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The Ayo Adebanjo support for Peter Obi

By Luke Onyekakeyah
12 October 2022   |   3:50 am
The Ayo Adebanjo-led Afenifere’s support for Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP) has roots in the historic parley held between Ohaneze and Afenifere in Lagos in early 2017.

Chief Ayo Adebanjo of Afenifere

The Ayo Adebanjo-led Afenifere’s support for Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP) has roots in the historic parley held between Ohaneze and Afenifere in Lagos in early 2017. That parley made strong national headlines as it was welcomed by political pundits from both sides as a worthwhile development.

As an elder statesman who has no other option than to follow the path of honesty and speak the truth no matter what, Pa Adebanjo, who led Afenifere to that parley, cannot afford to backtrack from what he personally championed and endorsed. That is why he is not mincing words to say that equity, justice and fairness demand that the South-East should be given the opportunity to produce the next president in 2023, if the so-called national unity is anything to go by. Otherwise, the whole thing would be mere propaganda and deceit for sectional domination by those who think they are born to rule.

Recalled that in 2017, there was a crucial meeting between the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohaneze Ndigbo and its Yoruba counterpart, Afenifere, in Lagos, which was highly commended. Such regional peace meeting was necessary for better appreciation of each other. The parley was encouraged.

Being the first of its kind in the history of the two ethnic groups that dominate southern Nigeria, the parley represented a watershed, indeed a turning point in the mutual socio-political emancipation of the two groups. It was a pointer to a brighter future, indeed, an indication that some good things were ahead, which is what is happening now. Pulling the Igbo and Yoruba together can uproot mountain in Nigeria.

I believe that something good is coming. The parley should not stop but taken forward in the interest of our peoples in particular and Nigeria as a whole. It is only a one united South that can match the North to ensure balance and stability in the country. The North dominates the politics because the South is divided and unable to forge a common front.

The Igbo delegation at the parley was led by the immediate past President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, who many believe was the right candidate for the job. Ohaneze, I must honestly say, has been heard more without the positive action. Hopefully, Chief Nwodo made useful attempt to turn the table and make the organisation pro-active. That was wonderful. The Ohaneze delegation was received by Chief Ayo Adebanjo who represented the leader of Afenifere, Chief R.F. Fasoranti.

Expectedly, the meeting focused on several issues affecting the Igbo and Yoruba in Nigeria and how the two organisations could work together for their mutual benefit. A decision was reached to work together in order to move the country forward. This is the crux of the matter and why Pa Adebanjo is gunning for Peter Obi whom he perceives as the way out of the present quagmire Nigeria is into.

Among the Ohaneze Ndigbo’s delegation were deputy-president general, DIG Hillary Opara (rtd), vice-president general for Delta State, Dr. Sylvanus Ebigwei, vice-present for Anambra State, Mr. Charles Odunukwe, Chief Guy Ikokwu and Chief Ben Onwughalu.

On the Afenifere team were the chairman of its political committee, Prof. Banji Akintoye, chairman committee on restructuring, Dr. Amos Akingba, national treasurer, Chief Supo Sonibare and national publicity secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.

The inability of the Igbo and Yoruba to forge a common front in Nigerian politics has been the bane of southern Nigeria that ought to dictate the tone in the affairs of Nigeria by virtue of its enlightened citizenry and resource base.

Unfortunately, the reverse is the case because of the age-long stereotypes and mutual suspicion. The Igbo and Yoruba use derogatory epithets on each other. The Omo-Igbo, Ofemmanu are some of the labels the Yoruba and Igbo use on each other respectively.

Rather than edify, the two groups destroy each other and the North takes advantage to lord it over all of us. Curiously, each of Igbo and Yoruba groups, individually, prefers aligning with the North rather than pulling forces together to form a formidable political and economic movement. Rather than make headway separately, the two groups pay the price of foolhardiness.
The distrust between the Igbo and Yoruba is historical. It started with the two founding fathers of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a Yoruba. Apparently, they laid the foundation for the mutual suspicion between the two ethnic groups.

Zik and Awo, two nationalists that fought for Nigeria’s independence, failed to mount the leadership of Nigeria because the two could not agree. With their level of education and international exposure, they were the most qualified to pilot the affairs of modern Nigeria at independence. But rather than support each other, they yielded to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a Northerner.

The mutual distrust and suspicion explains why Zik founded and led the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons/National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), a formidable political party from 1944 to 1966 while Awo, in 1951, founded and led the Action Group (AG), another formidable counterpart political force in the Western Region. AG’s mission was to mobilise Western Nigerians to forestall the NCNC control of the Western Region. It worked and Zik lost in the Western House of Assembly.

The NCNC and AG contended with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) led by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. The NPC had considerable influence in the Northern Region from the 1950s until the military coup of 1966. That was the party that produced Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first prime minister at independence.

What would have happened if Zik and Awo had forged a common front and worked together? The outcome of such a development is better imagined. If Zik and Awo had belonged to one party, there was no way Balewa could have become prime minister. Whereas, Zik was the most qualified among the nationalists, Awo had the cerebral acumen to develop the resource-rich Nigeria.

If the two icons had worked together, perhaps, there would have been no Nigerian civil war; all the coups and counter coups that plagued the First and Second Republic may not have taken place; all the economic, social and political problems plaguing the country today would have been averted. The North would have assumed its rightful position in the scheme of things.

Whether Zik or Awo was the prime minister wouldn’t have mattered so long as the two worked together. Like I said, Awo was the cerebral philosopher that could have come up with a blueprint to develop Nigeria along the line of Brazil and the Asian Tigers. But because there was no unity purpose in the South, the country lost the acumen of the cerebral Awo and the technological prowess of the Igbo.

It is unfortunate that the same political misadventure seems to still be glaring, the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, merged with the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) led by Muhammadu Buhari and a few other parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) that was given the leeway by Tinubu in 2015 that produced Muhammadu Buhari as president.

Buhari, who was made the presidential candidate of the party, won the 2015 general election against the incumbent Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The present political fallout in which the Igbo are sidelined in the ruling APC and main opposition PDP is the more reason why Igbo and Yoruba should come together to forge a new alliance ahead of the 2023 general elections. The jinx of mutual distrust should be broken.

It is against the foregoing unfortunate and pathetic state of affairs that the youths are rallying in a mass movement under the Labor Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to rescue Nigeria that has been ruined.

The greatest mistake anyone would make is to think that the 2023 elections is going to be like those of the past; those conducted since 1999 that were grossly manipulated but accepted by a gullible masses. Truth is that Nigeria in 1999 is not the same as Nigeria today.

Also, Nigeria of 2015 or 2019 is not the same as Nigeria today. There is a huge difference. People are fed up with suffering, pain and anguish. Today, people have become very conscious having been cooked by the ruin all over the place. Nigeria must be returned to the path of progress under a fresh blood represented by the Labour Party Obi/Datti team.