“How Awolowo became the leader of Yoruba” – Osoba

Former Governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, has countered claims made in ‘My Watch’, the book of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, where he stated that the Yoruba ethnic group never had a leader.

In a recent interview with Vanguard Newspapers, Osoba said he was present on the day when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was elected as the leader of Yoruba.

Osoba opposed the statement of Obasanjo, that Awolowo was supported to be Yoruba leader by only his supporters.

He recanted the events from history;

“I cannot share such opinion with him because 49 years ago, precisely on  August 12, 1966, I was present at a forum where Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was unanimously elected the Yoruba leader. And the election involved all stakeholders -political, cultural and intellectual in Yoruba land. I have records to prove that  Chief Obafemi Awolowo was elected aside the newspaper publications after the election in Ibadan. I disagree with  Obasanjo on whatever claims he has that Awolowo was handpicked by some of his supporters.

“At the event where Awolowo was elected as the Yoruba leader, there were people of diverse political interests. For instance, late Dr. Koye Majekodunmi, had same political ideology as Awolowo. Late Chief T.O.S Benson, a staunch supporter of Late Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe was there. I want everyone to know that Awolowo was released from prison two weeks before his election as leader of the Yoruba.

He was unanimously elected by all stakeholders. The military governor of the Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo on Tuesday, August 10,1966 held meetings with intellectuals and activists. The next day, which was 11, he held meetings with  traditional rulers before the meeting of all stakeholders on the August 12. And on this day, there was not a dissenting voice against the election of Awolowo. These are some of the facts.

My worry is that if I fail to come out as someone, who was involved in the activities leading to the election of late Chief Awolowo, history would be distorted. And in future, historians and researchers will base their conclusions on Obasanjo’s record of events. He was also an active participant in events of that period. As the Garrison Commander in Ibadan, he was an active member of General Adeyinka Adebayo’s cabinet.

I do not think that he would have forgotten so soon the sequence of events that threw up Awolowo as Yoruba leader. He has direct knowledge of what transpired before and during the election. In fact on that evening, some of us (journalists) interviewed Awolowo after his election. And the statement was that he would remain the leader of the Yoruba for the duration of the military administration.

And we asked that why should he limit his election as the leader of the Yoruba to the military period. And I can remember vividly that his response to the question on that day was that the Yoruba race is so intelligent and sophisticated that under no circumstance in a political dispensation will the Yoruba follow same political ideology. And that he decided to limit the honour bestowed on him to only the period when the common interest of the Yoruba was threatened.

He argued that the day the bell for the commencement of partisan politics is rung, capitalists like Chief Majekodunmi, Otegbeye and T.O.S Benson; a Zikist, will return to their political tents. They may not be in the same political party. Under such circumstances, he cannot claim to be the Yoruba leader.

Awolowo had been in incarceration. And when he came out, Gowon knew that he needed Awolowo’s influence. Before his imprisonment, he had been winning elections in other regions aside the Western Region.

This was because he had created a Pan-Nigerian image for himself despite some claims that he was tribalistic. Another reason was that at that time, Gowon had emerged as the Head of State and  Awolowo didn’t support him. Ojukwu had emerged as leader for the Igbo.

The Yoruba at that time needed someone who will be a rallying point. But there was no one who could contest it with Awolowo. Besides, the Agbekoyas were holding the military to ransom. It was only Awolowo who could go into the jungle to persuade them to lay-down their arms. These were some factors that led to the emergence of Awolowo as the Yoruba leader.”

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