Late former French President Charles de Gaulle, in frustration over the situation in his country was once quoted as saying: “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”
For the Yewa, the predominant people in Ogun-West Senatorial district of Ogun State, the vexing and frustrating question to ask is: “How do you produce a leader when there are a thousand splinter groups?”Before and after Ogun State was created, prominent Yewa indigenes had made attempts to contest for leadership positions, especially the Governorship, without success. All the attempts made had been for naught. For example, Dr. Tunji Otegbeye was defeated by Olabisi Onabanjo at the Governorship primary of the UPN. Notable son and academician Prof. Olabimtan, was defeated by Olusegun Osoba in the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). Gboyega Isiaka, Gen. Tunji Olurin [Rtd] also tried on the platforms of the PPN and PDP and failed. That has been the lot of Yewa as far as any leadership position in Ogun State is concerned.
Perhaps the issue is best put into context with the following May 19, 2016 post by Ernest Nwokolo on “Politics.”
“Yewa and politics of power shift-
Posted By: ERNEST NWOKOLO On: May 19, 2016 In: Politics
—The people of Yewa Division, Ogun State, are stepping up their agitation for power shift, ahead of the next governorship election. Correspondent ERNEST NWOKOLO writes on how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are responding to the clamour.
Ogun West stakeholders are intensifying their agitation for power shift, ahead of the next governorship election. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is likely to zone the slot to the old Egbado Division, as it did last year. In the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the clamour is more intense.
Forty years ago, the Gateway State was created. It has produced four governors. None of them is from Yewa. The Ogun West Senatorial District comprise five local governments – Yewa South, Yewa North, Ipokia, Ado/Odo/Ota and Imeko-Afon. The Egba produced former Governor Olusegun Osoba in the Third Republic and between 1999 and 2003. Governor Ibikunle Amosun is also from Egba. Second Republic Governor Olabisi Onabanjo was from Ijebu. Former Governor Gbenga Daniel hails from Ijebu.
Before this dispensation, attempts were made by prominent Yewa indigenes to contest for the governorship. But, the moves were futile. In the Third Republic, foremost Yoruba scholar and one-time commissioner Prof. Afolabi Olabimtan and the late Dr. Tunji Otegbeye threw their hats into the ring. Otegbeye was defeated by Onabanjo at the primary of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in 1979. Olabimtan was defeated by Osoba in the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). Yewa has not been a united division.
In 2011, Gboyega Isiaka from Yewa wanted to be governor on the platform of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN). He failed. In that year, the retired soldier, Gen. Tunji Olurin, was the candidate of the PDP. He was defeated by Amosun of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Four years later, Isiaka’s ambition also crumbled in the PDP. Yewa Division is always more committed to the governorship aspirations of non-indigenes. The highest positions that have been occupied by Yewa were the deputy governor and the Speaker of the House of Assembly. Alhaja Salmot Badru was the deputy governor in Daniel administration. Prince Suraj Adekunbi is the current Speaker.
The Chief promoter of Olurin on the ticket of the PDP was former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The former president described him as the best man for the job. But, when Obasanjo visited Arepo for campaigns, he also described Amosun as a good man, urging the people to vote for him. PDP chieftains were confused. Olurin was said to be trusted, experienced, credible and has a global exposure. But, there was division in Yewa over his ambition. Some wanted Isiaka. The acrimony polarised Yewa. The duo lost to Amosun, who enjoyed the unity and numerical strength of his Egba kinsmen.
The mistake was repeated last year. Senator Akin Odunsi from Ogun West had dumped the APC for the Social Democratic Party (SDP). His ambition clashed with that of Isiaka. Again, there was division. The Yewa people could not agree on a single candidate from the zone. Their disagreement was to Amosun’s advantage.
The search for a Yewa son or daughter to succeed Amosun has begun quietly. But, the question is: who will the cap fit?
Eyes are on Senator Olamilekan Adeola (Yayi), who hails from Ogun West. Sources said he has the blessing of top Southwest APC leaders. A source said that his popularity has been soaring as a party loyalist.
According to the source, the power shift agenda was one of the issues discussed when Osoba retraced his steps to the APC. The eminent journalist, added the source, has not raise any eyebrow about the deal to zone the slot to Yewaland.
A number of factors are responsible for why the leaders may have zeroed in on Adeola. He has received some tutelage from the right quarters about the progressive politics of the Southwest. For eight years, he was a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly. He was a member of the House of Representatives for four years. He is also popular at home.
