Edo: Of Oshiomhole, Saraki’s snail and naked masquerade allegories

COURT-SUSPENDED All Progressives Party (APC) Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, a few days before his court ouster, subtly flexed his power muscles and demonstrated a commendable grasp of African proverbs and aphorisms. Taking to his Twitter handle to do this, Oshiomhole had aptly announced that his smallish stature did not approximate his ounce of power. In essence, the Iyamho-born former Edo State governor announced that he was a hare who doesn’t engage in a puerile run with the snail to establish who between them had a hold on the forest. “You don’t run after a snail. When you’re ready (to make it a cuisine), you pick it up and put it in a bag,” he had written.

Indeed, as at this time, Oshiomhole had Edo governor, Godwin Obaseki, inside the bag, showing him to be a small snail who pretended to be a hare in the race for Edo’s soul. To pick the snail, Oshiomhole spurn all manner of yarns, from the laughable to the ridiculous. The one that threw watchers of the snail-picking roulette sprawling with laughter was the Iyamho-man’s accusation that Obaseki didn’t possess a valid certificate. Even when the University of Ibadan came out to disclaim this, Oshiomhole was not done. So, did he just acquire the certificate? How come the APC government of Oshiomhole, which nominated him, didn’t see this then but now?

Before any further deliberations on the moral bankruptcy in the said certificate scrutiny, the APC, under the stranglehold of Oshiomhole, like an enraged cuckold, spiked Obaseki from the primary election contest. And Obaseki began to scamper from one known enemy to the other for safety. To even Bola Tinubu, who is a notorious writer of this script Oshiomhole cloned and who patented this ignoble system of cuckolding the necks of political godsons, having played the script in Lagos with Akinwumi Ambode, to a Muhammadu Buhari who is known to be in a different hemisphere from ours here, he scampered for bailout. And Oshiomhole, who had picked this miserable-looking snail for dinner, danced like a conqueror.

Oshiomhole had however barely picked the snail up when it surprisingly transformed into an ant-infested faggot. The snail has since been stinging him and his party on all fronts. Issues began to unfurl at a supersonic speed in the APC. Oshiomhole’s ouster was announced by the court a few hours after and intra-party dissonances boomed like dynamites. Bukola Saraki, on whom Oshiomhole had spat his notorious venomous sting, had to come out from his sabbatical to dance on Oshiomhole’s political grave. “While I have kept my cool and ignored all the verbal attacks directed at me by the suspended chairman of @OfficialAPCN, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, I have always known that a day like this would come when his masquerade will dance naked in the market,” Saraki said. Though not strictly an allegory but an analogy, Saraki here and corroborated even by members of the APC Governors’ Forum, alluded to a combative, destructive and ego-propelled chairmanship of Oshiomhole that had damaged more than it repaired in office.

In this melee, Obaseki, apparently aware of the door-less entry into the mansions of Nigerian political parties, just removed the APC face mask he wore previously, leisurely walked into Emperor Nyesom Wike – Rivers State governor’s Wadata Plaza mansion and emerged therefrom the next minute wearing an umbrella-embossed mask, dressed in a cassock. To this, he received thunderous applauses from supporters who failed to understand that Obaseki had just, in few steps of drama, explained why Nigeria is incapable of moving forward.

As embattled as the APC was/is, you would think that its rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP) holds any better hope for the polity. While Obaseki was on a self-rescue run from pillar to post, he had met Wike who, in pursuit of the bid to advertise APC’s obvious irresponsibility but his own party’s responsibility, had brought out the equivocation that seems to be the ruling party’s gene. “Obaseki was disqualified by someone who doesn’t have a certificate. What an irony!” he had said.

Wike was right. Even the authenticity of Oshiomhole’s primary school leaving certificate is still in contention. Isn’t it a great dramatic irony that the man who is seeking equity in certification doesn’t himself have a certificate? As an aside, one may need to ask why the issue of certificates has become a consistent source of brawl among top-notch members of the APC? Or even in other political parties? From Tinubu, Buhari, Oshiomhole and now to Obaseki, the most consistent thread that runs through them is public cynicism over the certificates they claim to parade.

The truth however is that there is no single difference between the two major political parties. What explains the two parties succinctly is the famous allegory of the dog and tortoise told in Yoruba homes of pre-independence and even up till the very early 1980s. I dwell on the allegory in brief here:

In a village where both of them resided, Tortoise and Dog were both renowned to be allies, united by thieving inclinations. This particular day at nocturne, they both chose a farmer’s barn of yams as the focus of their heist. While Dog stole a few pieces of yam that he could carry and was speedily running away, Tortoise greedily bit more than he could chew, stealing in excess of his ability. Realizing that he was in a bind, he lapsed into singing a song to let Dog know that if he was caught, he would spill the beans, implicating him. Having known the wiles of Tortoise, Dog made a U-turn to help salvage the situation but while they were both at it, the farmer came and caught the Dog but Tortoise sneaked under the leaf, away from being apprehended. In Yoruba cosmology, this explains the human domestication of dogs.

