Ooni, Tinubu and Obasanjo’s ostrich syndrome
General Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (rtd) cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand in any circumstance or situation. He is a pride of the Nigerian nation in particular and a jewel of the African nation in general. He is indeed in the cream of the world citizenry and leadership but these privileged credentials do not preclude him from firm criticism, particularly when he commits political missteps.
Speaking at an event organized to confer chieftaincy titles of Aare and Yeye Afurugbin-Ola on the Director General of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga and his wife, the former president was quoted by the media to have suggested that the Ooni should simply pray for any aspirant that approaches his doorsteps and dismiss them without an open support for their candidature. He was meanderingly referring to media reports on the open support the Ooni offered to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on his ambition to become a Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Party (APC) in 2023.
Two major inferences could be drawn from the advice. One is that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo being in a political party that is opposing to that of Asiwaju Tinubu may be offering counselling where it cannot be perceived as genuine. The second point is that while the former President is fully entitled to his opinion, it is also the prerogative of the Ooni of Ife to accept or discard the suggestion, particularly if the advice sounds like the act of a Counselor teaching a Counselee the act of “dodging the issue that requires straightforwardness”.
Afterall, the Yoruba nation which the Oni of Ife represents and in which President Obasanjo derived his umbilical cord, captured the scenario in an adage that says “Bi omo eni ba dara ki a wi, kii se wipe a fe fi se aya” literally meaning “ There is nothing wrong if a father acknowledges the beauty of his daughter, it doesn’t mean that he intends to marry her.” The truth is that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a gigantic political standing in Nigeria and refusal to concede, especially by those who should lead the masses of our people to take appropriate decision during these trying times, would amount to hiding behind a finger.
Therefore, the amiable, frank and straightforward Arole Oduduwa should not be hounded and pestered to submission for taking a viewpoint that is in conformity with his ethics and conscience. Moreso, when the foremost monarch of the Yoruba Race is not retailing or dispensing a bad product to the public. While some of us do not believe in using ethnic sentiment in selecting leadership, yet, the Ooni can’t just unreasonably be antagonistic to picking and supporting an individual like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who can stand “gidigba” in a race for the shortlisting of a capable and worthy president for our nation.
Afterall, the President of Nigeria will not come from the celestial but from one of the ethnic nationalities and the Ooni cannot but acknowledge it, if such good candidate resides in the enclave where he is the paramount ruler. President Obasanjo as a Yoruba should not forget that “ Omo eni ko ni se idi bebere ki a fi ileke si idi omo elomiran.” (A father should not bedeck the waist of another man’s child with beads when his own child has a natural ornament friendly waist). Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in terms of quality, quantum and depth of administrative dexterity cannot be placed on the second rug of political leadership ladder in Nigeria. The Ooni of Ife knows this and would therefore not embark on a wild goose chase or render the ostrich effect in a situation that is patently obvious.
The Ooni of Ife, being an Oba is everybody’s “Baba”, as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo rightly observed but the question is: how different is he from the former President of Nigeria who in 2015 demonstrated support for the candidature of President Mohammadu Buhari? On January 12, 2015, the then General Mohammadu Buhari and his entourage visited Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at his hilltop residence in Abeokuta to solicit for his support and blessings towards his Presidential aspiration. Although, there is no clear evidence to show that he directly endorsed the candidature of Buhari but his body language did not portray neutrality.
The Premium Times of January 13, 2015 quoted the former President to have said: “ I’ll support the best candidate irrespective of party”. If this was the position of Chief Obasanjo at that time, then why must the Ooni be different? Afterall, they are both at the apex of Nigerian leadership. One can say without fear of incongruity that protocol-wise, the position of the former president is even higher than that of the Ooni. If the former President can write open letters critiquing the current administration from time to time despite his being the “father of all” why can’t a leader pat his follower on the back when he finds him to be gifted and able in his chosen pathway?
Empirical evidences have shown that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will deliver the much-needed succour to the people if nominated by his party and when he is finally elected into office by the people of Nigeria. If all we need in 2023 is a Presidential candidate who is shrewd, effective in governance, crystally intelligent, strategic in thinking, innovative and civic minded, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu possesses these attributes in abundance. Therefore, one needs not play the ostrich game to offer the much-needed support.
Prof. Ojikutu is of the Faculty of Management Sciences, University of Lagos.