Nigerian former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has inadvertently dismissed speculations that he is not a Yoruba man.
Obasanjo in his book titled ‘My Watch Volume 2: Political and Public Affairs,’ said his two parents were from Owu in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Anthony Adefuye, recently claimed that the father of the former Nigerian leader was Igbo but that he was born of a Yoruba woman.
Adefuye had in an interview with a national daily said among other things, “Some people may argue that what about Obasanjo? Obasanjo is not a Yoruba man. He is an Igbo man from the South-East. His father was from Anambra while his mother was a Yoruba woman. And that was why during his tenure, he completely ignored the South-West. For example, throughout his eight years, he did nothing on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.”
Some Yoruba leaders had in 2007 also alleged that Obasanjo’s biological father was not a Yoruba man.
According to them, his father was Onyekwelu from Onitsha in Anambra State and so, his reign as President between 1999 and 2007 should be viewed as an Igbo reign.
But Obasanjo in the 675-page book described himself as a thorough-bred Yoruba man.
He said, “To be a Nigerian, I have to be born somewhere in Nigeria or be of Nigeria parentage or one must naturalise. If the other can hide their identity, I cannot, because my two parents were from Owu in Abeokuta. And you cannot be more Yoruba than an Owu man as the first child and daughter of Oduduwa, the father of Yorubas was the mother of all Owus. What is more, I bear Owu tribal marks. And better or worse still, I speak English with my Owu dialect.
“I have always maintained and felt proud of my Owuness, Yorubaness and Nigerianess in that order. They are all part of my cherished identity. But I always refused and will always refuse to be constrained, diminished or reduced to the level of Yoruba leadership. Without being immodest, I am a national leader, an African leader and a world leader in my own way.
“If a Yoruba meeting is called on an important issue of concern to the Yorubas and I am invited. I will go but will not sit on the high table unless I joined in convening the meeting. But I would expect that a seat on the high table would be reserved for me if such a meeting is a national meeting.
“There are Yorubas of the mentality that if they cannot permanently rule Nigeria, then Nigeria should be broken up in the euphemism of confederacy. They would rather be rulers in hell, if they cannot be rulers in heaven. They are mainly those who see themselves as heirs apparent to (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo. I neither share their philosophy nor their mindset. Some of them contributed to putting Bola Tinubu in power and in spite of largesse of houses in Victoria Island built for them by Bola; they turned against him when the flow of largesses started to dry up.
“They are the same people who claimed that I denied being a Yoruba man. I am more Yoruba than all of them. The Ijebus among them must be reminded that the Awujale asserted that they are not from Ife, the cradle of Yorubas but from Wadia. Those who are crying more than the bereaved like Olaniwun Ajayi and Femi Okurounmu are self-centered and lack integrity.
“When there was need. In the interest of justices and fairness, to speak or act on behalf of the Yorubas, I have done so but not against overall Nigeria interest or against the interest of any other group for that matter. I have also spoken out or stood up for other groups or communities of the interest of justices and fairness. But on no account will the interest and integrity of Nigeria be sacrificed.”
Obasanjo further said he rejected a request by two senior Yoruba retired soldiers to lead the Western Region out of Nigeria, which would be similar to what the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu tried to do for the South-East and failed.
“In the confusion of the post second coup in 1966 and early 1967, I joined the senior Yoruba officers in the military to present our positions to Yakubu Gowon, in the interest of the nation and of the West. When, during the Abacha era and before I was arrested, two senior retired Yoruba officers, a Navy and Army officers called on me at my farm to lead the West out of Nigeria, I did not take it kindly with their request.”
“I said, “God’s judgment in me if I ever do what will be swift and decisive; He would ask those who died as a result of my fighting for the unification of Nigeria to line up and hold one hand and those that will die fighting for the West to secede from Nigeria to line up and hold the other hand and pull me until I will be cut into two.”