Some Yoruba elders met recently to review their lot in the nation’s political configuration. Their chorus was a lamentation of woe. The venue was symbolic if not nostalgic for the elderly men and women that gathered that day.
From the elevated position of The Premier Hotel, Ibadan anyone who looked down the hill could decipher the distress of a people who were once in the commanding heights of the political sphere.
The hotel, a legacy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s stewardship of the defunct Western Region, was a reminder to many, of a once glorious past.
The gathering convened by the Yoruba Unity Forum on February 7, 2013 was primarily put together to bring to public view, the alleged marginalisation of the race in the distribution of appointments into Ministries Departments and Agencies, MDAs of the Federal Government.
In attendance were; Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi, Senator Bode Olajumoke, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Chief Tokunbo Ajasin, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Biola Ogundokun, Chief Dipo Jimilehin; Prof. Adenike Grange; Sen Tony Adefuye and Dr. Kunle Olajide.
Others were; Chief Charles Ekundayo, Chief Akin Omojola, Alhaji Rasak Folunso Chief Yemi Falade, Mr. Tola Noibi, Chief Akin Omojola among others.
Declaring the gathering open, Bishop Gbonigi, who is the Convener of YUF, regretted that the marginalisation of the South-West geo-political zone in the distribution of political positions was an attempt to relegate the zone in the federation.
The retired Anglican Bishop of Akure Diocese, who spoke in Yoruba language, said, ‘’seeing what is happening now is very painful, for someone of my age. Most of us are very selfish because we do things only because of money.
What we are demanding for is our right, because it belongs to us. You cant buy integrity with money.
The reason why we talk so much about Awolowo is because he left us with a legacy of selfless service. Abraham Adesanya, Ajasin and others looked for opportunity to serve the people.’’
No Yoruba person occupies top political office
Nonetheless, what could be described as the highpoint of the event, was the presentation of YUF’s position on the political fortunes of the race in the present dispensation by Chief Falae.
The former Secretary to the Federal Government, SGF, regretted that no Yoruba person occupies any of the top 12 political offices in Nigeria .
Giving a breakdown of YUF’s grouse, he lamented the absence of a Yoruba person in apex political positions such as the President, Vice president, Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Federation, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the acting President, Court of Appeal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, National Security Adviser and Head of Service of the Federation.
Explaining further, Falae said, ‘’while other zones may make routine complaints of marginalisation with a view to having a better deal , the degree of marginalisation of the South West zone borders on attempts to excise the zone out of the federation”.
Highlighting the details of the alleged marginalisation, he noted that, ‘’we have listed 12 topmost positions that constitute the apex of political power hierarchy in the country and no Yoruba person is included in that apex. These people constitute the source from which all other powers flow.’’
Ethnic cleansing and humiliations
Not done with the lamentations, he noted that at the moment, people from the race are experiencing ethnic cleansing and other discriminatory acts in the federal civil service.
Hence, Falae said, ‘’because the Yoruba are thin at the topmost ranks of the federal government, Yorubas in the federal public service have been frequently subjected to arbitrary sacks, humiliating deployments and discriminatory actions.’’
He noted with irony that the Yorubas found themselves in this predicament under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration despite their early support for him.
‘’In the dying days of the Yar’Ádua administration, when there was a lot of reluctance to make Jonathan the acting President, it was predominantly Yoruba activists who led the march to the National Assembly to force our lawmakers to pronounce Jonathan acting President,’’ Falae added.
Continuing, he said, ‘’when the then presidential candidate Jonathan made a gaffe at a campaign rally in Ibadan, referring to some South West governors as rascals, he sent a placatory delegation to Ikenne and the Yoruba leadership rose to his defense in non partisan manner. The Yoruba vote, more than those of any other part of Nigeria , gave his election credibility and universal acceptance.’’
Accordingly, Falae said, ‘’when the then acting President Jonathan choose to run for president, he got the enthusiastic endorsement of many Yoruba progressives, especially the leadership of YUF, die-hard Awoists who pushed his acceptability to the Yorubas by portraying him as a fulfilment of an earlier Awolowo prophesy about the Ijaws and the presidency.’’
Obasanjo shortchanged the Yorubas
On the strength of these instances he enumerated, Falae asked: ‘’Why inspite of all the above, would the President choose to turn against the Yorubas now?”
In addition, he said, ‘’perhaps we should remind him that when a Yoruba man, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was President, he ruled like a detrabalised Nigerian, even refusing to identify with the Yorubas and frequently short-changing them”.
Also speaking at the forum, Sen Olajumoke, said, ‘’the Yorubas have suffered so much in this dispensation. I am a Yoruba man and I am concerned about the marginalisation of my people.
Myself and other Yoruba people, who are BOT members of the PDP are making efforts to talk the President on the matter. We are leaders and are ashamed of always defending the defenceless. You will hear something about this pretty soon.’’
Similarly, another former lawmaker, Sen. Adefuye, corroborated Olajumoke’s stance, saying that efforts were in top gear to urgently discuss the issue with the President.
‘’We have never been able to discuss this issue with the President in private. We must do that because we are accountable to our people, who are in a hurry to see the anomaly corrected. We are hoping that he will listen to us very soon,’’ he added.
Adefuye, also said, ‘’In the history of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, no Yoruba man has ever been appointed as the Comptroller General of Immigration, CGI, out of the 15 CGIs it has had.
The Minister of Education recently reshuffled the principals of unity schools across the country. Out of 28 principals, only two are Yorubas.’’
Nonetheless, findings showed that this was not the first time the leaders of the zone are crying out against perceived marginalisation.