The travails of Yewa in the determination of leadership in Ogun State

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A chance meeting with four top Nigerian journalists in Lagos recently woke up my instinct and gave truth to the axiom that ‘A good defense is the best offense’ I had to painfully explain to them that the people of Yewa are historically and culturally distinct from our Egba neighbor. Also, in the cause of just one month, I have had to do that severally and to so many people from all walks of life and diverse Origins who are very interested in Ogun politics and who had been sold the lie that Egbado is one and same as Egba.  Most of these people are resident in Ogun State, even though some are not citizens. And as a matter of fact most, Ijebu and Remo people l spoke with believed the false narrative until they were told the truth, which is why the record must be put straight and therefore the main reason for this article.

The vex issue is an on-going narrative by some politicians from Ogun East senatorial district, who because of crass ambition devised a means of un-chaining themselves from hearing the constant ‘Moral bell’ sound in their conscience. They posit that Egba and Egbado are one and same and that Senator Ibikunle Amosun had stolen our chance of becoming the governor in 2019. They canvass that it is now the turn of the Ijebu to govern the State.

Historically Speaking, 1634 was the period traceable to Yewa people’s first settlement at Ibara. Indeed, in an interview granted the Olubara, Oba Jacob Olufemi Omolade (Lafa 11) in the Tribune Newspapers of May 27, 2017, the erstwhile permanent secretary in the service of Lagos State government said “Before 1830, Ifa told the people of Ibara that strangers will be coming. When they (Egba) came in 1830, the people of lbara were very cooperative. Oba Lafa was one of those who received them”. He went further to explain that, “We have Onisaga, Omala, Elewu, and Onijale (in Egba Traditional Council). These are Obas belonging to the Yewa group of people. They are not Egba in whatever form. Our languages are different from theirs. Our chieftaincy hierarchy and organization are different from theirs. Even the Remo people are different from Ijebus; they say they came from Ife and you can still see their relics in Ife. Whereas, the Awujale said the Ijebus came from Wadai!!

Readers of this article may also be interested in documented historical facts as well. In the 19th century, after the Egbas have fully settled, there were brutal and deadly invasions of Yewaland from all sides. The ancient Dahomey attacked from the west and the emergent Egba state from the East. Eventually individual communities now named Yewa approached the British in Lagos for protection. The British with superior fire-power agreed. They set their terms and wrote series of protectorate treaties beginning with Igbesa in 1888. By 1892, the Ilaro community also sought and signed a protectorate agreement with the British after Olurin and other valiant men were shot dead by Superior fire power during one of  Abudu invasions. Incidentally, Oba Olugbenle was on the throne in Ilaro in that year.

As the raid went north wards, the people of Imeko also soughted and signed a protectorate treaty with the British in 1893. By 1894, the entire Yewaland was drawn together under the British Protectorate and named Badagry Division.

Afterwards British traveling Commissioners moved up north and set up their headquarters in Imeko, the whole Yewa land was again renamed Imeko District purely for administrative purposes in 1910. Again in the wake of the Amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorate of Nigeria, the British moved to Ilaro for reasons of her centrality and the whole Yewa land became Ilaro District in 1914.

The 1914 Amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorate forced the internal territorial administrative restructuring of the newly amalgamated territory into provinces of which Abeokuta province,  Ijebu and Oyo provinces and others were created in 1914.

Meanwhile, the provinces in the present Ogun were administered in two constituent units named divisions. From that we have Ilaro Division headquartered at Oke Oyinbo in Ilaro with the Divisional Administrative officer (D.O). The Egba division was also headquartered in Ake in Abeokuta.

However, the divisional offices (DO’s) were co-ordinated at the provincial level by their Commissioner whose residence and offices were located in Oke-Igbein, in Abeokuta where we now have the state house.The same system applied to Oyo and ljebu provinces. How then can some people use the issue of Provinces and Divisions to insist that Yewa people and Egbas are one and same.

It is on record that without any form of consultations and regards to the multicultural and the multi-locality of many groups in the area, Ilaro division was renamed Egbado thereby creating a huge misconception that the various people living to the west of Nigerian boarder are appendages to the Egbas. Thus, after many years of structural marginalization in the State, a group of men of thought and the leading lights formed Yewa-Think-Thank to be led by Professor Biyi Afonja, Dr. S.A.J. Ibikunle, being the foundation Chairman and Secretary respectively and other notables like Dr. Hezekial Oludare Idowu, late professor Afolabi Olabintan, Professor Anthony Asiwaju and many other brilliant Scholars who came together and searched for ways to cure the appendage malaise.

