The former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, has rubbished the claims by former president Olusegun Obasanjo that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was not the leader of the Yoruba ethnic group.
According to Osoba, the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was duly and unanimously elected and accepted as the leader of the Yoruba race.
It will be recalled that Obasanjo was quoted as saying in his book, “My Watch,” that no individual (including Chief Awolowo) could be regarded as the leader of the Yoruba.
In the report published on August 2, Obasanjo was quoted as saying that the supporters of the first Premier of the Western Region, Chief Awolowo, “fixed” the title of Yoruba leader on the sage during the civil war, at a meeting he (Awolowo) presided over.
But in a swift reaction, Chief Osoba regarded Obasanjo’s comment as “blatant distortion of history,” saying Chief Awolowo was unanimously elected the Yoruba leader on August 12, 1966 in Ibadan, at a forum that had the who-was-who among the Yorubas and which was at the instance of the then acting military administrator of the Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo, who was then a Colonel.
Osoba, who armed himself with photocopies of the Nigerian Daily Sketch of August 13, 1966, which he distributed to the media, and which had a headline that boldly read: “Awo elected leader of Yorubas,” said Obasanjo, as the Garrison Commander in Ibadan at the time, could not have forgotten all this in a hurry.
He argued that opting to distorting facts and history with such false information as done by Obasanjo could denigrate the persona of the sage.
“Forty nine years ago, precisely, August 12, 1966, I was present at the forum where Chief Obafemi Awolowo was unanimously elected the leader of Yorubas.
“The election involved all stakeholders, including political and cultural intellectuals in Yorubaland. I have records to prove that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was elected aside the newspaper publications made after the election in Ibadan.
“I disagree with ex-President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on whatever claims he has that Awolowo was handpicked by some of his supporters,” he said.
According to the ex-governor, at the event where Awolowo was elected as the Yoruba leader, there were people of diverse political interest and yet they all worked as one to make Chief Awolowo the Yoruba leader.
“For instance, the late Dr Koye Majekodunmi has same political ideology as Awolowo, or late Chief T.O.S Benson, a staunch supporter of the late Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe till death, was part of Awolowo political family. I want everyone to know that Awolowo was released from prison two weeks before his election as leader of the Yorubas.
“I will give you more facts. He was unanimously elected by all stakeholders. The governor of the Western Region at this time, General Adeyinka Adebayo; the first military administrator of the Western Region, on Tuesday, August 10, 1966 held meetings with intellectuals and activists.
“The next day, which was 11th, he held meetings with the traditional rulers before the meeting of all stakeholders on August 12. On this day, there was not a dissenting voice against the election of Awolowo as the leader of the Yorubas. These are some of the facts; so I can never agree with Obasanjo,” he stated.
When also commenting on Obasanjo’s claim that certain people, including late Chief Adisa Akinloye, did not accept Awolowo as the leader of the Yorubas, Osoba said “the late Chief Akinloye never kicked against the election of Awolowo; even until his death. He was one of the admirers of Awolowo. He was the one who coined the word ‘Afenifere.’
“I was close to Akinloye, even during his days in London where he exiled. He never disagreed with the fact that Awolowo must be respected as a person.
“There is a difference between being members of different political parties and having respect for a particular person. For instance, when Aminu Kano was alive, he often visited the Sardauna of Sokoto for consultation, though they belonged to different political ideology. I don’t know why anyone should denigrate the reputation of Awolowo in death,” he said.