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AWUJALE AUTOBIOGRAPHY: HOW OONI SIJUADE BETRAYED YORUBA RACE DURING JUNE 12 STRUGGLE


“In the end however, IBB’s game had to come to an end. In June 1993, the elections finally held and apparently against all IBB’s calculations, they were not only transparent, but were adjudged to be free and fair by international observers. The results pointed clearly in the direction of one winner – Chief M.K.O Abiola, a close friend and confidante of the General himself. But just as the announcement of the results was to be made, Babangida cancelled the entire process! The nation erupted everywhere in commotion.

As part of his desperate measures to douse this widespread violence, IBB invited traditional rulers to a meeting in Abuja. I represented Ogun State. I got to Abuja on a Thursday, the day before the meeting, and at 7.00 p.m. that night, there was a knock on my door. It was Chief Ernest Shonekan. He was now Head of the Transitional Council. The Transitional Council was the body designed by Babangida to lead to civilian government. I took the opportunity of his visit to ask how really important his position was, as the soldiers were still calling the shots. I also wanted to know what happened on his recent mission to the USA to canvass for the American support for the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). Liberia was at war and Nigeria was footing the bills for ECOMOG, in spite of her economy, which was in dire straits; we needed financial support from

The US government queried the demand for more funds because they had earlier given some funds, unknown to Shonekan. I wondered if he was briefed by Babangida that the US had given some funds; if he was truly relevant in the Government, he would have known about this. Chief Shonekan said that the US government had obliged by giving us some money. I advised him to return home, and that he should not accept any further appointment at the end of the transitional period. He assured me he would not, and even said he had already sent his wife and his luggage back to Lagos. When Shonekan left me, I became agitated about what was going to happen at our meeting with IBB the next day. I was not going to betray our people, who wanted the election results to be upheld and Abiola sworn into office, but I was not sure about the stand of the other Yoruba Obas who were going to attend the meeting. So I called the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, and expressed the need for us to hold a meeting beforehand, so that we could express a common position and speak with one voice when we meet IBB the following day. The Alaafin whole-heartedly agreed and asked me to convene the meeting.

But, aware that ego could be at play in calling a meeting to be attended by all the Yoruba Obas, I suggested instead to Alaafin that we should both go to the Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuade and discuss with him our position and emphasize the need for unanimity in the interest of the Yorubas in particular and the nation in general. It took a long while for the Alaafin to agree to go with me. He finally yielded, in the interest of the Yoruba people. Then I called Oba Adeyinka Oyekan of Lagos on the intercom and discussed the matter with him. We were all staying in the same hotel, the Nicon-Noga Hilton Hotel. He also agreed that there was a need to present a common voice, but he said he would not go with us to the Ooni, rather, the meeting should be held in my room. I pleaded with him on the phone, but he declined.

The Alaafin and I decided to go to Oba Oyekan’s suite to persuade him. Again, Oba Oyekan agreed with us in principle but still declined to accompany us to the meeting. I argued with him that he was the eldest Yoruba Oba among us and therefore, in the interest of our people, he had to come along. He refused bluntly but promised to support whatever decision we took. When we got to the Ooni, the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, was at table with him. The Owa of Idanre was there in a corner. The Ooni left the table the moment we got in and sat with us, while the Emir continued with his meal. When the Emir finished his meal, both he and Ooni went into the Ooni’s room for a few minutes. We allowed the Emir of Kano and the Ooni to conclude their conversation and the Emir left us. When we told the Ooni the purpose of our meeting, he said he had met the Northern Emirs. Their position was the same as ours and when we asked how, he said that they wanted a fresh meeting to be called of the Council of State along with us. The Council of State, as enshrined in the Constitution, has powers to advise the President whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of order, among other things. 

We objected to that. If that is the position of the Emirs, we said we would respond to that at the meeting. Our mandate from the Yorubas was that the election results had been concluded and our ‘son’ was clearly the winner. So all we wanted was that they should just simply release the election results. I insisted that if a Council of State meeting was to be called on the matter, it could only be for the sole purpose of ensuring that the mandate of the people was respected, and that our son, Moshood Abiola, who won the election, was declared the winner. It was up to our fellow traditional rulers from the North to react therefore to this, but we should stand on that immutable fact. The Ooni agreed with me. The Alaafin, however, said that there was no need to ask for a meeting of the Council of State at all, since all the key members of the Council had stated already that they were opposed to the nullification of the elections. So we all agreed to speak with one voice that the elections had been held, our son had won, and he should be declared the winner. When we left the Ooni, we decided on an additional strategy. We discussed our seating arrangements with the other Yoruba Obas, and decided to seat ourselves in such a way that the Ooni would be firmly placed in the middle in our midst and so forestall any wavering to our position. This did not work out however, because when we got to the meeting the next day, we found that the organizers had labeled the seats to indicate where each person was to sit. Thus our seating strategy was foiled. IBB came in and spoke at length, in fact for over an hour, after which he called, I think about five other people to his left to respond. By the time they finished, we were all tired. First to respond, I remember, was Dasuki, Sultan of Sokoto, although he said very little. He accused the government of always using traditional rulers as fire brigade for problems that they themselves caused. He deplored the fact that, so very often, government would set their house on fire and then call the traditional rulers to come and help quench it. He suggested that IBB should invite the Council of State to join us so that we could discuss the matter together. 

Then the Ooni reiterated that we had come to present the mandate of our people. Elections had been held, he should protect the sanctity of the election which our son had won, and he should therefore be declared the winner. You could have heard a pin drop. The whole chamber was dead silent. Then Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano, broke the silence. Associating himself with the previous speakers but also calling for a meeting of the Council of State. Erediauwa, the Oba of Benin, condemned what the government had done but did not agree with the call for the Council of State meeting to deliberate on the matter. Gomwalk, the Gbong Gwon of Jos, spoke next, saying that he could not return anymore to his people after the annulment, and so the President should please help him by giving him a place to stay permanently in Abuja! One of the traditional rulers from the South East pleaded, ‘Please go! Please go!’ Other speakers spoke in similar vein that IBB must go. At this point, IBB broke in. He replied that the matter was not his sole decision but that of the military hierarchy. It was a Friday and by now people were itching to go to mosque for Jumat prayers. Being the chairman of the occasion, IBB was of course the one in the control of deciding who could speak and unless he pressed the button of the microphone in front of any of us present, no one else could be heard by the assembly. We noticed that he had been calling people mostly from his left, whereas the Alaafin and a few others like me were seated to his right. So the Alaafin protested that he had not called us. The President was then obliged to call on the Alaafin. The Alaafin said there was no new thing to gain from calling the Council of State. Zik was out of the country at the time; Obasanjo had already said that he was against the position of IBB; Buhari had also been reported on TV and newspapers condemning the position of IBB; and so what was the need therefore to ask for a joint meeting with the Council of State to address the matter, as some of the Northern Emirs were demanding? The Alaafin reported that Governor Kolapo Ishola of Oyo State was initially in support of IBB, but when he saw the reaction of the people, he had to go on radio in support of the people’s stand. I added that IBB was the one who printed the ballot papers, fixed and changed the election dates several ties. Then, on his own volition again, he called for the election and the people voted. Now, instead of promoting chaos and crisis, he should please go. Other traditional rulers spoke after me, all in the same vein. IBB rounded up. First, he recounted his relationship with Abiola. It was a relationship, he disclosed, that was very intimate. His government, he went on, had even paid Abiola a large debt owed by him by previous governments, totaling about US$600m, and a huge sum in local currency. When he heard this piece of information, the Ooni became angry and said something to the effect that if Babangida paid him that much, he would be living on the Island of Capri in Italy! He got up to go to the toilet. Sensing that the information had made him change sides, I quickly trailed him to the toilet and chided him.

