What will Baba tell Awo?


Chief Ayo Adebanjo wondered, to The Guardian of April 21, how Baba Ayo Fasanmi would face Chief Obafemi Awolowo?

He claimed Senator Fasanmi, an Action Group (AG) “firebrand” of yore, had lost his Awoist verve.

Still, God sparing his life for many years yet, what would Baba Adebanjo himself tell Awo?

That after all his Not My Will heroics, against author Olusegun Obasanjo, for his rude anti-Awo remarks in that book, Baba Adebanjo in 2019 merrily queued behind the same Chief Obasanjo, for nothing more than an electoral gambit that pitiably crumbled?

That if Baba Fasanmi deserved the hottest corner of the Awoist hell, for supporting Muhammadu Buhari, a “Fulani who refused to be exposed” for president; Baba Adebanjo has earned the most blissful of Awoist paradise, for supporting the same Buhari, for whatever reason, in 2007?

That Baba Adebanjo would push Afenifere, on blind Yoruba sentiments, to near-political harakiri on Obasanjo’s account in 2003; but would grudge the Fulani, allegedly on those same ethnic grounds, from protecting their own Buhari in 2019?  How would the ever-logical Awo take to that?

And horror of horrors!  That aside being underneath the sheets with Chief Obasanjo, the great Yoruba prodigal, Baba Adebanjo would crow to Awo, how he deployed Afenifere, Awo’s puritanical legacy, as uncompromising pre-court bluff, for Atiku Abubakar!

The same Atiku who, as Obasanjo’s vice president, publicly brawled with his boss over personal lollies; not over high principles of state?  Wouldn’t Awo have dismissed such as “ojelu” (political parasites) and not “oselu” (politicians), in that devastating Awo pun?

Yeah, in 2007, Atiku was the presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC), the party that Baba Bisi Akande chaired; and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu led.

Ay!  But didn’t Baba Adebanjo already dismiss both Akande and Tinubu as infidels, in his exclusive conclave of holy progressives?

Yet, in 2007, Adebanjo worked for Buhari (new devil) while Akande/Tinubu worked for Atiku (new saint)!

Perhaps, zealots and infidels once co-mingled in Baba Adebanjo’s impassioned cosmos of iron-clad saints and sinners!

All these contradictions just highlight the clear danger of canonizing self and demonizing others, dead or alive; in the rabid piling of cards to sway an argument.  That does grave harm to the integrity — and even utility — of public discourse.

Besides, tarring personal opponents (most times, in tactics and strategies, not even on core principles), as Yoruba traitors (as Baba Adebanjo did in his The Guardian interview) is rich.

But even more dangerous: for ideological differences, no matter how sharp, dubbing the Fulani as “Yoruba enemies” (as Baba Femi Okurounmu, another Afenifere elder did, in another interview with The Punch, some two years ago.)

The formidable Yoruba progressive mainstream (that Chief Adebanjo and Senator Okunroumu seized to inflict their respective ”fatwas”, issued from the titanic battle Chief Awolowo fought against the Hausa-Fulani political forces of his day.

Sure, Awo had the earliest reversals: the Western Region got the Midwest chopped out of it; while his northern and eastern traducers kept, intact, their respective regions.  He was also gaoled for charges of treasonable felony, a setback that suggested Awo’s dazzling political star would set at noon.

Even then, before he died, Awo triumphed over his foes.  The first coup, even in his absence, silenced his national enemies; and sentenced his Yoruba traducers, and their offspring, as political pariahs, if not outright lepers.

The second coup rocketed Awo up to the near-apex of state, under Gen. Yakubu Gowon, as highest-ranked civilian.  Were Awo as ideologically flexible as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, his great political rival, Awo would have embraced, for personal short-term pleasure, Zik’s “diarchy” — a doctrine of military-civilian cohabitation for political power.

But even the victory Awo never wrought while alive, he commanded after death; with the sheer rigour of his thinking.

Proof?  About everyone — friend, foe or neither — is buying into “restructuring”; a tie-back to the federalism he enunciated, as far back as 1947, in his Path to Nigerian Freedom.

It’s the making of the greatest thinker of his era — and perhaps, up till now.  So, if Awo had fought and won all of his wars, why does Baba Adebanjo’s faction of Afenifere always scald everyone, that disagrees with them, with Awoist puritanical blackmail?

Perhaps it’s the tragic snare of the ideologue, matched against the uneasy perch of the pragmatic?

The Afenifere grandees, unable to stay relevant in the fast changing political dynamics, cling to old Awo-era tactics, hoping that conjuring up Yoruba-Fulani ethnic bogey would whip everyone into line.

But the potency or otherwise of that bulldog tactic appears clear.  While the Adebanjo faction wilts by the day, the other blocs: Tinubu/Akande progressives and Hon. Wale Oshun-chaired Afenifere Renewal Group (which Baba trenchantly dubs Afenifere Rebel Group, ARG), appear luxuriating.

So, does the rival Baba Fasanmi Afenifere “Areopagus” — perhaps stung from quietude, to call the bluff of the Adebanjo faction, especially its excesses, in the name of Awo?

Well, are all these the wide and merry way that leads to Awoist perdition — as Baba hints in his doomsday interviews?   Or are they the triumph of the progressive, as flexible pragmatic; over the progressive, as fixated ideologue?

Pragmatism trumping fixation appears Baba Adebanjo’s main grouse with Tinubu’s APC (with Oshun’s ARG and Fasanmi’s Afenifere faction), over their ruling alliance with President Buhari.

Still, how do you decry Fulani supremacy, yet project Yoruba irredentism?  Strip the Adebanjo group’s “restructuring” campaign of its media fizz and blitz, and its incubus: “I’m more Yoruba than you!” blinds you, with all its arrogant flash!

Pray, how does haughty ethnic projection help anybody in a fractious polity?

But even as cavalier Awoist puritanism masks this most swashbuckling ethnic arrogance, Awo’s grandson-in-law, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is busy with PMB – the Fulani “feudalist” – planting pro-people and pro-poor policies, in the Nigerian national space: schools feeding programme; Tradermoni and Marketmoni (state credit for the humblest of traders); and conditional cash transfer, to the poorest citizens nationwide.

These are classic progressive policies that would have warmed Awo’s heart.  Yet the dire verdict from Chief Adebanjo: PYO is “a disgrace” and a “dishonest intellectual”!  The thing though is, spite hardly vitiates the sweetness of honey!

Afenifere, with all its media loudness, appears unaware of this apocryphal quote, credited to Gen. Gowon: I respect my elders but don’t fear them, for I already know what they can do.  My mates?  We can take care of ourselves.  But those coming after me?  Now, those are the ones I fear!  You never know the heights they’d scale!

Perhaps with a little elderly humility, the Afenifere would realize why their ranks are thinning out.

Maybe then, they’d appreciate why the ARG are less apostates to be crushed – as if the grandees could! – but only the natural inheritors of the Awoist legacy; without the ancestral poison of old.


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