Yoruba: Time to speak truth to power

This week, I was prepared to write on one of those ‘national topics’ as we often do when I received a post on ‘whether Ondo State is jinxed,’ forwarded by one of my big brothers, Uncle Eric Teniola, who hails from Ondo state.

The thought-provoking brief triggered this article on the state of the Yoruba nation, a subject even journalists of Yoruba extraction, would curiously like to avoid. Here is the thing, there are various social media platforms mainly for lamentation about everything that is wrong with Nigerian politics and policies. On these platforms most times, we avoid critical review of theYoruba nation beyond power and revenue sharing at the nation’s capital.

I am fully persuaded that since we have always been in the forefront of advocacy for restoration of federalism we lost to the ‘soldiers of fortune’ in 1966, we should organise to conquer ourselves first, remove the logs in our eyes first before looking at others’. First the alleged jinx in Ondo state, the Sunshine State, fast losing its shine: this is the anonymous post:

Are we jinxed in Ondo State?

All roads to the State capital from Abuja are no longer motorable (1)Ipele/Kabba (2)Owo/Ikare (3)Akure/Ado Ekiti/Ikare (4)Akure/Igbaraoke/Ilawe/Ado Ekiti ..all are so bad that all vehicles hitherto passing through the state to Abuja and the north from Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos and some ECOWAS countries now have to go extra 200 or more kilometres through Benin city or through bush paths to access Lokoja. The bad roads have further exposed travellers to migrant armed robbers and kidnappers thereby giving the state a bad image.

An assessment of power outage makes the state the worst hit in Nigeria today. All towns and villages in the South and the North except Owo/Ikare/Akungba have been in darkness between 3 and 6 years… Akure and Ado Ekiti are the only state capitals in southern Nigeria not accessed by Federal dual carriage roads.

Where is the Federal government’s presence outside the usual (2)Federal University and Federal Medical Centre?

The Akure-Ado Ekiti road is a disgrace… It is a reflection of the self-centered politics played in the two States. A strongly worded joint memo to the Federal Government by the six senators with the two governors could have brought the road to the front burner. But, no dice: Everybody is fighting for his or her stomach (stomach infrastructure politics).

In the East both legislators and governors lobby and make noise,even blackmail to attract federal funds and projects but where are our own federal projects in three and half years?
We were best placed to share significantly by taking the wind off the sail from the ever-congested Lagos Ports if we had lobbied to get a deep Sea Port in the state. Due to executive selfishness, we lost hosting the largest refinery in Africa… Who says we are not jinxed?

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I read the post above five times in quick succession and then felt guilty as a journalist. We always like to win awards with stories and comments on national, federal and international issues. We always curiously avoid ‘federation issues’. We often ignore our local politics and policies. We always artfully dodge local development agenda. We always enjoy the significance of Tip O’Neill’s immortal lines, ‘All politics is local’ without seeking to move from rhetoric to action – on the former U.S House Speaker’s words. I mean, we have all sinned on the front called, ‘Afghanistanism in journalism’.

The post on the debacle in Ondo is actually a metaphor to tell the gory tale in today’s Western Nigeria, we now call South West for the purpose of power and revenue sharing. All journalists from the organic Western region have similar lines to write about the five states in the underreported region, which used to harbour the once vibrant and influential Lagos-Ibadan axis of the Nigerian press.

The axis is now history.

So, this week, let’s begin to ask some vital and ‘glocalised’ questions about Western Nigeria, once a pacesetter region. But our representatives and leaders should note and answer the questions: Where are the measurable and significant dividends of democracy since 1999? Where are the gains of head start and robust investment in education in Western region? What happened to the letter and spirit of the legendary Obafemi Awolowo on education quality as a weapon of country competitiveness? What happened to the Africa’s premier stadium in Ibadan? What happened to the once great state universities governors Adekunle Ajasin, Lateef Jakande and Olabisi Onabanjo set up in 1983 before the fall of second republic?Where is the replacement for the Great University of Ife the soldiers of fortune seized since 1975? What happened to the original Oyo State University of Technology (1990) now LadokeAkintola University of Science and Technology (LAUTEC) set up by Governor Sasaenia Adedeji Oresanya in 1990? Where are the offspring and disciples of the great orators and oracles of the second republic? Where are the replica of Senators Adesanyas and Odebiyis? Where are the replacements of the Western Nigeria Television Service (WNTS) Chief Awolowo set up and was seized by the military which is now NTA?