On March 9, 2013, while serving as the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Public Accounts, he was in Abeokuta, the state capital, as a guest speaker. The topic was “Infrastructure: The role of Public Accounts Committee in Good Governance.” The lecture was organised by the Abeokuta Country Club. Since then, eyes have been on him as Amosun’s successor, if power shifts to Yewa.
Also, ahead of last year’s elections, Adeola showed interst in the Ogun West senatorial seat. He hit the ground running. He became a household name. He became the toast of all in Yewa and Aworiland.
In the course of creating awareness for his senatorial ambition, the convoys of his supporters ran into a turbulent political weather in Ilaro, the headquarters of Yewa South Local Government Area. In the ensuing violence by suspected thugs, his supporters were injured.
Adeola was forced to beat a retreat. He went back to Lagos, emerging as a senator from Lagos West. But, his associates said that he will return to Ogun
State in 2019.
But, not many people know the exact community in Ogun West where he hails from. Many communities are claiming that the promising politician hails from them. There may be new challenges of acceptability too because nothing is constant in politics.
The anticipated choice of Adeola may put the party and Amosun on a war path. Since 2011 when Amosun won the election first on the ticket of the ACN, and later, the APC, he has been working diligently to entrench himself as the godfather of the Egba politics, and by extension, that of the Ogun East and Ogun West, in the hope of using the numerical strength of the Egbas (Ogun Central) as a bargaining tool or an arbiter of political outcome outside Egbaland.
Also, the governor’s political structure in Ogun APC, which nonetheless, is a carry-over from the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), is still intact, although there are grumblings among his followers.
Sources close to Amosun said he would most likely want his right hand person from the Yewa to succeed him, instead of Adeola. The governor’s term will expire in 2019 and sources said that he will like to return to the Senate.
The source said Amosun may have deliberately wanted to sideline Osoba, who is not the leader of the party. Given the Governor’s strong will, his close ties with President Muhammadu Buhari, dating back to the ANPP days, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his godfather from Owu, and because he won his second term without Osoba’s support, he may adopt ‘no surrender, no retreat’ approach in bid to anoint a successor.
However, many believe that the reason Osoba was prodded by some party leaders to return to the APC is to checkmate Amosun, who may want to play the role of godfather in 2019.
Since Osoba returned to the party, Amosun has embraced him publicly. But, there is no real renewal of contact. The reconciliation is not smooth. Amosun has not spoken on reconciliation. His media aide, Adejuwon Soyinka, merely said on phone: “There has always been a cordial relationship between the two leaders.” The aide decline to comment on reconciliation, saying that only the governor could speak for himself about it. He advised the media to refrain from speculations.
He added: “The issue of the reconciliation is one area I can’t speak for the Governor. He is the only one that can speak for himself about it. We have to wait until he makes a public statement on it.
“I will encourage us not to speculate. However, there is always a cordial relationship between Chief Osoba and the governor and he always embrace him whenever they meet in public functions.”
In 2019, there may be a clash of interests. Succession may create a division in the APC. The loser, once again, may be Yewa.
If the governorship is not zoned to Yewa, Ijebu will become its beneficiary. The zone produced Onabanjo. Since then, no governor has come from the area.
Yewa monarchs have lent their voice to the agitation for power shift. The Olubara of Ibaraland, Oba Jacob Omolade, told Yewa indigenes at a meeting in Ilaro that it is their priority. He urged his people to unite, warning that other zones are not relenting in their bid to have the slot.
Oba Omolade said the time has come for the Yewa people to occupy the Oke-Mosan seat of power, adding that they should not allow the opportunity to slip away. He warned that a divided house cannot stand.
The royal father said the traditional rulers in Yewa are behind the agitators for power shift. He charged his kinsmen to forge a united front.
The monarch also suggested that a committee of veteran politicians from Yewaland should be set up to resolve any dispute that may arise among those aspiring to contest the governorship in 2019. He said the committee will forestall a repeat of the aborted attempts of the past.
Oba Omolade said: “The Yewa royal fathers have started working so that in 2019, the kind of crisis, division and disunity we experienced in 2011 would not occur again.
“We tried our best then, but failed. But if we allow our elders(to decide), only one candidate would be presented. We are not talking about party. The Egba, the Remo and Ijebu are expecting us to do something. But when we are not united, how do we do that?,” Omolade said.
