Those who know the Carmine Bee-Eater should mourn with Camwood;
Those who know the Cow Egret should mourn with White Chalk.”
This is how the death of Bola Ige was announced on some Radio stations.
“Eni ba mo agbe k’o sun’kun aro;
Eni ba mo aluko k’o sun’kun osun;
Eni ba mo lekeleke k’o sun’kun efun”.
The death of Bola Ige is undoubtedly the last ethnically tragic event that happened to the Yorubas.
Unfortunately for him, he also stirred deep envy from his friends and deep hatred from those who chose to be his enemies.
This oratory skill fetched him admirers but also brought him haters from within and without.
Anyone who knew of Ige knew 2 things: his tongue was caustic and he never suffered fools gladly.
But first we look briefly at the previous acts...
Ige was born in Kaduna in September of 1930 and began to know politics from 1940.
Hausa was his first language and he ended up able to speak many.
Politically, Ige identified fully with Awolowo.
Awolowo was the Yoruba Leader who solidified the legend of Oduduwa as the progenitor of the race and rode on it.
Ige at 24 became the National Publicity Secretary of the AG - an uncommon feat even at that time.
By 1979, Ige wanted to be the Governor of the old Oyo State.
Alayande in fact was the one who encouraged Awo when he almost gave up.
And so it was with the Yorubas - they were divided by tribe before the time of Awo.
Awo, being a mystic, concluded that Alayande had good charm for crowds and let him preside over that meeting - the only person who ever got such privilege while Awo was alive.
Awo wanted to impose but Ige suppprters insisted on primaries which Ige won easily and which some say was conducted three times.
I recount this story because it bears impact on the particular saga I want to dwell on about Ige tonight.
The Buhari coup of 1983 ended that Second Republic.
But Jakande had put himself out of running for several reasons, of which one is most prominent: he had served under Abacha and did not resign when asked to.
Firstly is that when Jakande was jailed by Buhari in 1983, he had written a letter to Awolowo demanding his entitlement be paid.
While in jail, Awo paid his wife a stipend but Jakande wrote to ask that his share value be paid instead - Awo was pissed.
But Ige has enemies within.
Pa Ajasin who was also close to Awo in age became the leader of Afenifere and meetings moved from Awo’s Ikenne home to Owo where Ajasin was from.
Ebenezer Babatope was one of the latter - so this was no small tussle, the former were also formidable.
After Ajasin died, another tussle came.
In charisma though, Ige outshone Adesanya and also had powerful enemies who were very close to Adesanya.
But his enemies were never convinced and they fought him always.
When Ige rejected the Abacha transition and described the five parties as “the five fingers of a leprous hand”, Afenifere followed suit.
Stanley Macebuh of the Guardian wrote the beautiful quote in my twitter bio to describe Ige and called him “Cicero” after the Roman orator - but Ige saw himself more like Demosthenes.
The anti-Abacha Movement was largely domiciled in the South and especially the South-West but Ige prominently moved to change this.
Knowing Cicero and Dan Sumaila - two orators of passion, I can imagine how it went.
As appreciation for their troubles, Both Lamido and Rimi were jailed by Abacha on the day the G34 was formed.
Ige was in detention by this time - “prisoner of war” as Col. Ahmed Usman called him
They were in detention when Abacha died and Abdulsalami Abubakar came in and freed them.
Prominent from the PDM Movement was a certain Atiku Abubakar.
But PCF soon left the PDP and a few Ige detractors say it was because of something that happened frequently.
At those formational meetings, Ige never hid his ambition but Rimi was fond of calling Olu Falae “Mr. President” and Ige felt his aspiration threatened.
Ige had struck a deal for President with Shinkafi
Only PDP and APP made it but 3 were registered.
With AD, Ige felt confident he would pick the presidential ticket, but fate...
Ige even used the same process to impose in Oyo and Osun.
Williams won, but manipulation happened - another day’s story
3 presidential aspirants emerged but 1 dropped out.
Allegedly, Ige’s one million was given to him by Arisekola Alao who later confirmed it to sources but the story was also used against Ige.
So why did he participate in this one?
I can only guess that he felt confident of the outcome but he underestimated his enemies.
Ige was also asked to leave as an aspirant but he refused as Deputy Leader, so the process seemed fair.
And already, many groups were already pushing for an Ige Presidency - so he felt really confident but underestimated the envy within the Afenifere.
But I do query the wisdom behind sharing this detail with anybody - of course he only told a few people, mainly some Yoruba editors but the elders say “walls have ears” and everyone soon knew about it.
And here, let me say a word about Pa Adebanjo and others who ‘hate’ Ige so much (deliberate use of the present continuous tense).
Awo specifically requested both men to bring their portraits to hang on his wall in his Efunyela Court home.
As said, only two of them and immediate family members had single portraits in Awo’s home, others had only group pixes
Ambrose Alli (father of our own @afalli), Pa Ajasin, Awo himself, Bisi Onabanjo, Lateef Jakande and the young but remarkable and distinguished Uncle Bola Ige.
When Awo died, Adebanjo and Ajayi along with Abraham Adesanya and Pa Solanke Onasanya to become what Ige described as “The Ijebu 4”
Anyway, back to the D’Rovans Hotel conclave of January 27, 1999 - or let’s go to Kaduna briefly...
