Thursday, June 26, 2008


Sometimes a brilliant and factually accurate message gets distorted by the harbinger of the news; the messenger often determines the reception accorded to a message. In law, there is what we call judicial estoppel. Judicial estoppel arises in equity and serves to preclude a party from gaining an advantage by asserting one position before a court and then later taking a clearly inconsistent position before the court. A court may invoke judicial estoppel either to prevent a party from gaining an advantage by taking inconsistent positions or to maintain the dignity of judicial proceedings.

I believe recent report from Punch on the Web, quoting Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the national publicity secretary of ethnocentric, geriatric and ultra-ethnic association popularly called Afenifere fits this bill. According to the text of Mr. Odumakin press release, which he titled “Yar’Aduah’s ethnocentrism stinks still.” (sic). In the actual piece itself, he disparages an attempt by Yar’Aduah’s to explain away some of his appointment as an “ill-attempt by President Umaru Yar’Adua …. to exonerate himself from real allegations of “northernisation” of power in clear violation of the Federal Character principle in the 1999 constitution.” Mr. Odumakin submits that most of the principal appointment of Yar’Adua went to Nigerians of northern origin and that this “further demonstrated that he (Yar’Adua) has a dangerous mindset that threatens the unity of Nigeria and its continued corporate existence.”

Now, I have known Mr. Odumakin for shooting from the hips, since his appointment, first as PRO and thence as publicity secretary of Afenifere, but the latest beats the cake. Mr. Odumakin’s latest diatribe brings back memories of how an otherwise patriotic Nigerian can suddenly turned an ethnic jingoist. I knew Yinka Odumakin in our days at University of Ife, as we both actively participated in Students Unionism at Great Ife. We also belong to the same collective in Ife where we gathered to engage in serious thinking over the ills of Nigeria. Then, his love for Nigeria and all Nigerians is unquestionable. We often jointly railed against the oligarchies holding our dear country, Nigeria, hostage and wish for the day when all Nigerians irrespectively of where they hailed from will occupy an office not because of the accident of their birth but on merit!

Everyone knows I am not a card carrying fan of the present regime in Abuja, just as I do not join the bandwagon of those who celebrated its corrupt predecessors. My concerns with Odumakin’s piece is the fact that it seeks to question Yar’adua’s ministerial appointment not on the merits of those appointed but because they hailed from the north. This is what he called “northernisation.” This card had always been played by ethnic jingoist jostling for position of power in Nigeria.

This is at best laughable given the fact that Afenifere is itself an ethnic jingoist organization set up to further the parochial interest of the ethnicity of the majority of its members. The aim of organization such as Afenifere is to defend the interest of the Yoruba ethnic group it represent and not the interest of Nigeria or Nigerian. And they are not alone, there is the Arewa People’s congress, the Ohaneze N’digbo, the Ijaw People’s Congress, MASSOB et al. The paradox is therefore only lost on Mr. Odumakin befuddled minds as everyone knows he is crying wolf. This is why I said the messenger sometimes kills the message.
I recalls that a couple of years ago, when former President Obasanjo was in government, the same Afenifere, actively push the then government to appoint Yorubas to position of influence in Obasanjo’s government as a condition for supporting him. They hailed him when he appointed Bola Ige, as Power and Steel minister, with little or no qualification for that position. They hailed him when he appointed the sons and daughters of Awolowo, Akinjide, Akintola, Fani Kayode et al with little or no qualification! And now, they have the temerity to question what they engineered and actively support?

I confess that if Afenifere had stopped at questioning the merits of those appointed by Yar’Adua, I would not have had any problem with their diatribe. Why not dig into the background of those appointed by Yar’Adua and bring out things that disqualified them from functioning in that position. Is Shamsudeen Usman, who had spent his entire career at Nigeria financial industry, not qualified as minister of Finance? We can query the appointment of Yayale Ahmed and Aondoakaa as minister of defense and attorney general especially given the latter conflict of interest vis a vis ongoing investigation of some of his previous clients who are corrupt ministers being prosecuted by the same ministry. But attacking them because they come from the north is at best myopic and self serving. What makes this ministry less important than the ministry of External and Internal affairs occupied by Nigerians from the southern part of the country?

The more damning evidence is that Afenifere was peculiarly silent when the erstwhile minister of health, Adenike Grange, who hails from the south west, was indicted and disgraced out of office for corruption. This should have thought them a lesson that merits should be the answer to questionable appointments and not ethnicity!
As long as we keep emphasizing ethnicity in our national discourse we will end up with government of wolves! I hope the likes of Yinka Odumakin and his Afenifere will contribute more positively to our national discourse rather than issue this type of jejune and divisive press releases.

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