“I Feel Sorry For Tinubu, Aregbesola Has Damaged Him” – Oladipo Olaitan

…How Zik provoked Yoruba NCNC MPs to
defect to AG •Says APC wasn’t prepared for
governance
…Catholic Schools: The legal trick Jakande
used to defeat Okogie
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Hon. Oladipo Olaitan, the National
Financial Secretary of Afenifere, the apex
Yoruba socio-cultural body was at the
inception of the Fourth Republic, the
leader of the Alliance for Democracy in the
House of Representatives, a prime position
that gave him opportunity into the affairs
of the nation at that time.
Before then, the lawyer turned politician
and property tycoon had served Governor
Lateef Jakande in Lagos State in various
capacities between 1979 and 1983
including as Political Adviser, Security
Adviser and Legal Adviser.
In this interview he gives the Yoruba
perspective of the crisis that prompted the
mass defection of NCNC members to the AG
on the floor of the Western House of
Assembly in 1951, why the Yoruba are
standing with the Igbo against the
expulsion threat by the Arewa Youths, why
AD members stood with President Olusegun
Obasanjo against alleged conspiracies
weaved by his deputy.
The Osun born politician also ventilates his
position on the pace and pattern of
governance in his home state with a
damning prediction on the prospects of the
incumbent governor of the state, Ogbeni
Rauf Aregbesola.
Excerpts:
What prompted your career choice in law
and politics?
When I was growing up, there was this
practise of some officials going to waylay
farmers on their way from farm, and they
would round them up and take them to the
D.O’s (District Officer’s) office for the
offence that they had not paid their taxes.
It was horrible. Some of them (illiterates)
would have their tax papers, but the
officials would not even give them the
opportunity of showing their tax papers.
They would take them to the D.O.’s office,
collect some money from them and then
release them.
I was growing up, and I didn’t like it, and I
was looking for a way I could do something
about it. That gave me the idea of wanting
to be a lawyer, so I could be able to help
these people.
Growing up, I saw Zik campaigning; I saw
Awolowo campaigning. In fact, Awolowo
used to stay in my father’s house in Ikare
each time he came to Ikare. So, I got close
to them and used to watch them during
their campaigns. So, I loved it.
These people could impact upon human
beings around them, so I grew up with
wanting to either be a lawyer or a
politician. To the glory of God, I qualified
as a lawyer at London University in 1970. I
was called to the bar in 1971.
Remember, it was a military regime at that
time. I stumbled at a meeting in Jakande’s
house; one of those underground meetings
that they were holding in those days. I sat
at the back, and they were discussing how
to have party cards, and the question was,
‘how do we number the party cards, say
Agege, Ikorodu, Ikeja?’ They couldn’t
figure it out, and I put up my hand and
said why don’t we do it this way? Let’s put
alphabets before the numbers say, Agege –
A1234, then B to Ikeja. That sounded novel
to Jakande who I had never met before
then.
So when we finished the meeting, he called
me and asked if that was my first time of
coming to the meeting and I said yes. He
then enquired about my profession, and I
told him I was a lawyer, and he said ‘come
to these meetings regularly,’ and that was
how I met Jakande and ended up being
Special Adviser on Political Affairs in 1979.
He believed so much in me. I was special
adviser on political affairs, and anytime
there was trouble anywhere in
government, I was assigned there; I was
put in the Governor’s Office. We had a
running battle with Bishop Okogie in those
days because we were taking schools off
the missionaries. Okogie refused and took
us to court on the basis that the
Constitution allows him to impart
knowledge.
Each time we went to court, he won, and
we lost based on the claim that he was
imparting knowledge and that he could not
be denied that right. I walked to the
governor’s office one day and said we
don’t have to fight about this and told him
that the law gives us the right to give rules
and regulations for establishing new
schools. Okay, Okogie follow the
Constitution, establish schools, but you
have to take the rules for establishing
schools from us. If you want to establish
schools in Lagos State, you must have a
standard Olympic Swimming Pool, you must
have a standard football pitch and that
until you fulfilled these requirements you
could not establish a school and that was
how we defeated Okogie.
Jakande couldn’t believe it, and that was
how I was moved from being political
adviser to legal adviser and we were shut
out of power in 1983. After 1983 we went
into our private businesses until 1992 when
Abiola came around. I was very, close to
Abiola.
In 1993, I contested for the Senate in Lagos
here with Tinubu, Odi Onikosi of blessed
memory and Dominic. Tinubu was just
coming into politics at that time.
On the day of that election, we were all
filed up, you know it was Option A4.
Sarunmi was the person we knew as
nobody knew Tinubu then, so Sarumi stood
in front. Sarumi was the head of their
group then known as Primrose.
It started to rain so heavily that the
electoral officers asked us to go home, but
to our chagrin, some people came back,
and they were counted, and the rest is
history, and that is how Tinubu emerged as
a senator, and we all left it. That is when
also Bucknor-Akerele also emerged with
four votes at the Island.
We all went home until 1999 when AD
(Alliance for Democracy) came. When the
AD came, I, by the grace of God won the
election to the House of Representatives
under Afenifere.
