He who must destroy others to succeed must know that destruction awaits him at the gate of his (own) success –Nino Brown.
PDP chieftain, Chief Olabode George, was recently reported as saying he would contest the 2023 presidency so as to stop Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu from becoming the president of this country. I have not read it anywhere that George denied making that statement; so, it must mean he actually made it and he stands by it. I would not have been bothered, if it was a political neophyte that made the vexatious and unfortunate statement, but George is a man of no mean political stature and reputation. He is one of those whom you can say have paid their dues, first as a military man and then, as a politician.
My path and his first crossed in the 1980s when the self-styled evil genius, General Ibrahim Babangida, made George, aka Lagos Boy, the military governor of my native Ondo State. His First Lady, Feyi, had invited The PUNCH team of features writers that I led to tour the state as part of her preparatory activities to grudgingly host the then overall First Lady, Maryam Babangida, who was soon visiting Ondo State. Both Feyi and George were pleasant. George relived his first nasty encounters with civil servants, especially their manipulative and clever ploys of corrupting and tying the hands of greenhorn military governors.
I met George again when he was Principal Staff Officer to General Oladipo Diya, the then Chief of General Staff or presumptuous Number Two (as he relished calling himself) to the vile dictator, Genera Sani Abacha. It was during one of the numerous shut-downs of The PUNCH, which I edited, and I had led a delegation of two to Aso Villa to see if Diya could do something concerning the re-opening of the newspaper. George received us warmly and ushered us into Diya’s presence. A friend of Diya’s, one Chief Okenla, who was chummy with a cousin of mine, had facilitated the meeting. George’s anguished, but detailed narration of how the Northern cabal outwitted the Yoruba and sowed the seed of discord between Diya and his kinsmen, ultimately leading to Diya’s loss of relevance and influence as well as his subsequent disgrace from the seat of power, is still as instructive today as it was, more than 20 years ago.
The third time I “met” George was on the pages of the yet-to-be-published memoirs of erstwhile governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, which I was privileged to edit. George came across as a man after justice and fair play; despite his closeness and loyalty to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo who ran the PDP as his personal fiefdom and despite that George was also the most notable PDP chieftain in the South-West with the mandate to enforce Obasanjo’s whims and caprices, he still managed to circumnavigate Obasanjo’s perversions to serve the cause of justice, thus contributing to making Fayose governor in his first tenure. Therefore, when George’s effort to become PDP national chairman was truncated in the main by the political tendency in which Fayose was a strongman, I marvelled. In the end, the South-West lost doubly in that gamble – it lost the PDP national chair; it lost also the PDP presidential running-mate slot. That, however, is a story for another day.
So, I have a very positive opinion of retired Rear-Admiral (?) Olabode George. I see him as a man with a goodly heart. He may have had issues running the PDP in Lagos and the South-West generally – but which politician does not have issues? Witness the ongoing travails of the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole! Neither am I worried about George’s problems with Tinubu: Men must have problems with men. Politicians are bound to disagree. If an “ara-oke” or an “atohunrinwa” like Tinubu is said to be, comes to Lagos and dominates it totally to the consternation of Lagosians or “sons-of-the-soil” like George, we can understand if there is bad blood and resentment bordering even on the insane. Besides, Tinubu has had his own fair share of political and other controversies. His meteoric rise to political power and Yoruba leadership ascendancy had seen him step on many toes and clobber an uncountable number of political destinies into submission. The Afenifere is one. Those who call themselves the indigenous people of Lagos are another; not to talk of the innumerable political foes that have been put to flight, subdued and appropriated as serfs or reduced to nothingness by Tinubu’s awesome political machinery.
Tinubu is by no means a saint. Besides, the good governance that the media trumpets about him and his political tendency in Lagos and the South-west as a whole is more hype than substance. If you have travelled in the North, which is usually held as the poverty capital of Nigeria, you will marvel that they have more physical infrastructural development, especially good road networks, than the South-West. By virtue of the federal allocation formula, with more states, more local governments, and (since 2015) the domination of the commanding heights of everything Nigeria, more national resources have been poured into the North than into the South-West. Despite that Tinubu and the South-west installed Muhammadu Buhari as president, as it were; the South-west has played second fiddle to the three Northern regions of North-West, North-East, and North-Central in that order. What has Tinubu used his immense political influence and stature to attract to the South-West? He has not even been able to get the long-promised special status for Lagos (when the capital was moved to Abuja) He has also not leaned on Buhari, who cancelled erstwhile Gov. Lateef Jakande’s metro-line project for no just cause, to compensate the state. Lagos not only suffers but also pays through its nose today to have what it would have got cheaply decades ago – no thanks to Tinubu’s Buhari!
Consider that despite all the census abracadabra, the population of Lagos is still adjudged to be higher than Kano’s; yet, the local governments allocated to each (Lagos, 20; Kano 44) beggars belief. Jigawa state, created out of Kano, has even more local governments (27) than Lagos! Consider that LG is one of the bases for sharing national resources. According to some figures, Lagos contributes more than 55 per cent of VAT and over 70 per cent of the country’s N5.2 trillion tax revenue (April 2019 figures) but is allocated peanuts for its efforts, which is why the population that daily swarms Lagos far outstrips and outweighs the infrastructure Lagos authorities can ever put in place. Tinubu has not deflected his immense political stature to redress these anomalies, which have strained relations across the country, leading to cries for restructuring.
