It was a meeting of Yoruba people from all works of life that gathered for the Abraham Adesanya Memorial lecture that took place at the Afe Babalola auditorium, University of Lagos. The theme of the lecture was, “The Place of the Yoruba in Nigeria’s Politics” and it was organized by the National Association of Ogun State students under the leadership of its president, Mr. Oremosu Adetola.
Some of the guest speakers who spoke on the topic lamented what they described as the relegation of the Yoruba to the background especially in the leadership of the country. Others were of the opinion that the Yoruba has ceased to have leaders in the mould of the late Pa Adesanya and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. A former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba was of strong conviction that after the death of some of Nigeria’s founding fathers of Yoruba descent, the Yoruba have ceased to have selfless leaders.
His words: “Yoruba leadership is based on so many factors. To be a Yoruba leader you must have a very strong pedigree and you must be humble. The Yoruba has had three leaders. One was the late Dr. Obafemi Awolowo. He emerged when the interest of our people was threatened. The person that took over from him was Pa Adeniran Ogunsanya, then after him, Pa Abraham Adesanya emerged the leader of the Yoruba. Adesanya was a man of integrity and great humility and wherever he went, he proved that he was well read. He believed that he was first a Yoruba man before he was a Nigerian. The Yoruba want self determination and federalism, the type that allowed Awolowo to use the wealth of Western Nigeria to transform the western region.”
The guest speaker, Prof Alade Fawole, a Professor in the Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife praised the efforts of people like Pa Adesanya whom he said helped in ensuring that the country did not break up. “We remember Adesanya in this time when we celebrate vanity and other Yorubas who were in the trenches with him. He was a man of many parts and was highly revered. Like the late Awolowo, he was one of the people who believed that a Yoruba man cannot be a good Nigerian without first being a good Yoruba man.
“In his endeavours, his life was defined by selflessness, loyalty and integrity. He became the acknowledged Yoruba leader when others fled the country but he stood back. He fought the military and he was targeted by Abacha’s hit squad but God mercifully saved him. His death has left a hole in Yoruba leadership and he was like the last of the titans. He was noted for his adherence to the Yoruba ideology. He was elevated at the Senate and worked with loyalty. However, within the Yoruba fold, there are also the black sheep and those who have betrayed the Yoruba.
“The Yoruba have had a sophisticated political structure even before the colonial rule. They have also made strenuous efforts towards the independence and sustenance of Nigeria and their contributions cannot be adequately captured. The Nigerian state remains indivisible today because of the steadfastness of the Yoruba especially when Biafra seceded.The position of the Yoruba remains precarious because they that were in the forefront suddenly became relegated to the background,” he regretted.”
A former Chairman of Eti-Osa Local Government Area in Lagos State, Mrs. Modupe Fashina lamented: “Our present leaders are very selfish. During the time of Awo, there was order and discipline but now politics has made our leaders look out for their own selfish interests. Unfortunately, the ills of our generation are being transfered to our youths. We should not let money determine our future and we should encourage those who are doing well.”
The founder and president of Oodua Peoples Congress, (OPC) Dr. Frederick Fasehun: “The Yoruba have lost out in the politics of this country. I read a book that opened my eyes to the fact that out of the 117 high political positions in this country, only six have been occupied by the Yoruba. So we should not delude ourselves that we are in politics. Someone once said that the Yoruba have no love for themselves and that is why it has not been possible to be part of the system. We fought against dictatorship, but how come the Yoruba are now encouraging what we fought against? Unity is a positive force that should be encouraged but that does not mean that we must be in the same political party. We should not encourage a system of hate and bitterness because Pa Adesanya and the likes of Awo lived a life of love. I would not associate with anyone who tries to de-emphasize the name of Awo by bringing it down. Politically, the Yoruba are at cross roads. We are neither here nor there. We keep crying about marginalization but within us, we are disunited so how won’t we be marginalized?”
Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora: “We have gathered to celebrate the life of Adesanya because of the type of legacy he left behind. We are also celebrating people like Awolowo who sacrificed a lot to see that the Yoruba have a good life. He used the wealth of the West to develop the West and that is why we are saying that the country should return to true federalism. Adesanya and Awo believed that you first have to be a good Yoruba man before you are a good Nigerian.