In modern political history of Yoruba nation two remarkable figures of insurmountable feat stand out. We have the Ikenne Ijebu Remo-born Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo—an icon of modern Yoruba political consciousness and radical nationalism, political strategist and theorist par excellence and, a fountain of minority ethnic liberation in Nigeria.
Then comes the Abeokuta-born of Owu ancestry Chief Gen. Dr. Matthew Olusegun Obasanjo— the little celebrated yet iconic political pace-setter and unspoken nationalist woven in a seldom mentioned outstanding military career.
Beyond incidental human limitations, these two men in past and in present stand out as insurmountable political enigmas within the space and time of their respective service to the Nigerian nation.
These are the two men Bola Ahmed Tinubu believes in his infantile political imagination that he transcends in political achievement and influence in Yorubaland in particular and, Nigeria in general. This is the story he tells his political hirelings which gives the likes of Senator Anthony Adefuye the insane audacity to concoct spurious tales against the two iconic Yoruba figures.
In a recent television program— One-on-One, the Lagos State-born political contractor and one of the notable political crumb-pickers of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senator Anthony Adefuye was asked his opinion on the moral justification founded on equity and justice of a Bola Ahmed Tinubu wanting to be a President of Nigeria.
Quoting the lady-anchor:
“Our guest today is Senator Anthony Adefuye. He is an engineer, an APC chieftain. APC, you’re a chieftain of that party and the candidate you have fielded many Nigerians have questions about him: a.) they say he is too old to run a country as vast and as complex as Nigeria; b.) they are saying that APC should not be fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket when Nigeria has a large number of Christians that should be represented; and c.) that you are fielding someone from the Southwest part of the country instead of someone from the Southeast.”
Throwing overboard all cautions of dignity associated with someone with the garb of a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and sobriety of his ancestral personality as a respected Yoruba man, he deviated quite in the characteristic of a paranoiac drunkard infested with a state of mental declivity from the logical trajectory of the subject matter. Like a kindergarten pupil reciting what he was taught to memorize, Senator Anthony Adefuye retorted with the most dysfunctional sense of logic that, to quote him: “The Southwest has never been President before.”
The anchor went further to ask: “But we have had Olusegun Obasanjo.” Adefuye retorted again: “No! Olusegun Obasanjo is an Igbo man. He came from Anambra State. His father is an Igbo man.”
Then the anchor again asked: “You have evidence to this sir?” and in his puerile response Adefuye then concluded: “My friend it is he who should come out to say he is not an Igbo man.”
I am not by this treatise saying that the Igbo would not be proud to have General Olusegun Obasanjo as their member. But the problem is hinged on both the timing and the sinister motive associated with Senator Adefuye’s infantile outburst. Why wait till after the Yoruba had eaten the fleshy and best part of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s life to remind him that he is Igbo? Is that not political witchcraft?
Again, it is no longer new to Nigerians to hear insinuations of bogus paternities associated with celebrated achievers of different callings, especially within the political circles. Dr. Azikiwe was once taunted as not being of Onitsha origin even after his death. General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi was once mocked of being a Sierra Leonean. General Murtala Muhammed is still believed to be a native of Agenebode in Edo State. General Ibrahim Babangida, it is generally believed, is from Ogbomosho.
During the Second Republic the murky waters of devious old Anambra State politics was colored with the insinuation that Governor Jim Nwobodo was from Lafia in the present Nasarawa State. The instances are endless.
So Senator Anthony Adefuye has not said anything new or strange to the hearing of Nigerians; rather he has ended up swimming in the same mucky waters of political blackmail he set out to smear Chief Olusegun Obsanjo with, for the simple reason that he refused to support Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s political ambition. His paranoiac obsession against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo rose to the point of insanity when he witnessed him throwing his weight of support behind Peter Obi.
But there is that popular legal dictum that states: “Those who seek equity must come with clean hands.” And here I want to bring Senator Anthony Adefuye before the throne of equity for Nigerians to judge. The question is how clean are Senator Anthony Adefuye’s hands both in terms of his cacophony of moral reasoning and misty Yoruba ancestry?
Since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has come out to say that he is a full-blown Yoruba man, the onus of proof has returned to Senator Anthony Adefuye to further explain his grounds for stigmatizing Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as an Igbo man whose father was from Anambra State. Nigerians are anxiously waiting. But before then there are some pertinent questions we desire the Senator to answer.
First, when he joined Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s entourage to plead for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s blessing and support for the latter’s Presidential ambition as a fellow Yoruba man, did he, Senator Anthony realize at that moment that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is an Igbo man and not Yoruba?
Second, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was recruited into the Nigerian Army as a Yoruba man, fought Nigeria civil war against the Igbo as a Yoruba man and rose through the ranks to become a General as a Yoruba man. Why did the likes of Senator Anthony Adefuye fail to realize at those moments that he is an Igbo man?
Third, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria’s Head of State for three years, and returned as Nigeria’s President for eight years, all as a full-fledged Yoruba man. Why did such political morons as Senator Anthony Adefuye not inform him and Nigerians at large during those two glorious epochs of his life that he is indeed not a Yoruba man but rather an Igbo man from Anambra State?
Fourth, why has Senator Anthony Adefuye not in the first instance addressed the raging mystery of a Bola Ahmed Tinubu who claims to belong to the prestigious Madam Tinubu family of Lagos State, but who actually hails from Osun State with original identity—Amoda, whose nephew is the current Governor of Osun State?
Finally, from the traditional confidential archives of Lagos, evidence abound that Senator Anthony Adefuye is not a Yoruba but a native of Borgu, specifically from Wawa town in present Niger State. It was indeed through Senator Adefuye’s ancestral connection to Borgu that the chieftaincy title Jagaban of Borgu was conferred on Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Indeed Borgu Local Government Area until 1991 was part of Kwara State before being transferred to Niger State. This gave the likes of Senator Adefuye the easy political advantage to claim Yoruba ancestry.
His history is that his grandfather had migrated from Borgu and settled for a long time in Orile-Igbon in the present Surulere Local Government Area of Oyo State, where he eventually claimed as his hometown. It was from there that he eventually migrated to Lagos where he eventually settled and claimed as an indigene.
It is important to note that the honorary chieftaincy title Senator Anthony Adefuye bears today—“Olugbon of Lagos” is in fact the official title of the Oba of Orile-Igbon, which he characteristically adopted as a reminder of his grandfather’s link with the ancient Igbon kingdom.
The concluding question is what ancestral right has a Borgu man to question a bona fide Yoruba man—Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of his Yoruba ancestry?
*Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan
Fellow @ Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka