Yinka Odumakin and Afenifere bouts of bitterness
By Rèmí Oyèyemí
Any leadership that is unable to contextualize its ambition in the aspirations and desires of its people would become irrelevant. This is a lesson that the current leaders in Afenifere needs to learn and learn very fast before it saunters into impertinence.
It is evident that these our fathers are unwittingly wallowing in the periphery of antiquity. They are getting too slow in the march out of miasma called Nigeria. They are getting too sluggish in their thoughts and are acting contrary to the ethos they have taught us – broadness of mind, freedom of thought and action, commitment to the contentment of our community and society at large, contest of ideas and the “ònà kan ò w’ojà” philosophy.
Our fathers in Afenifere are becoming a little carefree in their perspectives. In their carefree, they are kowtowing to the vagaries, the vicissitudes of human character that had not milled through the furnace of time. Character that is not solid. Character that has yet to cross the Rubicon of maturity. Untested and flailing.
This is very much unlike them. They are our fathers. They are gifted with wisdom. They have been in the trenches. They have been in the valleys. They have been on the hills. And the mountains. They have seen a lot. They have shed a lot of tears. They have sweated a lot. They have bled a lot. They have done a lot. They are valued a lot. They are appreciated a lot. And they are respected a lot.
All this, should not, could not and must not be taken for granted. It should not be treated trivially. It should not be valued with levity. It should not be frittered with frivolity. It should be treasured and protected. It should be guarded jealously. They should not allow internal resentment and enviousness to destroy it. They should be able to rise above bitterness built on the quicksand of pettiness.
The press statement made by my brother, colleague and friend, Yinka Odumakin was in very bad taste. It was and still is counterproductive. It reeked of acridity. It was very acidic. Very toxic. It treaded on the parlous path of self-destruction. It showed lack of understanding of the desires of the Yorùbá people that they claim to lead. It portrayed our Afenifere fathers as removed from the reality of the aspirations of their people.
One is not sure whether there was a meeting held where it was agreed that this kind of macabre dalliance be engaged in, in a kamikaze flight. It is fervently hoped that this was just limited to the “wisdom” of my dear brother, Yinka Odumakin. I know he is not a perfect human being. Like others, he was and still is prone to mistakes, something one considered his comments on the Yorùbá World Congress to be.
If there was a meeting, where this kind of belligerence and antagonism towards the desire of the Yorùbá people was approved for public consumption, then something must have gone wrong during the deliberation. It would be a manifestation of lack of our Afenifere fathers’ comprehension of the depth of the feelings of our people in Yorùbá Nation and across the planet.
Calls flooded in. From Nigeria and across the globe. There was anger. There were feelings of betrayal. Surprises were expressed. There were tough and strong words used to characterise the Afenifere’s act as emblematic in Yinka Odumakin’s statement. There were questions and questions and questions. People were flabbergasted. They were astounded at the virulence of Odumakin’s statement. They were bewildered.
There is no doubt about the fact that some segments of Afenifere leadership did not approve the emergence of Prof. Banji Akintoye as the chosen leader of Yorùbá World Congress. They sponsored malicious campaigns against him. They tried to assassinate his character. They accused him of egregious acts. They forgot that we were looking for a leader and not an angel. We were not looking for a saint. Prof. Akintoye weathered all of the poisonous arrows. Thank Elédùmarè that he remained steadfast.
Within a short time, he has been able to provide meaningful leadership. In a very difficult terrain, endowed with stumps, stubs, clumps, thumps, bumps, bangs, gullies, with treacherous serpents and vipers crawling all over, with famished and ravenous carnivorous creatures prowling, Prof. Bánjí Akintoye trudges on, he plods on and lumbers on, putting one block here and one block there.
The Afenifere leadership seemed stunned by Prof. Akintoye’s result in such a short time. The Afenifere is amazed that the Yorùbá World Congress was gaining more acceptability and support. They seemed to have been caught napping with the rapidity of its blossoming. Without thinking it through, they are trying to shoot the organization down and allow our enemies to laugh at us. By this action as executed by Odumakin, they are making the Yorùbá Nation more vulnerable.
The Afenifere has become too fastidious. It has become too finicky. It is unduly inebriated with communiques and press releases that the enemies of Yorùbá Nation have become accustomed to and scoffed at, every time. They have not come up with any practical course of action given the political and social turbulence pervading the lands of Káãro Oòjíire.
The next generation appreciates caution. It is part of our culture and training to be cautious and show restraint. The next generation understands the need to tread carefully. But treading carefully is not the same thing with stagnancy of action and edification of expired ideas. This next generation no longer wants to wallow in subjugation and slavery. This next generation is tired of press releases and communiques. It wants organisation and meaningful action. It wants freedom and liberty. It wants self determination. It wants to control its destiny.
This next generation wants proactive leadership. It wants energetic and enthusiastic leadership. They do not want a cult paralysed by shenanigans and pettiness. They want innovative and forward looking leadership. They do not want a bickering leadership. This is not the time for petty rivalry. Our people are dying. There is so much hunger in the land. There is so much anger in the land. The Yorùbá is being encircled. These are not matters of communiques or press statements.
We need to organize our people. We need to mobilize them. You, our fathers taught us “Tí Olóun bá ti f’òtá eni han ni, kò leè se ni mó.” We know our enemies already, but you are not providing us with a compass with which to engage them. You’re not providing any solutions. Prof. Akintoye who is putting in his widow’s mite, you want to bring him down. You are trivialising his achievements. You want to destroy this YWC. This has to stop.
Nothing here is meant to suggest that the YWC is perfect. There is no intention to convey to the world that there are no rooms for improvement. No, not at all. But right now, it is the best we have got. It is functioning. It is giving us some results, no matter how infinitesimal. It was not Rome alone that was not built in a day. Ilésa too, with its magnificent beauty, was not built in a day. YWC would not be built in a day. It is a work in progress. We should not destroy it.
There is need for rethinking and re-strategising in the courts of the Afenifere. There is need for more clairvoyance on their part. They must isolate the needs of the Yorùbá and lead them accordingly. Right now, they ought to be in the forefront of asking for a plebscite. They ought to be asking for a referendum in order for them as leaders to be properly guided. May be our people don’t even want to exit Nigeria. May be they do. They should be in the vanguard to calibrate that. Not bringing each other down.
The Afenifere should remember that there is a very thin line between love and hate. That line is dangerously fragile. More than any group, the Afenifere knows that our people are not idiots. They are not nincompoops. Our people are not stupid. They could and would decide who to follow when the chips are down. I hope that the Afenifere would not justify their being characterised as “artifacts fit for museum” by my own Oxford based, exceptionally brilliant Prof. Wale Adebanwi.
Pásá ò fu’ra, Pásá já s’íná, Àjà ò fu’ra, Àjá jìn; b’ónílé ò bá fu’ra, olè ní ó ko lo. In this context, this would mean, “The price of constant relevance is eternal vigilance.” There is need for “àkíyèsára” by our fathers in Afenifere.