Elections in Yoruba/SW: A Litany of Pain with No Gain By Chief Akintayo Akin-Deko


By Chief Akintayo Akin-Deko

Last Tuesday 14-Feb-2023 at around 11am, I arrived in Ibadan from Ondo State directly into the middle of a varied group of angry youngsters blocking the roads with used tires and dried logs. They were protesting the difficulties everyone was suffering due to the federal government’s cashless economy and fuel subsidy withdrawal policies, which having been badly managed, were causing extensive hardship nationwide. I thus abandoned my car and changed to a motorcycle taxi

For older passers-by, it was a case of déjà vu as the whole episode brought back memories of the 1963, 1983 and 1993 riots except that this time, the rioters were much younger and were clearly suffused in a haze of ganja. At each roadblock, it was clear that one wrong word or a careless move would see the ubiquitous iron bar or plank of wood brandished by many of the youngsters put to bloody use across our backs or to hook the spokes of the motorcycle and send us sprawling. My young taxi rider gave no quarter and God saw us safely through.

While I cannot speak about the 1963 Wetie era, which was essentially before our time, I do recall several occasions when our late father’s driver had to speed past roadside bonfires, which adults in the car described in hushed tones as political thugs settling scores. We also read in later years that those riots had been a carnage of Yoruba-on-Yoruba violence and destruction of public buildings and private homes like never before seen.

As for the 1983 riots many of us were living witnesses. I was at the time a founding member of NPN in our Ondo State home base and still under political tutelage when rioting over political disagreement again reared its ugly head. It was in the aftermath of the UPN/NPN gubernatorial elections.


Chief Omoboriowo had earlier crossed from UPN where he had been deputy governor of the state for the preceding 4 years, to join the NPN, which controlled the federal government. He was contesting against his erstwhile boss, Chief Michael Ajasin, who was gunning for a second term as governor of a still conjoined Ondo and Ekiti states. Their first term had been embroiled in endless bickering, and once Chief Omoboriowo was controversially declared winner, all hell soon broke loose.

At the same time we had a similar situation in Ibadan where Chief Victor Olunloyo in the same NPN, was being supported in his bid for the Oyo State governorship by fellow Ibadan indigenes Chief Adisa Akinloye, the party’s national chairman and Chief Richard Akinjide, the federal Minister of Justice. The trio, with the help of other Ibadan notables put a dead stop to the second term bid of the incumbent governor, Chief Bola Ige, who was in the UPN. Again, mayhem later broke out in different parts of Oyo State.

Consequently, it was roadblocks every few kilometers all along our normal route from Ibadan via Ife and Ilesha to Akure. Some were set up by the police, but most were by vigilantes from nearby communities looking for political opponents of the UPN. Although the skirmishes that I witnessed were mainly Yoruba versus Yoruba, there appeared to have been an underlying crop of hardened killers, who targeted political leaders for assassination or to burn down their homes and places of work or both. At least this was the impression in Akure where the corpses of several leading politicians of those days dotted the streets.

I kid you not. The memory is simply still too painful to recount, and I can only challenge the reader to Google such names as Chief Olaiya Fagbamigbe of the then National Assembly and his brother, James. There were also Hon Tunde Agunbiade of the State House of Assembly, who was killed while his older brother Chief Kunle Agunbiade (aka LACO), had his extensive supermarket of the same name burned to ashes. The store had been in central Akure, in the place where Wema Bank is today located, and for months after the incident, the distraught UK trained Insurance Broker, left the gutted building unrepaired as a living monument of man’s wickedness to man.

Although many swore it would never happen again, happen again it did, just 10 years later in the dispute over the controversial annulment of the 1993 elections. In the build-up to those riots, the 2 parties of the day, NRC and SDP, had joined forces to set Chief M K O Abiola on the road to a historic victory over Alhaji Tofa, who was perceived as the choice of the military. The khaki boys promptly annulled the elections, formed an interim national government under Chief Ernest Sonekan, which only lasted 6 months before it was replaced by General Abacha’s government of national unity.

In his historic struggle to actualize his stalled mandate, Chief MKO Abiola eventually joined with progressives to form NADECO and Southwest Nigeria – especially Lagos and Ibadan – again became ground zero of the prolonged struggle that became known as June 12. And again, many in my generation were deeply involved on all sides. While some were in the political parties, others helped to fund and organize the student-led street protests.

But, determined not to be railroaded out of office by mere civilians, the military raised the level of violence and the body count followed – including of innocent bystanders hit by the ubiquitous stray bullet. While some leaders of the 1993 protests were able to escape overseas by being smuggled across borders, others were not so lucky and ended up in Abacha’s torturous gulag or victims of his deadly vendetta campaign.

In the 63 years since Independence Nigerian politics has overheated three times and ended in riots and deaths but little ever changed, and worst of all each time we failed to learn our lesson. Thereby this current Fourth Republic where, having failed to learn from history, our politicians have again overheated the polity in the build up to the February and March elections which are now upon us. The signs of a bad ending are already there. Intransigent leaders, outlandish claims, hateful words and most recently, street protests. Déjà vu?

Nigerians must sheath their swords. If by now we have not yet moved from talking about our ethnic groups and religious affinity to seeing ourselves in the context of Nigerians of the different social classes of lower, middle, upper-middle class used worldwide, then this country is not yet a nation and may never become one. Meanwhile violence never changed anything in the past but always left death and destruction in its wake.

Now, come election day, lets vote for our candidates but don’t let us get killed for any of them in any aftermath of disagreement or street protests. Nations are not built over night, so let us learn from history. Nigeria is a work in progress, so vote wisely and react responsibly and after the elections let it be negotia (not aluta) continua. Let it not again be “to thy tents O Israel”, but “back to thy drawing board O Nigeria”.

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