Awolowo And The Bondsman In The Villa…by Suyi Ayodele


Awolowo And The Bondsman In The Villa


By On Oct 19, 2021

By Suyi Ayodele

(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, October 19, 2021)

There was a warlord, who acquired prominence by assembling a ragtag army, made up of slaves captured in various communities. The man was so powerful that even royals paid tributes (isakole) to him for the peace of their domains. His operations were very simple. Whenever he wanted to attack any community, he would send a slave from that particular community to lead the expedition. In many of such outings, the slaves visited uncommon destructions on their own homelands to prove their loyalty to their master.

But no matter how loyal a slave is, his head goes to the Ogun shrine whenever the god of iron requires the head of a human being. Slaves are such foolish people. They don’t realise that their masters will never sacrifice any of his own children at the shrine of Ogun. Loyalty in slavery is nothing but pure stupidity! So, one after the other, the slaves in the warlord’s household helped in annihilating their own people and towns, thus sealing, permanently, the hope of their liberation.

However, in the same army was the boldest of the slaves, called “Alayabioke” (He whose chest is as huge as a mountain). He was bold, fearless, courageous and faithful. Again, “faithfulness” in slavery? Alayabioke was the darling of his master. He was captured in one of the biggest towns that his master waged war against and won. Alayabioke’s town, after that initial defeat, went back and fortified the town and for so many years, resisted further incursion to their domain and refused to pay isakole to anybody. A day came when the warlord decided to teach the town a lesson the inhabitants would never forget. As usual, Alayabioke, being the boldest of the slaves as well as a native of the town penciled down for destruction, was asked to lead the assault. That is what the Yoruba would call “the king sends you on an errand, the Oba River is overflowing. You dare not refuse to deliver the king’s message; you dare not venture into Oba River at its peak”. Both options depict instant death.

Alayabioke was in a dilemma. He mobilised the best of the soldiers, armed them and got the clan’s medicine man to fortify them. His master was impressed by his level of preparedness and he made the most fatal error: he chose not to go to the all-important battle, leaving everything to his most trusted slave. Meanwhile, as the day of battle drew near, Alayabioke secretly sent one of his trusted allies to his hometown to tell the people to vacate the town and camp round the valley on the outskirts of the town. On the day of the battle, the warlord’s army set out and surprisingly, they did not meet any resistance on the way. They got to Alayabioke’s town and met an empty community. Believing that the gods had fought their battle, the army simply looted the town and set the houses ablaze. Done, they put their swords in the sheaths and carried their loot on their heads for the onward journey home, singing the songs of victory.

Calamity however struck when they got back to the valley. Alayabioke’s kinsmen, who were waiting in the two wings, descended on them. Hampered by the loads on their heads and their swords tucked away in their sheaths, the waiting warriors made a massive kill of them. Expectedly, Alayabioke joined in the fray. He liberated his town and made an onward match to his master’s abode, where, together with his kinsmen, he set the community ablaze and ended the reign of terror of the warlord. Till date, Alayabioke remains that wise slave, who was sent on a bondsman’s message, but delivered it like a freeborn. Some slaves can be wise after all.

This story is unusually long. I concur. But in case the drift is lost, permit me to string it to the issue at hand. The warlord in our allegory is no other person than General Muhammadu Buhari. Yes, the same President and Commander-in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. His ragtag army are members of his inner cabinet and his “principal aides”. The communities that General Buhari has “conquered” in his presidency are the regions and nationalities that are different from his Fulani stock. The continuous wars he wages against the other nationalities are his unjust dispositions to the non-Fulani citizens of this country, whose legitimate rights to existence and equality as bonafide citizens of the land, Buhari, deliberately, fails to acknowledge. And of course, the “Alayabioke” of the presidency is our own Femi Adesina, who, whenever Buhari wants to wage any war against the Yoruba race, is handy, delivering the message albeit, without the wisdom of the allegorical Alayabioke.

The latest of such a message, delivered with a bondsman’s candour by Adesina, was his latest comparison of the inimitable Obafemi Awolowo with his master, Buhari. I will not bother about the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who, in a UK speech, described Buhari as “possibly the most popular Nigerian politician that we ever had in generations. He is possibly the only person, who can go into a place or somewhere without bossing people to gather and they will come and listen to him speak”. That is not my concern here. And the simple reason is that, Osinbajo, a professor, a lawyer and a pastor, applied the wisdom of Alayabioke by not pointing the left hand at his father’s house. He deliberately did not mention anybody’s name in his speech.

