My dear Asiwaju,
I am compelled to write this
open letter to you because of the state of affairs of the Yoruba nation. Firstly,
I wish to acknowledge that fate has put you in a prime position to determine to
a large extent the direction that the Yoruba people will go. The indisputable
truth is that one may quarrel with your politics but your sagacity is never in
doubt. Even those who don’t see eye to eye with you agree that you are imbued
with unusual native intelligence, uncommon people skills and unrivaled
foresight. You, more than any other person, has been the game changer since the
advent of democracy in 1999. It is for these reasons that I have chosen to
direct this letter to you.
My singular purpose is to tug
at the strings of your heart. I am not writing to appeal to partisan
considerations but to see, if per chance, I can pour out my heart to you in a
manner of speaking. God has blessed you even beyond your wildest imagination.
You have installed Senators and Governors. You have removed Governors and even
a President. You have also installed a President. There is nothing you have
wished for or desired that you didn’t get. Fortune has smiled on you. Goodwill
follows you everywhere you go. You have done very well- more than most men ever
will. However, there is one area that is begging for your urgent attention.
This area may well define you and all you have ever achieved. This matter, in
my opinion, is the only difference between you and the late sage, Chief Obafemi
Awolowo. Let me restate for the purpose of emphasis that this is the area in
which the late sage and Leader of the Yorubas stand head and shoulders above
you. It is the reason his name has been a constant denominator in our regional
and national politics. It is the reason politicians, friends and foes invoke
his name for political advantage and personal glory. It is also the reason why
we can’t stop talking about him almost thirty years after his death. What will
anyone say about you thirty years after you have transited?
Asiwaju Sir, you may be
wondering what I’m talking about? It is the issue of legacy. According to Peter
Strople, ‘Legacy is not leaving something for people, it is leaving something
in people’. Legacy is building something that outlives you. Legacy is greater
than currency. In the words of Leonard Sweet, ‘ What you do is your history.
What you set in motion is your legacy’. You can’t live forever, Sir. No one
can. But you can create something that will. Enough of speaking in parables- I
shall now speak plainly.
When destiny brought you on the
scene, we were enamoured because you championed the case for true federalism.
It was your belief then that the Yoruba nation will fare better under a
restructured arrangement than under the type of unitary government we run while
pretending by calling it a federal government. Everyone knows that there is
nothing federal about our government at all. If truth must be told, the Yoruba
nation has fared very badly since the advent of our new democracy. And this is
not about holding power at the center.
Let me bring this home: someone
passed a comment recently that he would want Biafra to become a reality because
he knows the Igbo nation will survive. That comment led me to deeper
introspection as I wondered if the Yorubas can truly survive. Let me cite my
first example. From Oyo to Osun, Ogun to Ondo, Ekiti to Kwara and Lagos, hardly
will one see any serious industry or manufacturing concern owned by a Yoruba
person. I am not talking about portfolio businesses or one-man business
concerns. Most industries in Oyo State are owned by the Lebanese. The native
business and industry gurus who dominated the landscape- Nathaniel Idowu, Amos
Adegoke, Lekan Salami, Alao Arisekola, Adeola Odutola, Jimoh Odutola, Chief
Theophilus Adediran Oni and others- are all gone with no credible replacements.
I’m sure you remember the tyre factory of the Odutolas and how Jimoh Odutola
was even asked by the Governments of Kenya and Ghana to set up a similar
factory in their countries. Chief Theophilus Adediran Oni, popularly called T.A
Oni & Sons started the first indigenous construction company in Nigeria. He
willed his residence- Goodwill House, to the Oyo/Western state government, to
be used as a Paediatric Hospital, which is now known as T.A Oni Memorial
Children Hospital at Ring Road in Ibadan. This sprawling family Estate and
residence was cited on a 15acre piece of land, 65 rooms, with modern
conveniences, Olympic Swimming Pool and stable for Horses, etc.
