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Tragedy of Ige's murder is its like déjà vu
for the Yoruba southwest and rest of Nigeria?

By KEN OKORIE
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com and NigeriaCentral.com

Iyiola Omisore, deputy governor of Osun State of Nigeria, was quoted in an interview with Tempo magazine shortly after Nigeria's Attorney General, Bola Ige, was attacked by irate mob in Ile-Ife that the assault on Ige was "a slap on the wrist for a grave offence." This statement was made approximately two weeks before intruders ended Ige's life with a single bullet to the chest during another attack on December 23 inside his bedroom in Ibadan.

The controversial deputy governor reportedly further said:
"Bola Ige is a traitor in Afenifere. He has abused and embarrassed leaders of Afenifere, so, it is nemesis that is catching up with him. He is the 'Akintola' of our time. What Akintola did to Awolowo is what Bola Ige is doing to Adesanya and the Yoruba people."

If accurate, these aggressive statements leave little doubt that Ige was not in the good books of many of his fellow Yoruba leaders, especially within Afenifere. Of particular note is the indication that many in leadership in his AD Party felt betrayed by his center-stage role in the PDP government of General Obasanjo. Of late, Obasanjo is believed to be using Ige for his questionable, self-perpetuation maneuvers among the Omo Yoruba similar to how he has been using the likes of the Abuja-based Igbos like the Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, Transport Minister Ojo Maduekwe, businessman Emeka Offor and some others in Ala-Igbo.

The difference is that the Yoruba are not forgiving when they feel betrayed by one of theirs. That is how people like the popular former Governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande, became sidelined for fraternizing with and serving as a Minister in the late military dictator Sani Abacha's government. I do believe that if Ala-Igbo imposed prohibitive sanctions on some notorious and treacherous Igbo leaders for their various acts of betrayal, ranging from open sell-out during the 1999 Presidential elections to becoming agents of Obasanjo's pathological and oppressive anti-Igbo hang-over, most things would have been different.

The real concern for Nigerians in the wake of the criminal murder of Attorney-General Ige should be whether this might be deja vu for the Yoruba southwest and for all of Nigeria. Historically, most of Nigeria's national crises have started internally among the Yoruba. While not the only group with internal political squabbles, the Yoruba have a way of spreading their internal discord to inflame the rest of the Nigeria.

Besides, much as the Yoruba claim and gullible others tend to believe, that they are more advanced and sophisticated politically than Nigeria's other ethnic nationalities, characteristically they lack the discipline and temperament necessary to manage political differences.

In his book, The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War, General Alexander Madiebo, Commander of the Biafran Army (1967-1970), describes in some detail a phase that started with the 1959 national elections. In what he characterizes as "political struggle and the consequent drifting apart of the various peoples of Nigeria" the General writes of sporadic physical violence erupting from time to time between the various peoples of Nigeria which climaxed in a political rift between Sardauna of Sokoto and Chief Awolowo and threatened the very existence of the nation. He reports that in 1962 Premier Chief Akintola of the Western Region was expelled from the Action Group for alleged anti-party activities beneficial to Sardauna's Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), and Chief Adegbenro was put in his place. When the new House of Assembly met to begin business on May 29, 1962, members of the new opposition Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) rose to "a weird dance on the floor of the House", seized and broke the Mace on a missed aim at the Speaker, Prince Adedoyin. The Region was embroiled in the mayhem. A State of emergency was imposed and Federal Health Minister, Dr. Majekodunmi appointed Sole Administrator under guard of the 3rd Battalion.

Election confusion and crisis in the West during 1965 also provided impetus to the Five Majors who struck in Nigeria's first military coup d'etat on January 15, 1966 and, thereby altered the course of Nigeria's history.

Before that, the 1964 national elections were also seriously troubled as a result of allegations of fraud and manipulation. The ceremonial President (at the time), Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, refused to acknowledged the claims of Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa's Northern People's Congress (NPC) to a majority in the parliament. The crisis dragged for several days and the future of the nation hung in the balance. That was until Zik compromised and invited Sir Abubakar to form a government. The Action Group remained vehemently opposed to Zik's compromise and rejected all overtures for alliance with the NPC or participate in a national government of all the parties. The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), for its part, took the bait and joined Abubakar's government while the Action Group remained in opposition in the federal House.

On the heels of that crisis, the 1965 bloody Western Regional elections were contested between the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), an alliance of the Zik-led NCNC and Alhaji Adegbenro-led AG (Awo was still in prison for treason), on the one hand, and the Nigeria National Alliance (NNA) of the Sardauna-led NPC and the Akintola-led NNDP. The resulting crisis led to riots and numerous killings that destabilized the entire country.

Thus and invariably, the West has been the sparking point for Nigeria's political crises, including the situation that was the immediate cause of the first military Coup d'etat. The question that should be on every Nigerian mind is: Are we headed back to square one?

The danger of this happening is very real. Beyond everything else, the inaction of President Obasanjo in the face of various ethnic and religious strife, which challenge the constitution and threaten corporate existence of Nigeria is a major reason for concern. Recently, Obasanjo was quoted as characterizing some of these conflicts in the Middle Belt area as people expressing themselves.

In times like these a country needs a leader that is properly rooted in principled direction and personal discipline. However, one cannot help but wonder about the type of leader that looks at a crisis that is costing hundreds of the lives of his citizens and destroying property as mere expression! A president, who, because of his failure in discharging his duties, allowed Sharia to become the nemesis it has become for Nigeria! A President who has turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the only outlet from Nigeria's quagmire, a national dialogue! A President who seems either unaware or indifferent to the duties and responsibilities of his office and only wakes up at the instance any Igbo speaks out against margnalization or his usurpation of legislative powers to doctor passed legislation and add provisions that were not discussed.

Indications are that Obasanjo has mobilized troops to Ibadan in the wake of the Bola Ige tragedy. If true, this is perhaps the singular responsible action this writer can attribute to this President. Yet there can be no denying that an insecure situation where the No. 1 Chief law enforcement of Nigeria can be plucked out in this manner underscores the truth already known to many Nigerians and their admirers, that General Obasanjo is a serious failure even in this, his second tour at the helm of Nigeria's affairs.

Besides being a national tragedy and unnecessary waste of human life, the killing of Nigeria's Number One law enforcement officer does portend worse days ahead. That is if history is any indicator in a country that is already on the brink.
Okorie, an attorney, is a member of the editorial board of USAfrica The Newspaper.

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