In an?interview with the Punch newspaper on 30th November 2013, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, a great nationalist,?a two-time?former Commisioner?of Education?of the old Western Region, a former Governor of Oyo state, one of our few remaining elderstatesman and a man that played a prominent role in the politics of both?the First and Second republics said the following-
Chief?S.L. Akintola was the supreme leader. Chief Obafemi Awolowo left (the?Premiership?of the Western Region) of his own volition without advice to contest the federal election. In the federal election he contested?but?he had no alliances. Stubborn, aggressive, very hardworking, visionary leader that?Awolowo?was, he never understood real politics at any time.?In real politics you have to look at the figures, you have to have?allies?there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. You must have some allies.?Nigeria?is too fragmented for you not to have allies. If you are counting in the prescence of someone with nine fingers, you don’t count in the person’s prescence and say ‘so you have nine fingers’.?We had a brilliant man called S.L. Akintola who understood real politics. Awolowo believed that book knowledge was so?important?but he (Akintola) knew better. A situation arose- Awolowo wanted to ally with the east and Akintola wanted to align with the north. So?there?was a?crisis.
These are interesting historical perspectives and?insights from a man that was appointed as a?Commissioner (or Regional Minister)?for a region that comprised of no less than what?are 7 states of the Federation?today (Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Edo and Delta) at the tender age of 27. I am not sure that I entirely agree with Olunloyo’s assertion?that?Awolowo did?not appreciate the importance of building bridges with other ethnic groups?and forming alliances?given the fact that?he?and?his Action Group?DID build bridges?and form an alliance?with the ethnic?minorities of both?the old?Northern and Eastern regions and?DID in fact?champion their?cause and fight for their?rights.?Yet that is neither here nor there. The important thing is that we are witnesses to an important contribution from a major player and participant?to the debate about a period in?our history?that affected the fortunes of our country in a very?real and profound manner. I say this because it could be argued that the bitter?fight that took place betweeen Chief Obafemi?Awolowo and Chief S.L. Akintola and their respective?supporters throughout the?early?’60’s, the?division within the Action Group and its eventual?splitting into two separate and distinct parties, the ugly?events in the south west at the time and the unrestrained and brutal?violence that?was unleashed by both sides against one another?led directly to?the first coup d’etat of January 15th 1966. This in turn led to?the second coup d’etat of July 29th?1966, to?the shocking pogroms and mass killings of the igbo?in the north?and ultimately to?the Nigerian civil war.?It is therefore good news when those that participated?at the highest level of?governance at the time?and that?are?living witnesses to those events, like Dr. Omololu?Olunloyo,?speak out and share their insights and wealth of knowledge with us.?I sincerely hope that he will continue to do this and that?other participants and witnesses from both sides of the divide?will also share their views and insights with us as well.?????
When?one considers and reflects on Olunloyo’s words and the entire?background of the Awolowo/Akintola feud ultimately one?has?to make a choice and come to a decision as to who was right?and wrong and determine?which side?was?really?at fault. Yet many questions still need to be answered before one can take a legitimate and?definitive position?on this. For example?as Mr.?Adeniji Mudahir Akinniyi, a young and insightful commentator on facebook,?asked ”?What?was?theagreement?between?Akintola?and?Awolowo?before?Awolowo?left?for?theFederal?Government?poll??Who?was?the?traitor?amongst?the?two??Who?is?the?father?ofcivilization?in?the?south?west??Who?is?responsible?for?the?socio-political?and?economic?development?of the?old?Western?Region? I?need?answers?to?these?questions?before?I?post?my?final?comment”.
For the answers to these questions one has to look at the history books even though, as Napolean Bonaparte once said, ”history is more often than not?written by the victor and not the vanquished”.?Akinniyi has indeed?asked?the?relevant?questions. I?know?the?answers??to them?but?I?will?not?share?them?here?or?anywhere?else?because?I?will?not?say?or?do?anything?that?will?resurrect?the?great?division?of?the?past.?Suffice?it?to?say?that?both?Awolowo?and?Akintola?were?great?yoruba?leaders?andgreat?men?and?they?were?both?human?beings?and?were?therefore?prone?to?making?errors?of?judgement?from?time?to?time.?We?the?yoruba?owe?EVERYTHING?to?them?both?and?it?is?very?unhelpful?for?our?collective?cause?to?attempt?to?demonise?one?and?idolise?the?other.?Neither?of?them?was?a?demon?or?an?angel-?they?both?had?theirfaults,?strengths?and?weaknesses.?Yet?they?were?both?great?men.
