“There are times when even the greatest tactician in diplomatic cunning is outclassed in his own game. It is then that he discovers that all he thought he had gained is but loss, and that what is left of national honor and dignity is but the shadow of an illustrious past that is gone forever, or of a potentially great future that will never come.” – Awo
The real Yoruba leaders are gone from here. We’re sad, unsure, and our hearts are broken over their loss. We remember their unique idea of servant-leadership that impacted on our lives with joy, passion, spirit, and with gratitude we pay homage to them.
We remember with pride and praise their words dripping with truth, grit and grace, wisdom, courage, resilience, conviction, integrity, dignity, and more importantly, their love for our people. The present crop of self-styled politicians who parade themselves as Yoruba leaders are in direct conflict and contradiction to our leaders of yesteryears.
They avoid problems and pains of leadership and stewardship. They lack the discipline of leadership namely: delay gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing. The failure to use these four leadership tools would ultimately lead to their downfall.
Yoruba leaders have chosen to shun delay gratification in the hope that future suffering will not be necessary. They put aside something painful for something pleasant or less painful. Their idea, concept, and theory of leadership rest squarely on acquisition and accumulation of wealth, ostentatious life style, greed, and wickedness.
The exemplary life of discipline and simplicity of leaders like Chief Awolowo and his thoroughbred lieutenants of old, are conspicuously missing in some of the self-appointed Yoruba leaders of today. Awo and his group were willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain their ability to be decisive. The best measure of a person’s greatness is the capacity for suffering. Awo and his men demonstrated such uncanny leadership sensitivity.
Politically, Yorubas are fighting desperation and frustration. The prose portraits of Yoruba marginalization and second class citizenship was manifested when the gap-tooth Northerner IBB annulled the June 12 presidential election won by a Yoruba man, election that was adjudged by the world as the fairest and freest election that ever took place in Nigeria.
If the reverse was the case whereby a Northerner won an election and was annulled by a Yoruba, do you think the Northerners would walk away from it without reclaiming their mandate? In fact, the annulment of June 12 in my opinion, was enough reason for Yorubas to secede from the rest of the country. The annulment dehumanized our being. It was the worst political hara-kiri. It therefore defies logic and wisdom to be part of a country where another ethnic group could be so brave, so powerful, and so insensitive as to deny another ethnic group of the presidency.
But because Yorubas could not muster enough courage to dare the Northerners, and most importantly the collusion of some Yoruba Akindanidanis with IBB, the victory was stolen from us. Instead, a Yoruba Akindanidani – Earnest Sonekan, was appointed to the presidency to serve as a bait to temporarily pacify and calm down the Yorubas. It worked perfectly for the Northerners.
There is a leadership void among the Yorubas. Yoruba leadership has been usurped by men of poverty of values. Yorubas lack leadership that could not be bought, or be cowed. The Yoruba leadership is now dominated by people who are takers not givers, fakers not authentic. The cold destruction of Yorubas’ human spirit by flawed leadership has made Yorubas endangered species – politically.
The political narrative of political alliance between the Yorubas and the Northerners is similar to the story of Esau and Jacob. On many occasions, The Yorubas have sold their birthright for a bowl of pap. The Yorubas are like Esau because they are willing to sell, to give up, and to contract their birthright for a bowl of pap. The leadership is willing to give up our relevance, our pride, our future for the culture of materialism. They are willing to give up a birthright culture for a contract culture.
From the day Esau sold his brother his birthright, Esau despised his birthright. Esau’s birthright neither fed him, nor kept him warm at night. For Esau, his birthright had become a burden. Similarly, Yorubas had many times in the past sold their birthright to the Northerners. And Yorubas have become more vulnerable and valueless.
Few instances will suffice. Akintola’s alliance with the Tafawa Balewa led NPC federal government led to the political unrest – “Operation wet e” – in the old West. Justice Sowemimo who presided over the treasonable felony trial of Awo and his key Action Group (AG) party members, allied with the Northerners to incarcerate Awo and his lieutenants by saying “My hands are tied” (obviously by the Northerners). Sonekan was a ready tool in the hands of the Northerners. He took over as interim president after his kinsman Abiola who won the election was denied the presidency.
Like Esau, the Yorubas selling their birthright to the Northerners via alliance are: (a) short sighted and have no sight into what they’re giving away. (b) Have flawed judgment in that they’re giving away something so valuable in exchange for so little. (c) They do not understand the spiritual value of their birthright. (e) They could not see beyond their physical needs and thus they bartered away their unspeakably precious privileges. (f) They are like people who dashed through the needs of the moment and rejected the future for the present. (g) They have limited spiritual insight and so they could give up the unseen for the seen. (h) They have low emotional intelligence for they could not delay gratification in the interest of a more worthy cause.
Yoruba alliance with the Northerners has never worked and it would never work. The All Progressive Congress (APC) is at crossroad of history. APC in alliance with the Northerners is shopping for a Northern presidential candidate for 2015 elections. The Yorubas will settle for ceremonious and errand second place position of a vice-president. Make no mistake about it, if a Northerner is elected president, he would champion the Northern hegemony and monopoly of federal resources. In the days of Balewa, Sardauna of Sokoto Ahmadu Bello, dictated the command to Lagos.
Yoruba leadership should be reminded of the choices they make, where they place their priorities, and what they value. They need to be aware that what is really important in life lest again like Esau they sell their souls for a figurative bowl of pap. Awo refused to sell his birthright and indeed Yoruba’s birthright. Excerpt from his letter from prison dated March 28, 196, to Major General Aguiyi Ironsi is very instructive:
“In October 1963 (that is about a month after my conviction and while my appeal to the Supreme Court was still pending), a Peace Committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, made overtures to me through my friend Alhaji W.A. Elias to the effect that if I abandoned my intention to enter into alliance with N.C.N.C. which, according to the Committee, was an Ibo organisation, and agreed to dissolve the Action Group and in co-operation with Chief Akintola (now deceased), from an all-embracing Yoruba political party which I would lead and which would go into alliance with the N.P.C., I would be released from prison before the end of that year. I turned down these terms because I was of the considered opinion that their acceptance would further widen and exacerbate inter-tribal differences, and gravely undermine the unity of the Federation.”
In South Africa you can find something called fool’s gold. It is traces of gold colored material in rocks and stones that lie near the surface. Fool’s Gold, Iron Pyrite, used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid and sulphur dioxide; pellets of pressed pyrite dust have been used to recover iron, gold, copper, cobalt, nickel, etc.; used to make inexpensive jewelry. It can be confused with the real thing for a short time but very soon it becomes apparent that it is not real gold and is worthless.
The greed and shortsightedness of Yoruba leaders make them susceptible to fool’s gold. They are not always able to discern what is truly valuable and so all too often they exchange their souls for something paltry as Esau did. They must charter a new political rebirth that would make Yorubas more relevant and invaluable in the political calculation of Nigeria. They must learn to suffer to live.
They must learn to recognize to choose well. They must learn to recognize when to sacrifice, wait, endure, overcome, and put up with hardship, so that they might keep the better more worthy prize. No matter how temporarily enjoyable and satisfying a choice may seem at any given moment, they must learn to measure all their choices up against Yorubas’ birthright. Yoruba alliance with the Northerners is a fool’s gold!
Bayo Oluwasanmi can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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