The Paramount ruler of Yewaland and the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, also called on Yewa politicians to do a soul searching. He advised them forget the acrimony arising from their unsuccessful attempts to produce a governor in the past, chart the best way forward and focus on the task ahead of them, with the hope of breaking the jinx in 2019.
The monarch added: “we should reflect more on what the future holds for us in Yewaland, almost 40 years after the creation of Ogun State. Let us forget about the past, and with optimism, positively look into the greatness ahead of our land. Where we are going as a division in Ogun State is more important than where we are coming from.”
The indigenes and political actors have started heeding to the call for unity. Senator Adeola Isiaka who has been a direct victim, of the Yewa’s lack of cohession, the Speaker Prince Adekunbi, and others have agreed to work in harmony for the success of Yewa 2019 agenda, regardless of which part of Yewa that person comes from.”
One can gain some insight into Yewa politics in the piece to see where issues have kept getting awry. First, Yewa politicians have always been more committed to non-Yewa aspirants than to their kin aspirants. What insanity one might say? Second, they are amenable to the confusing statements and actions of highly prized personalities, nay national leaders in the various parties who then proceeded to manipulate Yewa feelings in their own interests. Third, there appears to be an “if it is not my area of Yewa, it is not Yewa” syndrome. In this day and age , something good, even something excellent, can come out of the several Nazareths that dot Yewa land not just your side of Yewa. Lastly, there exist a politics of self-centeredness, personal greed and “if I don’t get it, nobody does.” In short, unity; of purpose; of community; of togetherness; and in all of its ramifications have gone to the dogs!
Let us take a look these issues and their implications for Yewa over the years. But before I do, I need to here remind my Yewa brothers and sisters of the famous Aesop fable of the lion and the four oxen. It goes thus:
“A lion used to prowl around a field where four oxen dwelled. Many times he would try to eat them but whenever he approached the four oxen would back their tails up to each other with their bodies pointed outward in different directions. No matter what direction the lion approached, he was met by the horns of one of them and could do nothing. At last, the oxen fell to quarreling amongst themselves and so each went off to a pasture of their own in a separate corner of the field. Then the lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end to all four.”
The moral of the story is quite obvious; as the saying goes “united we stand, divided we fall.” The bible, I hope my non-Christian brothers and sisters will permit me, said “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." But there is another often discountenanced moral in the fable that speaks to Yewa leaders, wherever they may be. When no one assumes a leadership role, everything falls to pieces. If just one of the oxen had been strong enough in character and diligence to lead the other oxen, they could have maintained their united stance against the lion. They became divided because there was no leader amongst the four of them.
How can there be so much available good leaders in Yewa while this lack of unity continues to twist the people’s fortunes out of control? The crisis that Yewa faces today, in my humble but considered opinion, is not about the techniques, methods and attributes of good leaders but a crisis of courage and character. Everywhere you turn in Yewa, at home and abroad, there are divisions; a lack of unity; and too many people more concerned about themselves than others, especially the Yewa people. And, this lack of unity continues to spread like a wildfire.
Too many of the excellent Yewa leaders do not step up to the plate when it’s really needed out of fear; for their jobs, their image, their family, their business; and ultimately, their future. The question to ask is have too many Yewas become so comfortable in their ways of life to take any risk either when the stakes are high, a controversy is present and/or the consequences possibly severe? A certainty is that no one can impose unity on any people out of the blues!
With 2019 looming on the horizon, the Yewa people have an unusual ally in Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who is risking it all by declaring that Yewa must produce the next Governor of Ogun State. The Ijebus, as well as others, are in serious opposition to this decision to offer Yewa the opportunity to produce a [the] Governor in the almost 50 years of the State’s existence. Are the Yewas ready and are they helping Governor Amosun in this heroic mission? Let me narrate another fable.
“Once upon a time, there was a flock of doves that flew in search of food led by their king. One day, they had flown a long distance and were very tired. The dove king encouraged them to fly a little further. The smallest dove picked up speed and found some rice scattered beneath a banyan tree. So all the doves landed and began to eat.
Suddenly a net fell over them and they were all trapped. They saw a hunter approaching carrying a huge club. The doves desperately fluttered their wings trying to get out, but to no avail. The king had an idea. He advised all the doves to fly up together carrying the net with them. He said that there was strength in unity.