Uche Chukwumerije, then Minister of Information saw what was going on between us at a distance. Later, in the presence of Uche Chukwumerije, the Ooni addressed some reporters and indicated his acceptance of Babaginda’s position and that we, the Obas should return home and tell our people to try their luck, that is, vote again. Since the election had been nullified, a fresh election would be conducted. To assure myself that what I heard was true, I invited one of the reporters who was there when the Ooni spoke accepting Babangida’s position to my hotel room. This was a reporter from The Nigerian Tribune. Fortunately, the Alaafin was with me when the reporter played the tape for us. We were stunned! When the Ooni got back to his room in the hotel, he buzzed on his intercom, calling me in his usual banter, the ‘Awujale of Africa’, and announced that he had told the world (meaning, the Press), about our mandate, I replied that I was not sure he was telling me the correct thing and said that I was coming to see him in his room. I went with the Alaafin, along with the reporter who took the tape along. The Owa of Idanre was with him. When we got there, the Ooni repeated that he had spoken in support of the mandate. I disagreed with him and asked the reporter to play the tape, which he did. The tape contradicted what he had told us. The Alaafin was livid. Then, at our suggestion, the Ooni agreed to redeem himself by doing another interview to correct himself. This he did there and then with the reporter. We asked the reporter to send this corrected version immediately to the media houses, and the Ooni even gave money to the reporter. But as it turned out, it was the earlier recording collected by Chukwumerije that the television Network News at 9.00 pm and the Radio broadcast used! ‘Awujale: The Autobiography of Alaiyeluwa Oba S.K Adetona, Ogbagba II’
BB came in and spoke at length, in fact for over an hour, after which he called, I think about five other people to his left to respond. By the time they finished, we were all tired. First to respond, I remember, was Dasuki, Sultan of Sokoto, although he said very little. He accused the government of always using traditional rulers as fire brigade for problems that they themselves caused. He deplored the fact that, so very often, government would set their house on fire and then call the traditional rulers to come and help quench it. He suggested that IBB should invite the Council of State to join us so that we could discuss the matter together. Then the Ooni reiterated that we had come to present the mandate of our people. Elections had been held, he should protect the sanctity of the election which our son had won, and he should therefore be declared the winner. You could have heard a pin drop. The whole chamber was dead silent. Then Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano, broke the silence. Associating himself with the previous speakers but also calling for a meeting of the Council of State. Erediauwa, the Oba of Benin, condemned what the government had done but did not agree with the call for the Council of State meeting to deliberate on the matter. Gomwalk, the Gbong Gwon of Jos, spoke next, saying that he could not return anymore to his people after the annulment, and so the President should please help him by giving him a place to stay permanently in Abuja!

