The fracas in Lagos on January 8, 2019 during the rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has, once again, brought to the fore the grim reality of how Nigerian politicians have overtime played upon the tripodal factors of the illiteracy of members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), their naivety and the huge uncensored daily cash in their hands, to cause unmitigated political crises in many parts of the country.
At that rally, the Lagos State Treasurer of the union, MC Oluomo, was stabbed while some other persons, including journalists, escaped death by the whiskers. Incidentally, in the Second Republic, that same Lagos birthed NURTW and ensured its transformation into an anvil in the hands of a sadistic political class, heralding its ascendancy as kingpin of politics. At the cusp of that Second Republic deployment of motor park irritants in unholy wedlock with politics was an Ekiti State-born man called Adebayo Ogundare, ak.a. Bayo Success, a notorious member of the union whose knack for violence was legendary.
Road transport unions had been a major contributor to the social harmony that Nigeria enjoyed in the informal sector. Indeed, there are heaps of scholarly works on the immense contributions of motor transporters even in pre-colonial Nigeria and how the union impacted on the society and by that very fact, constituting an important segment of the Nigerian economy. During this period in Lagos, one leading transporter of renown was W.A. Dawodu. The intrusion of John Holt and the Miller Brothers, who earlier operated from the Ijebu lagoon market called Ejinrin around 1917 (remember Ebenezer Obey’s evergreen vinyl and lyrics, b’okokan o r’Ejinrin, egbegberun e a lo? If a vehicle declines to ply the Ejinrin route, thousands others will) also gave transport business a lot of respect.
By the Second Republic, however, the road transport workers had begun to morph into a bastion of violence and disorder. With the contest for power by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN)-led federal government of President Shehu Shagari with its seat in Lagos and the Unity Party of Nigeria-led Lagos state government headed by Lateef Jakande, Lagos became a hot testing ground for the might of politics. The ruling NPN secured the grit of Bayo Success and gave him the task of winning to its side all motor parks in Lagos. This he did by mobilising a huge clientele of motor park drivers, which was not secured without the multiple shed of human blood in the fracas that ensued at the parks. Bayo Success became a kingmaker and planted his acolytes as chairmen of parks in Lagos, with himself becoming the Oshodi branch chairman. It is curious that MC Oluomo is also chairman of NURTW, Oshodi branch. So what is in Oshodi that breeds motor park hirelings of politicians who use them for political ends? Abetted by the Federal Government, so much cash and power resided in the hands of the leadership of NURTW of the time.
I went into this short history to be able to explain the twine that connects the current NURTW crisis in Lagos with a cancerous blight which the NPN government sowed into Lagos and by that very fact, Nigerian political equation. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ostensibly picked the infamous gauntlet from where the NPN left it in Lagos and promoted it into a political art. A researcher, Laurent Fourchard, of the University of Bordeaux, had written in a journal article entitled “Lagos, Koolhaas and partisan politics in Nigeria” how, on April 20, 2007, in Ikeja, Lagos, then outgoing Governor Tinubu had assembled what she called “5,000 strong militant crowd” of his party, then the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) apparently interspersed with NURTW kingpins and told them, “I am not happy with you. I gave for this electoral campaign five millions (sic) Naira and Lagosians did not come to vote en masse for the party” but the “militants” replied, “five million Naira! But it did not reach the grassroots!”
Even out of government, the NURTW is a potent weapon used by the Generalissimo of Lagos politics to sustain his hegemonic hold on Lagos politics. The motor park touts are rich, sending their families abroad to live. They are powerful, have access to the innermost recess of the political class and are factored into every political planning. They are the ones who are sent to silence political opponents, cause mayhem in places where law and order seem to be too sophisticated to penetrate and constitute the major weaponry deployed on Election Day. They snatch ballot boxes, scare electorate to their pants off the polling booths in places where opponents have major holds and are generally the brains behind violence that undergirds Nigerian politics. Thus, the violence that attended the stabbing of MC Oluomo is in consonance with the political culture that is the core of the roots of politics in Lagos of the Tinubu era.
However, some other manifestations have emerged therefrom which are worthy of examination, with grave implications for governance. From what is being filtered into the news-wave, it is apparent that Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor of Lagos, is once again in the belly of the Lagos political clique’s whale. The news is that the clique wants to use the MC Oluomo fracas to demonise the man whom the clique have incongruously stampeded off a second term in office and who has shown unusual fortitude, which belies the public estimation of a Nigerian politician, in that regard. This fortitude is said to be attributable to the fact that Ambode is not a politician but has over the years cultivated a latent tendency to bow to process, steeped in his years of grooming in the civil service. The service is predicated on the belief that order is inherent in process and process in order. Apparently unconvinced that Ambode could have given in to their machination without a fight, there are reports that the governor is being parceled to be fish-grilled by the imperial powers of the Tinubu group.
Aside his initial grump at having been that side-stepped for Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Ambode has since then demonstrated political traits alien to politicians. Not only has he openly identified with Sanwo-Olu, he has publicly urged Lagosians to vote for him in March. His political traducers, however, believe that he is double-dealing, maintaining that the fracas in Ikeja where Oluomo was stabbed was his handiwork. The logic of this reasoning is baffling. Shockingly un-politician-like, Ambode has recently been quoted to have said this of the man parceled to take over from him: “The qualities of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a former banker, former cabinet member are very strong and he is also very strong in public sector management. When you compare his qualities to the qualities of other candidates, he is very competent and he is very reliable and I have no doubt that we will have him as the next Governor of Lagos State. So, come February 16, we will vote President Muhammadu Buhari and Professor Osinbajo and come March 2, we will vote Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.” This, to me, drinks from the brooks of that wise saying by the Yoruba that a grown up man who sings the panegyrics of a fellow man deserves our salute, for such a task is reserved for the valiant.
