By Sola Adeyeye
We need to elevate our contributions to political discourse beyond abusive polemics, snide remarks and derogatory insinuations. Obafemi Awolowo did admonish his followers to break no bones with words. The sagely avatar recognized that words could be more injurious than bludgeons.
Back in 1999, when the paternal pedigree of then Governor Tinubu was first made an issue, I wrote an article on naijanet arguing that unless Tinubu can be proven not to be a citizen of Nigeria, the issue of his paternity was a silly non sequitur.
Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton became President of the USA. Both had been raised by adopted fathers. Jesse Jackson, the most prominent African American political figure of the 1980s was raised by an adopted father.
I was not sure of the veracity of the issues being peddled. So, I canvassed that all what Tinubu needed to do was to own up to being adopted and shut up those maligning him with what to me were non-issues.
Since then, we had also been told that Akin Ambode, Leke Mamora and others who rose into prominent political positions in Lagos are not Lagosians. I am yet to meet a more diligent, more decent or more hardworking Nigerian in politics than Leke Mamora. But daft people take pleasures in chasing needless shadows.
One shadow now being chased by intellectually bereft busybodies is not the paternity of Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. Rather, the asinine issue under consideration within the retarded assembly of vacuous minds is the maternal pedigree of Gbadebo. In this instance, Gbadebo’s principal “offense” is having an Igbo mother! How low can some people sink?
During the early days of Naijanet, it was my tremendous pleasure to interact with Dayo Ogunyemi, then a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose internet domain served as home to Naijanet.
In those early days of the Internet, there were needless Igbo versus Yoruba frictions pertaining to the roles of Awolowo and Azikiwe in the political history of Nigeria. As brickbats flew across cyberspace, Dayo Ogunyemi displayed a wisdom that exceeded his age. In one of his interventions, he proclaimed himself a proud Yorigbo; 50% Yoruba, 50% Igbo but 100% Nigerian!
The elder sister of Dayo, Lola Ogunyemi, now a Professor at UCLA, was then a graduate student at Ivy League University of Pensylvania with Ifeoma Maduka, another razor-sharp Yorigbo.
Dayo, Lola and Ifeoma, apart from being superlatively brilliant are gentle in temperament, clean in apperance, confident in carriage and affable in persona. I pray that nobody will ever use biological pedigree against any of these three devoted Nigerian patriots.
And that is my sorrow about orchestated insinuations about Gbadebo Chinedu Rhodes-Vivour. One of his “offenses” was that he wore an Igbo attire to address a community of Igbos in Lagos as if his doing so meant his repudiation of his being a Yoruba!
Do Nigerian politicians not routinely wear attires that reflect those of wherever they are campaigning? How has this suddenly become an offense? Has Sanwoolu not attired himself in an apparel of the Igbos? Certainly, we must leave the ridiculous for the sublime.
Great countries thrive by sticking to their Constitution and rules. As such, Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant from Austria, was elected Governor of California, America’s most populous State. Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright both served superlatively as the USA Secretary of State. None of these three could aspire to the Presidency of the USA because of a constitutional requirement to be born in the USA.
By contrast, Barack Obama, a first generation American citizen, became the President of the USA. Being the son of an ethnic Luo, it is debatable whether he would not have faced insurmountable ethnic hostilities from the Kikuyus had he been raised in Kenya by his father rather than by being raised in the USA by his mother.
Currently, Rishi Sunak, a man of Indian ancestry, is the Prime Minister of the UK into whose Parliament ten persons of African ancestry have been elected in recent times. Somehow, Nigerians must exorcise the demons that ensnare us in atavistic tendencies.
Finally, Let me state that I belong to the APC. However, my INEC registration was in Ọ̀ṣun State. As such, I cannot vote for either Sanwoolu or Rhodes-Vivour. Lagosians should, in good conscience, canvass for or against any candidate. But let it not be by mischievously invoking divisive issues of ethnicity.
Best wishes to all candidates, especially those of my party!