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Before he started at all to govern, Governor-elect of Ondo state, Barrister Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) aka Aketi, has begun to put the wrong foot forward, enmeshing himself in needless controversies. His comments on why he did not “thank” National Leader of their party, the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while he was effusive in his praise of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun, is not only puerile but also arrogant. On this score alone, it would appear the honeymoon ended for Aketi ever before his reign as governor actually started. Last Sunday in this column, I had said a lot about this same man, and about Owo, his (which is also my) place of birth. I want him to succeed but if he must, this is not how to start and the direction he appears to have faced is the wrong one. I will explain but before anyone begins to wonder why this critique, please note that last week, I did warn that I would hold Aketi’s feet to the fire. That is the best way to help him succeed.
By ignoring Tinubu, Aketi is rubbing in the insult or, as they say, rubbing salt to Tinubu’s injury. Aketi will be vindictive if we go by this. He will treat some people, especially those who did not support his political ambition, as enemies and will seek to punish them. In case he did not know, vindictive leaders don’t go far and I wish Aketi will go far. “Agba ti o b’inu l’omo re n po” “Ti a o ba gbagbe oro ana, a o ni r’eni ba s’ere”. These Yoruba wisdom say “it is the elder that reins in his anger that surrounds himself with more children/followers” and also that “if we take to heart every wrong inflicted on us in the past, we will have no one to play with”. An Aketi trade mark is his white beard; white hair in African culture symbolises wisdom. If Aketi’s does not come with wisdom, he better shaves it off! Before now, I have heard severally the complaint that Aketi is arrogant/pompous; this appears to confirm it. Last week, I also heard a group of journalists – incidentally, they ply their trade in Ondo state – bemoan that they have it on good authority their in-coming governor is temperamental. It is true everyone has his or her hubris or faux-pas; it is incumbent, however, that we rein them in, not excuse or flaunt them.
Why single out Buhari and Oyegun for special praise? It may be a confirmation of the allegations that the Presidency and Oyegun orchestrated Akeredolu’s emergence as APC candidate; that he did not deserve to win the APC flag in the first place. Taken forward, it may also be a confirmation that these were the guys who brought Aketi to power – and to them he will be beholden during his tenure. A case of exchanging one taskmaster for another! Where I feel particularly bad, however, is that Aketi’s body language was a slight on the entire Yoruba race. He appears to align with those, including Buhari, who are trying to hijack the title “National Leader” from Tinubu. Aketi is wrong to accept the new, modified description of Tinubu, his fellow Yoruba man, as “one of the leaders/national leaders” of APC. Titles and posts were shared while the legacy parties (ACN, ANPP, CPC, and a faction of APGA) were merging to form APC; the title given to Tinubu was “National Leader”, and I do not think it is right for anyone to withdraw and/or compromise that after the project had been successfully executed. Another Yoruba proverb admonishes us not to sell our own relatives cheap; more so in Nigeria where other ethnic groups are consciously adding value to their own people. Aketi and all the other Yoruba political office-holders bent on selling their own Yoruba people cheap to outsiders should please note that they are diminishing the political and economic fortunes and relevance of the entire Yoruba race.
Aketi appears to have accepted the dubious rationalization that CPC was the senior partner in the four-party alliance that berthed APC. This is blatant lie! They said CPC produced 12 million (Northern) votes to make Buhari president while ACN produced 2 million votes and that democracy is a game of numbers. It will be sad if, as educated as they are, Yoruba leaders in APC fall for this trash. Buhari got the same Northern 12 million votes in three consecutive successions in 2003, 2007, and 2011 but it landed him in dreamland and abject defeat. In 2015 when he won, it was the two million votes of the South-west that made all the difference. Take away those votes and PDP/Goodluck Jonathan would have had more votes than APC/Buhari and Buhari would have failed again in 2015. So, the South-west/ACN states and not the North made Buhari president in 2015. ACN, and not CPC, is the senior partner in the coalition that gave birth to APC because whereas CPC controlled only one state (Nassarawa), ACN controlled six (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, and Edo). When some elements try mischievously and with a braggadocio that annoys, to distort history before our very eyes, we must call them to order. Take away the South-west/ACN states from the states won by Buhari and Buhari would not have met the constitutional requirement of two-thirds of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the states of the federation. Without meeting that condition, Buhari would NEVER have been president and Jonathan, who met the requirement and who would have had the plurality of votes if South-west/ACN votes were taken away from Buhari, would have won in 2015. So, treating us as infinitesimal additions – and our own people accepting that – is not only shameful and pathetic, it is also injurious to our political fortunes and progress as a people.