Each dove picked up a portion of the net and together they flew off carrying the net with them. The hunter looked up in astonishment. He tried to follow them, but they were flying high over hills and valleys. They flew to a hill near a city of temples where there lived a mouse who could help them. He was a faithful friend of the dove king.
When the mouse heard the loud noise of their approach, he went into hiding. The dove king gently called out to him and then the mouse was happy to see him. The dove king explained that they had been caught in a trap and needed the mouse’s help to gnaw at the net with his teeth and set them free.
The mouse agreed saying that he would set the king free first. The king insisted that he first free his subjects and the king last.
The mouse understood the king’s feelings and complied with his wishes. He began to cut the net and one by one all the doves were freed including the dove king.
They all thanked the mouse and flew away together, united in their strength.”
The moral of this story; “when you work together, you are stronger.” As the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. admonished years ago, "We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers."
For the Yewas, the obstacles for the culture of unity are yet to be overcome as more of the obstacles continue to be created deliberately than overcome. Fear, suspicion and jingoism are the natural recipes that underscore Yewa existence today.
And, unless they are able to overcome these festering and tentacled monsters, Yewa’s collective existence, development and progress would continue to be at risk. Reason and logic continued to be sacrificed on the altar of inhuman personal and political greed. The foundation and fabric of Yewas’ existential purpose have never been more at risk; mutual suspicion and inhumane inexplicable actions and inactions such as their inability to confront their disunity and change collectively and sincerely, continue to seal the fate of our Yewa brethren.
It is my belief that human ignorance is responsible for this untenable situation and there is a need for them to wake up from this mess. They must crave and deeply yearn for their release from the limitations of a dogma that declares separation, disunity, and judgment to be the essential conditions of life.
Before and after Governor Amosun’s declared his intention to support a Yewa candidate, the Yewa political landscape was littered, as Nwokolo noted in his piece, with Yewa aspirants hoping to be Governor of Ogun State. One of the aspirants, to see how the fortunes of the Yewa people have been perennially tranquilized is worth mentioning; Senator Solomon Adeola or “Yayi” as he is popularly known.
Here is a politician who has spent his entire political existence in the adjacent Lagos State; representing the State at the State House of Assembly, Federal House of Representatives, and presently as Senator in the Nigerian Senate. With this kind of record, a Governorship aspiration in Lagos State would have been ideal. Not for somebody who suddenly remembers his origin!
Of course, the people have responded by saying: “Adie ni wa. Awa a je agbado. Enikan ko le wa fi buredi Eko ko wa ni obe je ni Ogun State nitori Alpha Beta Company.” Translated “we are chickens and will eat any corn served us. No one can use Lagos bread to swipe our soup in Ogun State for Alpha Beta Company,” whatever that means.
I am sure he is not the only one in this category. But why must Yewas keep doing this to themselves?
The plain truth, if Yewas are willing to accept it, is that the disunity in Yewa today continues to bring them to their knees; prevents them from standing as equals in their home State; is the political tribalism that grips so many facets of their collective life. It can be termed warring tribes fighting and getting neither benefits nor spoils; an artificial divide of sorts.
Disunity is a destroyer. Unity is strength and Yewas must learn to unite or die. Only unity can adequately displace disunity. Do Yewa politicians and political leaders believe it? If they do, then breaking the back of the divisive political tribalism must become a priority. This is an element that they have control over, and the cost to deal with it is not so much financial as it is personal.
It is very much an issue of pride. Pride compels humility and love for others, as well as for self, in order to overcome it. Will Yewa politicians and political leaders be humble enough and loving enough to tackle this matter with immediacy so this opportunity of a lifetime does not go by again? Will they learn from the past and commit to a new direction, and exhort their people by example to unite and put Yewa and Ogun first?
Yewa and the other peoples in the State must unite for the sake of our children, their future and our future. We must unite for the sake of self-preservation and not advance self-ruination. We must unite for personal, state and national economic prosperity. We must unite to win and succeed.
In these efforts, Governor Ibikunle Amosun is showing the way and we must support his genuine efforts at rectifying and correcting an overdue wrong. The jinx must be broken
Personally, as a non-Yewa indigene of Ogun State, I am in total agreement with the Governor that “YEWA LO KAN.” And, going through the list of the Governorship aspirants from Yewa, it is my hope that CHIEF TOLU ODEBIYI, for his pedigree, “LO MA SE.” So help us God.
Prof. Angelicus-M. B. Onasanya writes from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.