Time to Disgrace the Self-Appointed Godfather of the South-West, By Femi Aribisala
There is a harrowing story told by Adekoya Boladale, which needs to be brought to the attention of Nigerians, especially the people of the South-West. In the middle of the night of 4th January, 1984, heavily armed men of the Strike Force of the Nigerian army invaded the Lagos home of Chief Olu Awotesu, the Minister of State for Agriculture. This military operation had one design, to put the minister under arrest.
However, Chief Awotesu was not at home, having gone to his home-town in Iperu, Ogun State. On meeting his absence, the soldiers descended on his family. His wife was dragged from the bedroom upstairs through the staircase to the ground floor, where she was kicked and beaten by the men in khaki. Her assailants laughed at her while she screamed and begged for mercy.
The children were not spared either. They were also slapped and tortured in the bid to determine the precise whereabouts of their father. This ordeal apparently went on for over three hours. When Chief Awotesu returned from Iperu to Lagos and learnt that he was now a wanted man, he drove straight to Dodan Barracks, then the seat of government in Nigeria, to give himself up.
He was not only arrested, he was detained without trial for nearly two years. It was while in detention that he learnt about the ordeal his family had been put through by men of the Special Forces. Chief Awotesu was only released in 1985, even though the government found no evidence of any crime against him.
South-West is not for sale
The man responsible for this injustice is Muhammadu Buhari. He is now running for president and wants our votes. Paradoxically, a number of the kinsmen of the late Chief Awotesu are now charged with selling his candidacy to us in the South-West; and yet Buhari himself has never found it necessary to apologise to us for the human rights violations his regime inflicted on us.
A unique opportunity was given to him by the institution of the Truth and Reconciliation panel under Justice Chukwudifu Oputa in 1999. However, Buhari showed his contempt for us by refusing to appear before the panel. Why then should people in the South-West give this same man their votes in 2015?
The fault is not Buhari’s. The fault is that of the traitors now charged with white-washing his image. These people are obviously contemptuous of their Yoruba kith and kin. They have told Buhari that all he needs is a bit of cosmetic surgery. He should change from wearing an agbada to wearing a suit. He should choose a Christian Yoruba pastor as his running mate, and even attend a thanksgiving service in Lagos where he pretends to sing Christian praise songs. He should then mouth a few inane words about “change” and “anti-corruption” and all will be forgotten.
Somebody is being fooled but it is not the Yorubas. It does not matter how many curious onlookers are paid to come to Buhari’s campaign rallies in the South-West; the Yorubas will ultimately not succumb to this hogwash. Buhari has been rejected in the South-West three times. He will be rejected yet again. Out of over 4.7 million votes cast in the six states of the South West in 2011, Buhari could only get 321,609. That is less than 7 percent. Nevertheless, some Yoruba bigwigs in the APC have gone ahead to strike a deal with Buhari on the grounds that they will deliver the South West to him in the coming election. It is not going to happen.
In the first place, who made these charlatans spokesmen for the South-West? Who mortgaged South-West Yoruba interests to the political ambitions of Bola Tinubu and his henchmen? As a matter of fact, the 2015 presidential election provides a unique opportunity for the people of the South-West to break off the political shackles of Bola Tinubu by rejecting his new-found ally of Muhammadu Buhari. If for no other reason than the refusal of the Yorubas to be sold into slavery, Buhari must be rejected outright in the South-West and the APC must be kicked out of Lagos State.
With all the noise currently being made about Buhari’s candidacy, one important point is often overlooked: Buhari is not even well-liked by his own people. A lot is made of the 12 million votes he obtained from the North in 2011, conveniently forgetting that Goodluck Jonathan also obtained a sizeable 8 million votes from the same North. Indeed, in 2011, Goodluck Jonathan won 428,392 votes in Buhari’s home-state of Katsina; to Buhari’s 1,163,919. That means Jonathan won 37% of the votes in Buhari’s backyard. Compare that to the situation in Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa. Jonathan won 584,811 votes; while Buhari obtained a miserable 691 votes. That gives Buhari a measly 0.11% of Jonathan’s votes.