Adesina, as one of the most senior spokesmen to General Buhari, chose to amplify what Osinbajo said in faraway UK. In doing that, he went after the very best of humanity and made a comparison of them with his cataleptic master. “I am old enough to have seen our colorful and even swashbuckling politicians in action. I have seen the great Obafemi Awolowo; the charismatic Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa); Shehu Shagari, Amino Kano, M.K.O Abiola, Bashir Tofa and many others in action, but I have not seen anyone with the kind of attraction, magnetic pull that Muhammadu Buhari has. And that is round the country, north and south. People swarm around him as bees do to honey”, he said. In essence, what the senior journalist is saying here is “Nigerians are more attracted to Buhari than Awolowo, Azikiwe, Aminu Kano, and others in their ilk”! That godawful statement makes you feel like puking? I felt the same urge when I stumbled on it!

Where do we even start from? Awolowo and Buhari? How? Where? What parameters did Adesina employ? What is Adesina saying? Yes! True! I agree! Buhari has almajiri following, the ones he referred to in his “baboon and monkey” pre-2015 general election threat. But that is a pressure cooker popularity that is bound to return to its silent mode after this session of governmental banditry, when a more forward-looking president occupies Aso Rock. Or, is it the same crowd of poverty-stricken children of the North, manacled in violence, filth and penury by the northern elites, that Adesina is comparing to the intimidating crowd, which welcomed Awolowo in the North in the late 50s, such that the ruling Northern People’s Congress, (NPC), had to send herds of cow to disrupt the campaign? Oh my goodness! Our own Awo that people lined up the streets for hours just to catch a glimpse of? O ma se o, iku bola je (pity, death destroys that which is precious)! Comparing the late sage with Buhari is akin, quite sadly, to comparing the depths of Hades to the bright lights of the gate of Heaven! What a brass neck!

You may wish to ask: why did Adesina not compare Ahmadu Bello with Buhari? I will explain. Adesina carefully avoided mentioning Ahmadu Bello because the bondsman lacks the heart to attack the godfather of his god, Buhari.

How Femi Adesina got the nerve to benchmark inimitable Awolowo’s popularity with that of Buhari is a case in bewilderment, another “wonderfulment” (apology to the Benin politician, who first used the word in an interview, years ago). So Awolowo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, trained by the best brains in Britain; statesman; cerebral politician; the man with a cutting edge oratory, a philosopher of no mean repute; writer; essayist and lots more, is now in the same class with Buhari, a man, who, they said, could contest the presidency even with a NEPA bill because nobody could locate his school certificate? In a twist of contemporary history, those rave electors have since recanted; they have replaced that blind confidence in their lack-lustre idol with finger-biting elegy for their lost opportunity to use their legitimate franchise to put a righteous man in office.

The Great Zik of Africa, master of the English Language, graduate of both Lincoln and Pennsylvanian universities; a lecturer; an anthropologist; Herbert Macaulay-trained political guru, is the one Adesina is saying Buhari, who Nasir El-Rufai, the current governor of Kaduna State, told us years back, was the only Nigerian senior military officer that failed all his senior military examinations in the history of Nigerian military, is better appreciated than! A man, who rose to become a General in the Nigerian Army without the suffixes “FSS, Psc, MNi” is now in the same rank with Awolowo, Azikiwe and Aminu Kano, who attended the Institute of Education, University of London? All because a man must please his master by all means?

Buhari is more popular than Awolowo, Zik and Aminu Kano combined; yet, in all his campaign rallies in the South-West, his handlers must evoke the name, Awo, for the crowd to respond, not just in 2015, but also in 2019, when you would have expected that his first four years would have been the key to open the doors for him. Adesina is telling us that in August 2017, when Buhari returned from one of his medical tourism trips to the UK, a huge crowd welcomed him back home such that they spent three hours from the airport to Aso Rock Villa. But in 2021, the same Buhari’s support and popularity had to be boosted by the hiring of non-Nigerians at the venue of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, USA?. A “Mai Gaskiya” (honest man), who sees nothing wrong in sharing N10, 000 as “trader money”, some weeks to his election?

We have a consolation that should not make us bother too much about Adesina and his bad sight at differentiating between Buhari’s almajiri crowd and the quality crowd of Awolowo, Azikiwe and Aminu Kano of yesteryear. We can only do him this favour of reminding the Ipetumodu-born publicist that “Ohun to ntan ni odun eegun ti omo Alagbaa (egugun priest) yi o fi owo ra akara”- the masquerade festival has a terminal date and this son of the chief priest of the Vila will come out once again to beg for akara. The local seat (apoti) surely waits patiently at home for his buttocks to come and sit down. The day beckons when his animal in the wild will require home-made fire to transform to dry meat. That day, we shall test his own “popularity contest”!


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