Obasanjo – Onyejekwe: The Man With Controversial Paternity
By Remi Oyeyemi
I have been receiving a lot of questions from some interested and curious Nigerians on twitter as to why I have been referring to former President Olusegun Obasanjo as “Obasanjo- Onyejekwe. on a consistent basis. They wonder if I was trying to change his name for whatever reasons and wanted to know what “Onyejekwe” means or who is he? To satisfy this unending curiosity, I have decided to put this article together.
Before the secret about Igwe Joseph Okwudili Onyejekwe came to light, I have been making the public case that Olusegun Okikiola Mattew Aremu Obasanjo is NOT a Yorubaman. No one has taken me seriously about the possibility that my conclusions might be true. But I would not blame anyone for not taking me seriously until now, since my conclusions have been based only on the behavioral analysis of Olusegun Obasanjo which I considered to be at variance with that of an authentic Yoruba son. In some not very private discussions, I have reiterated this position that Obasanjo IS NOT A YORUBA SON. He belonged somewhere else. That his names were in Yoruba is not enough proof that he is a Yoruba son.
Often during such discussions I have been taken to task to explain my position and substantiate my conclusion that Olusegun Obasanjo is not Yoruba. I must confess that I never did any research on his paternity. I arrived at my conclusion basically analyzing the Yoruba culture, its expectations of its children, even the recalcitrant and stubborn ones, especially the ones that have any modicum of “eko ile,” (home training). This was done in juxtaposition to the noxious behaviors of Obasanjo who was alleged to have come from a ruling house in Owu, in Ogun State.
In one of such discussions, my own “Albert Einstein,” the seminally brilliant Professor Wale Adebanwi had called my attention to an old Yoruba saying which goes thus: “A bi omo ni Owu, e ni ako ni abi abo, ewo ni omo n’inu omo Owu.” Literally, this would interprete thus: we gave birth to a new child in Owu, you were asking if it is a male or female, which one is valuable/reliable/useful among Owu children? I hope this interpretation is accurate. But I am sure the message is clear enough. I was very surprised about this adage because it was too sweeping and generalizing in assuming that all Owu children are “potentially bad.” We all know this is not true and can not be true.
But in Yorubaland, sayings of this nature are products of true life experiences or circumstances that are coined as a lesson for the future. The origin of this saying, I was told, could be traced back to sometime in Yoruba History when Owu people who are reputed to be good warriors made up their minds to attack Ile-Ife, which the Yoruba regard as their sacrosanct origin.
At this point in time, Owu was still in its original place not very far from the present day Ikire in Osun state. As the story goes, all the Yoruba kingdoms pleaded with the Owu people not to attack Ile-Ife for obvious reasons. But they (the Owu people) were adamant. The Yoruba who place premium on orderliness, respect for tradition and leadership had no choice but to come together in a war to bring Owu town and its warlike people to its knees. They were chased from their then abode to the present abode near Abeokuta where the Yoruba people believed they would no longer constitute immediate threat to Ile-Ife.
This event was said to have irritated the Yoruba people whose anger against the Owu people did not recede and extended to describing them (the Owu people) in negative connotations which gave birth to the above saying. This saying has since receded into anachronism as time appeared to have healed the wounds.
But unfortunately, the noxious behaviors of Olusegun Obasanjo who claimed to have come from a ruling house in Owu had resuscitated some of the bad feelings to the point that the saying was being used to lower expectations for him. In my own view, this is unfair to the Owu people. This is because they have no role in, and absolutely nothing to do with the shenanigans and traitorous behaviors of Obasanjo.
For those who follow Obasanjo’s trajectory, you would all remember how he disgraced and humiliated the kingmakers of Owu when they tried to enthrone a new ruler. Obasanjo tore up the letter of appointment the kingmakers gave to their choice and engineered the imposition of his own candidate to the chagrin of Owu kingmakers. He was acerbic in his remarks to them and disrespected them without any qualms.
