Political governance is one of the hardest of tasks. It becomes more complex given the fact that management of resources is involved. And the harnessing of human resources is the most difficult aspect of management. So many stories and so many accounts have been rendered about participants in military regimes and opposition to military rule. My appointment as Chief Press Secretary to Navy Captain Anthony Udofia (retd) was divine. I had just returned from a long trip to the United States when God located me by His grace for appointment. It was a most horrific period in Nigeria’s political history. Osun State was one of the States with very strong members of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) Chief Bola Ige alone, a one man riot squad was enough to destabilize a government. Prominent activists like Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd) from Yakoyo, Prof. BolajiAkinyemi, Chief Ayo Fasanmi, Chief Bisi Akande and others were formidable personalities. They had their foot soldiers too. The academics at the Obafemi Awolowo University like Profs. Fashina, Toye Olorode and others were no less potent.
In 1995, the military government organized elections into the Constituent Assembly, for a National Constitutional Conference to fashion a new constitution for Nigeria and discuss the way forward by representatives of the constituent parts of Nigeria. There had been gathering political storms that clearly showed ominous signs. Chief Adekunle Ajasin, one of Chief Obafemi’s Awolowo’s strongest associates was at the head of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural association with strong bargaining powers. He also headed the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). Then came the time for the elections into the Constituent Assembly. Adekunle Ajasin, in his capacity as leader of the Yoruba sent went all over, instructing all those who had signified their intention to contest elections into the Constitutional Conference to withdraw from the contest. Chief Bola Ige, also a prominent activist conveyed the Yoruba leader’s directive to NADECO members in Osun State. Some of them preferred to go ahead and contest, believing that it was better to win the elections and later withdraw, in an attempt to frustrate the programme of the Abacha regime. The Yoruba position was adopted at the palace of the Awujale of Ijebu-Ode, Oba SikiruAdetona, a royal father who also played a remarkable role in his support for pro-democracy movements. Indeed, Kabiyesi, with the greatest respects, could be labelled a Royal NADECO, who was never afraid of the military and was always speaking truth to power. Thirteen prominent people led by Professor Adebayo Adedeji, one-time Under Secretary General of the United-Nations and head of the Economic Commission for Africa signed the adopted Yoruba position that was forwarded to the 1995 National Constitutional Conference. Late sociable Chief BayoAkinnola was the Secretary to the Committee.
What I am discussing in this piece is what appears to be a legitimate civil disobedience exhibited by ChiefBisiAkande and other politicians, who rather than engage in violence, simply took calculated non-violent steps to attempt to scuttle the constitutional conference. In one of the Western States, State commissioners were requested to monitor the 1995 Constituent Assembly elections to ensure that members of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a civil society group that was a thorn in the flesh of the military did not make a mess of the election. Any State commissioner who couldn’t deliver his or her constituency was to lose his position. Security Reports indicated that NADECO chieftains wanted to merely participate, win the elections and refuse to participate in the exercise planned to produce a new constitution. These politicians were still strong in their areas. Chief Bisi Akande had served variously as Secretary to Government and Deputy-Governor in the Old Oyo State government. He had a hold on the Ila-Orangun axis where nobody could compete with him successfully. Similarly, whatever Chief AbiolaMorakinyo wanted was what the people of Gbongan and environs would do. The people of Ile-Ife stood solidly behind Chief ‘GunjuAdesakin. I remember the election was held twice in Gbongan, because the first election was clearly won by Chief Morakinyo. He still won the second election.
The interesting part of the whole story is that a versatile politician, Chief AbiolaMorakinyo, was never sighted near the polling booths, or even on the streets, that could probably have led to his arrest. Reports indicated that Chief AbiolaMorakinyo did not go beyond one beer parlour in Gbongan, from where he directed operations. On each occasion, the State commissioner representing the area ran back to the Governor’s Office, helpless; and raised her arms up before the military administrator, lamenting that: ‘’Brother Biola ma tuntigbaibe o; meaning ‘’Brother AbiolaMorakinyo has again had an edge!’’ There was no way anyone could have won Gbongan as at then, because Chief Morakinyo invested heavily in his people and area, while serving as theOyo State commissioner for Finance between 1979-1983. He really helped his people, spent his weekends in Gbongan, and threw his gates wide open to his constituents.
Chiefs AbiolaMorakinyo, Bisi Akande, and GunjuAdesakin went ahead to win seats for participation in the conference but refused to attend the summit. The government knew that if those elections held 20 times in those locations, it was simply impossible to defeat those people in their areas of influence. Consequently, there were no representatives for their areas. What is the lesson of this development? It is that politicians should be close to their people and be firmly entrenched. It also shows that people could still send strong signals without resorting to violence. And imposition of unpopular candidates for elective offices would always result into losses by political parties who field unpopular candidates. NADECOS combined their brilliance with strategic planning. On one occasion, a meeting was scheduled to hold in Ibadan with traditional rulers and some leaders of thought by Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya. Invitees were from the South West States. No one knew how people suspected to be NADECOS got across to Gen Diya that royal fathers never showed up (when in fact they were already seated) and the meeting slated for 10.00am should be postponed. At about 1.00pm one of the administrators succeeded in getting across to Diya who said they had been deceived. Gen. Diya had to hurry to Ibadan for the meeting that was almost aborted.
This development later proved costly as it taught the military some bitter lessons and the need to re-strategize for future elections. That must have accounted for the wave of disqualifications that characterized the Local Government elections of 1996, under the Zero Party system, that allowed people to contest without using the platforms of political parties. It is definitely a non-revolutionary civil disobedience, a phenomenon described by Harry Prosch (Apr 1967), as ‘’a simple disobedience of laws on the grounds that they are judged “wrong” by an individual conscience, or as part of an effort to render certain laws ineffective, to cause their repeal, or to exert pressure to get one’s political wishes on some other issue.’’