By Bayo Oluwasanmi
I borrowed the title of my article from the expression “sick man of Europe commonly referred to the Turkish Empire. In the 19thcentury, it was believed that Turkey had fallen under the financial control of other nations. In the 1920s, Turkey was a typical Muslim hellhole with a long record of atrocities, ethnic cleansing, genocide, massacres, overwhelming and pernicious influence of Mullahs, inefficient government, bribery everywhere, and oppression of women.
The expression equally applies to Nigeria and of course Yoruba political space: corrupt and inefficient government, recklessness, lawlessness everywhere, failed system, corrupt judiciary and broken criminal justice system, brazen robbery and endless looting of the treasury, violence here and there, fear, panic, strife, grieve, by citizens from day and night marauders on our streets, our roads, and in our communities who kill at will. Unyielding overt and covert hostilities and tensions between the federating parts that will ultimately bring Nigeria into her knees.
It’s easy to hide from the fight for survival if the fight is mythic in scale. And at this particular time in our history, things feel apocalyptic. The Yoruba deal makers who made possible the merger and alliance of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Political Change (CPC) which became All Progressives Congress (APC) that produced Muhammadu Buhari as the president, have become cartoonishly immobilized by playing second fiddle in national affairs particularly the future of Yoruba race vis-a-vis on-going debate on the possible break up of Nigeria. The Hausas have made their position known on the break up of Nigeria when the northern youths gave three-month ultimatum to Igbo to vacate their region. Similarly, Igbo people continues to agitate for Biafra. Only Yorubas among the three could not agree with one voice on where they stand on the future of Nigeria and most importantly, on the future of Oduduwa people.
The present make up of Yoruba political leadership is populated by cowards. This is evident by its prevarication on the all important issue of whether or not Yoruba will stay or leave Nigeria. Their cowardice to stand up and articulate the fears and concerns of Yorubas as vocally expressed by the other two groups make Yoruba the sick man of Nigeria. Amazingly, Yoruba political leadership has not yet figured out how to respond to the issue. I believe they have two choices: they may either unify and rally Yorubas around a common cause, or express their support to one ungovernable, stunted, barbaric, primitive one Nigeria and see Yoruba dissolve into the political abyss.
This is not the time for Yoruba political leaders to play a wait and see game. As cowards, they are content to play the better of two evils without resistance when faced with a political dilemma. They have refused to move in the best interest of majority of Yorubas, too afraid to take a stand because it is politically expedient for them to drag their feet. There’s no person among them with the spine, the backbone, the moral constitution to convince other groups and their lackeys that Yorubas are more than forging political mergers, alliances, or alignment. They too can be resolute in determining their own fate and destiny.
Seems to me they need a deeper understanding of what the word progressive means. Let me be clear: any leader or leaders who fail to take a stand on behalf of their people are not only sell-outs, but blindly ignorant at best and flatly dangerous at worst. They are content to hope that time will present an advantageous opportunity to resist the coming break up of Nigeria. They are content to hope that they can continue to operate as though business as usual will be enough. Yoruba people demands this is the time for the political leaders to abandon politics as usual, and act boldly and swiftly. The most basic resistance from them is to say no to one Nigeria where our people are impoverished, bed ridden by disease, joblessness, hopelessness, and paralyzed by fear and insecurity, and pinned to a cul-de-sac where the pursuit of happiness is impossible. They should refuse to play nicely, but protest with radical fervor any advances that do not favor our cause and course.
To me, the present Yoruba political leaders are not leaders built for leading, not built to protect the rights of our people, but only to protect their political spoils. By the time they wake up from their stupor, however, there may not even be a Nigeria left to save. They’ll only be able to thank their strategy of waiting for an opportune time to start resisting of being part a country that’s fast vanishing before their eyes. They will regret that they have not started their own movement and preparation for the inevitability a long time ago. May be now they can join the rest of us who want to live without wondering if we’ll ever survive this new hellhole they help put us in. The Yoruba leadership need to wake the hell up!
The cowardice of such leaders to declare their stand in unambiguous language will be an indelible and damning part of their legacy. But one thing I’m sure of : history doesn’t forget the noisy voices once the dust settles, the winners and loosers. When our history is written, we’ll celebrate those who exhibited bravery, and we’ll decide the aggressively malignant. We’ll cheer the heroic. History tells us that leaders who let their people down at times like these are the ones who run and hide in the woods until the dust settles. Political self-preservation in dire circumstances is just about the same as cowardice.
We have a word for people who are dominated by fear. We call them cowards. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote: “A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.”