In my own mind, it is impossible for a true Yoruba son, especially, a purported Balogun of the community, to behave this way. If you put this particular behavior on top of several anti-Yoruba actions of Olusegun Obasanjo, it is difficult to conclude that he is a Yoruba son. To this end, I have been asking questions of his true paternity since 2003.
Who was his true biological father? If he is truly from Owu, what is his genealogy as in his father, grandfather and great grandfather? Who is his mother and maternal grandparents? How did his mother and father meet? Who were the people present during the marriage of his parents? Who are his paternal relatives? Is his last name, Obasanjo an adopted name? If so how did this happen? Who are his siblings?
My theory before the publications by Michael Mukwuzi of TheNews magazine and others is that Obasanjo’s father is from somewhere in the Hausa/Fulani dominated area of the North. There have been several of these people who came to buy kolanuts from areas of Yorubaland and have settled down in these areas.
The only proof I had is his trajectory of sadistic policies and actions against the Yoruba race and traditional institutions which I have pointed to in many of my articles and of which Owu is a prominent one. It is possible for someone to be stubborn, non-conformist, recalcitrant and all that. It is also possible for one to be mean, sadistic, wicked and cruel. But when it comes to someone’s blood, (by blood I mean his relatives and roots) there is usually a tempering of such negative streaks.
The only group in Nigeria that Obasanjo has been able to show endless goodwill is the Hausa Fulani people. He hates the Igbo and the Yoruba with passion. He did not in any way hide this. His actions in office during his military days and as a civilian dictator are attestations to this claim.
However, while my speculation that Obasanjo is not a Yoruba son might have been on the money, his being from the Hausa Fulani North appeared to be incorrect. According to the article written by Micahel Mukwuzi and posted on www.thenewsng.com, Obasanjo’s father is Igbo and there are pictures to proof this. Mukwuzi wrote inter alia:
“…….tales about Obasanjo’s non-Yoruba ancestry received an oriental twist when The Nation of Sunday, 10 June, published what could be regarded as the biggest affront on Obasanjo’s paternity.
Slammed on its front page were two identical photographs of Obasanjo with the headline “Spot The Difference.” While on the right was an old hotograph of Obasanjo, on the left was what appeared like an old black-and-white photo of the same Obasanjo. To assist the reader, who
apparently, would require the services of a graphic artist to spot the difference, The Nation editors provided a caption to illustrate the pictures.
“The personality in picture A is not former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is in picture B. But what do both personalities have in common?” The
According to Mukwuzi, The Nation newspaper identified the Obasanjo look alike as an Igbo police officer who lived in Abeokuta in 1930’s around when Obasanjo was born and had an affair with a Yoruba lady which resulted in the birth of a baby boy that now looks like him.
The lid on the entire story was reportedly removed by Sam Nda-Isaiah, a columnist of the Abuja based Leadership newspaper following The Nations publication. He had written that the editors of The Nation didn’t want to say much, and “they have left us to our imagination, but it won’t be from me that you will hear that Obasanjo’s father was Igwe Onyejekwe, a top ranking police officer who became the Igwe of Onitsha in his lifetime. During his controversial reign, the throne was in contention between him and Igwe Okosi II, just as it is today between Igwe Achebe and Igwe Odukwe.”
To cut the long story short the following are the issues and questions that have arisen as a result of the controversy about Obasanjo’s paternity:
a) Orji Uzor Kalu former Abia State Governor had suggested that no one should use the failings of Olusegun Obasanjo as a yardstick to appraise the competence of Yoruba leaders, because Obasanjo is not a Yoruba man in the first place. This means that Governor Kalu knows what some of us do not know.
b) Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Balogun of Owu in Egbaland, is possibly the biological son of Igwe Joseph Okwudili Onyejekwe, the Obi Onitsha Ado N’Idu from 1962-1970? Onyejekwe ascended the coveted throne after the demise of Igwe James Okosi who ruled from 1931-1935. His enthronement came after the report of the famous W.R. Harding Commission, which resolved disputes among the contenders for the throne.
