*My Surprises; How Yoruba People Were Fooled. By_Lt Col Philip Ogundele



*When I was enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1981 and posted to Lagos, I was in company of Course mates of various ethnic groups. I developed friendship with a colleague from Tiv. As a Tiv man he was so much in love with me and I loved him too. Through him, my eyes opened to some things of most interesting in the political content of the Army Barracks not shared back home. Any separation from him was inconceivable. We were so much emotionally attached, but unknown to me, his superior tribesmen in our unit did not like it much because we were always together. Whenever he wanted to visit his tribesmen in the Barracks, he comes to me to accompany him and we go together. I was the Squared Leader of the Course then.*

*At a time, I began to noticed that he was always out of the school hostel on Saturday evening. He did not confess to me when I asked him. On Sunday he would be busy writing, a long note, with some of his tribesmen around him. Later I thought I had become a nuisance. Someone confided in me that my friend had been made secretary of their tribal meeting at Ajegunle, in Lagos suburbs. That he might not need my attention when his people were being briefed of the meeting. That was true, and I found it interesting. He would come to me for outings and I would follow. From there I learned that he was going round to deliver to his people messages, because tribal meetings were not allowed in the Barracks. I noticed the something with other minority tribes like Igala, Idoma and so on. I couldn’t continue accompanying my friends on his outings when I got admitted for further studies as a soldier. I handed over my appointment to him to continue, because he was already my assistant Squared Leader.*

*When I saw a senior Yoruba NCO I asked him why were Yoruba not holding meetings? He said that Yoruba started it in the 60s but it was banned or strictly prohibited in the Barracks. Before the ban, already the problem had started from sectoral rivalries on leadership rotation between Oyo, Egba, Ijebu, Ekiti, Ijesha etc. All these Yoruba dialectic groups did not know themselves before Oodua group was founded. It was when they met each other under Oodua umbrella that they began to confederate, we are Ijebu, we are Ijesha, we are Ondo, we are Ekiti, we are Egba etc. Then they saw and knew each other and began to vie for leadership. Although various appointments like secretary, financial secretary, treasurer etc were evenly distributed among these dialects because these were the people that made up the Oodua without which you cannot have a Yoruba tribe. Yet certain people still felt things must be the way they wanted it. It was therefore made difficult to agree to one thing or the other at a constitutional meeting, to prepare a Constitution. Shamefully, it led to crisis between various dialects against people from Oyo while Lagos people were nonchalant. That scattered the whole Yoruba group. Since then they never came together.*

*According to my elderly Non Commissioned Officer, from Idoani, every Yoruba officer and soldier was on his own. Even before and after the first coup when every Nigerian tribe (officers and soldier) was planning its strategy for survival, Yoruba people were in panic. Their land was under a State of Emergency being suppressed by Igbos and Hausa Constabulary and the Army. Their political leader Obafemi Awolowo, was already in the prison in Igbo land. They in the Barracks were not together, and never knew their fate. That was when Maj Gen Adeyinka Adebayo said “We have lost control”. I think you can see my plight when I got disillusioned by my Tiv friend and colleague on the effectiveness of ethnic associations and solidarity in the Nigerian system.*


*By the time I had a clear understanding of the situation and strategy applied by all other Nigerian ethnic groups, I concluded that Yoruba had been cowed in by regulations and self-inflicted injuries. When all other tribes held their meetings, it was to get acquainted to the modalities of actions planned by their mega political bodies in the government. The line of action and the role their tribes in the Armed Forces of Nigeria would play would be communicated. They would not take orders from anybody. In their meetings, Yoruba is of no consequence, only to wait for their decision and direction; that direction as dictated by the North. That was why Brigadier Ogundipe who was next to Maj Gen Aguyi Ironsi could not summon the officers for briefing when his Head of States was assassinated. Ordinary Sergeant refused his command. That is how things are up till now, when Yoruba do not see themselves as, must be in charge. When the opportunity comes, other people would begin a blackmail of their leaders on frivolities, and Yoruba will capture it and sing it loud. I thought we were wiser than that.*

*During the 1993 June 12th elections imbroglio, I was with my colleagues, some of Yoruba officers in the Military School, Zaria, sharing our views on what would happen if MKO Abiola who was cheated by the annulment of the results of the presidential elections returns from his trip to the USA. Our premonition was, by the time he comes back, it would be a good news. Hoping that Babangida would succumb to pressure from UN and handover to him. One Fulani junior officer, a Second Lieutenant, out of pity, just took an excuse to speak. He said, Sirs “I know that when senior officers are discussing like this, he as junior officer supposed to be listening without interrupting. I am really sorry. Can I say something sirs.” Being the most senior officer among, I granted him permission, speak on, I said.*

