A picture of the Alaafin and Ooni standing next to each other with smiles on their faces in newspaper reports is a welcome development even though it’s a sort of closing-ranks against the interest of their subjects. Their get-together yielded a “… stout defence of their kinsman and former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.” At the meeting were obas, southwest PDP governors, and for good measure, a “man of God” – to complete the triumvirate of those in cahoots as snatchers of milk from the mouths of babies and kill-joy of families who have lost jobs – even loved ones in locust-scorched Yorubaland.
I’m a Christian but not the type that calls up a pastor before deciding to make a trip, or on getting to Maiduguri, calsl one to know whether Lake Chad Hotel is okay to stay! I also was not raised to see a pastor’s offspring as being somebody to touch – like the garment of Christ – to be blessed! While on earth, there was not a single reported incidence of Jesus being on the sides of oppressors like Nigeria’s “men of God”.
What’s the position of most Nigerian churches in matters that border on understanding where their loyalty lies? After the election heist of April 2007, the communiqués of four main churches seemed like government press releases. Here are a few to refresh our memories.
The Anglican Church urged Alhaji Atiku and Rtd. Gen. Buhari to accept the evil that was perpetrated by Rtd. Gen. Obasanjo’s administration in the election during which hundreds lost their lives apart from the unprecedented rigging as the handiwork of God: “Though the [Anglican] Bishop of Egba Diocese Matthew Owadayo said there were some fraud and irregularities in the last polls, he advised them to accept the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) …as the will of God.” He also advised Atiku “not to be desperate … [and that] … the loss may be the will of God … should be seen as an act of God.” Assuring Nigerians that Yar Adua really won the election, the Anglican spokesman said: “By his (Yar’Adua) manifesto, he is a man who is prepared to save this nation; he would consolidate and maintain stability … and that is why I believe he won”!!!
The Methodist leadership asked Nigerians to “trust the judgement of the election tribunals as the nation’s judiciary has proved that it is above board.” From the Baptists came this: “Nigeria has proved to the entire world that we are getting out of political aberrations; that we are maturing politically. We therefore salute the resolve of the INEC to keep the faith with the nation, in spite of their short-comings… We must thank God for answering the prayers of His people … particularly members of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, who sought God’s face regarding the recent elections. So many foreign nationals and some of us were skeptical about our ability to organise and hold elections. … it is behind us now. This is part of God’s rich grace over this nation.”
From the Presbyterians: “Nigerians and her friends all over the world, have been enjoined to pray for the peace and stability of the country, the antidote for continued development and realisations of genuine democracy. …Rev. Subuloye, the Presbyter of Wesley Church Ikoyi, Lagos, …stressed the need for the winners of the just concluded general elections, to embrace one another in the interest of peace and progress of the country.
Of all the traditional churches, only the Catholics came out loud and clear in condemnation of the elections and politicians’ corruption. Abuja’s Bishop Onaiyekan’s three speeches at three important federal government gatherings in October – almost like Papal encyclicals – were summarized in three consecutive columns here several months ago.
It is apparent, if just from the above, that church leaders seem to have abandoned stands that would make their followers respect them because they have become fellow travelers with politicians.
I will dismiss the Yoruba PDP governors in a single, albeit long paragraph. These men have no moral standing and command no respect in Yorubaland. None won elections as apparent from disclosures at the different tribunals though Osun may be the poster child of shameless election brigandage and on this, we await the ruling of the appellate court as well as that of the Nigerian Judicial Council whose integrity is on the line more than that of retired Brigadier Oyinlola. On a very minor scale, who can respect a man who went on a shopping rampage purchasing multiple items of an item that costs mind-boggling sums at an overseas store, OR a man who bought multi-million pound and multi-million dollar home soon AFTER getting (s)elected? How can Yoruba respect those who have debased the values that we used to hold very dear? For PDP governors to “enjoin all sons and daughters of Yorubaland to eschew violence …” when they were the same people who unleashed violence on us, e,g. the terrorism in Osun employing killing and raping, is unconscionable. What exactly does Oyinlola mean by “commencing the re-engineering and enforcement of total unity within the Yoruba nation”? How is he going to enforce this “total unity”? How do the governors and their supporters at the meeting want the former president to be “a pride to the Yoruba race” in spite his role in leading Nigeria – let’s forget the divisive role he played in the region – to her present situation through massive election rigging?
Obas? Even while trying to soft-pedal because one of the stones I may throw at the proverbial market place will definitely land on “my people”, I cannot but wonder aloud where these Obas were when Obasanjo thumbed his nose at late Archdeacon Alayande when the man requested caution in the matter of Ladoja. These traditional rulers, too, stand at best on very shaky moral ground because they’ve allowed themselves to become tools in the hands of scheming politicians. Taking money, SUVs, etcetera from governors has rendered most mute but it has not always been like this.
Alaafin Adeyemi, the father of the incumbent stood up to late Awo and took banishment rather than go against his principles. And the idea that the Yoruba have always been one till this rabble-rousing itinerant-bag money politics era is absurd. Much as Awo has always been revered in Yorubaland, and much as his Ope – Action Group political party was the most popular in the region, there were huge pockets of Akuko – Zik’s NCNC: Osogbo, Ilesa, Akure, etcetera. Awo’s programs, including free education, landmark agricultural farm settlements, modern housing estates, etcetera – were unlike anything the country had ever seen and these were what eventually won the people over – and, of course, his selflessness. He saw Yoruba interest as his, and he fought Yoruba “wars” as his personal wars. It would have been easier – and very profitable for him – to acquiesce to the feudal North as the so-called Yoruba leaders of today are wont to do.
This essay is not really about the former president: “Leadership and Trust” (February 2007), “Squandering of a Legacy” (May 2007) before he left office, and many long before those two, expressed why Rtd. General Obasanjo went from near hero to someone no longer respected among most Yoruba. We fought for him during the Na Abba saga even though most of us did not vote for him because most of saw an injustice about to happen. THAT has always been the Yoruba way. The retired General did not run to traditional rulers or multi-billionaire governors then.
Where, in the name of all that is just and moral – if not in the name of Oduduwa, the Yoruba progenitor – were these Obas when as president, General Obasanjo decided to flex muscle and snuff economic and social life out of Lagos by seizing the state’s allocation even AFTER a court ruling? Where, “royal majesties”, were you when Yoruba cities and towns got relegated to non-bedroom communities in a voodoo population census that saw old Kano State, supposedly the same as Lagos remain larger than Lagos even AFTER the creation of Jigawa State? Here’s a memory refresher that should wipe off that “summit” bemused smile from the face of Alake Gbadebo from Awon ara orun l’o po ju l’Osodi, January 21, 2007: “Ogun supposedly has over a million people less than Rivers; about the same number of people as Sokoto, and just about half a million people more than Zamfara. Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu, etcetera, where are you?”
Traditional rulers and church leaders who want their words respected are the ones to go back to a “drawing board”; as for governors, they need not look beyond their fat bank accounts to see where the Yoruba “roof is leaking.”
The Nation on Sunday, August 2008