c) That Amos Adigun Obasanjo Bankole reported by Onukaba Adinoyi –Ojo in Olusegun Obasanjo in The Eyes of Time-A Biography of the African Statesman, as being the father possibly adopted Olusegun Obasanjo to save his mother (Ashabi) from shame of having a child probably rejected by his real father Pc and later Igwe Joseph Okwudili Onyejekwe?
d) If Amos Adigun Obasanjo Bankole is Aremu’s true biological father, where are the relatives of this man? Does he have sisters or brothers who could be regarded as paternal aunts and uncles?
e) Who are the parents of Amos Adigun Obasanjo Bankole i.e. the paternal grandparents of Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo?
f) That the only reason NO ONE has come out from Owu as a paternal relative to defend the origin of Obasanjo is that they all know the truth that he is not one of them?
g) That in Yorubaland, it is very uncommon for maternal relatives to publicly defend the paternity of a child whose father’s origin is not in doubt as is being done by Oba Isaac Adeyemi Ojelade- Badegunle 1, the Onibogun of Ibogunland, Obasanjo’s reputed maternal hometown.
h) Why is it that the people of Abule Elere, the purported paternal origin of Obasanjo are reluctant, unwilling or uninterested in coming out to defend the paternity of their “proud son” if he is truly one of them?
i) TheNews magazine had quoted a source in Onitsha saying that Igwe Joseph Okwudili Onyejekwe had “issued a recommendation that facilitated Obasanjo’s enlistment into the Nigerian Army in 1958.”
j) According to Micahel Mukwuzi, was Obasanjo giving us a hint about his true origin when he reportedly made a statement during a working visit to Anambra State and had reportedly told an audience in Awka that any of his children is qualified to govern Anambra State?
It is my belief that no true son would use the left hand to point to his father’s house as Obasanjo has repeatedly done to the Yoruba people in general and Owu people in particular. It is high time that the Owu people come out and clear the dark clouds on Obasanjo’s paternal origin.
Obasanjo’s bitterness against the Igbo people could now be put in context. His wickedness and sadistic actions against the Igbo are acts of vengeance for the sins of Igwe Okwudili Onyejekwe. He seemed determined to make them pay for the rejection he suffered from his biological father.
As to Obasanjo’s wickedness to the Yoruba, it only shows that he is an ingrate. Rejected by his biological father and taken in by the good hearted people of Owu who ought to have repatriated him to Onitsha in the first place, he has visited ignominy on the Yoruba people of which the Owu people are a very proud part. This is what happens when you allow an “a sa wo,” the Ijebu name for an impostor, to assume the undue credibility and a sense of belonging of the “omo on’ile,” the authentic children of the landowners.
I know that some of my Igbo brothers have sworn to reject Obasanjo as one of their own, I have to say that I understand their frustration about this. No one wants any bad egg as a member of his or her family. But it is difficult to deny or continue to deny Obasanjo – Onyejekwe’s Igbo paternity in the face of an overwhelming evidence. More so, the Yoruba also are not in the position to reject Obasanjo as one of their own either since his mother is from their midst. The only point of interest here is that the Igbo bear more responsibility for the existence of Obasanjo – Onyejekwe than the Yoruba since his father is from among them.
Regardless however, Obasanjo – Onyejekwe has not done any favour to either the Igbo or Yoruba with his behavioral trajectory in and out of office. Apart from a number of very few people around him, he is loathed far and wide and those who still have serious consideration for their integrity want to have little or nothing to do with him. As the Yoruba aphorism goes : “Kii buru titi ki o ma ku enikan mo’ni” literally meaning that “no matter how bad you are, there would still be few loyalists around you.”
By Remi Oyeyemi write this piece in time past