In Nigeria, virtually every tribe has a particular characteristic that are peculiar to them. This identified trait would have become their appendage over time such that whoever displays the like manners, even if such person is not from the tribe, he/she would be mistakenly taken as people from the tribe in question. For example, it is believed that an average Ekiti and Ondo people are stark but literate! Average Ilorin and Ibadan are born orator, while average Ijebu and Igbo have business spirit running in their vein, Egba is known for self-pride while Eko is famous for show-off! Beyond all beautiful traits that a tribe or community is known for, there are also some idiosyncrasies that have become part of tribe identity. One of this many eccentricities is the trait of betrayal between and among the Egba !
Treading the memory lane, Egba have been frequently referenced in cases of perfidy especially among themselves! This startling observation was dated to pre-colonial era, when tribal war was at its best reign. History has it that the legendary Egba warrior, Lisabi Agbongbo Akala was betrayed by his own people after he liberated them from the shackle of Oyo’s imperialism. Lisabi’s victory over the Oyos shot him to limelight and made him more popular than any of his peer in Egba Kingdom, this led to envy and ill-feeling which later aggravated to the occultist gang up against him, he was said to have been tricked to evil forest, where he was killed! History has it that Lisabi cursed the Egba that they would always betray their benefactor as they did to him. This happened between 1775 and 1780 in the Egba forest.
Also around 1860 and 1862, during the famous Ijaye-Ibadan war, Egba was reported to have betrayed Ibadan by pitching tent with Kunrunmi of Ijaye who actually sought the support of Egba at the last hour against Ogunmola who first sent gifts with appeal to Egba for support or they take no side! Seriki Akodu, the then Egba’s leader was said to have vehemently objected to their support for Kunrunmi and opted for nonalignment to both parties but they defied the warning and went ahead to support Kunrunmi, history has it that Seriki Akodu placed a curse on them, which people believed was largely responsible for their defeat on that campaign.
The trait is becoming more worrisome with the recurrent duplicity between and among the descendants of Lisabi. Apart from the two established cases above, below is the chronicle of the Egba that had been betrayed by their very own people without reasonable justification than envy, hatred and material gain!
OBAFEMI AWOLOWO: Although Awolowo is of Egba (maternal) descent, he was a victim of betrayal by fellow Egba kinsman in the famous November 1962 treasonable charges. The drama that surrounded the airlifting of Sowemimo, an illustrious Egba son and the presiding judge, to and from the court and the eventual romance with the government at the centre indicated an obvious conspiracy! The historic confessional statement “My hands are tied” is yet to be delineated till today. Who to ask? Ask Justice Sodeinde Sowemimo! Below is the excerpt from Justice Sowemimo’s pronouncement:
“….Whatever others may say, this is my personal view. I am not speaking as a judge but as a Nigerian. Here we have one of the first Premiers of the autonomous region standing trial. If you were the only one before me, I would have felt that it was enough for you to have undergone the strain of the trial. I would have asked you to go. But I am sorry, I cannot do so now because my hands are tied”. What a statement!
Another remarkable act of betrayal melted on Chief Obafemi Awolowo by his Egba kinsman was the outcome of 1980 general elections that was presumed to have been stage-managed from outset as the then Head of State General Olusegun Obasasanjo had pre-empted in his infamous declaration towards the election that “The best candidate may not win” And true to his word, Awolowo lost to Shagari in a controversial manner. Who to Ask? Ask Olusegun Obasanjo!
FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI: The legendary musician and one of the world best in music had the greatest taste of betrayal from his Egba kinsman when on February 18, 1977, a thousand soldiers invaded his Kalakuta republic, looted, destroyed and burnt the edifice that housed his large families, army of supporters and staff, including his multimillion naira recording studio with various works including films at various degree of completion! Fela’s mother, the great Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti was thrown down from the second floor of the building by the soldier during the invasion and she did not survive the assault! Who to ask? Ask Olusegun Obasanjo and the unknown soldiers!
Fela’s hit: Coffin for Head of State elaborated more on the whole saga.
OLUSEGUN OBASANJO: In 1991, during the campaign for the number two seat in the world, United Nations Secretary-General, Obasanjo was the Africa’s most favourite and arguably one of the most qualified for the position out of all the contenders, he threw his hat to the ring and seemed to be enjoying the supports of all who mattered including the Western powers until we woke up to the news of appointment of Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt as the new UN scribe in January 1, 1992. We later learnt that damaging petitions were written against the personality of OBJ to the UN headquarters from a notable and well respected Nigerian. Who to ask? Ask the Kongi himself, Prof. Wole Soyinka!
MOSHOOD KASHIMAWO OLAWALE (MKO) ABIOLA: Perhaps the most famous and talk about betrayal between and among the Egba is the story of June 12, 1993, MKO Abiola, its many mysteries and its attendants consequences. The mystery behind the truth of the whole story remains a conundrum. So many traitors, so many stories and too many accomplices! Abiola is not the messiah that Nigeria need is the most ridiculous compliment of the whole show! It was so embarrassing that the age long phrase “Egba meji kii ja ara won niyan” was put to test. Who to ask? Ask Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Earnest Shonekan and Chief Olusegun Osoba!
DIMEJI ABDUL-SABUUR BANKOLE: Dimeji Bankole was the speaker of the 6th National assembly at the lower chamber of the National Assembly from 2007 to 2011. He performed wonderfully well and refused to play rubber stamp role as his counterpart at the upper chamber. He would have retained his seat should he have got the support of his constituency. He needed not the vote of the entire Ogun State, just his constituency! The drama that played out in the middle of the presidential and National Assembly elections in 2011 was enough a signal for Bankole to envisage where the pendulum might swing, he tried to let his people know that the speakership would elude them and probably the Yoruba but they obliged not. He lost to Williams and the speakership eluded the Egba therefrom. Prior to that, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had unequivocally objected the emergence of Bankole as the Speaker after the removal of Patricia Etteh on no palpable ground! Who to ask? Ask Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Abeokuta South electorate in 2011 general elections!
SEGUN ODEGBAMI: One of the finest footballer Nigeria ever produced and arguably most featured and active participant of all our ex footballers. He was nicknamed mathematical Odegbami for his mastery in dribbling and dexterity in the game. He showed interest in becoming the NFA now NFF chairman in 2006 during OBJ period, only to meet brick wall on the way. Who to ask? Ask Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
JOHN FASHANU: John Fashanu, an English Television presenter and former professional footballer of Egba descent who played for English National team before he called it quit on the round leather game was a favourable contender to become NFA now NFF chairman In 2003 during OBJ administration but met a brick wall on the way, his offence was his preference to play for England National team, which according to him was circumstantial then. Who to ask? Ask Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
IBIKUNLE AMOSUN: In 2007, then Senator Ibikunle Amosun contested against the incumbent Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel OGD, it was widely believed that the election was rigged in favour of the incumbent, SIA then headed to tribunal with convincing evidences, indication had emerged that SIA would reclaim his mandate, and everybody was optimistic that the outcome of the tribunal would be in favour of Amosun. SIA campaign mantra then was “NEW DAWN” As we were waiting for the arrival of the new dawn there came the bewildering judgment; OGD victory was upheld! It was later gathered from reliable source that the verdict summersault was the handiwork of a prominent Egba son!
In the just concluded governorship and house of assembly elections, the outcome revealed an unimaginable betrayal from chunk percentage of the Egba, the statistics of the result showed that two out of six local governments that are predominantly Egba voted in favour of Amosun, while the remaining four voted against him, unlike the voting patterns in Remo and Ijebu who gave block votes to their son regardless of party affiliation; and delivered all their local governments to their son! Hitherto, the plot or the narrative of the election was well defined. All the four tribes in Ogun were contesting, though three were major contenders while Bankole was just a pretender, every discerning minds knew he never meant it, he was just warming up for 2023. Egba however was lending support in principle to Yewa candidate, Ijebu and Remo formed an alliance, and by empirical political permutation, if Egba had supported Amosun on APM, Remo/ Ijebu alliance would have amounted to nothing. But characteristically, they betrayed him! Amosun was given double dose of betrayal treatment. Two times he trusted his kinsmen, two times he was betrayed! On the two instances, Amosun never put curses on traitors like Lisabi and Seriki Akodu did, he never vent the anger on the innocents for it is the innocent that suffer the effect of curses. What an ironic symbiosis and what an iconic personage! Who to ask? Ask Ogun Central Senatorial district electorate in the 2019 gubernatorial election!
My conscience keeps pricking- This man called SIA does not deserve this kind of treatment from his own people who he served meritoriously, his kinsmen whose for the love he showed them he is tagged chauvinist, his own clan whose identity, pride and heritage he shares without compromise. The man who is the central factor for the face lift of Abeokuta to capital status in particular and the rest of Ogun State in general to Ogun standard. Posterity is an impartial arbiter, Amosun get rewarded for his alleged tribal chauvinism. For those who followed the National Assembly elections, there was a grand conspirational unanimity between APC and ADC to vote Titi Oseni against Amosun for Senate in Ogun Central. They truly did as planned! Ado-Odo Ota and Ifo Parapo conspiracy is no more a secret. Majority of APC card carrying members voted against their own candidate, but Alas! Against all odd, he won convincingly! These are APC members of his own senatorial district, thanks to the electorate of Ogun central, it would have been triple perfidy.
The glad tiding however is that like the past Egba that had been betrayed, the end always justified the means for good. It has always been a blessing in disguise! Lisabi remains the most popular and the seeming unforgettable in the annals of Egba warlords, so much that he has become as Oduduwa is to the race of Yoruba, the progenitor of the Egba. Awolowo unarguably remains the most revered politician in Yorubaland, if he was not sentenced by Justice Sowemimo, he wouldn’t have become the second in command in Gowon’s Federal Military Council (FMC), Finance minister and subsequently the civil war (1967-1970 hero! Obasanjo wouldn’t have become two time president and of course the Chairman of the past World presidents’, a position he is occupying now if he had become the UN Secretary-General then. Abiola by divine remains and would remain the most talk about personage in Nigeria history dead or alive, courtesy of June 12 celebration, which emanates from the fall out of his denied mandate, an offshoot of betrayal by his kinsmen.
Posterity has rewarded all the betrayed Egbas though, but the fact remains that; were they not betrayed, Egba and indeed Nigeria would have been better for it. The South Western region would have been better for it, if Awolowo was not jailed. Nigeria would have been better for it, if Abiola’s mandate was not sacrificed on the altar of envy, hatred and materialism. Egba and Ogun State would have been better for it, If Bankole was returned to continue his speakership; and the list goes on…
With this history of betrayal from my kinsmen, I pity the past generations of Egba, I am pitying my generation and I pray the generation next would be off hooked from the shackle of this seeming generic jinx on the descendants of Lisabi. Perhaps the age long solidarity compliments “Baawa” meaning Yes I concur and “ Egba meji Kii jara won niyan” meaning Egba are always in accord and solidarity with themselves, known and associated with the descendants of Lisabi is just a metaphor! A sharp contrast to the attitudinal behavior and communal relationship we seem to be exhibiting!
Amosun has joined the list of betrayed Egba, whose main betrayers were the beneficiaries of their sacrifices and legacies, their very own people; and like those before him, it usually turns out to be tales of regrets and repentance afterwards just like the proverbial narrations: When the Baboons and Monkeys heard that the man who used to chase them away from the maize field had died, they hysterically celebrated. The following year, there was no maize that is when they painfully realised the dead man was the farmer. Hummnn! Olorun ma je ki a de orun mo otito. May be my aged father is right afterward when he posits that Abeokuta denotatively means “Abe Keeta” meaning the cave of hypocrites! O ku omo’se Ibikunle Amosun omo A’jiri, Omo Olowu oduru, Omo afojogbogbo dara bi Egbin. Una do well!
Like the doyen of theatre in Nigeria (Hubert Ogunde) admonished during the turbulent “wet e” era in the first republic, YORUBA RONU, my apology to the theater icon for using the evergreen admonition again close to six decades after, but this time around expunging YORUBA and supplanting it with EGBA to make it admonition of the decade for the Egba: EGBA RONU. As for me and my family, our age long solidarity compliments remains sacrosanct: On “Baawa” we stand on the issue on ground, more so that Amosun has done nothing heretical!
Igbein re ile o (2ce)
Eni pemi lojoru…………
Igbein re ile o
Titi lode Mowe o (2ce)
Awa la ni’gbein (2ce)
Titi lode Mowe o………….
Long live the sovereignty of Egba kingdom!
*Ismael Ayinla is an Abeokuta born public affairs analyst and writes from Ibadan…