After a lot of work, the Yewa think-thank and other patriotic groups came up with the name Yewa. Yewa is the name of the river that connects most of the constituent ethnic groups in the area formally called ‘Egbado’ The river rises from the highlands of north-west of Imeko and runs through the lands of other ethnic and sub-ethnic groups like Sabe, Ketu, Ohori, Ifonyin Anago, Awori and Ogu (Egun) (See the book Border regions in the Africa by Prof. Asiwaju).

The consequences of the ill-coined name ‘Egbado’ was gravely. It gave rise to structural marginalization in the area of infrastructures like road, schools, hospitals, government appointments and government contracts. At a point, out of the 21 permanent secretaries in Ogun State government only 3 were from Ogun west senatorial Districts. As at now, and of the 30, we have only 6. Same with principals, judges and magistrates and in so many other areas. If you look at the House of Assembly, out of the 26 members, only 7 are from Ogun West. All these injustices had always been there from the very time they coined the name Egbado and up until now, we were generally referred to as minorities. That means whatever is coming from the federal government is divided between the Egba’s and Ijebus. More so, political appointments; whereas as recent as 2015, Ogun central has 39% of registered voters, Ogun west has 33% while Ogun East has 29%. Yet when we vote them into power they step up the marginalization to suppress us as a people by firstly dividing us because we are heterogeneous (Multi-ethnic) rather them homogenous (Mono-ethnic).

It is for this reason and many others that penultimate 24th day of November 1994, all the Yewa Obas and leaders of thoughts, Associations and Clubs and the general public came together to unanimously approve the change of name from ‘Egbado land’ to ‘Yewa land’ Thereafter, legal notice was sent to the military Administrator of Ogun State, LT colonel Daniel Akintonde. Consequent upon this document, Ogun State Government by her Authority caused a GAZETTE to be published at No. 51, Volume 22 of 18th December 1997 saying in part that: “Whereas the conference of Egbado Obas resolved overwhelmingly on the 24th of November that the area now referred to as Egbado to be renamed ‘YEWA” — Now, Notice is hereby given to the general public that the military Administrator in-council has on the 10th Day of December, 1997 approved the change in the name formally known as Egbado in Ogun State to be Known as YEWA”

Meanwhile when the presidential system of government was introduced in Nigeria and the constitution came into effect on October 1st 1979, six geopolitical zones were also created and each state was divided into 3 Senatorial districts. These are purely for representational and administrative reasons. Each Senatorial district is mandated to produce a senator and three members of House of Representatives each. Were it not that these are constitutional matters, no National Assembly member would have come from the people of Ogun West.

To buttress that point, the other districts had produced two governors each. Whereas in 42 years no single governor was allowed to come from the west. Even during the life time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the much respected sage, the decision of the then Unity Party of Nigeria was conspiratorial against the Yewa people. How? At the point of primary election that eventually produced Chief Bisi Onabanjo, 20 delegates were allocated to Egba and Ijebu while only 10 was allocated to Yewa. Nobody had been able to give a specific reason for that up till today. Methinks its systemic subjugation. It is more interesting when you understand that a potent weapon against Yewa was to deny them Juicy government contracts. Till date, no Yewa indigene has been given any type of contract worth N100 Million at a go. How can they be rich and tackle the rich in elections?

Going forward, the conspiracy against Yewa in 2019 is now very glaring. The two major political parties in the State had surreptitiously zoned the governorship position to Ogun East without any credible primary elections. But this time, they will fall and fail. Alliance for Democracy (AD) and African Democratic Congress, had seen it fit to allow our sons to use their platforms to contest the 2019 governorship election. I am confident that with the level of sensitivity and emotional intelligence of our teeming youths, both parties APC and PDP are going to be disgraced for taking our district for granted.

The youths are charged. A revolution of youths installing youths in government will start from the Gateway State in 2019 and spread across the nation eventually. This is prophetic. There is going to be a shaken in Ogun State in 2019. Billions of Naira will not be able to contain it as youths from all the 3 districts are fed up with “godfatherism”. They are bullish that it is time for great ideas to flourish and not dictations to impoverish them. It is an open secret that most parties are owned by some individuals. That is why they use all subterfuge to suppress freedom and therefore govern according to their whims and caprices

Clearly from these facts, the proponents of fake narratives are very economic with truth and have moral lapses. Therefore to finally crush the 42 years injustices, Yewa people must determine to put their vote behind their sons alone. They must liaise with their friends, relatives, in-laws, colleagues and associates in the other two districts to vote injustice and impunities out, and stop selfish and poisoned narratives once and for all times.

Pst Olusegun Oyero Olurin is the National Co-ordinator of Yewa-Awori Freedom Movement

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