In the last few weeks or so, the blood pressure of Nigeria must have risen tremendously. Though it is a quadrennial affair, this year’s ritual of ascendancy to political offices by Nigerian politicians has generated so many flakes. As usual, the fever of politics has caught every Nigerian, irrespective of their profession. Bankers, journalists, lawyers, doctors etc. are interested in who is vying for what election at the local, state and national level. This is a time when it dawns on all Nigerians that we are all political animals, irrespective of our persuasions, as theorized by political scientists. Perhaps what we are gradually but grippingly realizing is the statement by late Jamaican reggae musician, Peter Tosh that though we are not politicians, we suffer the consequences of politics largely.
Today, in virtually all the nooks of Nigeria, there is so much horse trading and wheeler-dealer approach to politics among politicians. In the political parties, there is a huge rat race for offices that is not likely to be replicable in any country of the world. As usual, the highly advertised dirtiness of Nigerian politics is massively on display. Backstabbing, treachery, political corruption, lack of democracy in political party administration, perception of politicking as war by other means, occultism and all manner of unpleasant indices are being thrown up by Nigerian politicians. It is becoming clear to all and sundry that there is no iota of difference between one politician and another, as well as one Nigerian political party and the other. While the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was felt to be the highest gauge of irresponsible politicking under Goodluck Jonathan, the All Progressives Congress (APC) under Muhammadu Buhari, on which many reposed hope of redemption of political values, has shown that it is no less rebarbative. It so bad that Nigerian politicians think that politics is in constant enmity with morality, so much that they have thrown decency to the dogs and the dogs, unable to contain the stench, threw it to the swine.
Those who are sufficiently alarmed about how the worst of us are ruling over the best of us and offered themselves for the redemption by engaging in politics, are suffering bruised noses and beating a retreat. It became obvious to this set of people that you cannot fight the pig in the piggery without being dressed in its robe of dirt. Those who remain in the pigsty with the politicians have become even worse than the politicians and the system they sought to change, apparently due to their education and exposure. Now, the politicians and those who tried to redeem the system are having a field day. So what is the way out? Are we going to continue to endure our politicians and Nigerian politics? Should we fold our arms and allow politicians continue to mess up our country?
On Friday last week, some Akure, Ondo State sons and daughters, under the aegis of the Ooye Develepment Initiative (ODI), as part of the celebration of the traditional annual leave period of our monarch, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi, Odundun 11, named Ulefunta, decided to bring that ecumenical spirit, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, to the ancient city of Akure. His brief was to speak to one of the contemporary Nigerian socio-political menaces of our time in a public lecture he couched as Building blocks of a good society. In the course of theorizing on the mess that is Nigeria, Kukah could not but dwell on the way out of the gangster politics that is all over the place in Nigeria today and how politicians have held the country to ransom.
In spite of the highly touted dull disposition of Nigerians to anything of the intellect, the hall of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) was full to the brim. Kukah’s public discourse intervention pedigree had preceded him to the event. Afenifere leader, 92-year old Reuben Fasoranti, in spite of his advanced age, walked into the hall; Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof Adeola Fuwape wouldn’t want to be left behind; so also the man for whom the lecture was delivered, the Deji of Akure himself, as well as his chiefs.
Then Kukah began. Perhaps what marks him out among other contemporary interventionists in the art of public discourse is the rich repertoire of anecdotes, personal experiences and life stories that he churns out with admirable relish. He turned sideways and beheld on the high table the famous Christian from a tiny Ogbese village in Akure who is a professor of Arabic Language literature, ex-Professor of English at the University of the Western Cape and Department of Drama at Stellenbosch University, South Africa – Kole Omotoso – one whom Nelson Mandela once said was more popular than him in South Africa, and shook his head. If Nigeria were a sensible country, Kukah said, Omotoso should be the country’s ambassador to South Africa, if only to interface between the country and her issues with MTN. Ghanaians are cleverer, Kukah reasoned. Alhaji Rashid Bawa, Ghanaian High Commissioner to the country grew up in Katsina State and speaks Hausa fluently. His Deputy also grew up in Talata Mafara, Sokoto State and if you get to the High Commission, you would feel at home as if you were in a Hausa town.
Humble to a fault, Kukah told everyone that he was a beneficiary of an unearned grace. For instance, he was later to say, he hails from the Zango Kataf area of Kaduna State and even of a minority tribe in the area who was privileged by providence to sit at table with virtually all Heads of State of Nigeria, except the draconian Sani Abacha. “Each of the presidents from (Shehu) Shagari to President Muhammadu Buhari is a decent Nigerian. So where is the problem?” he aked and said further, “I am a Bishop across borders,” who “will probably go mad if I don’t have an avenue to express myself.”
Kukah submitted that politics in Nigeria is glorified banditry and that Nigerian politics cannot but be consumed by violence because violence is in its DNA. He apparently had in mind the gradual realization by all and sundry that in politics and political offices is the passport to unmerited wealth and unearned fake honour that Nigerian “big men” parade. “If we are looking for who will change our society, we must leave examples; the salvation of Nigeria won’t come from politicians. Yes we can build a society that is good but for that to happen, we must be prepared to make the sacrifices that are needed,” he said.