One?of the?things?that?fascinated?me?about Dr. Olunloyo’s?interview,?and which is historically factual,?is?what?he said?about?Akintola?entering?into?a?political?alliance?with?thenorth?(which?was?known?as the?NNA) and?Awolowo?entering into a?political?alliance with the east (which was known as UPGA). This was the essential difference in?strategy between the two?and it represented their?respective?worldviews.?Akintola, who had deep?suspicions?for?the?igbo, felt that the interests of the yoruba were better?protected?and served by an alliance with?the?northern ruling class?whilst?Awolowo, who had?equally deep suspicions?for the northern?ruling?class and?the?hausa-fulani oligharcy, felt that the?yoruba?interestwas?better served and protected by an?alliance?with the igbo. The Western Region became the?intellectual, spiritual and physical?battle?ground for the two opposing?and conflicting strategies and?world views and the rest is history.
My only?mild?criticism of both of these two great yoruba leaders is that they and their?respective?supporters and followers in the?old?Western?Region, including Dr. Omololu Olunloyo himself,?did not sufficiently understand or?appreciate?the importance and benefits of building bridges between themselves?and?avoiding?a major?conflict. Instead of making peace, making the necessary concessions and attempting to foster unity in the collective interest of the yoruba nation BOTH?camps?went for the jugular and an all out war ensued which did not end until May 1st 1967 at the Yoruba “leaders?of?thought” meeting in Ibadan. Even?after?that tensions and suspicion still?existed?between the two sides for many decades and, to a certain extent,?still?remain till today.
The annulment of Chief?MKO?Abiola’s election of June 12th 1993?by the northern ruling class and ”their” military?dealt a death blow to the Akintola philosophy and strategy of a strong northern and western alliance. However that alliance and trust is being slowly and carefully rebuilt and ressurected today with the recent merger between the ACN, ANPP and CPC and the formation of the APC as a political party. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not the APC essentially represents an alliance between the ?north, the south west and the mid-west. ?The annulement of Abiola’s?June 12th?mandate was sad and unfortunate but it had one positive result- it brought the two sides in yorubaland much closer together in a very meaningful way and from that point on till today they have operated more or less with one accord. This is so?even though?there?is still an uneasy peace between the two?camps?and their descendants?and even though from time to time flashpoints of disagreements are voiced out. My view is that?if?we are really interested in fostering yoruba unity and perhaps one day forging and?establishing?our own nation we must keep that peace at all costs and move forward as one.
Yet given the disposition of Awolowo towards the igbo?as Mr. Jide Olajolu, another young facebook commentator asked,??”is?it not ironical that the average?Easternerdetests the?same?Awolowo?and equates?Yoruba?nationalism?with?him?
Jide is?absolutely?right. The?greatest?irony?of?all?is?that, generally speaking,?the?igbo?detest?Awolowo? and have?done?everything that is?physically?possible?to malign?anddiscredit him since?1967.?Yet?this was the man whose party?went?into an alliance with them at the most critical point in our history (between?1964?and 1966) and who?urged his faction of?the yoruba to work closely with?them?even though by that time he was in prison. That is what the UPGA alliance?represented?an igbo/yoruba alliance which was pitted against the hausa-fulani north and?Akintola’s?pro-northern faction in the west. Awolowo suffered?immensly?in the hands of the north and the other group in the south west because his party refused to compromise with them and because they took that position. Yet very few igbos are prepared to admit this even when they know it to be true and most of them don’t even know it because they were never taught it in their schools. The igbo do not teach their children?all?these things and instead they tell them that Awolowo was the devil incarnate, a murderer of children, a genocidal maniac and an igbo-hater who ended up committing suicide out of frustration. These of course were all lies and well orchestrated fabrications that were designed to rubbish the man’s memory and legacy. Theydemonised?Chief Awolowo, their friend and political ally, and on the?night?of?Jan 15th?1966,?during the course of?the Ifejuna-led igbo coup,?they murdered Chief S.L. Akintola and Sir Ahmadu Bello (the?Premiers?of?the Western and?Northern Regions respectively) who were both their political adversaries, who?saw?through?them?at an?early stage?and who had open?contempt?for them.