The calculation of the Tinubu clique is that, out of the governorship seat, Ambode may soar higher at the federal level if APC retains the presidency, going by ostensible general sympathy for his being illogically sacrificed by the Tinubu camp, in spite of his apparent loyalty and sterling performance in Lagos. That he may become another “rebel of the order of Lagos hegemony” like Babatunde Fashola. The Tinubu group seems to have unlearnt all the ills of the First Republic. The good news is, however, that empires fall and emperors crash. Humanity will live forever.
Buhari as the Mama Ibeji begging for alms
Two political events of last week must have proved very damaging to the candidature of President Muhammadu Buhari. On the reverse, last week was akin to a staker’s boom to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar. Of all the criticisms that Buhari had been subjected to on account of his capability, capacity, or lack of it, to administer Nigeria beyond 2019, none has had the force of facts and potency of an eyewitness’ narrative as those momentous events. At a town hall meeting projected live by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) during the week, Buhari had manifested clearly to the people of Nigeria in his unmistakable and unambiguous current true self. That same week, at the ceremonial handing-over of flag to the Delta State gubernatorial candidate of the APC, Great Ogboru, Buhari revealed to those who doubted the fears of his critics about his current state of health and his mental capability to continue to administer Nigeria, that the president’s situation could be far worse than we all imagined.
At both Abuja and Delta events, we were confronted with the image of a Nigerian president who needed the empathy of all of us and not politics at all. So many other issues came into clearer focus. One is that those who had been alleging, since the illness which necessitated the president’s unceremonious medical travel to the United Kingdom in 2017, the underhand hands of a cabal in the administration of Nigeria might not be wrong after all. If Buhari was that uncoordinated mind-wise as he was shown at those last week’s events, with a vacant mind and inability to process simple messages, how can he process the complex messages of Nigeria? Indeed, how has he been processing issues Nigeriana, myriad, confusing and in need of an utmost presence of mind, such that is the lot of a president of Nigeria? How can such a man who needed to be interpreted to every simple word comprehend the bills that are sent to him by the National Assembly for assent, for example? It goes without saying that memos worth billions of Naira must have been signed by him without him comprehending what they meant.
It is also apparent that the quest for Buhari to continue in office beyond May isn’t solely his and if it is, it is not in his advantage at all. Those to be held responsible for this infraction are his wife, Aisha, his children and his family members. They should be charged for attempted murder of an ailing man. While it is human to ail, it is inhuman to spite your ailing body by subjecting it to manifest rigour. It is apparent that the benefits accruable from Buhari staying in office beyond 2019 aren’t going to be his and the calamity, Nigeria’s. At his age and attainment in life, it is obvious that Buhari would go to his grave as a man who has successfully and meritoriously undertaken the voyage of life.
It reminds me of this age-long traditional practice among Yoruba of subjecting their twin kids to the vagaries of alms soliciting. The picture that burrows on my mind is one of the films of renowned film-maker, the late Afolayan (Ade Love). As an aside in the film, a woman always went out every morning with his twin children to beg for alms, on the pretext of this traditional practice. She employed the services of a drummer who pepped her chants of e ta ibeji l’ore o… (please gift my twins alms). By evening, they retired to a corner, counted the alms and shared the money accordingly. Her retort as the drummer proceeded to leave, with the metal fripperies decorating the neck of his drum jangling, fascinates me. She will tell the man, aa mon r’ode lo o (may we always be blessed in this alms voyage).
I am of the opinion that Buhari is just like those helpless kid twins, being commodified by the so-called cabal, for their selfish purposes. He has been reduced to a commodity around which their sustenance is woven and as such, the battle to retain him in office is the battle of their lives.
Yet, but for the fact that Nigeria does not exist in our individual minds, Nigeria should have propelled every Nigerian who watched that NTA event or listened to Buhari’s apparent manifestation of acute dementia in Delta to resolve collectively, in the interest of Nigeria and in the interest of the long life of Buhari himself, to ask him to go back to Daura. Every minute they foist that man on the presidential seat, they are shrinking his days on earth. Same cabal killed Umaru Yar’dua prematurely. I have read sad and very saddening commentaries on the social media and comments by those who should know, sauced in the brew of politics, ethnicity and religion, urging Buhari to carry on nevertheless. Some even said that, per adventure his effigy is what is retained in office from 2019 to 2023, they bother less.
Those who understand the trait say that, from their reading of those interfaces Buhari had, he is apparently suffering from dementia. They said Buhari’s disconnected look, sudden prolonged silence mid-sentence, the tangential answers to questions that demanded straight-laced answers are symptoms. Though this cannot be substituted for a prognosis, dementia, from my reading up the illness, bares striking similarity to what Buhari exhibits. It is said that it is “an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.”
In the absence of the presidency’s full disclosure of what ails our president, we may not be wrong to hanker guesses but, the truth is, we will suffer for every action or inaction we take to spite this country. The question I have posed ever since watching those events’ clips is, if that character waffling helplessly at those events were to apply to manage our individual concerns, would we avail him? We are not bothered because Nigeria is a remote construct that does not have any bearing or meaning to us. And slowly but surely, we are leading this country to the path of doom and apocalypse.
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