*He said, “MKO will not be sworn in as president. Chief Ernest Sonekan, the Chairman of the Transition Committee will be appointed to lead an Interim Government that will last for six months after President Babangida steps aside. He will not leave, but step aside. Abacha shall take over as Khalifa (meaning coming after) to complete Murtala’s tenure with Babangida, to out width Gowon as longest serving Head of States.” When the young officer finished, he said he just pity us as he saw us chatting up the matter with the hope to have our man MKO succeed Babangida.”When he comes back, you will all be disappointed. I just say let me tell you so that you will not be caught unawares.”*

*We all did not take him seriously until we saw things unfolding. Two months later, we heard that President Babangida was about to handover to Chief Ernest Sonekan. From 26th September 1993, when Gen Ibrahim Babangida said he was Stepping Aside, even with that word, I knew the officer was right.*

*What we took from that experience was that everyone in the North community, including the Middle Belt, is politically knowledgeable and well informed of the next line of action. To us Yoruba, we only wait for things to happen. They don’t just happen. They were concocted by the people in charge. When are we going to be in charge when other people are to follow us where we are going? Nigeria would have been better for us than this and for everyone.*

*A few weeks ago, one Middle Belt lady came visiting my wife, we started to share opinions on the present political forecast. She said that the North was planning against Senator Bola Tinubu. I asked, how? She said that they didn’t want to present a Christian running mate to him. They knew already that they had already devalued their Christian counterparts in the North and could not present such to their people. In order to pave way for Atiku and keep Yoruba off the way, they would give Tinubu a Muslim. This would create a Muslim – Muslim tickets to make people dislike the APC. In PDP they would give Atiku a Christian running mate from the East to finalise the Plan A . Plan B will be for the Northern APC governors to leave the party, abandon Tinubu and move behind Atiku in PDP. I think we can see things happening as the young lady has said. You can also see that when the North and Middle Belt are discussing at their meetings, they discuss their agenda and your own. The only time when they will mention you at that meeting is what to do with you, side line Yoruba at the threshold of success. Since you don’t do any meeting, you are of no consequence. The only people to check mate are the Igbos who meet regularly to plan strategies parallel to theirs. They have to prepare their share of relevance in the scheme of things. The only thing they do with Yoruba is how to deal with them if they are not pleased with the decision they made. Igbos would take the role of Propaganda and dominate the media. Middle Belt and the North will handle both schemes of divide and rule, to look for some Yoruba to call to their side with sensitive appointments to slight their leaders. Already their youths have been poisoned with all the uncoordinated historical fallacy about Yoruba as they rehearse accusations of betrayal against Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the Civil War time. No Yoruba writer ever counts it any worthy to refute or challenge the indignation and they allow it to sink.*

*At this, Yoruba will start holding their usual meeting of ‘We nogo gree’ when it is too late to cry. At that time, any meeting that Yoruba will be holding must be with the permission of the Federal Police detailed by other coordinated tribes, and the communique must be made public. Yoruba became the only tribe that is ruled and ruled properly, if need be, oppressed properly.*

*What we are taking from this is that, just like the junior officer itemised the aftermath of the annulment of June 12th, where the lady heard the agenda from was at a briefing of the Middle Belt Forum.*

*I think we can see a perfect coordination of other people that make up Nigeria? If you ask your Igbo friend that is a pastor, he will tell you a little he can tell you what is behind his confidence and the direction they are going. My former CAN Chairman who is an Igbo had told me frankly that he is Biafra any day. I like the fact. At the appointed time they will bring out their agenda and spread it. What surprises me is that when they put religious sentiments behind their decision, Yoruba Christians follow suit without considering where it is taking him and his people. When Fulani comes out and announces their decision to a Yoruba Muslims and back it up with Islam they gather confidence and follow.*

*Is it not shameful that when this nation is being made to follow a direction it is not what is in the communiques of Oodua coccus, but what was dished out by other people? The only thing that comes out from Yoruba coccus meeting is agitation of ‘We no gree.’ It must be like this, and not like that. When will that change with us Yoruba, with all our pride of centenary educational foundation in Africa before any tribe in the black race, and our menacingly frightening hegemonic population to other people? I believe that they that are principled and valued knowledge, and spread it to others are supposed to be the ones to lead those they have taught. Why is Yoruba case be the contrary? So I see it, and we say that we are Pace Setters. Let this be a reality.*

*We must begin now.*

_Lt Col Philip Ogundele (Rtd)._

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