Maybe this also worked against him cos Fasanmi later said that when he and those other three were driving back to Lagos, they said something
When Adebanjo was told that Fasanmi leaked this, Adebanjo also reported that on the same journey, Fasanmi also had said that “Ige’s mouth would never allow him to be President”.
Ige had enemies
Even Pa Adesanya told Ige not to travel as it would look like arrogance but Ige travelled.
Ige got 9 votes.
Justice Adewale Thompson, an Ige ally administered the oath to all 23 men.
Pa Adesanya gave opening remarks and Fasanmi was to be the returning officer. Everyone however voted secretly so nobody knew how they voted.
And added that nobody can say he’s not satisfied
Wasn’t Ige controversial because of this same cause they all professed?
And funnily, when the time to campaign came, Ige was chosen to lead campaigns in the same North they said didn’t like him.
Immediately Falae was announced, all Hell let loose, things fell apart and the centre in Yorubaland never held since then
Lam Adesina, Michael Koleosho, Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Emmanuel Alayande, Chief Bodunde of Kogi and Thompson.
Osoba claims he voted Ige but for years refused to disclose who he voted for. Some say the Ijebu 4 pressured him to vote Falae.
Niyi Adebayo also said he voted Ige.
The Ondo/Ekiti axis though may likely not have voted against Falae, an Akure man.
Meanwhile, the Ganiyu Dawodu who had told Ige to support Funso Williams also voted against Ige at the conclave.
But Ige publicly claimed to have no ill-feelings over the outcome.
“Now I think I better disclose my reaction to what happened at Ibadan and why I have not lost one second’s sleep on what my colleagues contrived. I was not surprised because I had half expected it.”
Many of us who loved Ige rejected Falae - I wasn’t old enough to vote but I campaigned for Obasanjo in 1999 to everyone I knew.
One of the points raised in favour of Falae ahead of Ige was that Falae had been Minister under IBB and Ige had only served as Governor at state level.
So when Obasanjo invited Bola Ige to serve as a Minister, he took it - another mistake
We loved him then and adore him still - but we also learn.
Ige was screened by the Senate along with over 40 others and was the first man ever to be asked to “bow and go”.
Appointed as Minister of Power and Steel, Ige promised to “turn stone into bread” - but NEPA is the most complex public infrastructure problem in Nigeria, I believe.
Alayande and Thompson were so pissed with Afenifere afterwards.
Younger elements whom the other elders in Afenifere derided but Ige courted tried quite hard to mediate without success.
Ige was later moved to the Ministry of Justice as Attorney-General.
Ige haters began comparing him to Akintola - and there were a few similarities:
Adesanya regretfully made such suggestions in a newspaper interview I read at the time also.
He and Akande has fallen out and Ige was strongly behind Akande.
His cap was taken off by thugs and when it was brought back, Ige put it on straightaway.
Some say it was a mistake 🤐🤷🏽♂️
Omisore then granted an interview that would haunt his political career till death - I read it then in Tempo and was disgusted.
“We removed his cap and he was crying like a baby. Then he insulted me and my fathers - Ah! That would be his last.”
Days after, Ige was murdered.
I went out with an Uncle that morning to buy Christmas chicken when I saw the headline of Punch:
It was the end of an era but the tributes started pouring in daily in the newspapers - nobody has ever been honoured publicly since then the way Ige was: he was the last of a generation and the times also permitted that.
TV stations weren’t too many so Ige was everywhere and Punch ran a daily two-page section for tributes to him and details about his life.
Ibadan which he had come to love so much also honoured him and everywhere his body went, his enemies in Afenifere were shamed as Ige was celebrated.
But the crowd in Ibadan chanted one more time as they had many times before at campaigns:
“Ige de, Ige de o, Arole Awolowo, Ige de o”
“Ige has come, Awolowo’s heir has come”.
“The murderers are among us, let no one be in any doubt, they sir aminf is tight eitjin this sombre gathering that honours the passage of a hero. There are the unwitting collaborators...”
He was referring to the enemies within and it is said that Ige alluded to this shortly before he died.
That two days before Ige died, he had attended the funeral ceremony of Pa Solanke Onasanya and slipped and fell. Some Yoruba mystics interpreted that in a certain way.
Some say Ige when he stood up said “Awon people yi ti pa mi”.
Anyway, Omisore was affected and a macabre trial began.
But the police kept looking for a key witness - Gbenga Adebayo aka Fryo.
Apparently, Festus Keyamo was hiding him for several weeks.
Why Keyamo kept him for long, nobody knows.
Omisore was in detention when Audu Ogbeh as PDP chairman gave Omisore a senatorial slot: who pressured him to do so?
When PDP fielded Omisore for Gov in 2014, I couldn’t support that ticket, ever.
That man taught many of us via his column on Sundays on the definition of true politics.
He was fiercely loyal to his party but he never compromised his personal values and principles. He was always clearheaded - even if many of us didn’t understand him.
But he was killed untimely.
And there are lessons from it about enemies and envy.
Thanks for reading - four hour thread: I finally outdid myself and I’m tired and hungry.
But thank you if you stayed awake; thank you and Merry Christmas Eve.
May death not snatch us away from this plane before our time, Amen.