2023 and the Yoruba Gangan Drumbeat to the Presidency
By Suyi Ayodele
A bi idi esin batakun batakun- See the backside of his horse like a mountain, like a mountain
A bi idi esin batakun batakun – Again, see the fat buttocks of his horse rolling rhythmically in euphony along
Nibo ni nko idi si?- Where do I rest my own moderate buttocks?
The above percussion from the Yoruba traditional talking drum, gangan, aptly captures the state of the Yoruba nation in the current political permutation as Nigeria moves closer to the miracle year of the Lord, 2023. It is a percussion of confusion. One of directionlessness. Some three or four months ago, an old classmate posted the percussion on our class platform. The ‘rascal’ that he is, the fellow asked us to do a translation of the drumbeat. Another classmate, who is a professor in the same department, provided the translation. The Monday declaration by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, PYO, of his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election in the ruling APC, alongside his erstwhile godfather and political mentor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, BAT, got me thinking. As much as I tried to dismiss the duo and their ambitions, the sound of the gangan beats above would not go away.
There is no doubt that the Yoruba people will have to dance to the above drumbeat in the impending contest. My worry is the last three lines of the drumbeat: “Nibo ni nko idi si?- Where do I rest my own moderate buttocks Nihin?- Here? Lohun?- There”? Deciding on this would not have been a difficult task. Both PYO and BAT are eminently qualified to vie for the nation’s presidency. But I must confess here that I am very confused about what will be the lot of the South-West in the 2023 political schemes. I read two columns on Sunday and on Monday. The columnists, who are pretty well known to me: Festus Adedayo and Lasisi Olagunju, both PhD holders, confused me with their submissions and I relayed that to them in my responses to their pieces. Their replies to my comments compounded the problem. I will leave that for our private discussions.
Before the two columns above, I had a chat with a very senior Yoruba leader and a doyen of the pen profession. I raised certain concerns concerning the South-West and where the region stands in the scheme of things. He was frank and candid in his opinions. He had, prior to our chat, painted a very hopeless situation in one of his write ups. I pointed out to him that that particular piece pointed to the fact that most of the heroic deeds we read or heard about the South-West now appear to be mere fantasies. Then I asked him: “why is it difficult for our Yoruba leaders to come together and speak for us, sir”? He responded by alluding to “collaborative politicians”. I juxtaposed that response with Adedayo’s “conspiracy theory” and Olagunju’s “coincidences and conspiracies”, and my apprehension for the 2023 Yoruba clan heightened. Last week too, my former boss in my earlier place of work, a brilliant lady, called from the UK. Our over one hour discussion centered on the 2023 elections and the place of the South-West. Adedayo’s piece is a recap of our discussions. All her permutations are captured in the aforementioned columns.
Why I am fixated about the Yoruba race and not the entire nation? Honestly, the Nigerian situation under the nepotistic administration of Buhari has dictated that each ethnic nationality must paddle its own canoe. The north-centric tendencies of Buhari permit that. But beyond that, when one calculates the contributions of the South-West to the political profits of Buhari, and if that is placed side by side his attitude to his benefactors, everyone, who is a freeborn of Oduduwa, must know that this is the time to fight for the survival of the race. And, I am genuinely worried that many of us in the South-West are not seeing this. I am worried and angry at the same time that the Yoruba people are entering the 2023 political battlefield a divided home. That should not be! And something must be done before it is too late.
It is certain that we can no longer be discussing the idea of asking either PYO to step down for his one-time leader, BAT or to ask the Lion of Bourdillon, to play the “agba lo nni ara gba (an elder must be the one to absorb) role by dropping off the race. The die is already cast! Our concern now as a people is how to mend the broken home of Oduduwa, such that when the APC presidential primaries would have come, and gone, if the powers that be allow either of the two to take the slot, the other will not feel cheated and work against the interest of the candidate. This, however, does not close the door against other Yoruba presidential contenders in the APC. As a matter of fact, the entrance of another South-West heavyweight into the fray, will expose the region more to the impending political calamity.
