Fayemi and the Usual Suspects:
The evil that walked the rugged landscapes of Ekiti was not Segun Oni. The evil was a brand of regressive political system that President Obasanjo promoted since 2003. The guy was said to be a gentleman, Segun Oni, personable and humane, but so was Chris Ngige, who, however, would get an Abiku redemption, partly because of the public outrage that attended his mauling by Uba and co, and partly because he put up a fight at least. No matter that his was a tarnished courage: admitting to the knowledge that election which brought him to power was rigged before that Pilate who sought no water to wash his own hands off the dubious deal, Ngige should have resigned. But then man must chop. He could now be seen in the fold of ‘the progressives’, popping champagne to celebrate a well deserved victory of Dr. Fayemi. But I still don’t get it, what is the difference between Segun Oni’s ouster and Ngige’s?
‘Progressive’ as a political platform is quite movable in our definition here. You see, Ayo Arise, that implacable political mugger and the deposed governor, Segun Oni, and (horror! horror!) Gbenga Daniel, the Oloogun of Ogun State, had rubbed shoulders with Tinubu, Bola Ige and Bisi Akande during the giddy days of AD. And regally allocated a pride of place on the podium, as newly sworn in governor Fayemi addressed his supporters, was that Ajantala, Ayo Fayose, the juvenile ex-governor of Ekiti whose ridiculous sense of governance as drama and deception, outraged no less a grand reprobate than the ex- president Obasanjo. I have said it repeatedly that the success of Tinubu in politics was partly because he played his politics as fiercely as the PDP hawks, marching them fire for fire, and partly because he was able to convince his publics that his own brand of politics was better and, well, progressive. But he was a progressive with tenacity of a fascist, Tinubu, quite unlike Bisi Akande, Segun Osoba, Lam Adesina and so on in the 2003 opposition as the remaining of South west lay, another Troy, after the plunder of Obasanjo’s ruthless guile.
The Politics of Progressivism:
Progressivism in Nigerian political practice has an untidy and vague character: a long, dishearteningly ambivalent history. From the days of Awolowo and Zik, Tafawa Balewa and Okpara.- the horse trading in the first republic parliament, the peculiar mess of the south west and its causative mega egos, then the making and unraveling of certain cult personalities. The concept of ‘a little to the left, a little to the right’ that defined the political calculation during Babangida’s transitional travesty also problematised such neat categorisation. In a more familiar milieu, to people of my generation at least, we have seen people like Bola Ige, Tinubu, Buhari, Shekarau and Bisi Akande provide a kind of alternative force- a fierce and committed front of resistance- against the rampage of the ruling party in the country, but they have had to walk with most strange bed fellows sometimes. Even Abubakar Atiku, as a victimized VP, was briefly a poster boy for the ‘progressives’ during those days when he kept winning one lawsuit after the other against his overbearing principal, OBJ. In Ekiti, Fayose is such character. Well, the progressives could use the chap’s seeming grass root popularity, his dodgy antecedents in governance notwithstanding. It is almost as if you fall out of favour with the ruling elite, you are automatically accepted and investitured a progressive.
Saraki and Five-Decade Old Confidence:
The quiet but certain storm gathering on Kwara sky is not without its antecedent mythology. But the demystification of Chief Sola Saraki can only be half-achieved if the ‘progressives’ band together against Oloye’s ravenous but beneficent dictatorship. Pardon my oxymoron, it is just that a lot of Kwarans- I mean ordinary men and women, not the amphibious and largely diasporic elite, may readily describe Sola Saraki a progressive leader. It is a matter of perception .But the so called progressives (read elite) of Kwara will never rally on a common front. They always play disruptive loyalty to a common cause. I bet some of the emerging contenders for Kwara Government House come 2011 might even be paid to split the ranks of the opposition. The old man knew this as he threw jabs at the opponents during the formal declaration of his daughter, Senator Gbemi Saraki, a candidate in the next governorship election in Kwara. His was a five-decade old confidence, a knowledge of the other that the other might not even have of their own position.
The Real Progressives:
Personally, I award the medal of ‘progressive’ politics to the spirit of the people of Kano and Lagos states in 2003 and 2009 who have braved all odds to ensure their votes matter in electing their political representation.
Of Brigandage and Demagoguery:
Parenthetically, however, what actually troubles me is the lack of creativity among the new crop of political actors, quite unlike their Pentecostal clergy buddies. We are being short changed on two fronts: these guys refuse to delight us through precarious but entertaining demagoguery of politicking, yet deny us development value of democracy. They do not serve us juicy histrionics, ala Adelabu , to make us give them the due of having at least ‘worked’ for the spoils. Neither do they weave elaborate webs of guile through practiced charm and gift of garb or through real and vibrant grassroots’ irruptions ala Saraki. These are the qualities that defined the political practices of older times. The endearing gravitas and charisma of the stormy petrel of South West, Adegoke Adelabu for instance or the ironic lyricism of SLA Akintola’s oratory or even the corrosive colourfulness of Okotie Eboh. What about the structural socialist attitude of Sola Saraki in Kwara. Adedibu’s welfarist tyranny would have come to mind here, if not for the notorious garrison commander role he ended his political life with.
But the new crop of politicians since 1999 is an irreverent lot- brash, brazen, rash and irresponsible. They simply force their way to power, through elaborate system of distortions and terror. They do not canvass your vote; the campaigning is just a celebration of victory. They are so insensibly corrupt that IBB points at them to play down his own mega sleaze! Was he correct or was he? Check out the macabre dances in the House of Assembly. Not only that they do not want to play politics through gradual connection to the constituent interests, not only that they see the patronage of the Godfather as highly modern and politically correct, they also see public service as a direct opposite of politics, almost a taboo converse. Well, I know, like all of us now, they are a by-product of military incursion into politics, that is, when they were not indeed the military. I could almost Imagine David Mark or Oyinlola barking ‘move, move, double up’ to his infantry of thugs during electoral rampage.
Now these famous (or infamous depending on who you are) names I mentioned above – Saraki, Adelabu, and probably Adedibu, are some of the best minds of their generations. They are counted in the league of the great politicians like like Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano or Alex Ekwueme, Adesanya, Enahoro, Adebanjo and so on, no matter how you see them. But more importantly, in my mind, those guys typify the real demagogues, imbued with trickster unsettling tendencies for systemic disruptiveness. You detest the plan but adore the mind; you abominate the politics but salute the strategy and argument. And that exactly is my point, my allegation against the Iboris and the Alams, the Oyinlolas and Daniels.
It isn’t easy to capture public imagination let alone a fair chunk of the people’s loyalty. I recall that the late Dadakuada crooner, Odolaye Aremu, while singing the praise of Adedibu, said Adedibu was literally half of Ibadan. And this was the time before garrison politics of Ahmadu Ali and OBJ, a time when the former Awo’s follower commanded a large followership in political decision in Oyo state. So if Adedibu was half of Ibadan, all he needed practically was only one head, a sole accomplice, to become the majority! Same Odoolaye Aremun once said of Olusola Saraki that he was like the sole raining season in Kwara, which permeated with relief.
Fayose and Alao Akala nearly typified this tendency towards emotive populism among the new guard of the south west. Giving the way Fayose captured public imagination of the highly sophisticated electorate of Ekiti, his undoing was his unbridled immaturity, lack of common sense and tacky combativeness. Akala, on the other hand, has always been a grassroots man, even before he ventured into politics; he’s an avatar of sorts (believe it or not) in his Ogbomoso north constituency, a place where his limited talent and education would have continued to loom large if he had been wiser and stayed in there. Now he has to contend with the idiotic smugness of largely sybaritic elite of Ibadan whose ‘non-Ibadan indigene’ credo negates even the constitution of the city’s monarchical democracy. Good thing, the other two near- demagogues in Ibadan, Dr. Victor Olunloyo and Richard Akinjide can see through the smokescreen of their less talented compatriots of the ancient city. But they can help Akala get better by goading him into assembling a cabinet of young and visionary professional to run his policies, like in Lagos- an almost impossible feat, I know, given the man’s bucolic and visceral bombast.
A Big Man with Two Houses!
These are moot points, again. But I refer you to Kwara one more time. Pardon my blooper, I know Kwara isn’t supposed to be in South West but it’s just that it really is, forget the dodgy political permutations. So chief Sola Saraki, knowing full well that the constitution of Kwaran society, highly patriarchal and supremely Islamic, will have a problem accepting the candidature of her daughter, Senator Gbemi Saraki, informed the people that he did not request for her to be turbaned as the Chief Imam. He, he reminded them, who famously owns only two houses in all his almost sixty years in politics and public service, did not want the hungry horde to erode his son’s achievement in the state. His chief wish for them was to bequeath vital continuity governance in which the sister would build on the achievements of her brother. Oloye often speaks to his folks like a leader who recognizes the servitude of his position. And two houses for the ‘whole’ Saraki in this era of Cecilia Ibru, of Ibori, of David Mark, of Obasanjo! Sad though that the senator, in her pursuit of history as the first female governor in Nigeria, might not stand up to the competition on her own legs. Needless to say at the end of that declaration fiesta, old palms were greased and new ones motivated. The crowd unleashed into the traffic that evening was hugely joyous.