People like Chief Bode Akindele
started companies like Standard Breweries and Dr Pepper Soft drink factory at
Alomaja in Ibadan. Broking House built by the late Femi Johnson, an insurance
magnate, still stands glittering in the mid-day sun as an epitome to a rich
history that Ibadan has. The most serious and only notable Yoruba entrepreneur
we have now is Michael Adenuga. I say this quite consciously because most of
the other names are oil and gas barons. Most of what stood as testaments of
industry in Oyo State are gone- Exide Batteries, Leyland Autos and many others.
In its place are shopping malls and road side markets but no nation develops
through buying and selling alone- especially when you’re not actually producing
what you’re selling. Hypermarkets and supermarkets have taken over because of
the need to feed our insatiable consumer-appetite and foreign tastes. In one
instance, an ancient landmark in the form of a hotel was demolished to pave way
for a mall. That is how low we have sunk. If our past is better than our
present- if we always look back with nostalgia frequently, then there is a
The case of other states is not
different. Osun’s case is pathetic. Ditto for Ondo and Ekiti. Ogun State can
boast of some factories at Sango-Otta and Agbara axis but most of them are not
owned by the Yorubas. There is no significant pharmaceutical company owned by
any Yoruba except for Bond Chemicals in Awe, Oyo State- and its wallet share is
very insignificant. For Lagos State, more than 70% of the manufacturing
concerns and major industries in the State are owned by the Igbos. If the Igbos
were to stop paying tax in Lagos State, the IGR of Lagos State will reduce by
over 60%. In contrast, Sir, go to the South East and look at the manufacturing
concerns in Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi. Please don’t forget those were areas
ravaged by civil war a mere forty something years ago. The Igbos have certainly
made tremendous progress but the Yoruba nation has regressed. I wish to state
that this letter is not meant to whip up primordial considerations or ethnic
sentiments but just to put things in proper perspective.
Asiwaju, I will like to also
talk about the state of education in the Yoruba nation. Our education has gone
to the dogs. We have a bunch of mis-educated and ill-educated young men and
women roaming the streets. Ibadan, for instance, had the first University in
Nigeria and the first set of research centers in Nigeria ( The Forestry Research
Institute, the Cocoa Research Institute (CRIN), The Nigerian Cereal Research
Institute Moor Plantation (NCRI), the NIHORT (Nigerian Institute of
Horticultural Research), the NISER (Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic
Research), IAR&T (Institute of Agriculture, Research and Training), amongst
several others). Ibadan was the bastion of scholarship with people like Wole
Soyinka, JP Clark, D.O Fagunwa and Amos Tutuola as residents. In the May/June
2015 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, Abia came tops.
Anambra came 2nd while Edo was 3rd. Lagos placed 6th while Osun and Oyo was
29th and 26th. Ekiti was 11th, Ondo State was 13th and Ogun State was 19th. In
2013 WASSCE, only Lagos and Ogun States were the Yoruba States above the
national average. If we do an analysis of how Lagos placed 6th in 2015, you
will discover that it was substantially because of other nationalities resident
in Lagos. For proof, please look no further than the winners of the Spelling
Bee competition which has produced One-Day Governors in Lagos State. Since
inception in 2001, other nationalities have won the competition six times
(Ebuka Anisiobi in 2001, Ovuwhore Etiti in 2002, Abundance Ikechukwu in 2006,
Daniel Osunbor in 2008, Akpakpan Iniodu Jones in 2011 and Lilian Ogbuefi in
2012). Sir, there is something seriously wrong about our state of education.
From the vintage times of Obafemi Awolowo who initiated ‘free education’, we
have regressed into a most parlous state.
