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Opinion: Why Baba Omojola abandoned the Anglican Church to face Ifa religion -by Jubrin Ibrahim

November 19, 2013

Just before being called to the Bar, he participated in a demonstration against apartheid and was convicted for destroying public property. On appeal, the judge asked him to apologise so that the conviction will be overturned and he could be called to the Bar and he refused to apologise for engaging in the battle against apartheid. That was the end of his legal career.

This weekend was the burial of our dear Comrade BABA Oluwide Omojola who died on October 19th at the age of 75. His demise in Akure occurred the morning after he addressed the Presidential Advisory Committee on the National Conference. Baba was to me a mentor, teacher, comrade and friend over the past 37 years. I first met him during my student days at Ahmadu Bello University. As a student member of the socialist movement, I attended the Jos meeting of the Movement for Popular Democracy in Nigeria (MPD) in 1976 and Baba as MPD secretary took it upon himself to train and nurture me into the movement.

Baba was central to creating traction on the war against military rule by the active role he played in organizing the National Symposia on Major National Issues, which took place in the University of Lagos in 1973, in Bayero University Kano in 1974 and in Benin in 1976. These symposia developed the 1974 Nigerian People’s Manifesto, which defined a broad agenda for all progressive forces to come together on the joint platform of ending military rule and promoting a regime of human rights.

Baba graduated with a set a 1st Class Degree in Economics from the London School of Economics in 1961. What is less well known was that he completed his law degree at the Inner Temple of England 1962. Just before being called to the Bar, he participated in a demonstration against apartheid and was convicted for destroying public property. On appeal, the judge asked him to apologise so that the conviction will be overturned and he could be called to the Bar and he refused to apologise for engaging in the battle against apartheid. That was the end of his legal career.

He went on to the Central School of Planning and Statistics, Poland (1969 – 70) and returned to Nigeria to establish Econsultants, an economic consultancy group originally based in Kano. From his base in Fagge, he linked up with Tanko Yakasai and was the brain behind the exceptional achievements of the Audu Bako regime in Kano in designing the Tiga dam and developing the infrastructure for an irrigation system capable of transforming the agriculture of the state. He also worked on the design of new industrial estates for Kano. His residence in Kano was a major happening place for social and political events in Kano.

Baba was also engaged with the African liberation struggles in Algeria, Congo-Zaire and Southern Africa. He was above all a key, often silent organizing leader and strategist in the Nigerian social movement – the Symposium on Major National Issues in 1974-1976, the Movement for Popular Democracy in Nigeria (MPD) from 1976, People’s Redemption Party (PRP), Socialist Revolutionary Vanguard (SRV), National Consultative Forum NCF (that organised the 1990 National Conference that was aborted by the IBB dictatorship), Campaign for Democracy (CD), National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Socialist Conferences in Nigeria between 1960s – 2000s, All-Nigerian Socialist Alliance (ANSA), Pro-National Conference Organisations (PRONACO), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), June 12 Movement, etc. Wherever you find struggle, you will find Baba.

During the 1964 General Strike, he was political secretary to Nigeria’s Labour Leader No. One,  Michael Imoudu, and had access to Imoudu’s archives which he used to publish the authoritative biography – Part 1 of the Imoudu Biography – a Political History of Nigeria 1939 – 50. He was also engaged with the Agbekoya Peasant’s Revolt of 1968/69.

Baba worked with the entire first and second generations of radical leaders including Michael Imoudu, Wahab Goodluck, Dapo Fatogun, Eskor Toyo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Aminu Kano, Obafemi Awolowo, Gambo Sawaba, S.G. Ikoku, Mokwugo Okoye, Anthony Enahoro, Alao Aka-Bashorun, M.E. Kolagbodi, Ola-Oni, Balarabe Musa, Abubakar Rimi, General K. K. M. Kassonghov, Abayomi Ferreira, M.T. Akobo, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Alfred Ilenre, Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome-Kuti and so on.

On the political front, I drew apart from Baba after the thrust of his politics turned to the issue of reconstituting the Nigerian state on the basis of ethnic nationalities. He was an active organiser of the the launching on 5th December 1992 under the leadership of Anthony Enaharo, Mokwugo Okoye and Olu Onagoruwa of the Movement for National Reformation in Benin to work for a new constitution based on Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities. The foundation document of the Movement proposed restructuring Nigeria into eight ethnic federations, which I disagreed with. Following the 1998 Conference by the Campaign for Democracy (CD) on Ethnic Nationalities, Baba, Akin Fadahunsi, Beko Ransome-Kuti and I debated extensively the wisdom of recreating a Nigeria based on ethnic nationalities and I disagreed with their approach.

I believed, and still do, that countries established on the basis of ethnic nationalities such as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia were doomed to destruction. After years of debate, Baba, Akin and Beko cut off from our organisation, the Citizen’s Forum for Constitutional Reform and merged with the National Reformation Movement and they eventually transformed into the People’s National Conference (PRONACO), which proposed a draft Constitution for Nigeria in 2006 based on essentially the same principles.

They proposed 18 ethnic nationality regions as Nigeria’s federating units. In my view, the proposal for ethnic nationality based federalism is contestable on many grounds. It is very difficult, if not impossible to build a workable federation on ethnic grounds. There are over four hundred ethnic groups in the country with varying populations ranging from a few thousand to dozens of millions. Historically, political building blocks in Nigerian history have been territorial rather than ethnic. Pre-colonial states among the Hausa and Yoruba have been territorial, not ethnic, and this tendency continues in the colonial and postcolonial era. It appears difficult to draw back the clock today and start reinventing ethnic political entities. The fact that ethno-regionalism has been recognised for long as a problem in Nigeria does not make ethnic entities are the solution.

In spite of our political differences, Baba remained a very close friend and had called me in August to insist I be at his 75th birthday celebration. Unfortunately, I was out of the country at the time and was unable to make it. Baba defined himself as a humanist and was a very generous man and trained so many people who he considered all his children. I had occasion to tell him that too many hangers on come to exploit his generosity and his response is that his “children” cannot be hangers on. In any case, he told me, his own father, Canon Ajibola did exactly the same thing so it’s a trait in his genes. I was at Canon Ajibola’s burial ceremony and was surprised to find out that Baba’s father was a priest of the Anglican Communion and was Canon Emeritus of the Ibadan Diocese.

Baba lived as a rebel and died as one having abandoned the Anglican Communion, where he had learned to be a dextrous player of the piano, and returned to the Ifa religion under whose rites he was buried. Congratulations to his first son, Akinola, who insisted that his father’s testament must be respected. To his wife, Dr. Iyabode Cole-Ajibola and the children, Eyinade, Akinola, Morenike, Kayode, Yetunde, Tayo, Babajide, Wale, Abiodun and all of us, Baba lived a life of struggle and service and we are grateful that he touched our lives and so many other lives.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

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