Asiwaju: No better time for Yewaland to rise and shine

Gboyega Nasir Isiaka

Foremost Historian, Prof Anthony Asiwaju, forecasts that the riotous political scenario in Ogun State will be to the advantage of Ogun West, which is yet to have a governor after 43 years of creation of the state.

The March 2 governorship election seems a straight battle between Yewas and Ijebus. What is your take as an elder statesman and the Asiwaju of Yewaland?
Between the people of Yewaland and wider Ogun West and the other two senatorial districts of our state, including the Ijebu of the Ogun East Senatorial District, there are too many historical, cultural and other bonds to allow for a ‘battle’ situation among them.

The problem is about power tussle among politicians who, as usual, take undue advantage of their individual identities with the various ethnic and sub-ethnic groups or communities to cause confusion, if not disaffection, between the generality of otherwise innocent masses of our people.

Also, rather than issue-based presentations and debates, our mostly callous politicians exploit the widespread poverty and ignorance of our people to prevent them from a long-term perception of their interests, the people’s interests, and conceal their real motives.

Two candidates are contesting from Yewaland, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, and Abdulkadir Adekunle Akinlade; would this not adversely affect the chances of the Zone?
Yes, Isiaka of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), and Akinlade of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), the splinter group of the crisis-ridden All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, formerly controlled by the incumbent Governor Amosun, are the two most prominent; but there are three others in the Zone, who are gubernatorial flag bearers of other political parties: Adewale Omoniyi of the ANRP, Oluseyi Olowookere of the AD, and John Adegbola of the AAP.

This is as it should be in a multi-party democracy like Nigeria.
If the playing ground were to be level, as unfortunately hardly so with us, I would say there is no better time for Yewaland to rise and shine than as in the scenario that’s playing out at the moment when, against the two prominent candidates in Ogun West, there are, rather unusually, not less than three in the  Ogun East, traditionally believed for bloc  voting, to  say nothing about reliable indications of an ever increasing number, in Ogun East and Ogun Central, of truly civilized people, genuinely committed to supporting  a credible candidate from our zone, given the morally unacceptable fact of Ogun West as the only one senatorial district in the Gateway State that has never had the opportunity to produce a Governor in  its forty-three years of history.

Lack of unity has been the frequently mentioned reason why Yewaland has not produced a governor since 1976, would you say that this problem has been surmounted?
First, I would say that this commonplace argument about Yewaland, and indeed, wider Ogun West has been based on a wrong reading of the region’s history and geopolitics.

This uncritical view of our region of Ogun State as one hopelessly bedeviled by so-called ‘lack of unity’ conveniently overlooks the fact of the difference here with the other geopolitical zones of the state, vis-a-vis the other two senatorial districts, is one of degree, not of type.

More importantly, the political structure and restructuring of the state over the years, especially, regarding local government and local government development areas, have been painfully skewed against us in Ogun West and in disproportionate advantage of the other zones. No thanks to the fact of a deliberate systematic marginalization of our region by state governments at the centre, one after another, in respect of our own structurally disadvantaged positioning at the periphery of the national territorial space.

Finally, there is the issue of state wealth concentration in the Centre and the East.

All these mean that, in a situation like ours, where political competition is highly dependent on ability to roll out money, even if Ogun West is one without any iota of disunity and the better resourced zone are in all manner of disarray, they, not us, would continue to Lord it over us in Ogun West.

Otherwise, Ogun West, especially Yewaland within it, is of a history, replete with shining capacities for unity and consensus building that defy stories about its so-called ‘lack of unity’.

Take the recent examples of consensus-building that produced the Yewa Paramountcy in 1994 and historic change of toponym and ethnonym in 1995. Add these to older achievements of an ingenious negotiation of a distinct protectorate arrangement under the British in mid-1890s and a regional educational establishment, Egbado, now Yewa, College, Ilaro, in 1951; and it would begin to dawn on any intelligent observer that the argument about ‘lack of unity’ is not as abiding as it is generally made to appear.

As we engage in this dialogue, I have no iota of doubt that, as we inch towards March 2 election, the argument about ‘ lack of unity’ has lost its lustre as a standing barrier in the way of Ogun West producing a credible regional consensus candidate for the position of Governor of Ogun State.

Why did the Yewa endorse Isiaka and not Akinlade that is the anointed candidate of the incumbent Governor?
First, let me more correctly state that the endorsement of GNI was by the entire Ogun West Senatorial District, not just of Yewaland: the Ogun West Stakeholders Summit at the Frontier Hotel Ilaro on January 5, 2019, which endorsed GNI, was held with the Asiwaju of Aworiland , Senator Ayodele Otegbola, and my humble self, Asiwaju of Yewaland, as Co-Conveners; and Chief Osunlabu, Ekerin Ota and Chairman, Yoruba Council of Elders (Ogun State Chapter), and Otunba Ilaro, Dr SAJ Ibikunle, as Co-Fathers of the Day. The organisers, Ogun West Stakeholders Forum is a politically formidable group of strongly motivated patriotic members drawn from across the entire region.