Let me talk about roads,
housing and infrastructure . The first dualized road in Nigeria, the Queen
Elizabeth road from Mokola to Agodi in Ibadan was formally commissioned by
Queen Elizabeth in 1956. The first Housing Estate in Nigeria is Bodija Housing
Estate (also in Ibadan) which was built in 1958. The state of roads in the
Yoruba nation has become pathetic. Our hinterland are still largely rural. Even
some state capitals like Osogbo and Ado-Ekiti are big villages when you compare
them to towns in the South East. How many new estates have been built over the
last decade? Even Ajoda New Town lies in ruins.
We have abandoned the farm
settlement strategy of the Western Region and only pay lip service to
agriculture. Instead of feeding others like we once did, others now feed us. We
plant no tomatoes, no pepper and the basic food that we require. The Indians
have bought the large expanse of water body that we have in Onigambari village.
The water body in Oke Ogun of Oyo State can provide enough fish to feed the
whole of the South West. From being a major cocoa exporter many years ago, one
can point to just a few vestiges of factories that still deal with Cocoa in the
Yoruba nation. 80% of Cocoa processing industries in the South West have been
shut down. The Chinese have taken over the cashew belt at Ogbomoso in Oyo
State. They have even edged out the indigenes as brokers. They now come to the
cashew belt to buy from the local farmers, sell on the spot to other Chinese
exporters who now process the cashew nuts and import them back into Nigeria at
a premium. Sir, there are only 7 major cashew processing plants in Nigeria and
you can check out the ownership. The glory has departed from the Yoruba nation.
Apart from Asejire, Ede, Ikere
Gorge and Oyan dams built ages ago, where are the new dams to cater for
increased population and water capacity for the Yoruba nation? How have we
improved on what our heroes past left us? Maybe apart from certain areas in Lagos
State, others can’t even supply their citizens with pipe-borne water.
Our youth which we used to take
pride in are largely a mass of unemployed and unemployable people. Have you
noticed the abundance of street urchins, area boys, touts and ‘agberos’ that we
now have all across the Yoruba nation? Have you noticed the swell in the ranks
of NURTW (I mean no disrespect to an otherwise noble union)? Have you noticed
the increase in the number of Yoruba beggars? There was a time that it was
taboo for a Yoruba man to beg- but no more. The spirit of apprenticeship is
dead. There was a time that people who learn vocational skills celebrate what
we referred to as ‘freedom’. While that is largely moribund now in the Yoruba
nation, the Igbos still practice it with great success.
The only thing we can boldly
say the Yoruba nation controls is the information machinery- the press. We own
largely the newspapers- the Nation, Punch, Nigerian Tribune, TV Continental and
a few others. It is because of our control of this information machinery that
we have rewritten the narrative in the country with the misguided self-belief
that things are normal and we are making progress. A look beyond the surface
will prove that this is so untrue.
We are largely divided. For the
first time in the history of the Yoruba nation, religion is about to divide us
further- and it is starting from Osun State. You are married to a Christian. My
own father-in-law is an Alhaji. That is how we have peacefully co-existed but
the fabrics are about to be torn to shreds because of poor management of
issues. Afenifere has been reduced to a shadow of itself. OPC that once
defended Yoruba interests has gone into oblivion. Yoruba elders have been
vilified in the name of politics and partisanship. It is no longer news to see
teenagers throwing stones at their elders because of their political
indoctrination. Even under the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Yorubas
never belonged to just a single party- yet our unity was without blemish. Now,
our values have gone down the drain.
Asiwaju, I believe I have said
enough. The task is Herculean but I believe Providence has brought you here for
such a time like this. It is time for the Yoruba nation to clean up its acts.
What do we really want? How can we quickly right the wrongs? The Yoruba nation
is in a state of arrested development. The Yoruba nation is gasping for breath
and crying for help. Will you rise up to the occasion? I am aware you
understand that all politics is local and charity begins at home. Our fathers
gave us a proverb: ‘Bi o’ode o dun, bi igbe ni’gboro ri’. I know there are no
quick fixes but I also know that if there is anyone who has the capacity to do
something about our current situation, that person is you. This should be the
legacy you should think of. Your legacy is our future.
Yours Very Sincerely,