most volatile and dangerous places to live in the world today. It would have also saved Nigeria from being infected with its miserable virus of a Buhari presidency.
As said above, the rest parts of Nigeria also became recipients of this wonky decision to make Buhari president. There is a humongous and I dare say, unprecedented influx of northerners into the South today, the preponderance of whom are escaping from the miserable existence in the north. They flee to the south to work as beggars, menacing irritant Okada riders or as Fulani pastoralists fingered in the wide kidnapping ring inflicted on the region.
This was probably why the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde towed the path of the unimportance of a Yoruba presidency in 2023. At a recent handing over of 33 operational vehicles and 396 motorcycles to the Oyo State Security Agency, better known as Amotekun, Makinde deplored politicians who he said were gallivanting round the country seeking to feather their presidential nests. He submitted that Yoruba need adequate security, restructuring of the country, much more than occupying the presidency.
For the South West, borrowing from that ancient Yoruba pun, the eku to da’yi le – the rat that is the harbinger of this dross – was no other than Tinubu and his ACN/APC gang. For selfish political gains, they effectively dressed Buhari in borrowed robes, placed sachet of beverages before him to evoke imageries of frugality, put suit on a man whose mind is grossly dank against modernity, told us he was our best friend and shielded him from the presidential debate where we would have had a peep into his empty mind. Today, those selfsame people want to replace Buhari in 2023, citing the need to “champio a common front for the Yoruba race.” Yoruba will sing the Ila Orangun song for them.
I think Tinubu should not to take a plunge into the potentially destructive brackish waters of Nigeria’s presidential contest. This is because, it will make either an MKO Abiola or Umaru Yar’Adua of him. Both paths are ruinous. The Nigerian power configuration, effectively manned by the feudal north, would be committing their most unpardonable mistakes to allow a man the Buhari government has stabbed this consistently without a word from him the Nigerian president. Abiola paraded such credentials too. I doubt if Tinubu enjoys the best of health too. It is obvious that if Yar’Adua hadn’t taken the plunge into the presidency, the pressure on his health mightn’t have been as fatal as to lead to his untimely death. So, Tinubu, please run, run from the SWAGA gang.
All the above notwithstanding however, if you ask me, I am sure as the sun will rise that Tinubu will run from the presidency, rather than run for the presidency. The Jagaban is too smart, too street-wise to bite the bullet that campaigning for the presidency will be for him. I think SWAG and all the swags about contesting for the 2023 election are basically more of an attempt to keep the Master relevant in the power calculus post-2023 than for him to run for any presidential race.
The picture of what lies ahead of him if he runs for another elective office in Nigeria had already been shown him, less than six months into the Buhari presidency. A back page piece in the Sun in 2015 had asked the then young Buhari presidency to move against Tinubu, using the Russian Vladimir Putin model. The Putin presidency was said to have been sponsored by some drug barons and one of the first actions he took upon becoming president was to run those same sponsors out of town. They were sure Putin’s sponsors wore the same soiled garments as the Jagaban. They even alleged in the piece that Tinubu owned almost half of Lagos State. It is obvious that those who engineered this to scare Tinubu from eating from the fruits of his labour in the Buhari presidency would not think twice in rekindling the same dirty model.
Thus, in the hands of this set of people, are the pre-governorship allegations against Tinubu which had Tokunbo Afikuyomi starring prominently. I see the Buhari presidency, which Tinubu himself knows doesn’t believe in him, reactivating all the old allegations of old and using them to smear Tinubu to his hilt. So, enjoy the Tinubu presidential contest drama while it lasts. Let me confirm to you, however: Tinubu will run from the presidential contest, rather than run for it.
Ayinde Barrister: In memoriam of a musician who peaked by the graveside of Ayinla Omowura
Wednesday last week, the fifteenth day of December, marked the tenth anniversary of the departure and transformation from mortality to immortality of the body and soul of Yoruba Fuji Iroko tree, Chief Sikiru Ayinde Balogun, popularly known as Ayinde Barrister. He was a musical prodigy who contributed substantially and immensely to the musical, cultural and lingual development of the Yoruba people. He was a bundle of talents whose life could be regarded as woven round music like a tapestry. That day, ten years ago, it was as if there was a permanent stillness in the musical heartbeat of Yoruba land. Barrister had battled an undisclosed ailment for years and gave up at the feet of a cardiac arrest in London.
A few weeks ago, while listening to a live play of a popular Juju musician, some friends and I conducted a peremptory investigation and interrogation of the state of music in Yorubaland. We concluded that with Barrister’s exit, rigour, candour and panache ended with his exit. For instance, the Juju maestro, who had played at a funeral ceremony, only rehashed his old crowd-pulling songs and unable to meander into the present, research into the personalities of his crowd and audience, thus giving them a very flat, uninspiring line of music.
