2023: Yewa Agenda and The Age of Reality

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Steve Onipede

In 1979, after thirteen years of Military rule, Nigeria was about to return to democratic governance. Ogun State was barely three years old and General Olusegun Obasanjo was preparing towards his retirement. Of the then nineteen states in Nigeria Ogun State was also preparing for its first democratic experience as a federating unit of Nigeria having just been weaned off the Western State three years earlier.

The Oracle of politics in Nigeria and especially in the South West region was Chief Obafemi Awolowo with a far reaching image and political net worth. But more importantly, Awolowo’s strongest political allies are largely the Yewa people, as of then, the Egbados who are mainly found in the present Ogun West Senatorial District.

It was therefore natural that in the 1979 election, Chief Awolowo’s preference was for any of his allies in the Yewa Division to emerge as the first executive Governor of Ogun State. Frontrunners in this were the University of Ibadan trained medical doctor and unionist, Jeremiah Olatunji Otegbeye and the Senate Leader in the Western Region, Chief Jonathan Akinremi Olawole Odebiyi.

On the Egba side, who comprise the present Ogun Central Senatorial District was the popular Nigerian writer and Minister of Land and Labour under Awolowo, Chief Joseph Folahan Odunjo, while on the Ijebu Division side was veteran journalist, Chief Victor Olabisi Onabanjo.

As was the practice under the Unity Party of Nigeria then, candidates were chosen via an Electoral College system. Let us say for the sake of analysis, Egba and Ijebu Divisions had four members of the Electoral College while the Egbado (Yewa) Division had three members. Onabanjo was the only aspirant from the Ijebu Division (which comprised present Ijebu land and Remo land); J.F. Odunjo contested only from the Egba Division; but Dr. Tunji Otegbeye and Chief Jonathan Odebiyi contested on the Egbado Division side.

As history will have it, both Onabanjo and Odunjo tied with their votes apiece while Egbado shared their votes. The Egbado went ahead to support Onabanjo and he emerged winner to become the UPN candidate. However, one thing was also missing! The Egbados (Yewas) actually had three candidates in that singular election and missed out on that opportunity to have the first Governor of Ogun State. The candidate of the Egba Division, Chief J.F. Odunjo, though he was the Asiwaju of Egba land, he was also at a time the President of the Egbado Union. He was an Egbado man from Ibara which by co-location happen to be in Abeokuta, presumably and Egba territory.

Ever since, this pattern has repeated itself in the course of the years. At every election cycle, Yewa had always had two or more candidates, either on the ballot or in the primaries of popular political parties. Professor Afolabi Olabintan had squared up to Senator Iyabo Anisulowo. And since 2011 especially, Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka has had to face Chief Adetunji Olurin; GNI again had squared up against Chief Odunsi from Ota (same Ogun West Senatorial District); and more recently GNI against Abdukadir Adekunle Akinlade.

In all of these, during post election analysis, my Ogun West brothers have always passed the buck; they have always laid the blame elsewhere except where it truly belongs- on themselves. In desperation, sometimes the Ogun West people have always had to go on “rentals” to fill in a candidate. Sometimes the argument is “Yewas do not have men and women of means” to face the financial firepower of the other districts. Truth be told of course, Yewas have never been in want of quality men and women, all that is missing is unity of purpose.

As the State approach the 2023 elections, the Ogun West is again faced with a near similar challenge; of rising with one voice and break the legendary jinx once and for all. They are lucky this time to have a single candidate on the ballot. They however have three patriotic options to choose from: to accept a delayed or postponed historic responsibility; to settle for a complimentary role and identity as a second-in-command; or to take full responsibility for their own fate and take a plunge.

Interestingly, of all the candidates on parade on the journey towards 2023, without any doubt, as usual Yewas have put their best foot forward, the Yewa candidate is no doubt the best for Ogun State. He also combined the advantage of being the symbol of not only Yewa as a marginalised and oppressed people, but also of Ijebuland who have only ruled Ogun State between 1979 and 1983, his mother being from Ijebuland. With Barrister Biyi Otegbeye, two historical wrongs would have been corrected for the mutual benefits and satisfaction of all.

-Barrister Steve Onipede wrote from Osi-Ota

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