There were over 1000 attendants, cutting across the entire region and including all shades of political opinions and political parties in the state, as well as spokesmen of professional associations, religious groups, generations and gender. The gathering compared only with the regional summit that met at the Federal Poly Ilaro to proclaim the changes of regional and sub-ethnic identity from Egbado to Yewa on 1 July 1995.

The endorsement of GNI as the region’s consensus candidate, vis a vis the other four gubernatorial candidates, including Akinlade, was predicated on comparative assessment of several criteria, including though not limited to: cerebral capacity, political experience and level of exposure, demonstrated moral probity, perseverance, emotional maturity and leadership qualities, including accessibility and ability for independence of thought and action.

The endorsement, based on the Summit’s determination to present the best and the most credible candidate in the region to wider Ogun State electorate, was done deliberately in the absence of all the candidates, including GNI himself.

How would you advise Governor Amosun in his quest for a Yewa man as his successor?
Yes, indeed, I offered an unsolicited written advice late in October 2018, just before the Governor moved his political structure from the APC to the APM for the sole and rather desperate purpose of actualising Akinlade as his anointed governorship candidate, as well as other favourites of the Governor for State and National Assemblies, for a tenure elongation in an apparent succession regime, arrangements that were, however, being systematically sanctioned by the APC at the national level in Abuja.

The letter argued passionately against the governor’s then apparent intent to embark on what then appeared a politically dangerous anti-party activity, and one that was thought inimical to the interest of Ogun West in our collective resolve to present a credible candidate for the 2019 governorship election.

Since this was becoming increasingly unachievable within the APC, the advice was for the Governor to steer away from the path of a potentially dangerous possibility of an antagonistic succession by those he was trying to leave behind in APC, and, instead, align his structure in support of GNI of the ADC and remain counted positively in the eye of history of breaking the jinx of having a truly credible and politically formidable candidate of Ogun West origin as his successor.

Needless to say more: the advice was not considered, which explains the situation we are in.

What is your vision for Ogun State and how would you appeal to the people regarding March 2?
My dream about Ogun State, borne out largely from insights as a common-sensical academic, a long-standing historian of the region of Ogun State in focus, is for a more equitable political arrangement that allows for a more orderly zoning of governorship elections based on the three Senatorial Districts, as sanctioned by the Nigerian Constitution and successfully practiced in some other Nigerian federated States, notably Delta, a comparatively multi-ethnic border State,where the zoning arrangement has permitted each of the three Senatorial Districts to have, so far, at least one credible candidate elected as Governor of the State, with the trail going round again.

My appeal to the generality of Ogun State electorate is for them to demonstrate by their votes the widely talked-about perception and support for a credible candidate of Ogun West origin to be the next Governor of the State, thus breaking the 43-year old jinx.

Regarding Saturday’s election, as I am myself going to do, very prayerfully, I advise Nigerians to vote in strict accordance to their conscience and sense of judgement of what is best for our country, as to whether, in the current absence of any alternative third option, we should continue with the ongoing presidency or it’s time for change by giving the main opposition party a second chance.

Now that the advice has evidently not been heeded, what would you counsel the people of Ogun West specifically?
My response to this question is already implied in the response to the earlier question as to why the regional summit by the non-partisan Ogun West Stakeholders Forum in Ilaro on January 5, this year chose to endorse GNI of the ADC and not Akinlade of the APM, who is Governor Amosun’s preferred candidate from our region, and one on whom enormous resources have been and are still being expended by the stupendously rich Governor who, as we know, is himself standing for re-election as Senator for Ogun Central on a ticket of the APC!

The predictable confusion and danger of conflict, implied in Amosun’s contradictory, though understandable, position as an APC chieftain and patron of the opposition APM party in the state was played out at the APC presidential campaign rally in Abeokuta on Monday, February 11, which was marred by a thuggery widely reported to have been perpetuated by APM fans, covertly encouraged by the APM leadership.

For me, both GNI and Akinlade are cherished sons. However, the scenario that is playing out before us is one in which Akinlade, if declared winner in the March 2 election, would be Governor Amosun’s stooge and his tenure would be inextricably marked by a declared ‘mission to rebuild’, another name for continuity with Amosun’s policies and programmes, which we in Ogun West know have aggravated the political marginalization and infrastructural deprivation of our region.

Amosun has made no secret of his vision about his anointed successor from Ogun West as one whose mandate would be in completing and commissioning the projects he has begun.

The APC- biased Ogun West Elders Council has often been assured that they did not have to worry about the money for the first election of his candidate from the region. Their worry should be about his stooge’s second term.

In fairness, Amosun is energetically delivering on his self-serving promise. But if Ogun West and, indeed, wider Ogun State, must escape this gory future of uncanny unevenness of development, the choice made at the regional summit of January 5 must enjoy the predominant, if not the unanimous support of the electorate in the region and wider area of Ogun State: come March 2, GNI of the ADC should become the Governor of Ogun State to save it from a looming political collapse in the hands of the warring factions of the APC in the State.

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