Who you align with is a major factor in wars. Warriors, both in contemporary and old times, know that if your alignment is faulty, your fall will be as calamitous as Lucifer’s. Warriors thus choose their alignment carefully and meticulously. Take for instance, Ngqika, warrior and one of the leaders in Southern African history. Believed to have been born in 1779, towards the 18th and 19th centuries, internal feuds rent the polity of his Xhosa kingdom, resulting in a supremacy battle between him and Ndlambe, another warrior. This was at a time when White supremacists’ power was probably at its highest. Ngqika, a very brilliant and intelligent warrior, was renowned to have carved a niche for himself as a very powerful man who was dreaded for his war exploits.
Nicknamed A! Lwanganda, meaning, “he who stamps the ground while fighting,” Ngqika’s war strategies were uncommon but resulting in total rout of his enemies. For instance, in defeating Ndlambe, he had visited him, ostensibly with the mutual understanding of resolving a court case between their subjects. Ndlambe slaughtered oxen for him and other guests and organized a dance to keep them entertained. While the dance was afoot and Ndlambe’s team was probably tipsy, Ngqika signaled to his war Generals to attack Ndlambe and his people, which led to Ndlambe fleeing his own kingdom for Ngqika. In 1800, he eventually imprisoned Ndlambe, marking the zenith of his power. Ndlambe however escaped and Ngqika, afraid, struck an alliance with Xhosa colonial authorities to capture Ndlambe, with disastrous consequences for him and his kingdom. Ngqika’s alliance with this alien power eventually spelled his doom and the war, his waterloo. By the time of his death in 1829, Ngqika’s prowess had become effete and he was grossly reproached by his subjects. He died of tuberculosis and acute usage of liquor.
Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, former Edo State governor and current Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) is in the thick of a war, even if political. Until recently, his war exploits came with a clinical precision, like that of Ngqika. He began as a full-time labour union organizer in 1975, and proceeded to become leader of Arewa textile workers in Kaduna. Aliyu indeed acquitted himself admirably as a unionist. In possession of credentials not above a secondary school certificate, until a Ruskin College certificate sprung up, providence bestowed such a great gift of the garb on Aliyu that many a professor will envy. He can disarm any interlocutor with his proficiency in the English language. Gradually, this gift of arresting his listeners and an organizational capability that is almost legendary, shot him to the apogee of labour unionism. During the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, Adams negotiated the 25% wage increase for public sector workers and promoted his skills at the Aso Villa creditably. He was so beloved that when he contested the governorship of Edo State, he not only won but got a second term ticket and ruled Edo from November 2008 to November 11, 2016. As governor, he disarmed the highly-burnished Mr. Fix It, Late Tony Anenih, with his clinical political blows. Not long after he left Edo, he was invested with the chairmanship of the APC. Adams is bold, courageous and suave, with a sure-footed persuasiveness that would buy any felon off a rap. Stupendously wealthy and generous, a source who lived abroad for decades, who once slept in his Iyamho country home, said he had never seen a mansion like Oshiomohole’s.
Adams took over the reins of power in the APC at a time when it was grossly factionalized between the Bola Tinubu faction that was bent on unseating his kinsman, Odigie Oyegun and another that swore to retain the status quo. Typical of his depth or lack thereof, Buhari really didn’t have a stand and was susceptible to be swept ashore by the highest storm. In the South West, a new crop of leaders that detested the alleged vice grip of Tinubu in the region’s politics was mutating. In his conquistadorial quest, Tinubu had spat phlegm in the face of each of them. Ibikunle Amosun, he had, like a typical District Officer, posted an ajele (representative of imperial power) in the person of Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (Yayi) to go hoist his imperial flagstaff in the Ogun territory, with a proviso for total acquisition. In Ekiti, the Capo di tutti’s (boss of all bosses, a la Amosun) surreptitious flirtation with Ayo Fayose and underground information that he abetted Kayode Fayemi’s rout from power helped grow a sweeping disdain for him and his politics from the Ekiti State flank of his erstwhile territory. In Ondo, the grizzled beard of Rotimi Akeredolu stands on rebellious edge at the mention of the Lagos DO for his temerity at allegedly sponsoring a platoon of ragtag electoral army to upstage him at the polls. In Osun, the divisive song could not take off more than a soprano as the man who mans that frontier, diminutive Rauf Aregbesola, is almost in a spiritual dalliance with the Lagos Garrison Commander; while in Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi has surprisingly (to the consternation of those who profiled him to the contrary) kept faith with Tinubu, to the extent that both maintain an oath-induced-like affinity.