“The nature of our expectation and capacity to deliver on them vary. All of us are complicit. We have no agreement on free and fair elections. If our brother is the beneficiary of an election, even when it is conducted with shedding of blood, it is free and fair. We as a people are not as innocent as we make it look. We have outsourced our responsibility to God and we are complicit because despite the politicians’ inability to change our lives, we are still voting them. We used to have a sense of shame as a people but today, we have moderated the sense of shame to accommodate our own inability. Politics will not solve our problem because it is not designed to solve the problem. We have a society in which we are all complicit. I don’t know of any country where people will steal from their country to go and educate their children elsewhere like Nigeria. The society has stopped thinking. We think only politics can solve our problem and not the intellect,” he said.
Kukah submitted that “the way out is that we need to begin to reward those who are doing well and punish those who do evil.” In his reading, “Nigeria evidences a country that is either not thinking or is not prepared for development.” He cited the case of implosion of population and how the country’s leaders stand akimbo and unconcerned as a measurement of a leadership that does not understand how to build a good society nor is bothered by any need for such. He also cited the relativity concept that underpins the Nigerian society. “Everything in Nigeria is relative, everything depends. How do our children get admission into university? It depends. The reason this country is failing is that there are no goal posts; if you enter university, it is not about your qualification but relative to the people you know,” he said.
Then he got to the critical crossroads of proffering solution to his long epistle of rot of Nigeria. Who will save us? What is the way out? Kukah’s submission is that Nigeria is focusing too much on politics. Intellectual revolution is his proffer. “If we lose the intellectual end of the argument for our survival,” he began, we are doomed, as “you cannot have a country that doesn’t privilege the intellect as Aristotle said, overcoming its woes.” He went into the journey of a not too distant Nigeria when the resilience of the intellectual community helped to withstand the slide in government. “We no longer have the intellectual resilience of the 1970s and 1980s when ASUU and students union confronted government. Things have worsened and what we are complaining about in Abuja isn’t different from what we have in those schools. The students even call themselves ‘government’. This is a manifestation of the contradictions of our society,” he said.
Kukah concluded, later in the evening at a small dinner organized for him, on how some otherwise intangible perception of tribes of Nigeria can impede the building blocks of a good society. He told the story of how three Nigerians – Adebayo, Chukwuma and Abdullahi died in an accident and got to the gate of heaven. Satan stopped them from entering where they belonged, hell or heaven. So Satan told them that no one, except him, was aware of their death and he still had the powers to return them to their country, but demanded a million naira bribe. Adebayo hurriedly accepted Satan’s proposal and promised that his people at home would wire the money to Satan. According to him, he was actually on his way to an Owambe party when he had the accident. Chukwuma exclaimed, “N1million!” and said that the money was too much as it was enough for his people to start business in Nigeria; he chose to enter hell instead. Abdullahi comfortably asked Satan not to worry, that he would give him the cell phone of government back at home, “Government will settle the bill, wallahi!”
Abiola Ajimobi’s deus ex machina
Events in the last few weeks in the politics of Oyo State may well be proving that many of those who disagree with the politics of Governor Abiola Ajimobi could have underrated the inbuilt political deftness, wizardry and perhaps, his ability to swing a measure of deus ex machina into the surface of his politics. Deus ex machina is, literally, god from the machine. It is a literary device in literature whose end is to surprise an audience by bringing a tension-soaked tale to a happy ending. It throws up a seemingly unsolvable problem that gets suddenly and abruptly resolved through an occurrence that is unexpected and largely unlikely.
Oyo’s ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) was perhaps one of the states of the South West where a huge explosion of political fire-crackers was expected. Some predicted bloodshed and so much bile, especially in the process of choosing a successor to the governor. Last week however, a firmament which pundits said would be awash in human blood came out as bright as the sunny morning. One by one, the sharks and whales in the ocean of the race for Agodi Government House began to swim down shore, leaving only the ex-Central Bank Deputy Governor, Adebayo Adelabu as the party flag flyer. What chemistry, what calculus produced this deft arithmetic?
Some have attributed it to Ajimobi’s understanding of the ABC of political horse trading and his firm grip of the politics of the state. The governor himself is said to thump his chest when traducers seek to vanquish him that if he was as politically naïve as they claim, he wouldn’t contest three gubernatorial elections and win, anchoring this on the general assumption that he suffered judicial robbery in his first outing as ANPP standard bearer in 2007.
Anyway, my hope is that Ajimobi actually chose the right person in Adelabu. I was in the political theatre where erstwhile Attorney General of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, was midwifed as governor in 2007. It looked so much like the current Oyo scenario. Even before he became governor, Chime chose himself as the pallbearer of the political machine and principal that threw him up. But for providence and a recent decision by an Nsukka man, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to bring Nnamani back from the political backwaters that Chime threw him, the decision to make Chime governor, though seemingly right at that time, was the costliest mistake in the life of Nnamani who changed the lives and politics of the people of the Coal City state for good. So I know that this may not yet be time for Ajimobi to clink celebration wine glass.
Come to think of it, the Oyo opposition parties have proven to be an assemblage of people who have no sense of history. Right by the tip of our noses, less than two weeks ago, the failure of the opposition to unite under a common umbrella returned to power by stealth a Rauf Aregbesola they had fought for eight years. With the recent rumour that ex-Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala was seeking governorship ticket of the ADP, I lost all hopes of redemption in the Oyo opposition. Though it is obvious that Rasheed Ladoja’s selfish politicking would never allow him, couldn’t Alao-Akala team up with young Seyi Makinde to give Ajimobi’s Adelabu a run for his money? And after the 2019 election, all of them will gather together and sulk like a hen whose mother had just been hit by an oncoming vehicle.