fbpx

The creaking foundation of the Fourth Republic


By Tatalo Alamu

 

 

Column and columnist wish all our readers a happy new year. For Nigerians, it has not been an easy decade or happy 2020 in particular. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. With its strange percussion and zodiac rhyming, 2020 was the ultimate year of astral suffering and stellar malignancy; a perfect storm of human retribution.

In a cosmic irony, Nigerians for decades have been looking forward to last year as the year of magic liberation from poverty and want. Several moons awhile, pundits and experts were assembled who plumped for the year with scientific exactitude and mathematical precision. But it all turned out a damp squib. The last word is that the date has now been slightly revised to 2050. Since yours sincerely does not hope to be alive by then, those around can get on with it.

With a resurgent pandemic howling in the background, a badly mismanaged economy gasping for breath and elite consensus about the future and destiny of the nation as remote as ever, no new year could have come with more miserable prospects. Yet there can be no doubt that this is a make or mar decade for Nigeria; the decade when Nigeria will have to fulfil its destiny as a haven for the Black race or go into oblivion as a failed nation.

At this moment, the omens are very dire. Politically, economically, socially and spiritually, the nation has never been in a worse shape. In the north there is rising disaffection about the worsening economic plight and widespread insecurity occasioned by banditry, insurgency and an increasingly bloody revolt against the old hegemonic caste.

Angry question marks are put against the ability and capacity of the president to deal with the situation. For a man who had enjoyed cult-like following and messianic adulation among the masses and underclass of the region, these caustic dismissals and growing wave of denunciation is a cruel political denouement.

In the west, there is a rock solid disaffection with the nation as structurally configured. Widespread insecurity has now become the bane of its hitherto peaceful and productive countryside. The new alliance has not produced a happy synthesis or the healthy and productive synergy of contrasting worldviews. The mismanagement of ethnic relations has left a bitterly polarized and fractious polity.

In the east, old bitterness and civil war wounds persist more than fifty years after. No lesson seems to have been learnt from that epic tragedy. The amputation of the third leg of the ancient tripod of countervailing influence and authority has left a mass estrangement and alienation from central authority in the place. In the rural areas, there is a fanatical attachment and adoration of IPOB which seems to be waiting for the signal to exit Nigeria.

Rather than facing the future with wide-eyed naivety and fatalistic submission to the will of superior mystical forces, it is important at this point to press the pause button in order to avail ourselves of a backward glance. At least if we don’t recognise where we are going, we must know where we are coming from. According to old Yoruba ethos, when a child stumbles, he looks forward but when an elder falters, he must cast a backward glance.

The past is indeed a trove of memorable ironies and a veritable treasure of political surprises. Many of the people that we build as heroes today are villains of yesteryears, whereas many of the people we seek to demonize and weave a tapestry of vicious calumny around are authentic heroes of Nigeria and Yoruba people whose derring-do when the nation was under siege will become part of the heroic folklore no matter what may be considered their subsequent failings.

No nation or society is exempt from this whirligig of heroic fortunes and the shifting fate of political actors. As he was about to be arrested in one of the great Stalinist purges of the thirties, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a much decorated Soviet war hero and arguably the most revered Russian soldier of his time, expressed surprise that they had sent a lowly officer to intercept him.

The officer in turn looked at his most distinguished superior officer with pity and surprise and then briskly saluted. “Comrade Marshal, we live in interesting times. Yesterday a hero, but today nothing. That is the dialectic of history”, the officer noted before taking the marshal away never to be seen in public again. He was only forty four. His last recorded words: “I feel as if I am in a dream!”

Events of the day do not spring from a vacuum but from a groundswell of other countervailing events. Let us now look back at our history and to 1999 to get a sense of perspective and why there is so much rancour and bitterness in the contemporary Nigerian polity.

In article written for Africa Today, the London-based magazine, to commemorate Nigeria’s thirty ninth independence anniversary, this writer predicted that Obasanjo was in a position to teach the Afenifere elderly caucus a memorable and unforgettable lesson in political power play.

By the end of September that year, the retired general, a brilliant political strategist with a military and authoritarian cast of mind, had finished consolidating his grip on the levers of power. This process which combined feigning with strategic wanderlust to confuse opponents actually began in February when he was elected president of the nation.

With the respected and no-nonsense Theophilus Danjuma protecting his military flank and Mohammed, the quietly efficient and suave Ilorin spymaster, imposing himself on domestic matters, Obasanjo felt confident enough to turn his attention to pressing political matters.

True to prediction, Obasanjo began a well-coordinated campaign of destabilization against the two major opposition parties. Through disinformation, misinformation and outright state cajolement, he was able to engineer an internal fracture of the AD and ANPP. The PDP was waiting to collect the stragglers. For a James Ajibola Ige who saw the danger, his attempt to return to his regional base to re-organize a party that can be said to be his baby proved a bridge too far. He was killed.

Many will insist that Ige himself had been used to destabilize his own party by going over to Obasanjo without proper clearance from its grandees. Ige would insist that he was paying the party back in its own coins for siding with his junior and party subordinate, Chief Olu Falae, during the infamous D’Rovans fiasco. In any case, there would have been no point asking for a clearance that would never have been granted.

Looking back about two decades after, one cannot but shudder at the bitter hatred and corrosive animosity these old men nursed against themselves. Insiders who know the details must be trembling in recollection. Given the endlessly adversarial nature of Yoruba politics and contempt for emergent hierarchy, there is no point in hoping that this will never happen again.