Sure that the Tinubu faction was the most viable prong to catapult him to the seat about to be vacated by his Edo kinsman, Adams didn’t think twice on the propriety or otherwise of a wench-like flirtation with this powerful Lagos clique. Deadly, possessing spidery links to the underground networks of decision-making in the Nigerian society, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which breathes only with its gas mask, the octopod clique is methodical in its approach to power and is a clique that its traducers would be ultimately sorry to headbutt. It has produced Nigeria’s Vice President, is serviced by an octopodal media machine and a professoriate which theorizes every step to take at knotty political junctures. So when Oshiomhole aligned with this clique, he inherited its assets and liabilities.
But the new party chairman came on board with his destructive foibles. He is acutely irascible, flippant and never learnt the law of power which counsels taciturnity in tongue matters. In his eight-year reign in Edo, he straddled office and power like a mini-despot and the army of enemies his despotism sired was naturally transposed unto his new national assignment. Recall his quip to a widow on the street of Benin to “go and die!” Recently, an Abuja division of the Federal High Court ordered that court processes be served on him in an allegation of fraud brought by one Bishop Osadolor Ochei to the effect that there were vouchers of exorbitant airfares incurred by the ex-governor, alleging that the stupendous amount was enough to buy an air carrier for the people of Edo State. Ochei further claimed that he was in possession of receipts that showed how the former governor deployed huge amount of Edo funds to repair his private vehicles.
Propelled by disdain for the etiquette which requires statesmen to embrace taciturnity in public matters, Oshiomhole literally removed his boxers, shirt and entered the sewage with Rochas Okorocha and Amosun recently. Addressing a press conference in Abuja, he crudely described Okorocha as “an embarrassment” to the APC and Amosun, a despot. “If Governor Rochas chose to relocate to the (Presidential) Villa and use the ground of Villa to try to intimidate me to create a dynasty, I will – even on one leg but powered by the truth – uphold the best interest of APC members and indeed of APC people in Imo State,” he had said. Earlier, Nigerians were shocked when, apparently carrying his flippancy to its zenith, he had, even on the grounds of the Villa, upbraided the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige and in the same breath, reminding the world that the President was a simpleton. He had thundered, “You cannot purport to be an honourable minister and you act dishonourably… If the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party.” It was the case of the proverbial beater of his friend’s dog who Yoruba say is stupid enough not to know that every cudgel directed at the puppy is vicariously aimed at its owner.
With news dripping into the President’s feeble ears about the humongous graft that transpired at the primaries of the APC which had Oshiomhole at its cusp and Amosun’s oft trips to the Villa which have literally trampled the grasses on its lawn, Oshiomhole’s end, like that of Ngqika, seems to be nigh. Doubtless, Amosun must have populated his theory to Buhari that Oshiomhole is part of an Asiwaju gang-up to rock his 2019 boat and the urgent need to throw him out. Aliyu’s insolence and arrogance at the President, manifest in what a source told me is embodied in his twelve-time summons to the Villa to discuss allegations against him during the primaries and the labour leader maintaining deaf ears, worsened his estimation by the Villa. At one point when he reportedly honoured the invitation, no sooner had he arrived than he started feigning rumpus in his tummy. My source said he had to be cupped out of the Villa to receive an alleged medical attention. Buhari, my source said, swore to complainants about the APC primaries that he would soon sack Aliyu. What however makes this promise feeble is the reported swear to Amosun by Buhari that if by November 2, he didn’t exchange Capo di tutti’s nominee, Dapo Abiodun’s name, with his proposed Ogun gubernatorial concoction, then he won’t be the President of Nigeria any longer. As it is, November 2 has come and gone and the apparently weak President, who ostensibly lacks capacity to stand by his own, has done absolutely nothing to walk the talk.