The PDP and APC are the Dog and Tortoise in the above allegory and are partners in crime whose lives are reflective of the rot that our society has become. They both go regularly on a heist binge and the one that is caught and who gets the condemnation of society is not necessarily the better of the two thieving alliance. They are not united by any ideal, philosophy or projection for a better society but a drive reminiscent of that of Tortoise and Dog. So when Wike throws tantrums at Oshiomhole and the latter throws back his, it is in a bid to expand the frontiers of their thieving expenditure.

If deployed for public good, party politics and indeed, the electoral system, could rescue Nigeria from where it currently is. For decades, we have made the unpardonable mistake of consigning political thinking or politics strictly to politicians. This is why the worst of us come to rule over the best of us. It is why the Oshiomholes, Wikes, Yahaya Bellos and so many of them are the ones who control the levers of the polity, making very irresponsible policies and deciding the fate of the country according to their whims. When these dregs get to office, they determine who become the Central Bank Governor, security chiefs and those who pilot our societal destiny. They control the economy, society and practically all the wheels of the country and become so powerful that they see selves as Assistant God.

Until we bring back ideology to party politics as we used to have it in the First Republic and remnants of which we took to the Second Republic, we will continue to have the Oshiomholes, the Uche Seconduses and their private good intentions swarming over public good. Like buccaneers, they sit in their covens to determine who will preside over our destinies and the determiners of our earthly existence, with what they and their allies can benefit as the common denominator of their decisions.

We should transit into a political party system where politicians don’t breeze in and out of parties as Obaseki did last week. It mirrors us as very unserious people whose lives are not ruled by principles. We should also have political institutions that are bigger than individuals, which the Tinubus, sitting in their courtyards, can’t decree how it is to be run. Such parties should be run by rules that are known to all and which are sacrosanct. A political party weaned on such institutional behavior can neither sire a despot like Oshiomhole, nor a systemic aberrant like Obaseki. We can only get there when individuals in the party contribute weekly/monthly to the purse of the party, thereby owning their parties. When moneybags and politicians with either licit or illicit funds, hijack a political party, lawlessness readily supplants civility in such gathering.

Yes, it is a very long bureaucratic road towards making political parties strong institutions in Nigeria. In virtually all states in Nigeria, the political experiences from 1999 till date – Godswill Akpabio/ Udom Emmanuel; Chimaroke Nnamani/Sullivan Chime; Rauf Aregbesola/Adegboyega Oyetola; Oshiomhole/Obaseki and many more – except Lagos – have shown that transmuting into political godfather after installing a godson as successor, always ends in a political fiasco. Those knowledgeable among them are persuaded that allowing the process throw up a natural successor is more enduring and less prone to post-office disaster. So in Edo, how do we kill a budding potentate like Oshiomhole, right inside its foetus? It is for him to meet his political waterloo at the polls in September. Though it is also laced with danger as Obaseki would likely reincarnate into another deadly godfather after his tenure, but if he succeeds in routing Oshiomhole at the polls, it could be our own natural way of institutionalizing systemic sanity at the upper echelon of political party powerbase.

A George Floyd in Enugu State JSC who cannot breathe

SINCE George Floyd, the American killed by Minnesota cops, uttered that sobering phrase, “I cannot breathe,” a few minutes to taking his last breath, it has become a phrase that speaks to injustice, suffocation of rights and cruel gang-up by powerful people to wangle their ways through their ignoble acts of suppression of rights, not minding the pain they inflict on the other person in the process. In Enugu State as we speak, a George Floyd, I was told, cannot breathe, because he is being subjected to a cruel chokehold, on account of, ostensibly his name. Interestingly, the Floyd is a Senior Magistrate in the employ of the state’s Judicial Service Commission (JSC). His name is Jude Umezulike, younger brother of the immediate past Chief Justice of the State, late Innocent Umezulike.

Umezulike was said to have been transferred from the Enugu judicial division on September 23, 2019 to his village in Mgbidi as a lone magistrate at the Chief magistrate’s court and duly reported a week after but not without a protest to the Chief Judge on what he termed a punitive posting. On the strength of the protestations, the CJ was said to have empanelled a police investigation team to look into a criminal case No CME/554C/2019 COP V CHIEMERIE in which the younger Umezulike had granted bail in accordance with the charge.

The police report, which came out in February, 2020 however exonerated the Magistrate. On December 11, 2019 when he delivered judgment in a criminal matter Case No CME/554C/2019, COP V. PASTOR DR SABINUS ONUIGBO  &4Ors pending before him for three years, the CJ, on December 13, 2019, called an emergency JSC meeting where he was suspended indefinitely without him being accorded fair hearing. He was said not to have been issued any formal queries. He was then suspended on December 13, 2019. On February 26, 2020 he reportedly received queries dated 20/2/2020 after a panel had been set to look into the matter. The panel was said to have demanded for the queries issued on him and his responses, to which he responded.

The questions which have engaged workers of the judicial commission since Umezulike’s suspension are: how would a magistrate be suspended without being queried? Why would a query come after only after a panel was set up? What respect for equity is that? With respect to the date of the suspension and that of setting up of the panel, would fairness and justice be said to have been considered in this matter? More importantly, the young magistrate is being discussed in hushed tone as suffering the “sins” of his elder brother, the late CJ, who was said to be in the bad books of the current judicial powers in Enugu State while he was in office. But should justice not be passion and emotion-blind?



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