Afenifere was the rallying point for all of
us, but no sooner than we all won the
election, everybody started to have peculiar
interests. Idiosyncrasies of each person
started to play out, and then some people
were either with Tinubu or with Afenifere.
I stayed with Afenifere and will never bite
the finger that fed me. I have nothing
against Tinubu, absolutely nothing, but I
just could not…it was difficult for me to
understand that I would abandon my old
ship and join another person.
That was how the little difference emerged,
and we were carrying on and carrying on,
but in the party we knew ourselves. You
were either for Tinubu or main Afenifere,
and I was known to be main Afenifere. Of
course, he who pays the piper dictates the
tune. Tinubu being the governor, he would
say he is the leader of the party and had
the presence of those he says believed in
him and by his own calculation, I could not
have believed in him if I would still stay in
Afenifere.
Naturally, when people were to be
returned, I was not returned because I did
not belong. And up till today, I thank God
that I am the National Financial Secretary
of Afenifere and if my race gives me a
particular position to hold for them, I will
believe that I am holding it in trust for
them. Like when I was in the National
Assembly I saw myself as leading the
Yoruba Race in the National Assembly.
I did, it wasn’t easy, but I did it.
Do you see the Yoruba Race as endangered
under the current dispensation?
We have always been endangered from
time immemorial. Even Luggard didn’t like
us from amalgamation. They didn’t hide it
because when the colonialists came, with
tremendous respect to the minorities, they
saw three of us – they knew the Hausa
very well, and they didn’t hide it, and in
some of their declassified documents, they
wrote that they were uneducated and could
be pushed around, so they had no problem
with them.
The Yoruba were educated and were asking
why are you doing so so and so to us, why
are you not doing this, so they didn’t
particularly like us; so we have been an
endangered specie from the beginning.
That is us; we stand up for what we
believe.
Up till now?
Yes. Up till now. There was a clarion call
from Arewa Youths saying that the Igbo
should quit the North from 1st of October
and immediately, Afenifere said to them
that if you ask the Igbo to leave, you are
asking us to leave.
But they didn’t ask the Yoruba to leave?
That is us.
But the Yoruba joined the North to fight
the Igbo in the civil war?
That is very unfair. We did not join the
Hausa to fight the Igbo.
What happened?
What happened was this, when Ojukwu
decided to leave, Awolowo went to Ojukwu,
took all the risk and said ‘my brother don’t
do this, let’s stay in this country and
restructure it. What they may be doing to
you may not be fair, it is not that we are
happy about it ourselves, but let’s stay in
there and sort it out. That is how the
question of Aburi came about. So we now
went to Aburi to try and sort it out. The
soldiers of East origin would go to the East,
soldiers of Western origin would go to the
West, and soldiers of Northern origin
would go to the North. We came back.
It was Gowon who reneged. When Gowon
reneged, Awolowo again went and met
Ojukwu and said, we don’t need to fight a
war, but Ojukwu said his mind was made
up. At first, Awolowo played this card and
said, (to Gowon) look, if you by act of
omission or commission you make Ojukwu
to leave, then we will leave. What he was
saying was that if you force them out, you
treat them as low people, then we will say
you are saying it to us as well. This thing
has to be mutually agreed.
Till today we don’t consider the Igbo
wanting to leave as treasonable because
that is the essence of democracy – self
determination.
But Awolowo was understood to have said
that if the Igbo left that the Yoruba would
also leave!
Yes, by an act of omission or commission,
that if you force them out and that you
must do everything to encourage them to
stay. Ojukwu has the right to self-
determination.
Between 1967 and now what has changed
that the Yoruba are now partnering the
Igbo?
We have always been.
Not always?
Give me an example.
Afenifere is saying that if Nigeria were to
break into a war that the Yoruba will not
join the North unlike what you did in
1967?
You got it wrong again. We did not join the
North; we were in Nigeria.
Ok, will you stay in Nigeria to fight the
Igbo?
No
What has changed?
Nothing has changed besides the question
of self-determination. You see, this
amalgamation, we were nations brought
together, and you cannot force us to be
together. We can talk about it to stay
together, but you cannot force us to stay
together. We hold that as sacrosanct.
If the Igbo decide to leave as they are
saying and we are persuading them not to,
and I am a member of the Southern
Leaders Forum, and our decision is that we
must try and salvage this nation but on the
basis of justice and fair play.
What do you consider justice and fair play?
For those of us who were born before 1966,
we remember that Western Nigeria had its
Constitution, the North had its own
Constitution, and the East had its own
Constitution.
We developed at our own rate and pace,
there was heavy competition between the
trio, and that is simply what we are talking
about. Let’s go back to what Ironsi took
away from us. It was Ironsi who messed
this up. It was Ironsi who suspended that
Constitution and all we are asking is, go
back to that Constitution. Let us go back to
what Ironsi took away from us!
Why should the North agree to that given
its electoral advantages in federal
constituencies?
Why should I not lock my door and not
allow a thief to come in and take my
things? Tell me! Why should they continue
to ride roughshod on me and I continue to
be happy? We are saying no. In truth and
indeed, nobody wants to be at a
disadvantage anyone in this equation.
North was growing at its own rate and
used to have groundnut pyramids in those
days and what is stopping them from
continuing? Because of oil?
Vanguardngr

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