So when news of Oshiomhole’s grilling by the DSS filtered in, it cohered with a grand plan to show Aliyu the gate. Either out of a pusillanimous tendency or power strategy, Buhari has been playing along with the pro and anti-Oshiomhole group. While he is said to be in the know about Oshiomhole’s grilling, he reportedly feigned ignorance when the party chairman reported to him the day after the DSS grill. However, if you remember Buhari’s legendary vacillation on all things and how he has never sacked anyone for malfeasance, you can fling this sack sheaf behind you. Either out of a medical failing or natural laid-back disposition, those who interface with Buhari are often alarmed that he remembers nothing. Another source told me that since he became aware of this presidential drawback, Tinubu makes a summary of his proposed discussion with the President and hands him the paper thereafter.
Except it has an unorthodox bypass plan unknown to logic, if Amosun and the Abuja APC hirelings succeed in convincing Buhari to sack Oshiomhole, APC will surely find self at a critical crossroads of a corrosive impact of this suicidal decision. It will be handing power, on a platter, to an Atiku Abubakar whose power-gobbling wiles are as self-serving as a fox’s. How does a party in power sack its chairman, three months to a national election, at a time its ratings have nosedived terribly? Yet, aside the avalanche of corruption allegations against him and Tinubu’s Rock of Gilbatrar-like support for him, if APC retains Oshiomhole, with his welter of infra dig, after both camps’ frantic moves to neutralize each other, it will not just be an open endorsement of insubordination to the President but may also be, a la Amosun, a budding coup to supplant the Daura General in 2019. More importantly, it would be a huge advertisement of the President’s legendary weakness and an open call on others to disrespect the locus of power. This is the story of Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, the Ngqika of contemporary Nigerian politics, whose alignment with a very powerful political clique in the APC may turn awry for or which may make the tale of the South African power legend a meaningless fable in current Nigerian political equation.
Lai’s N3.5m and why journalism, like Baal, is asleep
The near impossibility of the claim of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that embattled Islamic sect leader, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, who is incarcerated in the federal gulag, is fed daily with N3.5m has become a subject of discourse in Nigeria in the last few days. At the very grave risk of calling Chief the Honourable Minister – apology to T. M. Aluko, writer of blessed memory – a liar, Nigerians have continually wondered how a Nigerian government which caters seldom for everything but interests of the people it is voted to cater for, would be that Father Christmas-ly as to feed a prisoner with that princely sum of money. More suspicious about the claim is the known fact, or put more rightly, the conjecturally possible fact, that President Muhammadu Buhari and fellow travellers in his Elzakzaky-hate boat, must be happy with the supine state of the Islamic cleric who, through them, the state has literally castrated. So, how would a man whose fate the state, under Buhari, is gloating at by confining him in its lair, feed with such huge sum? It sounded like a logical absurdity.
Anyway, that isn’t really my bother. My beef is with the cancerous ailment in journalism practice that the Minister’s apparent Goebbels tactic has revealed. That ludicrous claim was said to have been made by Minister Lai in a confidential information he volunteered to the Oak Television during an interview. In media practice, rules of engagement guide confidential information, a cornerstone of its Code of Ethics. It is worded this way: “A journalist should not breach an agreement with a source of information obtained as ‘off-the-record’ or as background information.” It is a credo that journalists are enjoined to adhere to religiously. What that means is that, once your interviewee volunteers a confidential information to you off-record, while you could use the information as having been volunteered by a source, you should never attribute it to him. Doing otherwise is not only anathema to practice, it is analogous to betrayal and treachery. Oak not only made use of the statement, it shamelessly attributed it to the minister.
