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Akin Osuntokun: From Afonja to Saraki to Fayemi: The rebellion of the godsons (2)


Akin Osuntokun: From Afonja to Saraki to Fayemi: The rebellion of the godsons (2)

By Akin Osuntokun

“Most Northern elite, the Nigerian oil subsidy barons and other business cartels, who never liked Buhari’s anti-corruption political stance, are quickly backing up the rebellion against APC with strong support. While other position seekers are waiting in the wings until Buhari’s ministers are announced, a large section of the South-west see the rebellion as a conspiracy of the North against the Yoruba.”
– Chief Bisi Akande.

All the fans and admirers of the heroic generalissimo of the Kiriji (Ekitiparapo) war, 1877-93, Prince Ishola Fabunmi of Okemesi owe my family a historical debt of gratitude. My grandfather, three generations removed, Dada Akoja was the topmost lieutenant and post war would be saviour to the great warrior. At the conclusion of the war and an interlude of licentious rampaging of the countryside, they repaired to Okemesi and were duly accorded a befitting rousing welcome. But beware of returning victorious generals, especially, if, as was the case with Fabunmi, they are of the royal stock.

Fabunmi’s uncle, mentor and godfather, Aponlese, was the long reigning incumbent Okemesi monarch-for upwards of a century by some accounting. Hubris is the entitlement of home coming war heroes and it was in stark and ruinous display of this fatal flaw that Prince Fabunmi demanded his uncle abdicate the throne for him. Is there any act more provocative and predictive of community polarisation and political crisis than a coup d’état conspiracy against a reigning monarch who has not committed any sacrilege requiring such sanction and humiliation?

To this general historical trend Okemesi proved to be no exception. At the rejection of his impetuous and Absalom complex misdemeanour, Fabunmi hoisted the banner of espirit-de-corp and rallied his returning battle hardened confederates to the cause of forcibly supplanting his uncle. Instructed by premonition, one key ally held out and warned against the misadventure-cautioning him, with prescience, he may wake up on the D Day and get bedevilled by the desertion of their colleagues who had sworn to stand with him shoulder to shoulder.

At the dawn of the fateful day, the rebel prince was confronted with the reality of the afore-warned premonition and full spectre of his folly as his co-conspirators (acting under the compulsion of a rumoured occult manipulation) trained their cannons and artillery bombardment not on the palace but on Fabunmi’s compound. He made a run for it and was chased down and wounded but the key confederate who had earlier warned him intervened, stood between him and the blood baying assailants and ultimately aided his escape. In utter outrage, the mob visited retribution on the facilitator of the fugitive’s escape by burning down his homestead and expelling him from the town. It was Fabunmi’s destiny to become king. He fled to Imesi Ile (the mother town of Okemesi) where, by, fortuitous circumstances was crowned king and reigned all of three years.

Before Fabunmi and as recalled in the first part of this instalment, there was the nodal Yoruba historical reference point of the rebellion of Are Ona Kakanfo Afonja against the ill-starred sadistic Oyo emperor, Alaafin Arogangan Aole. Symbolically it was the clash between the two tragic historical figures that set off a chain of events that culminated in the implosion of the Oyo-empire into a Yoruba wide century long internal strife, interminable civil wars and social misanthropy.

Perhaps the lowest point of the catastrophic cascade of events was the loss of Ilorin to the usurpation of the agents and standard-bearers of the Sokoto caliphate. Ilorin was the Northern outpost of the Oyo empire and fell under the protective custody of the Kakanfo-Afonja. In the history of Afonja’s self-inflicted isolation and subsequent betrayal and conquest by his Fulani spiritual counsellor, Alimi, Ilorin became a by word for political treachery in high places. This identity is encapsulated in the durable slur ‘Ilorin me su jamba’. If in doubt you can check with Deacon Segun Adeniyi.

One of the more intriguing attributes of contemporary Nigerian political history is the phenomenon of the Saraki political dynasty. Inaugurated by the late patriarch, Abubakar Olusola Saraki, there is now no contesting the fact that the Ilorin writ large Kwara State has become their political fiefdom. It was at the behest of the Saraki patriarch that Alhaji Adamu Atta became the first civilian governor of Kwara State in 1979 and it was at his displeasure that the governor lost his bid for a second term in office. This momentum was consolidated in the rise and fall of Shaba Lafiagi and Mohammed Alabi Lawal in the Third and Fourth republic respectively. One after another and in seeming consonance with the Afonja instigated Ilorin template they rebelled against the godfather and got accordingly penalised.