I long had this feeling that in spite of the South-West claim to academic intelligence, after the passing of the Avatar, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the South-West lost its political intelligence to the north. It appears that there is no single political strategist in the region anymore. Or if they exist, nobody listens to them. Yet, our philosophy as a people, teaches us that “ai f’agba fun enikan ni o je ki aye gun” (the inability to concede wisdom to the elderly brings confusion into the world). The beauty of Yoruba political supremacy was slain on the altar of selfish interest long ago, when conscious efforts were made to dissipate and disintegrate the Afenifere structures. Those structures appointed the political leaders of the region at the beginning of the present dispensation in 1999. Those who deliberately killed the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in order to carve for themselves, a new political dynasty outside the Afenifere tutelage, are the very architects of the present Yoruba political predicament. In Yoruba land, it is axiomatic that “eni kan ki je awa de (a person does not announce that “we have arrived”). In essence, a tree does not make a forest. Whenever a young man says an elder’s mouth smells, disaster awaits such a young fellow. There is no solution to that. This is exactly what is happening to the region.
I listened to a hot debate about how Afenifere failed to follow the old order of seniority in the 1999 D’Rovans Hotel, Ibadan, AD primary between the late Chief Bola Ige and Chief Olu Falae. I asked the debaters: “at the end of the day, did Chief Ige work against the interest of Falae? Did he go out to campaign against the AD? Agreed that he served as a minister in the General Olusegun Obasanjo’s PDP administration; but did he for one day, do anything against the Yoruba race? When Chief Ige was brutally murdered on December 23, 2001, till date, are we not ascribing his murder to his attempt to revitalise the AD and give back, the South-West its lost voice? Can we compare that to those who openly campaigned against Mulikat Adeola-Akande, the PDP South-West nominee for the House of Representatives speakership in 2011 and handed the same over to Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State? Are we not reaping the whirlwind sown then? After the 1999 AD presidential primaries, did Afenifere not come together and resolve all its crises? Why can’ t the group do the same now and get the South-west back on track.
I have been pondering, since the rumour of PYO’s presidential ambition caught fire, months ago. What relationship exists between him and BAT? I have not been able to answer the question: did BAT not inform the vice president that he wanted to run for the presidency? If Tinubu did that, what was PYO’s response? Did the vice president equally tell his former master that he, PYO, would be vying for the same position in the same party? Did the duo play the “f’eje sinu, tu ito funfun jade” (retain the blood and spew out white spit) game of deceit? Now with the last Saturday “Thanksgiving Service ‘’ of Chibuke Rotimi Amaechi, CRA, in Port Harcourt, are we not seeing the end result of the gangan dance? If PYO, BAT, and John Kayode Fayemi, JKF, the incumbent governor of Ekiti State, go into the APC primaries to confront CRA, who loses? While BAT, until recently, has been moving from one state to the other to “consult”, with PYO using the modern technology of the Social Media to launch his ambition and JKF still dilly-dallying on his ambition, CRA used the cover of a “Thanksgiving Service” to assemble political tomahawks in Port Harcourt for his declaration. If the leaders of the APC in Yoruba land are not concerned about the Port Harcourt message, then we need to question their political sagacity! If by now they have not unraveled the drummers beating for CRA’s tadpole under the water , then something is amiss somewhere.
This is where a solid Afenifere would have come in. This is the point we need a more robust socio-political group like the old Afenifere the most. Like the proverbial sword which destroys its own pouch, the new generation of Yoruba political lords killed Afenifere. In the words of George Awoonor-Wiliams, the South-West “right arm is broken. And the tree on which it (I) lean is fallen”. What follows? “Those who dare not look in his (its) face. Have come as men…And strangers walk over our portion”. That is the price of selfishness. No nation destroys its source of strength and faces the enemies thereafter.
On this page on January 18, 2022, I wrote under the topic: “Tortoise, the North and the rest of us”, on Ikun, an animal in the phylum of squirrel, which is noted for its deafness and its penchant to relish groundnuts, I alluded to the wisecrack about a man who sees an ikun infested farmland and plants his groundnuts on it – “o ri oko ikun nile, o gbin epa si”. I submitted that “Any political alignment by a southern politician with the North is akin to a farmer who plants his groundnuts on a land infested with ‘ikun’. There is no harvest for such a farmer at the end of the farming season”.
By June this year, during the APC primaries, 2023 will have arrived for the South-West. The Yoruba harvesting season is 2023. The region is beating its gangan at its crescendo. We are sure, for now, that two prominent sons of the region will be in the ring, fighting for the soul of the party. Delegates will come from the region. Then the gangan drum will ask: Where do I rest my bottom? Here? There? Where?