This professional treachery reminds me of an event sometime in 2006. Two Siamese twins-like very otherwise respectable senior journalists, then with a national tabloid, had secured an interview with a former governor of a Southeastern state of Nigeria. The three of us had listened to the ex-governor pontificate brilliantly on issues his interviewers sought answers to. Then they asked a question on a particularly knotty issue which their boss, who owned their newspaper, had interest in. The former governor interviewee volunteered to speak off-record and they instantly obliged. Exhilarated by the strategic information being volunteered, one of them who is still alive today, (his colleague now of blessed memory) in a serpentine manner, furtively pressed his recorder. Unknown to him, the former governor, with a deft mastery of his environment comparable only to that of an eagle, arrested his deceit midstream but gentlemanly-like upbraided his unprofessional indiscretion, “… why would you do that? Why?” To say that I was ashamed of my constituency was an understatement. Till today when I hear the elderly journalist pontificate on etiquette, the felon I see is a moral midget.
But for this, I would have put the blame of this moral laxity on the infiltration of untrained herd of ‘journalists’ who have besieged the written/spoken word like an army of rodents, either on the social media or even inside the conventional newsroom. Every fool who can speak fluently or write passable English is now a journalist. Apart from the flight of excellence and professionalism in virtually all professions in Nigeria, the parlous economy is also taking its own bite. Journalism houses, which can hardly pay salaries, just absorb them warts and all and proceed to unleash them on the information highway like crude hyenas. This is akin to unleashing a herd of Rottweiler on a street or untrained doctors on desperate patients. To worsen matters, a professional umpire like the NUJ is either busy waffling over allegation of Buharism in its President’s school credentials or is taking a nap from professional policing like Baal, the god of idolatrous Sidonians, a seaport on the Mediterranean Sea in modern Lebanon. Otherwise, Oak’s operating licence, this hour, should head for the door.
Orji Uzo-Kalu’s German riddle
Immediately the press release, which went viral and violated the privacy of every sensible reader, majestically walked into the public sphere, my haunch told me that something atypical was not only afoot, an ingenuous alibi was being incubated. Former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor-Kalu and President Muhammadu Buhari’s self-imposed campaigner, according to the release, had suddenly taken ill and needed to be flown to an unnamed infirmary in Germany. A surgery, said the release, was the immediate decree by the German doctor. And the doc’s scalpel went to work on the ex-governor’s tummy, pronto. The writer of the release, while penning the doggerel, momentarily took a look at the face of Mrs. Uzor-Kalu, who acted as the medical consort of her husband on this trip to Germany. He concluded that what he saw was grim and “contorted.”
While reading through the release, I suddenly remembered that James Hadley Chase once told me in one of his crime novels that this less-than-noble class always leaves a trail in their concoction. I searched through so I could see one. Yes, a trail was indeed left in this seemingly fictional tale. According to the release, Mrs. Uzor-Kalu momentarily took up the role of the medic when asked how long the “successful” operation would take before her husband could be back on his feet. “Four months,” she proclaimed with the futuristic projection of a trained doctor, again with a melancholic voice.
The question that agitated my mind was, why issue a release on the health condition of an ex-governor, in a country where volunteering the medical status of her leaders was almost equal to a heresy? Till today, aside allegedly gulping millions in British pounds of Nigerian money and the security implication of such trip, we do not know what ailed or ails our President which necessitated his months of sojourn in the UK. When, a couple of days after, the trial of the ex-governor for graft commenced and the Lagos High Court trying him complained that he had literally jumped bail by traveling without its consent, the whole riddle fell into place. Thanks to Chase, master of crime and revealer of the brackish tactics of criminals. Why are we so blest with this commune of leaders?