What has become of the Great University of Ife?

Whatever happened to University College Hospital, (UCH) the late Dr. Samuel Manuwa, Nigeria’s first Medical Doctor assisted in establishing when S.L Akintola was Nigeria’s Health Minister?

What happened to the roads toApapa Ports In Lagos Chief Bode George once presided over?
Whatever happened to the original Nigerian Tribune Pa Awolowo established and Daily SketchS.L Akintola set up? What happened to the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) great document launched in Lagos with funfair in March 2012? What happened to the assets ofthe Oduduwa Group of Companies?

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Answers to these questions about the state of the Yoruba nation may blow in the wind. There are no easy answers but they just go to show that we have been flying over our decrepit road infrastructure, to ask questions in the nation’s capital, Abuja. It is time to ask all our leaders who have been presiding over our public affairs from Ibadan, Oshogbo, Abeokuta through Ado-Ekiti to Akure since 1999, for instance, the values they have created at home and the benefits they have attracted from the centre of the peripheries called Abuja. We need to speak truth to power now! We need to reconstruct the questions of where the rains began to beat us in Yoruba land. We should leave Abuja alone, in this regard.

Is it not extremely shameful that a democracy that began with a former head of state as returning president (of Yoruba extraction) in 1999has not been able to reconstruct Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, for instance, about 20 years after? Was Bode George (who hails from Lagos)a former military governor of Ondo state not a Chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)? Why didn’t he construct a modern road network to the ports? Was Adeseye Ogunlewe not a Works Minister? Who sabotaged Bicourtney’s spirited attempt to do the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway under a PPP deal? Governors of Yoruba states did! Who owns Bicourtney? The name of the major investor there is Wale Babalakin, (PhD).

Do we need any power of attorney to ask why almost 20 uninterrupted years of democracy in Nigeria has not produced good link roads in the Western region? Is there any good road from Lagos state to Ogun state? Is there any good road that links Ogun state to Oyo state? Is there any road we can be proud of between Oyo state and Osun state (carved out of Oyo)? What of Ekiti state taken out of Ondo State? Is there any good road linking Akure to Ado-Ekiti? In other words, do the state capitals in Western Nigeria have good link roads? Have they not been waiting for the federal government to complete a rail line from Lagos to Ibadan? What of the legendary centre of excellence, Lagos? Are roads in Lagos infrastructure to be proud of? Does Lagos have good roads beyond paved federal roads? Does Lagos maintain its inner city roads? Are the mega potholes everywhere in Lagos not a mega embarrassment to the authorities and the residents?

Is Lagos a city the Yoruba people should be proud of? Do we (in the media) have moral high ground to ask ‘Mr. Lagos’ himself, who is not in office but in power whether the Lagos he has been running since 1999 is the Lagos we deserve? Can we ask the big man of Owu kingdom why the road from Lagos to Ota where he has a big farm is still work in progress 20 years after he kick-started a democracywith a wonderful slogan in 1999: ‘Obasanjo: a man we can trust’?

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Let’s leave Buhari and his wonderful party magicians alone this week and do some self-examination of the region that sits on a hill and so can’t be hidden. Let’s leave the frivolity of certificate scandal galore alone and ask questions from leading lights and brand ambassadors of a region that is supposed to be the light of the world called Nigeria. I hope no one is carried away by a consistency in National Bureau of Statistics data that Western Nigeria is still the wealthiest and highest in literacy rate in its indices on poverty and literacy rates in Nigeria. There is also a new mind-blower: ‘sooner than later, Lagos will be third largest economy in Africa, competing with Nigeria and South Africa. Just as we have California in the United States competing as sixth largest economy in the world with $2.4 trillion GDP, which moved slightly above that of France and Brazil since 2015. That is good to hear. But how does this affect the people and critical infrastructure?

Simply put, when will Lagos announce to the world that Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) is now the best teaching hospital even in West Africa? When will the Lagos State University too be equipped to be commissioned by the Office of the Citizen as a world-class University? When will LASU produce civil engineers that can take over from the mega mediocrity called Public Works Department that is even creating craters while maintaining Lagos roads?

We are in the forefront in the advocacy for practice of true federalism within the framework of restructuring. Where are the brand ambassadors of federalism among the governors in Western Nigeria? In the last three and half years what have the Mimikos, the Akeredolus, the Ambodes, the Amosuns, the Ajimobis, the Fayoses, the Aregbesolas invested in education in their states?

*We will continue the question time on Western Nigeria next week.

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