Tinubu’s political influence has not done enough for his own people that we can see with our naked eyes. Our people have a proverb: When you mention a tortoise, you also must mention the forest from which it was picked. In Nigeria today, you cannot mention Buhari without saying that Tinubu installed him. Unfortunately, what would have been a plus for Tinubu has become a minus as a result of the manifest nepotism and crass incompetence of Buhari. Tinubu himself has been rubbished and sidelined – not once but twice in a row! In 2015 and again in 2019, but the Asiwaju has ignored the time-honoured saying of ‘once bitten, twice shy’! Tinubu has been bitten twice by the Buhari bug; yet, he remains loyal and faithful! Buhari has become not just a political liability to Tinubu, he is, in fact, an albatross around the Asiwaju’s neck; yet, Tinubu wears Buhari proudly like a badge!
I am certain that it is not only George that disapproves of aspects of Tinubu’s politics. Tinubu’s recent political miscalculation on Amotekun is another case in point, not to talk of his “where are the cows” gaffe when he visited the grieving Afenifere chieftain whose daughter had just been murdered by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Had Amotekun failed to materialise, the Yoruba would have hung the failure on Tinubu’s neck. His side-kicks – the governors of Lagos, Osun and Ogun – failed to attend the inauguration. They only fell in line when they saw they were standing right in the way of the Yoruba moving train of unity and oneness. The resolve of the Yoruba on Amotekun was unprecedented. Tinubu’s belated speech on where he stood on Amotekun; his unfortunate speaking from both sides of the mouth; and the way the Yoruba mercilessly descended on him, must have put him in his proper place. A leader cannot be greater than his people. So, it is understandable if George has multiple issues over which to grind an axe with Tinubu.
Should George run for president in 2023? Yes, if he so desires! He is eminently qualified. I am sure he has more than an affidavit, which is what sustains the current holder of the position in office. But I disagree with his advertised reason for doing so: Just to stop Tinubu! If Tinubu runs, I will run for the sole reason of stopping Tinubu, George was quoted as saying. ‘Fa-fa-fa, foul’ as Zebrudaya of New Masquerade fame would say! Whether or not he can win, George can run. And who says he cannot win? Why not, if he gets the right traction! He sure will make a better president than the current holder of the position. He can also run if only to improve his CV. In this country where titles matter a lot, to be addressed as “former presidential aspirant” is no mean achievement. But tell Chief George that he must never run simply to constitute himself into a stumbling block in the path of someone else or with the sole mission of truncating the destiny of another person. A few examples will convince the unwary.
Biblical Joseph had two dreams of his own manifest destiny and he told his brethren; rather than go have their own dreams, Joseph’s brethren plotted to truncate their brother’s dreams. They did try but their efforts only helped Joseph to achieve his destiny. In the end, Joseph’s brethren did what they had tried to abort: They bowed and submitted to Joseph. Que sera sera! What will be will! Haman was wealthy, influential and second-in-command only to King Ahasuerus but all meant nothing to him save the destruction of Mordecai and his Jewish people. In the end, it was Haman and his entire household that were hanged on the gallows he had constructed for Mordecai. Some enemies bound themselves with an oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had seen the end of Paul. They failed woefully.
If you say these are bible stories, I can tell you that in my own life-time I have witnessed similar, perhaps, even more profound occurrences. When The Comet newspaper was floated, everyone thought that would signal the demise of The Guardian newspaper. The moving spirits behind The Guardian moved to The Comet. The boast was everywhere that the end had come for The Guardian, but the maiden outing of The Comet sounded its very death knell! When Bob Aladeniyi, the master guitarist, left King Sunny Ade’s band, everyone said that was the end of King Sunny Ade, but the very first album of Bob was a wash out. Where is Sunny Ade today and where is Aladeniyi? While Sunny Ade still rules the waves Bob, to the best of my knowledge, remains a local champion in my native Owo, which is also his own home town. I can go on and on!
When MKO Abiola started The Concord newspapers, it was with the sole objective of stopping Chief Obafemi Awolowo from achieving his goal of ruling Nigeria. Well, some will say he did succeed, but what became of the same MKO at the gate of his own success of becoming Nigeria’s president, elected after the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history? In those giddy days of military dictatorship and serial proscription of newspapers, I briefly attended the Synagogue Church of All Nations of Prophet Temitope Balogun (TB) Joshua and was even editor of the church magazine; the editorial board being under the chairmanship of his educated, able and amiable assistant, Prophet Taiye (aka Prophet T). One fateful day, Prophet T disappeared into thin air! Later, it became known that some people had promised to start a church for him and take the sail off the wind of TB Joshua. But where is Prophet T today and where is TB Joshua?
I can go on and on! Let Chief George remember the immortal words of Nino Brown above and advise himself accordingly! Let each and every one run its own race. Has George the political muscle and stature to tackle Tinubu even in Lagos State alone? I doubt much. Can George trade bullion van for bullion van with Tinubu? It is most unlikely. Pained as he may feel over the Tinubu phenomenon, I leave Chief George with a Yoruba proverb, to wit: Eni ti a o ba le mu… Need I say more!