For us in the South-West, there are important lessons to learn from the gory events which have recently taken place in Jos, Plateau State. The great city, once a model of moral rectitude and peaceful co-existence, was shaken to its very foundation in an orgy of violence which claimed the lives of over five hundred innocent souls including youth corps members, children and women.
It would be dangerous and irresponsibly complacent to postulate that it could never happen in the South-West. It can! There are, of course, seemingly rational reasons which could induce complacency. The South-West has been justly celebrated as a focal point and an endearing model of peaceful co-existence. From time immemorial, the two great world religious – Christianity and Islam have sat together in a relaxed manner with indigenous religion.
There is hardly an extended family in the region which does not have a mixture of the two great religions. Inter-marriage across religious lines is common and acceptable. The early embrace of modern education in the Western sense has led to an enlightenment which encourages tolerance, openness and goodwill. There is for us in the South-West much to be proud about. It is also for this reason why we could so easily fall into the trap of complacency.
This would be dangerous. For the current elite in ascendancy in the South-West foisted on the Yoruba by Obasanjo’s ‘do-or-die’ rigging machine will stop at nothing to keep their tenuous grip on the levers of power.
Desperate men always find a divisive and combustible issue to manipulate in their bid to hang on to power. We have seen this in Zimbabwe where the Mugabe crowd have used rantings about ‘neo-colonialism’ to mask and then justify their economic rape of the common resources of that once great country. If the religious card has to be played as a mechanism to hold on to power, we can be rest assured that it will be used with unfortunate devastating effect.
Those who have manoeuvred themselves into office in the South-West will stop at nothing to maintain their vice like grip on power and its appurtenances. Indeed, what this set of characters want is power, without the attendant responsibility which should come with its usage. This, as we have been enlightened, has been, “the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”.
Lacking a programme to move their region forward, out of sync with the aspirations of the people they purport to lead, and suffering from a legitimacy deficit, any weapon will be fashioned and used in order to stay in power.
Religion with its combustible mixture could prove a handy tool. Unfortunately, there are, at the moment, quite a lot of so-called ‘men of faith’ who would, for pecuniary and other benefits, allow themselves to be used.
To be forewarned is therefore to be forearmed. The only way to avoid this is to ensure that the region is refocused as it has been in the past. The focus must be on the continuous development of human capital as the central theme of the developmental process. Educated men do not fall easily into the snare of bigotry. This is why the educational revolution started in 1957 in Yorubaland must be taken to its logical conclusion.
To say the least, Yorubaland is at its lowest ebb in contemporary history. Until the people are rescued through the judicial appellate system, they will be lorded over by a bankrupt opportunistic elite.
This people have no programme and see the populace as mere pawns to be used and discarded as they deem fit. Eternal vigilance is therefore needed in Yorubaland in addition, of course, with prayers. The present rampaging band of impostors and opportunists must be checkmated before they use religious cleavages as a ‘last card’ in their bid to hold on to illegitimacy!