I write this piece on the gubernatorial elections holding in Osun State. Its objective is basically to remind my friends and fellow compatriots in the south-west geopolitical zone of our country of what is at stake in tomorrow’s polls; the huge price they will have to pay if by dint of what is now called ‘stomach infrastructure’ or sheer complacency they allow an irredentist, warped and corrupt central authorities to usurp their autonomy.
Western Nigerian matters for a number of reasons. One, its people have an inherent quest for freedom to express itself, a streak that runs through its history and the consequent civil wars in the pre-colonial era and the resistance of the immediate post-colonial years. Two, in post-independent Nigeria, largely dominated by the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy, the peoples of the South-west and their cousins/neigbours in the Mid-west have ensured that the federal essentiality of the Nigerian state remains on the front burner of national discourse and its most abiding philosophical guide are contained in the deep philosophical writings of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, such as Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution (1966).
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, an accomplished thinker, argued that peoples with different culture attributes such as language and religion are best organised under a federal system. In his words, “In this connexion we should be reminded that of all the cultural equipments of a people, language is the most formidable, the most irrepressible, and the most resistant to diffusion, not to talk of fusion. It lies at the base of human divisions and divergences. And historical evidences of an irrefutable nature have shown firstly, that you can unite but can never succeed in unifying peoples whom language has set distinctly apart from one another; and secondly, that the more educated a linguistic group becomes, the stronger it waxes in its bid for political self-determination and autonomy, unless it happens to be the dominant group (emphasis in original).”
Western Nigeria has made the quest for education a categorical imperative from which the people elicit their abiding strength for freedom. With education comes what Paulo Freire has called ‘transitive consciousness’ out of ‘semi-transitive consciousness’ underlined by a limited sphere of perception, resistance to challenges outside the sphere of biological vitals into the former, a world typified by “in-depth interpretation of problems”, acceptance of responsibility, rejection of passivity, and embrace of rationality. This is why the dominant paradigm less explored by scholars and which I have explored in “My Politics in Western Nigeria” (forthcoming) is the development paradigm. It is the defining element of Yoruba politics; when it detracts from it, it has suffered consequences because those who often deviate from the course of freedom and development are usually lackeys of the irredentist centre aforementioned and they are often imposed by undemocratic means and they are not short in supply these days of politics being the only business in town.
Politics in western Nigeria much earlier in the 1950s demonstrated that politics was for philosopher-kings; to be in politics is to serve and to seek wealth in monetary terms is to be in business, a fact that is now stood on its head by irredentists and bashers of the Nigerian estate.
The challenge of development in the country today often draws its strength from what the state actors in this geopolitical zone have always done in the abiding faith and with Platonic conviction that justice inheres in the pursuit of the common good. As I have said elsewhere, western Nigeria is news, an event in the social order called Nigeria, always pointing up hitherto unimagined possibilities. It established the first television station in Africa, pursued a rigorous free education policy and sundry other innovations which feudal and conservatives forces elsewhere in the country would struggle to imitate. It was the Yorubas who introduced that competitive spirit into our development and governance universe. It is a fact that our country have always struggled on the edge of tyrannical order; the counteractive force against all dictatorial tendencies, arguably, has always come from the western Nigeria.
There is a general perception today among Nigerians that any Nigerian from any part of this country can now govern this country with the mandate of the people. This was not the assumption some years ago. When the June12, 1993 election was annulled, the logic was that the Lugardian architecture, which meant that power must always reside in the north, should never be altered. Chief M.K. O. Abiola paid the supreme price and many of us managed to be alive in that titanic struggle. The resistance altered the power succession process in the country. This has come to stay and any attempt to revert to status quo would result in consequences of unimaginable proportion. The transient nature of power is a value that we must all cultivate.
What is the plot of the irredentist centre under the watch of President Jonathan? The plot is to subvert the above values by huge monetary inducement, all foul stratagems and in particular the use of force, especially the military whose esprit de corps has been destroyed by past military regimes and are now be subjected to a re-enactment of the ‘Glover syndrome’ in which the citizens are perceived as the enemy (and we are already reaping the consequences in the so-called war against insurgency in northeastern Nigeria). The military is to protect the state and its citizens, not the government of the day because sovereignty, an essential element of the state, resides in the people.
The clarion call therefore is that the well-meaning people of western Nigeria must live up to those fine values of their history and ensure they are entrenched with a vote for the incumbent government of Osun state under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. To lose Osun to a backward, disoriented, anti-development and irredentist central authorities is to deepen the misery and abjection of the good people of the southwest and Nigerians desirous of an alternative vision of development. Osun election matters, as the Europeans would say to the fascists, and we should say it loud and clear to the irredentists and anti-people forces in the saddle today that they shall not pass. Osun, Ipinle Omoluabi should not fall to known felons. The soul of the country is at stake and to lose is to halt social progress.
Dr. Akhaine is a visiting member of the Guardian Editorial Board.