Third term, democracy and other tales: A review of Femi Oluwole’s “The Acts of Men” — Olukorede S Yishau
Tokunbo Afikuyomi was very popular in the Lagos politics of 1999-2007 era.
In those eight years, he represented two different senatorial districts of the state at the National Assembly and was one of the right hand men of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was Lagos governor in those eight years.
His popularity then didn’t prepare many for the fact that he would, a decade and some years later, become a footnote in the politics of Nigeria’s most cosmopolitan state.
His star began to dim when his quest to become Tinubu’s successor didn’t materialise and he settled for the role of a Returning Officer and later Commissionership in the first term of Babatunde Fashola.
A memoir by Femi Oluwole, former Editor of New Treasure, offers insights into why Afikuyomi is where he is politically. Oluwole worked as media aide to Afikuyomi when he was a senator.
These years of service to the son-in-law of Prince Bola Ajibola gave him front row access to the seat of legislative power.
In the book, the author gives firsthand account of the move to extend the tenure of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, who till date denies working for a third term in office. Oluwole’s book disputes this and he gives details of the roles Afikuyomi and many others played to return Obasanjo to Ota after his second term as president.
On Chapter 10, he writes: “On the day the idea of tenure elongation for Obasanjo was thrown into the dustbin, I saw some statistical figures that gave me hope that one day, this country will be great again, because even in the face of the massive underhand dealings and allegations of bribery that went on, some senators still looked at the president straight in the face, eyeball to eyeball, and said NO to his demand.”
The book also provides a window into how Lagos was able to survive Obasanjo’s onslaught over the creation of new local governments. Obasanjo seized the entire allocation for the state and the Tinubu administration had to improvise for the local governments not to go under.
Oluwole also details how Tinubu was able to survive the move by Obasanjo to take over the Southwest for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In telling this tale, Oluwole shows bravery by naming names.
He also recalls his encounters with human rights activists, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, MKO Abiola’s physician, Dr Ore Falomo; and the controversial National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) boss, Saka Saula, among others.
The book also contains interesting details of the exploits of Femi Akintunde Johnson’s Treasure magazine, including editions that shook the Pentecostal churches in Nigeria.
It also refreshes the memories of those days when seers were popular for publishing books of prophecies. Oluwole was involved in editing some of these publications.
The book also contains Oluwole’s personal stories, including his years at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), his years growing up in Iyana-Ipaja, his father’s long battle with diabetes and how the old man has lived four more decades after doctors predicted his last days were nigh.
This book equally deals with a problem Nigeria has been unable to resolve: indigeneship. He uses his personal experience to hammer on why this problem must be resolved once and for all. He recalls a bill, which could have solved the problem but which unfortunately was stillborn.
In Nigeria, the severity of the where-are-you-from? challenge has seen politicians returning to their states of origin to seek elective offices only to be reminded by home-based politicians that they are ‘imported’. They are not accepted where they reside and pay taxes and seen as lepers by people in their hometowns.
Except for states such as Lagos, Kaduna and a few others, indigenes of other states have no place in their civil service. Whether you were born and bred in those states means nothing. You are from where your father comes from. Your mother’s state is irrelevant. Some people will not even agree to sell landed property to non-indigenes. The most ridiculous thing is when love affairs are put asunder because parents will not allow their son or daughter to marry from outside their state or ethnicity.
Another variant of this problem is the one that involves even people within the same ethnic group, say the Yoruba, for instance. Among the Yoruba are the Ijebu, Egba, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and so on. Some people, though Yoruba, will not allow their children to marry from the Ijebu stock. The myth is that the Ijebu are “fetish” and can do anything for money. So for this ridiculous reason, love is sacrificed.
There is also the myth that Egba women are quick to abandon their husbands when things are tough. As a result of these, an Egba woman is no go area for some Yoruba. In the Southeast, some parts believe that they are the ‘superior’ Igbo.
From Oluwole’s experience, he obviously looks forward to an era when like in the United States, two brothers can be governors in two different states because their country’s constitution allows them to be indigenes of a place once they have stayed there for an acceptable number of years.
Written in simple and free-flowing prose, Oluwole has written an important book that will deepen debates about politics, health issues, citizenship and whether or not some happenings in life are TheActs of Men or of God.
–Olukorede S Yishau is the author of In the Name of Our Father, Vaults of Secrets and United Countries of America and Other Travel Tales