Obasanjo, Jonathan and the Ibadan games of thrones

Politicians are great dramatists. They are actors of ambiguity, cold surprise and sly moves. Their drama is always strewn beautifully with intriguing symbolism. Goodluck Jonathan was in Olusegun Obasanjo’s Ibogun Olaogun village home last Friday. He finally met his godfather who tore his bid for re-election two years ago. They hugged. They talked. They held hands and discussed away from the ordinary folks. Did you read the photographs of the visit? Obasanjo loves games. And he plays games with anyone everywhere he is challenged. Jonathan did not know how to play the Yoruba game of ayo. He sat watching as one of his aides did it for him playing Obasanjo. Ayo olopon is about maneuver; it does not lean on luck like the dice you throw. There is no place for chance in this game. It is deliberate and follows its own rules. It is a game of brain power, of wit and hard-headedness. The winner is the one who decisively captures the ‘kids’ in his opponent’s pits. Like all contests for power, it is nonconformist. Other games may be clockwise in movement, but it takes the other way as its path to conquest. It is a game only experts win. When a novice plays the initiate, he must respect the master. It wasn’t the first public photo of Obasanjo playing the game. At least you saw him and Ibrahim Babangida doing it in army uniform. We will see more of such bouts as the year matures. But who won the rounds of that two-player game at Ibogun Olaogun? We may not know now. The future will tell us whose game that visit was.

Away from ayo olopon and its eerie foreboding. There is too much bad news here. Persons killed in Port Harcourt marching for a Trump who was thousands of miles away. Scores killed by our own soldiers in error in displaced persons camp. Local Government officials sold bags of rice meant for the displaced. Marriages quaking as MMM is not paying its loyal followers as promised. Dazed government is lost in the maze of an economy that has trumped logic. Governments and governors wining while traders yawn in desolate stalls. You look around you and pray that the light at the end of this tunnel won’t be the ravenous, murderous eyes of lurking lions. You nudge the naive to wake up — that there is no known medicine for the afflictions wrecking the country. You are shocked there is also no doctor qualified to look after the sick. The ones who put themselves forward yesterday have been shown searching for medicine men too. The volunteers are as sick as their patients. So, what do we do? We invite aliens from space to do something smart about our hopeless case? Would the aliens not soon become like the overfed politicians in Abuja and the wingless angels fumbling with our sorry state?

Back to politics and its ayo players. We are watching a game of boasters and braggers and daggers. It is about boasts, feats and defeats. It is also of sarcasm and innuendoes. A two-player game that takes three to play. The spectator has a value as do the two holding the tug. You remember the omode meta nsere folk song? The archer would shoot the sky; the swimmer would swim the ocean; the climber would climb the palm tree without a belt. Boasting and bragging, but did they not do it?  Whether in the US or in The Gambia or in Ibadan or in Abuja, the deftness of the moves were/are unmistakable. In politics, the man who wins is the one smart enough to empty the pocket of his opponent. The spectator who wins is the one with the right player. If you are on the spectator’s seat, sit up, watch and think.

Life is a game of more losses than gains. Humans, in every bad situation, look for saviours in the wrong places. The American white was disgusted by the spectacle of a black man and a blacker woman in the White House. He wanted his country back. He enthroned a Trump whose grandfather was from Germany. Since November 8, 2016 when he voted the billionaire as his lord and saviour, there has been some remorse somewhere inside him. But it is too late. Ambush is a reality of life for all who seek escape from realities of existence. It happened to the Gambians too. They celebrated the coming of the Boys Scout Head of State Yahaya Jammeh in 1994. Young, mercurial, charismatic, the boy spoke the right words. The hungry folks saw his famished neck and his shrunk tummy and accepted him as prayer answered. This is one of their own in fate and future, they reasoned. They think he was the long awaited deliverer from the fangs of the sit-tight Dauda Jawara. Twenty-two years after the optimism of that arrival, the wise realised the limits of ordinary wisdom. The farther the sufferer runs from trouble, the surer he finds himself in its grip.

At home here, lions are on the prowl preaching safety for the lowly of the forest. The ones who killed the federal essence of the country are now the champions of true federalism. Presidential politicians from the north are carefully choosing their next Southern mugu. Politicians north and south know the Nigerian voter lacks wisdom. He gets raped every four years by the same trick, in the same bed. The carnivores are out again with barbed baits. And are they here like a thief in the night? Thieves in the night no longer come quietly. They announce their arrival with shots and bangs. The sounds are unmistakable again. The South West is the laboratory for deceitful experiments. The South East and its amorphous neighbour are something else for another day.

Obasanjo and Jonathan and Abuja are not the only ones playing ayo olopon. The specialists in Yorubaland are at work putting the nuts in the right spots. Politicians love totems and symbols. Some of them will have to explain what figure 23 means in their voodoo acts. You were told that some 23 leaders of the APC met in Ibadan two weeks ago. They said they talked peace. But was betrayal not the dominant theme at that meeting? You heard 23 and intoned deja vu. Nineteen years ago, 23 leaders of APC’s ancestor, the AD, also met at D’Rovans Hotel, Ibadan. Was it not persistent allegations of betrayal at that gathering that silently sank their Titanic? And, like it happened to its parent, has the ship of this APC not hit the iceberg of mistrust already? The Ibadan meeting wasn’t about the past, its wins and losses. It was a con-game targeting tomorrow and its loots. It was also not about the Yoruba and their whatever interests. The eyes can see now and the prize is bigger for the winner. The big players are on the board. They played in the past, won and lost the loot to the tortoise who appropriated their common identity. They are today hurting and baying for blood and playing for conquest. In the game of ayo, the one who wins is the smart expert sly enough to lure the enemy to a false friendship. That was the game in Ibadan. It is the game forever played in Abuja.