Carrying these lies forward is why Buhari formulated his nebulous 95% and 5% votes dichotomy; it is also why he went ahead to concentrate more than 95% of critical appointments in the North and in Northerners while marginalizing the South/Southerners. That marginalization is not of an individual but of the entire South made up of three regions (South-west, South-east, and South-south). Any political leader from the South who accepts, supports, rationalizes or behaves in a way that suggests that he is comfortable with this is anti his own people. They are the kind of people that the Yoruba say use the left hand to point at their father’s house. Arising from the above, I do not expect any Yoruba political leader to put spanners in efforts to forge a common front for the Yoruba. I do not also expect any Yoruba leader to put selfish interests above group interests. Who does will fail! Aketi and his media handlers should have known that he would be asked questions on Tinubu. The safest thing was to have sat down and formulated an appropriate answer. I use the word “formulate” deliberately because what they could come up with might not have been their heart but what was appropriate for the occasion and for the public. Public relations oftentimes necessitates that you hide blood within and spit out white spittle. And, mark my word, it is the mark of maturity if, once he has achieved his target, Aketi forgives and embraces everyone. More than anyone else, he needs that level-playing ground to succeed. But some leaders are their media handlers’ nightmare. I wouldn’t know if Akeredolu is or will be; if he is, then, he should ready himself for a rough and bumpy ride ahead. Such leaders are self-opinionated, careless, and carefree and simply want to say what they feel like saying without minding the damage it can do. They do the damage and then it becomes the cup of tea of their media handlers to clean up the mess. Aketi should have dodged that bombshell, except he deliberately walked into it to make a point: rubbish whoever and please whoever. It is also possible that, despite his education, qualifications, and exposure to the media – in his capacity as a former president of the Nigeria Bar Association and someone who twice ran for office as governor – he still is a novice in media matters. The media is one job every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinks he knows how to do but at which he trips and injures himself badly when and where it matters most. Otherwise, Aketi could have wriggled out of that tight corner. It is not a crime to parry questions or answer questions with questions. Aketi must understand that he now occupies a position where whatever he says will be thoroughly scrutinised by the public. Again, I wish him, Ondo state, and the Yoruba nation well.
We return to Yoruba leaders and their dog-eats-dog approach to politics. Unity of purpose and of action has been one scarce commodity in Yoruba land dating back to the First Republic. The South-west would have travelled farther than it did under the leadership of the inimitable sage, Obafemi Awolowo, if the communality of interests and common course that ushered the region into Independence in 1960 had endured. Alas! It did not as the SL Akintolas, Remi Fani-Kayodes, etc would not let it. The Second Republic had its own fair share of the AMA Akinloyes, Richard Akinjides, Omololu Olunloyos, Busari Adelakuns aka Eruobodo, Sunday Afolabis, Akin Omoboriowos, to mention but a few. Olusegun Obasanjo, as military Head of State (1976 -1979), also contributed his own ignoble quota. In the camp of Awo, we regrettably had the likes of Cornelius Adebayo and the late Chief Bola Ige placing self above group interest. Tinubu, in his own treacherous dealings with Afenifere’s “old brigade” leaders, fits in this mould. Taking a cue from the South-west’s contemporary history, present-day political leaders joining forces with outsiders to undermine their own people should harbour no illusion about what future to expect. There are no cutting corners on top of the palm-tree. Some, like Tinubu, are already reaping what they sowed. Those sowing today will surely reap tomorrow. This is the Law of Karma.