One of the traditional rulers from the South East pleaded, ‘Please go! Please go!’ Other speakers spoke in similar vein that IBB must go. At this point, IBB broke in. He replied that the matter was not his sole decision but that of the military hierarchy. It was a Friday and by now people were itching to go to mosque for Jumat prayers. Being the chairman of the occasion, IBB was of course the one in the control of deciding who could speak and unless he pressed the button of the microphone in front of any of us present, no one else could be heard by the assembly. We noticed that he had been calling people mostly from his left, whereas the Alaafin and a few others like me were seated to his right. So the Alaafin protested that he had not called us. The President was then obliged to call on the Alaafin. The Alaafin said there was no new thing to gain from calling the Council of State. Zik was out of the country at the time; Obasanjo had already said that he was against the position of IBB; Buhari had also been reported on TV and newspapers condemning the position of IBB; and so what was the need therefore to ask for a joint meeting with the Council of State to address the matter, as some of the Northern Emirs were demanding? The Alaafin reported that Governor Kolapo Ishola of Oyo State was initially in support of IBB, but when he saw the reaction of the people, he had to go on radio in support of the people’s stand. I added that IBB was the one who printed the ballot papers, fixed and changed the election dates several ties. Then, on his own volition again, he called for the election and the people voted. Now, instead of promoting chaos and crisis, he should please go. Other traditional rulers spoke after me, all in the same vein. IBB rounded up. First, he recounted his relationship with Abiola. It was a relationship, he disclosed, that was very intimate.
His government, he went on, had even paid Abiola a large debt owed by him by previous governments, totalling about US$600m, and a huge sum in local currency. When he heard this piece of information, the Ooni became angry and said something to the effect that if Babangida paid him that much, he would be living on the Island of Capri in Italy! He got up to go to the toilet. Sensing that the information had made him change sides, I quickly trailed him to the toilet and chided him. Uche Chukwumerije, then Minister of Information saw what was going on between us at a distance. Later, in the presence of Uche Chukwumerije, the Ooni addressed some reporters and indicated his acceptance of Babaginda’s position and that we, the Obas should return home and tell our people to try their luck, that is, vote again. Since the election had been nullified, a fresh election would be conducted. To assure myself that what I heard was true, I invited one of the reporters who was there when the Ooni spoke accepting Babangida’s position to my hotel room. This was a reporter from The Nigerian Tribune. Fortunately, the Alaafin was with me when the reporter played the tape for us. We were stunned! When the Ooni got back to his room in the hotel, he buzzed on his intercom, calling me in his usual banter, the ‘Awujale of Africa’, and announced that he had told the world (meaning, the Press), about our mandate, I replied that I was not sure he was telling me the correct thing and said that I was coming to see him in his room. I went with the Alaafin, along with the reporter who took the tape along. The Owa of Idanre was with him. When we got there, the Ooni repeated that he had spoken in support of the mandate. I disagreed with him and asked the reporter to play the tape, which he did. The tape contradicted what he had told us. The Alaafin was livid. Then, at our suggestion, the
When he heard this piece of information, the Ooni became angry and said something to the effect that if Babangida paid him that much, he would be living on the Island of Capri in Italy! He got up to go to the toilet. Sensing that the information had made him change sides, I quickly trailed him to the toilet and chided him. Uche Chukwumerije, then Minister of Information saw what was going on between us at a distance. Later, in the presence of Uche Chukwumerije, the Ooni addressed some reporters and indicated his acceptance of Babaginda’s position and that we, the Obas should return home and tell our people to try their luck, that is, vote again. Since the election had been nullified, a fresh election would be conducted. To assure myself that what I heard was true, I invited one of the reporters who was there when the Ooni spoke accepting Babangida’s position to my hotel room. This was a reporter from The Nigerian Tribune. Fortunately, the Alaafin was with me when the reporter played the tape for us. We were stunned! When the Ooni got back to his room in the hotel, he buzzed on his intercom, calling me in his usual banter, the ‘Awujale of Africa’, and announced that he had told the world (meaning, the Press), about our mandate, I replied that I was not sure he was telling me the correct thing and said that I was coming to see him in his room. I went with the Alaafin, along with the reporter who took the tape along. The Owa of Idanre was with him. When we got there, the Ooni repeated that he had spoken in support of the mandate. I disagreed with him and asked the reporter to play the tape, which he did. The tape contradicted what he had told us. The Alaafin was livid. Then, at our suggestion, the
The Owa of Idanre was with him. When we got there, the Ooni repeated that he had spoken in support of the mandate. I disagreed with him and asked the reporter to play the tape, which he did. The tape contradicted what he had told us. The Alaafin was livid. Then, at our suggestion, the Ooni agreed to redeem himself by doing another interview to correct himself. This he did there and then with the reporter. We asked the reporter to send this corrected version immediately to the media houses, and the Ooni even gave money to the reporter. But as it turned out, it was the earlier recording collected by Chukwumerije that the television Network News at 9.00 pm and the Radio broadcast used!
‘Awujale: The Autobiography of Alaiyeluwa Oba S.K Adetona, Ogbagba II’
Source:360urban


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