By Adejare Ibrahim
Around 1960, before the independence, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the undisputable political leader of the Yorubas, became the leader of the Action Group, he was about 51 years old. Awolowo was born in 1909.
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, who later became the Premier of the Western Region, was about 50 years old. He was born in 1910. Western Region, then, comprised all the six Yoruba states. A 51-year-old man was in charge of her entire affairs. Isn’t this amazing!
In those glittery political moments, Chiefs Bode Thomas, Remi Fani-Kayode, Ganiyu Dowodu, Anthony Enahoro, Pa Alfred Rewane, Olanihun Ajayi and other young men were in charge of politics in the Western Region. Fortunately, they performed excellently well.
During the Second Republic, in 1978, Chief Awolowo formed the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). The Sage was still in his sixties. He carried along some young, agile and vibrant youths of the Region.
At that time, Chiefs Bola Ige, Abraham Adesanya, Olabisi Onabanjo, Lateef Jakande, Bisi Akande, Ayo Adebanjo, Reuben Fasoranti, Micheal Ajasin, SM Afolabi and others were in their forties and fifties. They were still young.
It was not that old men were not in politics at that particular time. Chief Awolowo empowered these crop of young Yoruba politicians. Some of them were made governors in their respective states and Lawmakers at the federal level.
Chief Jakande became the governor of Lagos. Chief Bola Ige became the governor of Oyo. Chief Olabisi Onabanjo was the governor of Ogun. Chief Adekunle Ajasin was the governor of Ondo. All of them were either in their forties or fifties. Only Chief Ajasin was a bit old. He was a year older than Chief Awolowo. He was born in 1908. Yet, he was not in his eighties or nineties.
What are our present concerns, you may want to ask. At times, when we criticise the Afenifere, some people think we are unnecessarily critical of them. Sure, there is wisdom in old age. However, can anyone tell us the wisdom inherent or rationale behind a 93-year-old man (Pa Ayo Adebanjo) taking over the mantle of leadership from a 95-year-old man (Pa Reuben Fasoranti)? Isn’t this a pure case of gerontocracy!
This week, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, who had been in charge of the so-called Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, since 2008, voluntarily resigned. It is inextricably appalling that, out of all the vibrant and youthful politicians they have among them, they could not pick a leader, except a 93-year-old Ayo Adebanjo.
What exactly is the problem of Afenifere? If we may ask, without sounding insulting and confrontational to them, did Chief Awolowo practise politics in the most antiquated and archaic manner the present leadership of Afenifere do? The answer is a capital NO! They are far away from the ideals and ethos of progressive politics.
In the words of Dr. Adelabu, he described Afenifere as a bunch of tribalists and self-serving ambitious, greedy rivals driven by xenophobia and deep bigotry, and possessed by a delusion of their so-called cultural commonalities. Isn’t this statement true about them?
The Afenifere need to reconsider their stand on leadership and succession. The world is fast changing. Politics has gone beyond the level where some old men will sit around the four corners of their room and decide the fate of their people. Things don’t work in that manner again. A stitch in time saves nine!
Adejare Ibrahim writes from Oyo State
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