By Deji Fasuan
Chief Akin Omoboriowo, one of the most colourful and discussed politicians in the last three to four decades has passed on. But his reputation – in whatever form you view it, lingers. By far the most demonised of Southwest politicians (apart Garrison Commander Adedibu), Omoboriowo bowed out, still a controversial figure. Beside the label of betrayal which his trauducers have stubbornly attached to him, Omoboriowo was a bundle of humanity. His trait as a party loyalist (indeed fanatics), was the sources of his seeming double personality, hence odious perception. Infact Omoboriowo was a decent, forthright and considerate human specie. His fault, if it was, lay in his origins and beliefs.
Let me start with some fundamentals. The man grew up in an environment and among associates who elevated loyalty to a course or a boss to the level of religion. See through the list. Oga Sam (Aluko), Agunbiade Bamise, Prof David Oke, Prof Banji Akintoye, Ayo Fasanmi, Chief Joel Babatola, Chief Falodun, Ade Akilaya. All these great faithful are of Ekiti Origin. In the discipleships (not hierarchy) of the Action Group – and its successor political organisations, only Wunmi Adegbonmire (Omo Ekun) from Akure can match the level of religions devotion and commitment these Ekiti men had for Chief Obafemi Awolowo. These eight men and of course Akin Omoboriowo are miles ahead of the Ajayis, the Adebanjos, the Onabanjos, the Otebanjos of this world in relation of their followership or discipleship, but not necessarily in hierarchy as has been noted above. Let us admit one fact. Omoboriowo did not earn public opprobrium until the events of 1980-83 in Ondo State. When the UPN big wigs in their wisdom gave the impression that Ajasin would run one term as governor to be succeeded by Omoboriowo for the second stanze, it was an unfair treatment for Ajasin who was being denied his right. Curiously, nobody in the UPN hierarchy believed in this concoction – except Awolowo and Omoboriowo. As Wole Soyinka would say, this was ‘pathetic naivety’.
As from the second year of the Ajasin administration, the ‘Omoboriowo Group’ began to emerge – both in the Assembly and the state as a whole. This was an unnecessary distraction to the government, but it was doubtful whether Awolowo or Omoboriowo perceived it that way.
The situation was almost balanced between the Awolowo/Omoboriwo forces and the Ajasin forces in terms of numbers and level of commitments. Indeed it was doubtful whether Chief Awolowo saw any imminent turmoil. He was free with and confident of his long life associate Governor Ajasin, while he was always reassured of the followership/discipleship of his Ondo State ‘Baba Kekere’ . As it turned out, the two perceptions were not ad idem.
Slowly the centrifugal forces were giving way. In Ondo State, the two camps became distinct and apparent in all legislative and political matters. Omoboriowo garnered his support from Ekiti and Ilaje – Eseodo mainly, with sprinkles from Akoko. Of course Ajasin’s foot soldiers were strong, determined, intellectually based and would give no quarters. Remember Adegbonmire, Adegoke, Adedipe, Akintoye, David Oke et al?
Then the UPN primary. Some primaries! The most charitable thing one could say is that it was inconclusive. In today’s political lexicon, it was manipulated – and Omoboriowo was declared the looser. – And hell broke. Not the physical combat yet. That was still months off. Tragically, Akin Omoboriowo got paid back at the primaries when his trusted agent took his pound of flesh as a reprisal for an earlier political maneuvering between the two.
Then suddenly Omoboriowo became the beautiful bride who many political organisations courted. He finally succumbed to the NPN – the arch – enemy of the ‘progressives’ of the West. The subsequent election and the declaration of the results by FEDECO signaled the beginning of what the Ekitis in old Ondo State called the ‘Holocaust’. Some Ekiti and Akure indigenes were killed, houses belonging to Ekiti public and private persons destroyed and most known Ekitis chased out. For us in Ekiti it was the beginning of the beginning. First some people have not yet outlived the trauma, second, the job of convincing some doubting Ekiti indigenes of the need for a separate political entity became easier.
Looking back still baffles the imagination why Chief Awolowo deserted Omoboriowo and opted for his grand ally Chief Ajasin. Also one wonders why Omoboriwo and his close political associates could not wait for Ajasin to complete two terms as chief executive of the state after which he most probably would have been presented the prize on a platter. In a haze of madness the Ekitis, Akures, and Akokos who are culturally connected took on themselves and almost succeeded in destroying centuries – old affinity.
Akin Omoboriowo in his twilight made his peace with men and his God. He said often that he had forgiven his detractors – and I believed him. He had a stout heart. He was affable to his friends and preached peace, peace most of his later life. May he rest in peace.
• Fasuan JP, Chairman Committee for the creation of Ekiti State.
Source: The Nation