In retrospect one must wonder at the strategic value of Chief Ige’s libertarian last minute rally in the face of Obasanjo’s relentless unitary offensive. My political hunch is that Obasanjo would have gone into political alliance with the Afenifere grandees against Ige and the west would have been centrally split just as it is at this moment.

After Obasanjo’s blitzkrieg struck them in 2003, the remaining Afenifere elders were so distraught and inconsolable.  It was humanly impossible to contemplate the level of political betrayal and the magnitude of their political evisceration. They had gone into a tactical alliance with the wily Owu warrior based on what Obasanjo sold to them as his political persecution and humiliation by the northern power masters.

This was akin to waving the proverbial red rag at a rampaging bull and it made the Afenifere elders to leave their flanks exposed and unprotected. By the time the smoke cleared, Afenifere had been dislodged from its Yoruba stronghold leaving it with only Lagos State where the governor had gone rogue on them.

With his gun still smoking years after, Obasanjo’s description of the plight of the old men in his memoir after he had put them through the meat grinder was as savage as it was unsavoury. It was obvious that the retired president still held the old men in deep and abiding contempt.

There may be no morality in politics but there is something like accurately gauging the mood of one’s people, particularly in a multi-ethnic nation. While it was obvious that the Yoruba nation in 2003 would definitely have preferred Obasanjo to continue as president, the deep silence and traumatic disquiet that greeted the steamrolling of Yoruba land suggested that they would have preferred the political ascendancy of their local party to remain in place.

But Obasanjo was having none of that nonsense and political gobbledygook. You cannot be half in bed with somebody. It was a cruel dilemma for the Yoruba elders. This political obfuscation and equivocation which can be mistaken for sophistication of choice is at the heart of the Yoruba conundrum in contemporary Nigerian politics.

Having been caught in bed with the retired general, Afenifere lapsed into political somnolence only to emerge in 2007 supporting General Buhari and claiming much later that it was on the ground that he was advocating restructuring. This claim is suspect. The real reason was that its party, DPA, was so structurally and organizationally enervated that it could not successfully field a candidate even at the ward level.

The question remains to be asked as to why an Obasanjo would be so brutal and dismissive of the progressive political leanings of his own Yoruba race to the extent of attempting to wipe this tendency out without any trace. The obvious answer is that there was no love lost between him and the leadership.

There may be more to it all. According to a state insider and presidential cohort of the period, throughout Obasanjo’s first term, (1999-2003) the Owu general was constantly prodded and reminded in whispering tones by select northern elders never to forget that he was a man without a political constituency who owed his ascendancy to the north his own people having sensationally rejected him.

Obasanjo took this to heart and made a bitter resolve never to allow this to happen again as long as it was within his power to prevent. As a diligent and dutiful student of feudal democracy as practised in Nigeria, he knew that elections were determined by the selectorate and not by the electorate and that the stunning electoral landslides were nothing but state-corralled verdicts which must stand as long as the state is standing.

It was this power and primacy of the state in electoral adjudications that the former president deployed to devastating effect in 2003 in an electoral blitzkrieg the likes of which has not been seen in the history of the nation. Even in the South West, the nation’s bastion of political combustion and volatility, such was the scale of the heist that people were stung into a benumbing silence.

There was now nothing that could prevent a resurgent and rampart Obasanjo from determining the electoral destiny of the nation. After the Third Term gambit failed, the Owu warrior was determined to instal Umaru Yar’Adua as the next president of the nation at all cost. This time around, the magnitude of the electoral manipulations was such that it launched the country on the path of fitful electoral reform through the instrumentality of the main beneficiary of the fraud: Umaru Yar’Adua.

Obasanjo had taught his northern tormentors a memorable lesson in power play. But it was all at the expense of deepening the democratic process and putting the Fourth Republic on a strong and sound footing. If one is not sure about what Obasanjo felt concerning Yar’Adua’s apparent backsliding, his withering dismissal in his memoir of the late president as an ungrateful wretch must lay the ghost to rest.

By 2007, the South West had grown so bitter and resentful about this desecration of democracy and electoral infamy that it girded its loins to fight back. A violent protest in Oshogbo, Osun State was violently put down. There were quiet rumblings in Ibadan where it was clear that the late Abiola Ajimobi had trounced the man declared as winner. In Edo State, the forward assault units of Adams Oshiomhole’s army of the people were getting restive over a clear case of electoral larceny.

It was left to the much maligned Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his acolytes to coordinate this resistance to civilian tyranny and desecration of the electoral honour of the people of the old west. Having survived abject electoral manipulations in 2003, Tinubu emerged in 2007 from the rubble of PDP’s tsunami to spearhead the struggle against the creeping feudalization of democratic process in the west in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

It was a costly struggle with many martyrs and unsung heroes. Five years later, by 2011, all the old western states, minus Mimiko’s Ondo state which claimed an affiliate working class political tendency, were all united behind the progressive banner. It was the finest hour of an activist judiciary determined to halt the electoral rot. One by one, the bastion of electoral evil fell: Edo, Osun, Ekiti and now Ogun and Oyo through electoral conquest.

It was a costly victory. Apart from those who paid the supreme price, many had their business enterprises destroyed forever and their familial ties severed. Before any inquest can be held about subsequent events, the Yoruba nation must first honour its heroes who stood between them and the terror machine of a unitary state that has spiralled out of control.

Nigeria is in a bad shape, with the old west perhaps the most psychologically devastated. It is obvious that we need a fundamental reset. If we truly intend to have a dialogue among ourselves, it cannot begin with exclusion which is a negation of the fundamental tenet of dialogue. Dialogue cannot rest on settling old political scores or stigmatization based on being politically outsmarted.

Here is wishing our readers a happy new year once again.

 



Source link

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: