It continues to remain a puzzle to me what the leadership of the Yorubas in the South West was looking at or thinking of when we, the Yorubas in the old Kwara State, now consisting of Kwara and Kogi States, were grouped with the North Centre Zone of this country. We were excised from our kith and kin and lumped with a people we have absolutely nothing in common with. This singular tragic error has been a strong factor in our lack of development as a people.
It is not in doubt that we are Yorubas. I recall that when I was scaling through the primary and secondary stages of my education, we used to have cause to complete some forms where there was a box where you were to indicate your tribe. I remember it like yesterday, we used to indicate that we were NORTHERN YORUBAS. This was certainly an admission by the National system that we were Yorubas, and of course, we continue to remain Yorubas till tomorrow.
At some point in time and upon deep reflection on the implications of being described as Northern Yorubas, some powerful people, who probably thought they were smart and visionary, whereas they were and still are a set of people who in actual fact do not mean well for this country, engineered that this be changed. Over time, the whole concept of NORTHERN YORUBA dropped off our national lexicon. But our Yorubaness cannot be dropped and cannot change.
Sadly, we have paid too heavy a price for this anomaly. The north with which we share political groupings, does not see us as a part of them. The South West Yorubas know that we are a part of them but because we are not in the same geopolitical zone with them, they do not see us as a factor for consideration in their development agenda. And rightly and painfully so too.
We are discriminated against by the North where we belong in the geopolitical arrangement of this country. The discrimination is deep and comprehensive in scope. From the siting of federal government institutions to manpower placement in both the executive and in the judiciary. This discrimination has endured for too long. It is hurting the Okuns in Kogi. The powers that be may not be bothered but it is also hurting the country and robbing the nation of developmental momentum. It has robbed many of our career professionals the appropriate career progression in their chosen fields at both federal and state levels. Even in political considerations, we suffer it. I recall that in the early days of this democratic dispensation, the PDP held one of its national conventions to elect a national chairman for the party.
One of our own, a distinguished and one of the few highly respected Super Permanent Secretaries of his days that this country ever had, a gentleman per excellence, eminently qualified and competent to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief S B Awoniyi, who was, by all available evidence, poised to become the National Chairman of the party, was suddenly rejected by the North because according to them, he was a Yoruba man. And since a Yoruba man in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was already President, another Yoruba man could not be party Chairman. They conveniently forgot that this same Yoruba man was the key to the engine room of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s successes in his government of the then Northern region. They conveniently forgot that Chief Awoniyi belonged to the geopolitical zone called North Centre. The same Chief Awoniyi could not go to any of the South West Yoruba State or even the zone to present himself for anything.
What a tragedy.
In the most recent experience, one very disturbing case from the judiciary has again brought to the fore why we Yorubas in Kogi State see the need to urgently address the issues of restructuring in this country.
Anyone who takes up a career in the civil or public service, and applies himself or herself diligently and dutifully to his or her duties, expects that in due season he or she will be rewarded as appropriate. Promotion and various kinds of career progressions are some of the ways by which these rewards come.
Very recently, one of our own again became a victim of this obnoxious and discriminatory approach to managing our affairs in this country. This gentleman is a Judge of the High Court who has served diligently and whose decisions in the cases that have ever come before him are based on considerations that are well researched and thoroughly grounded on irrefutable facts and applications of fine points of law. This eminent jurist has devoted his entire life to the promotion of the deployment of law as an instrument for social and development engineering. His books on different aspects of law, and especially on Electronic Evidence, are must read for students and practitioners alike. Because of these sterling qualities, he is very well respected by his colleagues both at the Bar and the Bench.
Like every diligent professional, he looked forward to a day when his commitment to duty would earn him an appropriate reward.
That opportunity became available recently. There were vacancies at the Court of Appeal to be filled. The process to select a Judges of the High Court for uplifting to the Court of Appeal started off very well. Many candidates were shortlisted and taken through the selection process. Our man, a distinguished Judge of the High Court, a renowned Jurist and an author, was highly ranked among the lot that were taken through the process.
In a sane environment where societal progress and development mean everything to those in power, they put round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes.
Since that is not the case in our country, our man who was highly ranked and acknowledged as a preferred candidate in the shortlist was dropped for no just cause and someone with far less to offer was selected.
I understand that this may not be the only case where our people in the Judiciary are seriously disadvantaged. Even where examinations form part of the selection process and someone from Okun comes first, as it is often the case, the best candidate is bypassed and the system goes for a less competent individual.
What kind of country are we in?
And we want all Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of patriotism? This is not how to achieve that.
And for how long are we going to continue in this?
Okuns, Kogi Yorubas, time to wake up is long past. Are we going to continue to console ourselves by saying that our cow has no tail, so only God can protect it from the invasion of flies.
This is certainly one more reason to have a rethink on where we rightly belong, by divine creation, nature and geography and not artificiality to make up numbers for hegemonic tendencies.