That was not Barrister. He brought rigour into his live plays and even studio recordings, so much that, even his live plays are today evergreen and eternal. No one needs to be a prophet to be able to predict that Barrister cannot die. A century from now, no matter the configuration of modernity, a world that is thirsty to navigate the contours of traditional African music cannot but drink from the brooks of his Fuji music. And don’t tell me that Wasiu Ayinde (KWAM 1) will fill the void. He cannot. His music lacks the grits and rigour that Barrister paraded. Yes, it is fast-tempoed and conduces to the musical voraciousness of the present age but when it comes to research and songs that set the brain on a wild wonder into ancient and contemporary issues, KWAM 1 isn’t there at all. His songs are too ephemeral, too peremptory to withstand any comparison. Perhaps, in the song of Saheed Osupa (Saridon P) can be found the satisfaction of that lacuna that Barrister left behind. His songs are very deep, philosophical and also set one on a mental assignment, even while the feet are gyrating to his beats.
My admiration for Barrister dates back to the 1970s. I lapped up his songs at the same time I did that of the man who today is my musical idol, Egunmogaji Ayinla Omowura. Omowura’s death placed him a step higher in my admiration, compared to Barrister’s. My research into Omowura confirmed a thesis which, whenever I submit it, angers some die-hard Barrister fans. The thesis is that, if Omowura had not died, there would never have been the Barrister who supervened over the traditional Yoruba African music stratosphere of the 1980s to 2010 like a wild wind. Omowura had a majesty, aura and eclectic appreciation that Barrister didn’t have and could not have had, placed side by side Omowura.
Not the age differential between them; not even the crowd appeal of the 1970s which Omowura had but which Barrister could not withstand. Certainly not the fact that Barrister was Captain of Omowura’s Fans Club while both were musical stars. Not also because Barrister lapped up some of Omowura’s songs at his death, prominent of which was the Ajikogba ede track which belonged to Omowura. It was the fact that Omowura was like a tempest which would swallow the wind of an Ayinde Barrister any day, any time. In 1978 or thereabout, when Barrister attempted to cross the musical railway pathway of an Omowura moving train, the Egunmogaji gave him a jab in Ayinde ma je ki ngbo… (Ayinde, perish the thought of your imagined superiority). Frightened, Barrister replied like a dog whose tail was tucked into its anus.
Barrister was not a counterpoise to Omowura as both didn’t sing the same variant of Yoruba traditional music. While he sang Fuji, Egunmogaji sang Apala. In my book, Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend, I attempted to state that in the history of Yoruba traditional music, there had always been seemingly fratricidal wars between musical counterpoises. While Abibu Oluwa (I enjoy his panegyrics for Herbert Macaulay, playing musical pun with his alias, Ejo ngboro) was like the forerunner of such traditional music. Lefty Salami was also in that mould. S. Aka Baba Wahidi dueled with fellow Egba kinsman Yusuph Olatunji because they sang same Sakara music. Kasumu Adio, born 1928, who died very young, sang better Apala than Haruna Ishola (recall his elegy to Col Adekunle Fajuyi and the Odale Ore track). Adio also engaged in a musical spat with Ishola, alias Babangani Agba, as well as Raji Owonikoko and his self-styled Kwara System Originator Band. However, Ibadan-based anedoctal musical lord, Epo Akara, was in a world of his own.
I had engaged an Egba man, a very brilliant lover of arts, culture and language of the Yoruba people and a huge boardroom giant (I didn’t get his permission to mention his name here) in a comparative analysis of Omowura and Barrister recently. He confirmed this thesis of mine. He agreed with me absolutely. Gani Kola Balogun; our journalism forebear, Elder Dayo Odeyemi, popularly known as Hunter (by the way, please accept my belated happy birthday, sir) and my friend, Adebayo Ojo, former Oyo State Attorney General, who are all fanatics of Barrister’s songs, won’t agree with me, I presume. I may also not be on same page with even musical history researchers like Professor Saheed Aderinto and Waliu Alao.
No doubt, however, Barrister approximated and appropriated the absence of Omowura in an awesome way for his flourishing and died greater than Omowura. He garnered a huge contemporary audience than Omowura probably gathered in his lifetime. However, if both musicians had existed side by side into 2010 when Barrister died, Barrister could never have been able to unbuckle the musical shoes of Omowura who bestrode the Yoruba traditional musical scene of the 1970s like a talismanic colossus. Or, what do you think?