After the fall-out with Lawal, the godfather resolved it was time to seek a permanent solution to the jinx of rebellious godsons. He literarily went for the kill by drafting his own son to become governor and stand proxy for him. It turned out a classically futile effort as the Ilorin curse resounded with vengeance and this time around it was the turn of the godfather to bite the dust. Saraki dies and Saraki lives on. Notwithstanding he was put to the sword by his son, it is doubtful if the late patriarch would not be happy with the way and manner the rebel son appeared to have outclassed the father in result-oriented political cunning.

The successful prosecution of the attainment of Dr Bukola Saraki to the Senate presidency in defiance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party caucus is nothing short of political wizardry; and the magnitude of the rebellion and subversion is of exponential proportions. But then the new Senate President is of Ilorin extraction where dexterity in such conduct is second nature and proto-typical. It was a raw deal for the Yoruba faction of the APC caucus (whose loss translated to Saraki’s gain) and it was not long before it took recourse to reading conspiracy and betrayal by the dominant Northern faction of the party. The role of articulating this position and going public with it devolved on former party chairman, Chief Bisi Akande.

Given the gift of a natural aptitude for propaganda and ever on the alert for the scent of camp betrayal, it is difficult to surpass the Yoruba in the art of political demonisation and the game of catch a traitor. In the frequently whimsical expression of this national character trait and instant (and often tenuous) historical analogy, Afonja and latterly former Western regional Premier Ladoke Akintola are regularly invoked as archetype traitors.

The governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the last governorship election in Ekiti State, Opeyemi Bamidele, was the recent notable casualty of this invocation. As godfather-godson relationship goes, they do not come any stronger than the bond between Bola Tinubu and Bamidele-whose political career considerably thrived on their shared political platform, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria( ACN). It was the contentious decision of the latter to switch camps and challenge the then incumbent ACN governor, Kayode Fayemi, on the LP platform that provoked the perception of Akintola’s ghost in his appearance.

Writing in the Punch of December 15, 2013, Tunde Fagbenle wondered “Why is it that at every point when the Yoruba people, my people, seem to set foot on the path of political progress and economic emancipation something, the devil, always jumps out to negate the dream; someone, somewhere, throws a spanner in the works? The analogy is apt with the sad occurrence in the first republic during which the stunning pace of development the Western Region was witnessing under the government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was brought to an end and ruination on account of internal strife and contest of personalities and position between Awolowo and his successor premier, Chief Ladoke Akintola.”

My friend Sam Omatseye was far less restrained. He wrote in the Nation newspaper “Too impatient, Bamidele moved over to the other party that he so publicly disdained in words and deeds. Now, it is not about opportunity but opportunism, a pragmatic desperation. So he bivouacs with a quisling and a whitlow, who has the nod of master Jonathan. He becomes the lackey of a lackey. He, a lackey of Mimiko, the whitlow, who is Jonathan’s lackey. Bamidele is now servile to the slave of the presidency. The black American author, Edward Jones in his novel, The Known World, recreates the story of black slaves who owned slaves in the age of servitude, a servility within servility.”

The revolutionaries of today are the reactionaries of tomorrow. The thesis of Bamidele as treachery personified seemed to have gone full circle as borne out in a somewhat reversal of role depiction between him and hitherto ACN poster boy Fayemi. The last time I checked, the former had returned to the Tinubu-APC bosom and restored to the good graces of the godfather (as in the return of the prodigal son) while the latter has become the butt of so much innuendoes and insinuations of another ‘Akintola’ in the making.

Writes Segun Ayobolu in the Nation “I can still picture in my mind Fayose sitting atop an Okada motor bike sporting a ‘Vote for Fayemi’ tee shirt. Of course Fayemi won the re-run election and was subsequently voted into office as governor. After that, was Fayose able to reach Fayemi anymore? Were the promises made to Fayose in the event of a Fayemi victory kept? The answers can only be in the negative. It would thus appear that lack of fidelity to principles and sheer opportunism are not the monopoly of any party or individual!… The unfortunate thing is that rather than concentrate on rebuilding the party in Ekiti, its leaders particularly Fayemi are engaged in a rat race to achieve dominance at the national level to the detriment of the APC in Ekiti.”

Hakeem Adisa then upped the ante “The report confirmed the envious acri­mony of Fayemi and his friends against these leaders, especially Tinubu, when it stated: Buhari’s open acknowledgement of Tinubu’s sacrifice and role in the March 28 polls, it was gathered, drew ill feelings among some elements who, ironically, included some of the ‘Tinubu boys’ in the South-west, including Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who failed woefully in his bid to return for second term as Ekiti State governor and Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State.”

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