Yet?only the igbo can?explain?why they?hated?and still hate Awolowo so?much. I say?this?because he was their friend and ally when the crisis in the Western Region took place. I guess that their hatred stems from the role that he and the yoruba played during the civil war. Yet I believe?that Col. Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the igbo?rebel leader,?made the greatest mistake by attempting to seceed at the time that he did?(against?Awolowo’s?advice?and better judgement)?and worst still he attacked the Western Region with his Biafran forces even when many of our people had sympathy for their cause and plight. As a matter of fact the man that led the Biafran forces in the attack against the Midwest and the?West?was a gallant and courageous yoruba officer by the name of Col. Victor Banjo?who?believed strongly in the igbo cause and who (along with Major Emmanuel Ifejuna, the leader and arrowhead of the Jan 15th 1966 coup) was later executed by Ojukwu. The truth is?that?it was Ojukwu that betrayed?Awolowo?and?the yoruba and not the other way around. I say this?because?they fired the first shot and tried to overwhelm, capture and enslave us by?attacking?our territory with their?forces. They overwhelmed the people of the Niger Delta and the?Midwest very easily but when they got to the?gates of the?Western region at a place called Ore they were stopped in their tracks by the?yoruba?forces and the famous 3rd Marine Commando which was a 98 per cent yoruba fighting force. That is how they were prevented from entering yoruba land and they were pushed back, inch by inch, from the Midwest and?the Niger Delta area?(by the same 3rd Marine Commando) back into?the very heart of?igboland?from whence they came?until they were broken, defeated and forced to surrender.?After?being attacked the yoruba had no choice but to fight back and we did so very successfully.?Chief?Awolowo, General Benjamin Adekunle, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Brigadier Sotomi, Col. Alabi Isimi?and?a number of other key yoruba officers and public?servants?played a key role in that war and that struggle to protect our people and our territory and I am very proud of their efforts. If not for them we would?have been conquered and enslaved and we would?all have?been?speaking igbo as our first language by now. Finally I?believe?that Akintola’s position about the igbo has been?vindicated. Both he and Ahmadu Bello were right about them all?along?and Awolowo obviously did not fully understand them. Today, though he was once their best friend, they hate?Awolowo?with as much passion as they once hated Akintola?and?Ahmadu?Bello.
Permit me to?make reference?to what?the late Professor?Chinua Achebe had to say about Awolowo and the yoruba in his last, and most controversial book, titled ”Another Country”. I will not repeat his? words and racist categorisations here?but I would urge all those that are interested in it and that can stomach it to go and read those words in the book.?I believe that those words reflect the real thinking of most igbos about the yoruba even though they?tend?to make attempts to hide it until?they?are pushed to the wall and lose their?cool.?This is proved by the fact that, to date, not one?single?igbo leader or commentator of note has condemned the?book or disagreed with?Achebe’s comments and assesment. As a matter of fact rather than condemn it they have wholeheartedly endorsed?and applauded?it.??The real reasons for the?deep?hatred?that most?igbos havefor Awolowo,?Akintola and the yoruba generally can be found in that book.?Sadly most of the igbo youth since the end of the civil war were weaned on such fairytales of genocide and betrayal at the hands of and by the yoruba. This explains the attitude of many of them and the tendency for them to view even the mildest form of criticism as evidence of ”igbophobia” and proof of a deep-seated hatred for the igbo people. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The yoruba have always been very kind, very generous and very accomodating to the igbo and history attests to this.??As a matter of fact, if the truth is to be told,?the?unbridled political?ambition of the igbo?to dominate and control the whole country?and their?strongdislike?for?the yoruba?can?be traced back to 1945 when key igbo?leaders like Charles?Daddy Onyeama (who was a member of the Legislative Council at the time?and who, many years later, went on to become?one of the most reverred and respected judges in the World Court at the Hague)?made some openly?racist, provocative?and incendiary?remarks?about what he described as the ”inevitability” of the igbo to eventually ”dominate Nigeria”.?Two years later, in 1947,?this was followed by Dr.?Nnamdi Azikiwe’s famous speech about the ”god of the igbo” who he believed would?eventually give them leadership over Nigeria and Africa.??These were the deeply offensive sentiments of those that belonged to the Igbo State Union which was the umbrella organisation of all the igbos at the time and which spoke for every single igbo in the country. It was this rabid and violent expression of igbo nationalism and intention to take control of the levers of power in our country at all costs, even at that early stage, that created all our problems in the south.?That?is where and when tribalism started in the?southern?Nigeria and the?truth is that the??igbo started it. It cost?Azikiwe?the Western?Regional?elections in 1951 after the founding of the Action Group that?same?year.?If?not for that we would have had an igbo man as the first Premier of the Western Region in 1951 and Nigeria’s history would have been very different. For more details?on this??permit me to refer?readers?to??my?essay?titled?”The Bitter Truth About The Igbo” which was widely published?in various newspapers?and which can be found in the essay column of my website-?www.femifanikayode.org.
Permit me to conclude this essay?by making a final point.?I believe that it is important for us to know our history and to have a clear understanding about what went on in our past. This is the only way forward if we do not want to repeat the mistakes of that past. Whether we are pro-Akintola or pro-Awolowo does not really matter and whether we are from the north, south,?east or west is neither here nor there. The most important thing is for us?to be well aqauinted with ALL the relevant facts of history after which we can then?make an informed judgement about past events and past leaders.?Contributions from?informed and experienced?leaders like Dr.?Olunloyo are therefore most welcome even though some may not share all?his views or his interpretation and understanding?of?past events. My prayer for him and indeed?for?all those that served our country during that turbulent and troubled?era that?are still with us?is that they continue to live long and prosper and that they continue to?share their deep?wisdom and vast resevoir of knowledge with us. Given the unfolding events in our country today,?God knows that?we need it now more than ever.?

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