If you choose to repudiate self and focus on building an enduring legacy, you are in a position to charge our trajectory, especially in the Southwest by working with your political mentees… Sir, in twenty years what will you be remembered for? What current of political philosophy or social advancement would you have generated?


Dear Asiwaju, I admire you and I have studied you from afar. In my writings, I have described you in flattering and not too flattering superlatives based on your politics. Your leadership acumen came to the fore when you withstood hurricane Obasanjo. You had a vision of a new Lagos, you created it and recruited believers of the vision. From your vision, a mission emerged which we all embraced. At some point, we rallied around you as a galvanising agent poised to revive, rebuild and advance the legacy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Yoruba men and women yearned to key into the Lagos model. The measure of a leader is not only in what he achieved but in the minds he built and shaped to advance his legacy. You created a pipeline for leadership among the Yoruba. Since Chief Obafemi Awolowo died, no leader among the Yoruba and indeed in Nigeria has created a pipeline for producing future leaders. Not even your most unforgiving critic can deny you this enviable distinction. For this reason, I have always believed you understand the burden you bear and I have prayed, wished and hoped you have the capacity to bear it.

Like you, the earlier Yoruba modernists of the colonial era, warts and all, were strategic thinkers and intellectuals – Sapara Williams, Adeyemo Alakija, Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Bode Thomas, Ladoke Akintola, H. O Davies, Adegoke Adelabu, etc. These foremost Yoruba thinkers had a central philosophical trust. Sir, what is your philosophical thrust? The Lagos framework we once hailed now appears in a disconcerting sort of way, like Benito Mussolini’s original definition of fascism – the surbodination of the state to corporate interests. Everything you built seems to be crumbling. It is very painful to watch your grip weaken in slow motion. It is especially devastating when the muscular atrophy evident in the weakening grip is self-induced. The political economy and society in western Nigeria is at a very low ebb. The concept of social capital and the emphasis on human capital development is gone! Unlike what obtained in the firmament from the 1940s through to the 1960s, there is no cohesive intellectual path guiding thought and action among the Yoruba and in Nigeria. No one is replicating Obafemi Awolowo’s intellectual output or producing a prodigious work like Adegoke Adelabu’s Africa In Ebulition. We had thought that was what you were going to restore; it wasn’t.

The relationship between you and your political “sons” gives the impression that what you give with the right hand, you often take back with the left. As much as you identify and build talent, you have also created and empowered party hacks whose only understanding of politics is like sharing cookies in Tammany Hall. The Ambode and Sanwoolu issue will prove to be a trojan horse if you are not careful. Under your watch, Lagos has gone from the Lagos of Herbert Macaulay, Adeniran Ogunsanya et al to that of ATM politicians and union bosses. The whole thing is absurd. Sir, this time calls for reflection and a change of strategy. It is a time to ponder. In politics, numbers are destiny but the tyranny of the active minority is tainting you. It gives the impression that you are advancing, instead of reigning in, the destructive influences of party bosses.

Respectfully sir, our people are revolting against what is perceived as a framework based on a fascist political economy in which the State is surbodinated to corporate interests. They will not accept it. Doing so will be a repudiation of the social democratic position associated with Awolowo…


Dear Asiwaju, the data from the Osun election calls for deep reflection. Roughly 70 per cent of those who voted appear to have “repudiated” a progressive position. First time voters did not vote for your party. The All Progressives Congress (APC) went from a 19,000-vote win to losing to Senator Ademola Adeleke. The decade ahead 2020-2030 will be decisive, given the unforgiving demographic time bomb and the escalating poverty index. The word out there is that you do not care about Yoruba interests. You should be providing the leadership and roadmap for the development and excellence of the Yoruba. The Treaty which ended the Yoruba civil war was unambiguous in arguing for a clear federalist arrangement among the Yoruba and a society based on equity and social justice – the notion of “Omoluabi”. Respectfully sir, our people are revolting against what is perceived as a framework based on a fascist political economy in which the State is surbodinated to corporate interests. They will not accept it. Doing so will be a repudiation of the social democratic position associated with Awolowo, in which the state is used to build social and economic capital to benefit the majority, as opposed to a few.

Sir, have you observed that there is hardly any space available now for intelligent people or intellectual inputs in what we describe sarcastically as “politics”? In the first place, we do not have political parties as they have evolved over the last two hundred years. There is hardly any need for intellectual input when there is no discernible philosophical anchor. In the 1950s and 1960s, we had political parties with deep ideological cleavages and policy thrusts. For example, the post of director of research was highly prized as the heartbeat, the engine room of the party. In the Action Group and latter Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the position was actually merged with director of organisation to emphasise its strategic importance. As with the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, the parties had regular Policy Conferences charged with producing guidelines which the party, when in power, had to implement. What do we have today under the APC?

Sir…You cannot and must not promote mediocrity for the sake of advancing a political agenda. The current political structure is ignoring the future by refusing to create it. The once vibrant youth wing of political parties have become induction grounds for breeding thugs and expendables as opposed to political socialisation.


In today’s rentier state with a booty sharing framework mindset, there is no space for intellectual input. The person of intellect is actually not needed. The management of grassroots have been handed over to gravy train politicians who do not have the social and intellectual confidence to give them a place. They view the person of intellectual depth and purpose as posing a threat to their meal tickets. Sir, you developed in the best traditions, and your career was pockmarked by excellence. You cannot and must not promote mediocrity for the sake of advancing a political agenda. The current political structure is ignoring the future by refusing to create it. The once vibrant youth wing of political parties have become induction grounds for breeding thugs and expendables as opposed to political socialisation. There are no efforts to organise political bootcamps and opportunities for teenagers and young adults to serve under politicians as a way to mentoring them. How can they understand policies and processes without hands-on experience? Of course, there are no consistent policies or processes to be studied anyway. Sir, this cannot continue. It is not sustainable. The absence of such a socialisation mechanism, will continue to attract grab and share politicians of indeterminate loyalty and no ideological focus.

You did not create the ills in our land. Military rule destroyed the process of the orderly evolution of political parties into catalysts fo modernisation. Before you, the politics of creating opportunities and development had given way to the politics of personal financial security in a country with limited opportunities for economic advancement and no social safety net. Unfortunately a large clientele of dependency has been developed through the entrenchment of “empowerment” schemes. You were on track once and you can go back to what worked before. We can’t afford to continue creating unequal societies. If you choose to repudiate self and focus on building an enduring legacy, you are in a position to charge our trajectory, especially in the Southwest by working with your political mentees. As Tony Blair said to Bill Clinton, “I want to be remembered as more than a man who knew how to win elections.” Sir, in twenty years what will you be remembered for? What current of political philosophy or social advancement would you have generated? Thank you as you take my concerns in good faith.

foraminifera

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo