Oshiomhole’s tyranny of the tongue
By Festus Adedayo
Often times, especially at moments of political turmoil like this, Nigerian politicians easily mouth old-time saying that nothing on the surface of the earth is new; that the new is often a reincarnation of the old. So when on Tuesday last week, police laid siege to the home of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu as prelude to the bigger drama of 14 Senators and 34 members of the House of Representatives decamping from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that same day, two memorable events in Nigeria’s political calendar became a refrain on the lips of the politicians.
One was the 1965 political topsy-turvy in Western Nigeria. Leader of the region, Obafemi Awolowo, had been sent to jail in far-away Calabar prison and the all-powerful Action Group was in great disarray. Facing the hugest trial of his political career, especially after the spat with Dauda Soroye Adegbenro on who was the elected Premier, a case that went to the Privy Council, Ladoke Akintola, with thousands of his loyalists, jumped ship from the AG to the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP). It then went into alliance with the Northern Peoples Congress, (NPC) the party at the center. In the political melee, the rump of the AG in the Federal House of Representatives and the Senate also decamped into the National Government that had just been formed by the NPC and Members of the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) in the Central legislature. Thus, two main political blocs emerged – the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) which comprised the NPC and NNDP, as well as the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) which had the NCNC and the rump of AG.
The second was the upheaval which greeted the decamping of seven governors from the PDP to the APC in 2013. On August 31 of that year, Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur witnessed the first death throe of the party when seven of its governors, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Sule Lamido, Jigawa, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Kano; Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara; Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers and Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto State, 22 senators and 57 members of the House Representatives, led by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, declared a novel political party variant that they called the ‘New PDP’ under the chairmanship of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje. They later moved into the APC and as the cliché goes, the rest is history.
Much has been said about the dearth/death of ideology in Nigerian party politics, as well as its warlord nature which make it so easy for Nigerian politicians to bay blood in every of their political endeavours. This is why, whether it was 1965 Western Nigeria, 2013 decamping of governors et al and even now, there is a repetition of bile, blood, ego, self and cash in party politics culture in Nigeria. This brings to remembrance South African anti-apartheid writer, Alan Paton’s quip in his 1948 published novel, Cry, the beloved country where he said “The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again.” The common thread in all these lamentable episodes of history is that, like the boulders of the Greek Sisyphus, we roll our political tragedy down and uphill ad infinitum, an indication that no lesson has been learnt and no message is assimilated from the testaments of history.
Rather than acknowledge that the tsunami which swept the seven governors and national parliamentarians out of the PDP was symptomatic of an internal rot which needed to be dealt with at the roots, Tukur immediately went on a binge of self-righteousness. The governors and legislatures were paper weights who had been causing internal rift in the party and in fact, it was good riddance to them. PDP would win without them, he waffled, while labeling the decampees all manner of unflattering epithets. However, with the benefit of hindsight, this abandonment of ship by the governors was the first digger heaved into the earth in the process of digging the sepulcher of the then ruling party.
As if this in celebration of Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man and his evergreen retort that those who fail to learn from history are forced to relive it, ex-labour activist and former Edo State governor, the ever-flippant Adams Oshiomhole, is in the captaincy of the ruling party which was the beneficiary of that tsunami that swept political freebies ashore for his party, the APC to harvest. And now, the internal rot and mis-dynamics of the APC have led to 14 Senators and 34 Reps members and for now, a governor being swept off the ruling party. Rather than exhibit sobriety, a sense of history and abidance by history’s repetitive judgment, Oshiomhole is not only embracing British folklore hero, Mr. Chatterbox, celebrated for his indecorous flippancy; his nauseating arrogance and rankling self-righteousness are sure recipe for the APC going down that same infamous route of self-destruct which PDP travelled.
In less than one week, Oshiomhole has exhibited palpable intolerance for dissent with his tongue and has taken Nigerians down the lane that despots live, opening a window into the kind of government he possibly ran in Edo State. Former governor and minister, Chris Ngige and the lingering non-inauguration of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, (NSITF) was the first recipient of Oshiomhole’s blistering fang.
Charging in the market square like a venomous viper, the new-found party chair literally affixed the tag of a saboteur in government on the minister. Hear him: “If the minister refused, we will suspend him from the party. You know we must return to internal discipline. For me, it is the height of mischief for any minister, you cannot purport to be a honourable minister and you act dishonourably and nobody is greater than the party. If the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party… Nobody, I emphasize, no minister is above the party”
In his blind tyranny of the tongue, Oshiomhole did not reckon that he had publicly given official imprimatur to what Nigerians know of their President: that Buhari is as weak as Unoka in Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart. But why the APC Chair must count the stumpy hand of a nine-fingered Nigerian president in his very before, as they say, and get nil sanction is what still baffles the people. The only explanation is that Oshiomhole sees himself as the arrived Messiah of the APC and the party itself, sheepishly sees him as its only hope of redemption in party politics. But as in all Messiahnism, the self-held Messiah and his disciples often wake up from their delirium, lost. Yes, party supremacy is dominant in both the presidential and parliamentary systems of government but did any of the two systems give a party chairman the latitude to go to the market place and, without scruples, wash its dirty linen in public?
As if Oshiomhole needed gruff to advertise his arrival on the national political turf, he has been stomping about the whole place like a matador and shamelessly reversing himself in the process. In one breath, he said he would not lose sleep over Buba Galadima’s N-APC but in another breath, he said it was patriotism that was taking him to the homes of defecting party faithful at the dead of the night. Samuel Ortom, whom he begged not to leave the APC, is now good riddance upon leaving. To him, anyone who returns to the PDP from the APC had gone to sup on an earlier vomit, yet the so-called 2013 vomits of the PDP constitute the largest chunk of APC’s dinner today. Oshiomhole is too sold on his vacuous narrative that APC was home to the beatified, so much that his nose is apparently dead to the rebarbative stench proceeding from the party in government. Nor are his ears accommodative to the trending discourse that is common knowledge to Nigerians, to wit that, in spite of his Bamanga Tukur-like self-righteousness, the party in government today reeks badly of the same, or even worse, obnoxious smell which made the people reject the PDP at the polls in 2015.
Nigerians didn’t have to take a long, labyrinthine journey to discover that there is no difference between the APC and the PDP, unlike the Reverend Stephen Kumalo in Cry, the beloved country, who undertook a tortuous and laborious journey to the remote village of Ndotsheni, in the Eastern South African Natal province, Johannesburg, only to stumble on rots that are converses of his professed faith. Kumalo had been invited by a fellow minister of God to help his sister, Gertrude who had taken ill and in the hope of finding his son, Absalom who travelled to Johannesburg but who had not been found for years. To the eternal shock of Kumalo, he found out that Gertrude was now a prostitute and liquor seller and had had a young son out of wedlock. He also found out that his own son, son of a minister of God, had just come out of a term in a reformatory and was embroiled in a murder of a prominent white crusader for racial justice. This is akin to Nigerians’ find in the APC.
The way Oshiomhole prattles about magisterially, erecting crucifix for his own sinners and beatifying his saints, he would sooner be the pallbearer of an APC which, as it is now, needed an encore urgently and badly. No one needs to tell the people that among those who are decamping and where they are decamping, there is no interest of country therein but interest of self and family. Nigeria is such a remote configuration which doesn’t resonate with Nigerians. As such, whether it is Saraki and his National Assembly recruits or Oshiomhole and believers in his self-righteous epistemology, Nigeria or the mass of the people are far away from their permutations.
Lesson Osun needs to take from Sam Levenson
As usual, Osun State is in the news, this time not on account of its huge debt that will take generations to offset but its transitional politics. In the build-up to the September election, it is becoming clear that the state is fast assuming a scary typecast which it is not about to shed. Indeed, this is forcing many people to ask if the state is not under some kind of spell.
The news that, under the rubric of direct primary, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state muzzled out apparently more established and grassroots-propelled candidates out of the party, in preference for the governor’s Chief of Staff, Oyetola, a cousin of its national leader, Bola Tinubu was the first to colonize the stratosphere. The narrative is that, in deference to an unwritten code to support an Ebedi nationalism of Iragbiji and paving way for the return of a “son of the soil” to atone for and make propitiations for decades-old abandonment of an ancestral root, Oyetola had to be anointed by hook or crook.
Then came the other unsettling news of the emergence of the Dancing Senator, Ademola Adeleke as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate. As it was in Ekiti State of recent, huge cash was said to have been expended at the turf of the primary, as huge as N200,000 per elector. Two Money Miss Road contestants had locked horns, the dancer depending on a family war chest and the other commandeering cash from an assured vault. But the manifestations thereafter are the sickening tales from Adeleke’s past that have colonized the world’s attention. Not minding his parade of a school certificate that is redolent of failure and a degree certificate that has been declared dud by an American university, the PDP is said to have claimed that it would still stick to a man whose main credential is an orgy-like wild dancing which will make any sane man go into a giddy nausea.
Yorubaland had always held entertainers as dregs of society but Osun is on the verge of promoting same to the zenith of its power calculus. This Yoruba mindset has a corollary in Jewish pride of their nationalism. It reminds me of Sam Levenson, (December 28, 1911– August 27, 1980) a Jewish American humorist, writer, teacher, television host and journalist, who, at the start of a stand-up humor career, had gone to his mother to gleefully announce this detour. His mother, scandalized by this potential to drag the family name into disrepute, had asked somewhat uncoordinated, “My son, you stand and people laugh?” It is this scandalizing path that Osun is treading in anointing a potential stand-up dancer as its governor.
Now, the courts are said to be on the verge of deciding the eligibility of a man whose only claim to intellect has been defrosted through the nil certificates he parades. Someone close to him said Adeleke cannot even patiently read a newspaper and can barely strewn two logical arguments together in a row. My haunch is that the Milords would proclaim, as per the constitution, that the incoming Dancer-in-Chief is eligible. His family war chest would also tackle state-stolen funds that will spar with him. The already impoverished people will, at the polls, collect bits from both ends and the dancer or the surrogate of a thieving empire may well dance into Abere House. Osun people will however have a moral burden of two choicelessness on their hands for life. What will they tell their children’s children when they ask pertinent questions as to why they catapulted an incurable sybarite into the Government House?