By Femi Ayelabowo
When the former Governor of Lagos state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, took on a generation of Yoruba Obas, and called them – of all things – worthless, he must have thought little of the consequences of his statement. Tinubu’s statement on the occasion of the 80th birthday of the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, was not the first time the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would denigrate leaders and institutions of the Yoruba race.
He has done so repeatedly, especially when his personal interest is at stake; yet he has always freely walked away. Seemingly so! This time round, however, he is certainly not getting away with it. The man who likes to pretend he is another version of Obafemi Awolowo and who expects the Yoruba to worship him, has been at pains explaining his misdemeanour. For a man in whom the people have invested so much trust over time, Tinubu’s latest insult rankles. To make it worse, his associates, rather than distance themselves from his action, have spent time rationalizing the insult on the custodians of their cultural heritage.
Although the Tinubu vituperation sent shock waves across Yorubaland, no other Oba was pained as much by it as the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade. It was obvious that the man who is counted first among Yoruba kings and sits on the throne that claims direct descent from Oduduwa, is primarily targeted by the statement. So also was the Olubadan of Ibadan who was at the time basking in the euphoria of the celebrations marking his 100th birthday.
At the end, it was the Ooni, revered as the spiritual head of the Yoruba race, that chose to respond to Tinubu, rallying his colleagues to question why a politician who wants to lead the Yoruba nation should describe their traditional rulers as worthless. According to him, Tinubu was an ungrateful man who had forgotten their sublime sacrifices of the past, including when the election of one of their own, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, was annulled without cause.
Tinubu’s disdainful generalisation of Yoruba Obas is no less self-indicting for him, since he has collected chieftaincy titles from several of these Obas. Indeed, the Asiwaju title he bandies about with relish, was conferred by one of the Obas who is likely one of those termed worthless. Apart from being the Asiwaju of Lagos, Tinubu is the Agba Akin of Ijeshaland; Aare of Ile-Oluji; Aare Atayese of Ilawe Ekiti and Aare Ago of Egba land, amongst others.
The growing sentiment against Tinubu may not account entirely for the dismal outing of his party, the APC, at the last governorship election in Ekiti state but there is no doubt it contributed substantially. The people’s anger against Tinubu is so palpable it has also set off the alarm bells in the APC that fears another imminent humiliation at the forth-coming governorship poll in Osun, on their way to loosing the entire South West. Considering the bitterness with which he spoke, the Ooni, his colleagues and their Osun people are definitely laying an ambush for Tinubu and his party who sees no wrong in his (Tinubu’s) actions.
In the past, the Asiwaju had hurt the aspirations of the Yoruba race, with little more than a whimper as the people’s response. In 2011, he worked against the emergence of a Yoruba as Speaker of the House through the instrumentality of the ACN platform. His foot soldiers in the House collaborated with PDP members loyal to Aminu Tambuwal to deny the Yoruba and elect Tambuwal from the Northwest zone as Speaker.
All through his political career, Tinubu has played against the larger interests of the people he professes to love. He rose to prominence at the larger expense of Lagosians who still pay a price for giving him a political base. Not only does he ram his choice candidates down their throats, he insists on deploying their resources in building an economic empire and a political dynasty across the South West. The most unfortunate aspect of his ascendancy in the politics of the region is that he has waged a relentless war to shoot down any plan that does not recognize him as the political leader of the Yoruba.
His role in the polarisation of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural platform is so well known as Tinubu was simply destroying one of the legacies of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and imposing his will on the people by forming a rival group. Though he continues to swim against the tide of public opinion on that issue, the assault on Yoruba Obas was the height of insolence. The people are now fighting back and the governorship election in Osun slated for August may yet prove the ultimate showdown with Tinubu.
The political consequence of Tinubu’s insult is still unfolding and analysts say it may be his political waterloo.
Femi Ayelabowo via Femilabowo@gmail.com