It is also instructive that in the primary election for the APC presidential candidate, Northern delagates did not vote for Buhari. Instead, they gave their votes to Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar. Delegates from Buhari’s North-West voted for Kwankwaso, while those from the North-East voted for Atiku. Buhari’s delegate votes came primarily from the South-West, as well as from the South-East and the South-South. However, in 2011, out of over 38 million votes cast in the entire country, Buhari could only obtain 391,933 from the entire South-West, South-East and the South-South put together; that is 1.03% of the votes.
In short, Buhari was imposed on the North as the APC presidential candidate by delegates controlled by Tinubu. It was out of gratitude for this that Buhari gave Tinubu the sole responsibility for choosing his vice-presidential running-mate. Tinubu’s first instinct, of course, was to reserve the vice-presidency for himself. But the political pressures against a Muslim/Muslim APC ticket, led him to concede it to his political surrogate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
It is contemptuous of Tinubu and his Yoruba acolytes in APC to presume that they can deliver the South-West to Buhari in the 2015 presidential election, in spite of Buhari’s antecedents. Of all the people they could form an alliance with, Buhari is by far the least acceptable to the Yorubas. In over 30 years of being a fixture of Nigerian politics, Buhari has been decidedly and unapologetically anti-Yorubas and anti-South-West. It is a matter of public record that Buhari has never done anything for us. On the contrary; he has done so many things against us.
When he assumed power in 1984, he established a 16 member Supreme Military Council (SMC) to rule the country. In spite of the fact that the Yorubas are the largest ethnic group in the country; larger according to every statistical index than the Hausas and the Fulanis; Buhari could only find room for one solitary token Yoruba man: Brigadier Ola Oni. Buhari’s SMC had 11 Northerners to 5 Southerners.
Buhari locked up South-West politicians like Bisi Onabanjo and Michael Ajasin even though no case was found against them. Even after they were discharged and acquitted by the kangaroo courts he set up, he still kept them locked up and refused to release them. He pressured a judge to jail Fela Anikulapo Kuti for failing to declare foreign –exchange he had legitimately procured for the up-keep of his band on a foreign trip, while allowing the Emir of Gwandu to smuggle back into the country 53 suitcases during the currency-change exercise.
He did not just brutalise Chief Awotesu and his family. He did the same to Tai Solarin, who was denied medication for his asthmatic condition while in Buhari’s gulag; Ayo Oyewumi, who became blind in Buhari’s detention; and Busari Adelakun, who died of chronic ulcer, complications developed in Buhari’s jail. Buhari even seized Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s passport for no just cause, and thereby denied the old man visits to his doctors at Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota, USA during the years when he ruled Nigeria.
He frustrated Lagos’ attempt to build a metro-rail system and, as PTF chairman, he discriminated blatantly against the South-West. It is pathetic that, rather than insist he should apologise for these and other infractions, the Yoruba politicians that have decided to pitch their tent with Buhari are now trying to pull the wool over our eyes by trying to give him a cosmetic political makeover. It is just not going to wash.
The question needs to be asked: what is in it for Bola Tinubu and his henchmen? Don’t buy the hype. While Muhammadu Buhari and the APC lieutenants are busy making suitable noises about fighting corruption at the federal level, the godfather of Lagos State is busy trying to replicate at the federal level structures similar to the ones he has used to milk Lagos State dry.
Running for the PDP ticket for governor of Lagos State, Musiliu Obanikoro noted that the cost of governance in Lagos State has gone up astronomically: “because every business transaction must factor the emperor of Bourdillon into it. That has become a burden on our families. Lagos belongs to all of us, we are going to put an end to an era where Lagos belongs to one man.”
This godfather has yet to occupy a federal position, yet his holdings are in the tens of billions because he has the finances of Lagos State in his pocket. He is now gunning to replicate this at the federal level by proclaiming himself the presidential kingmaker. To do this, he intends to enslave the Yorubas to a North-West cabal that insists it is its divine right to rule Nigeria.
Quite apart from the fact that the godfather himself is deluded in thinking that Buhari will be a docile Fashola replica as president; or in assuming that those clamoring for power in the North will have any consideration for him once they use him as a ladder to get to power; he is equally deluded in thinking the Yorubas are fools who will readily mortgage their future in order to instal Bola Tinubu as the godfather of Nigeria.