Three storms in three tea cups

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By Bolanle Bolawole

Permit me to borrow the above phrase from ex-governor of Lagos state and now super-Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola; it was how Fashola aptly described his successor, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode’s accusations that he, Fashola, had employed his good offices to stand in the way of efforts to develop Lagos. I will be objective and down-to-earth as I intervene in the public spat between the two Yoruba leaders but first, let me address what may likely be the first storm in the first tea cup – the announced return of President Muhammadu Buhari from his extended leave. As at the time of scribbling this on Friday, the President had reportedly arrived and had even read an address.

There had been a few such announcements of the president’s expected return that failed to materialize in the past. Had this turned out the same way, it would have set tongues wagging. Good that Buhari, did, indeed, arrive but trust inquisitive and cynical Nigerians who are still asking questions as to why his return was not broadcast live and why the Acting President and Gov. Nasir el-Rufai were not on hand to receive him at the Kaduna airport. I have even heard that the president is due to return to London in three week’s time! Only God knows where they got the information from. The fact that the president himself said that Osinbajo will continue to run the government for now has given added ammunition to those saying Buhari is not fit to govern the country.

The scepticism all over the place is due mainly to our recent unpalatable experience when issues such as these first reared their ugly heads during the presidency of the late Umaru Yar’Adua; as well as the way information surrounding Buhari’s own health status has been mismanaged by the cabal around him; completely side-lining the president’s and Federal Government’s official spokespersons; stripping top government functionaries naked and exposing them as inconsequential (noise makers) in the scheme of things. When media aides to the president suffer the embarrassment of taking instructions from the cabal around the president, what is left of their professional honour and dignity? Hopefully, all these shenanigans will reduce, if not cease entirely, now that Buhari is back.

But if our experiences of Yar’Adua’s own return from Saudi Arabia are anything to go by, we may be entering another phase of a monstrous hide-and-seek game that will further heat up the polity rather than cool tempers. Buhari spent a little over one-and-a-half months in London. We must also hope and pray that he has returned hale and hearty, chatty and humorous, and agile and able to hit the ground running in a few days. Anything short of this will create further tension and set tongues wagging again. There is work to be done – a whole lot of work. Only last week, the long-awaited economic blueprint of his government; its answer to the economic depression whacking the country; was unfolded. Buhari is needed to energetically drive the effort with single-mindedness of purpose without distractions. This being the case, all the hullabaloo of the past few weeks would (very soon) become a mere storm in a tea cup. I am sure Fashola himself would be one of those who will heave a sigh of relief.

The second instance where a storm is raging furiously in a tea cup is in Ekiti state and this has to do with the governorship election due in the middle of next year. Gov. Ayo Fayose is not eligible to contest, having taken the oath of office twice already, but he is desirous, in fact, determined, to install a successor. Where Olusegun Mimiko failed in Ondo state, Fayose is bent on succeeding in Ekiti. It promises to be a helluva of a fight as two former one-term governors of the state are also said to be warming up for the contest. Former Gov. Segun Oni, then of the PDP but now a top-notch APC chieftain, and former Gov. Kayode Fayemi, now Minister of Solid Minerals, are said to be oiling their political machineries on APC’s platform in readiness for 2018. Segun Oni’s government was truncated by the court in favour of Fayemi, then of the Action Congress. Both were mortal political foes but are now under the same roof. While both are trying to achieve Fayose’s come-backing feat, to set his record of defeating an incumbent governor twice will take some time to achieve. Every opportunity is politics for Fayose.

At every turn, he whips up the sentiments of continuity of his commendable development projects – the fly-over in the state capital, the modern Oja-Oba market, the new High Court complex ; new Governor’s office; dualization of township roads in Ikere, Ilawe, Ijero and other local government headquarters of the state, to mention but a few. Last Wednesday’s International Women’s Day celebration in Ekiti was another huge political campaign. Two national television stations – Channels and STV – beamed it live. All women in Ekiti literally emptied into the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium venue of the event, resplendent in the white-green “aso-Ebi” (uniform) with Fayose’s picture engraved on it. The crowd was mammoth! The Women’s Day celebration was a ruse; the actual import was a mass political rally to test the waters and show off strength. Little wonder, then, that at a point, Fayose shouted to the people to bring out their voter’s card and wave it in the air. “Abuja can you see votes? INEC can you see votes? DSS can you see votes?

Show it to Osinbajo. Presidency can you see votes? Osinbajo can you see votes?” Fayose screamed again and again. While it is understandable why Fayose is feverish about next year’s governorship election in Ekiti – the do-or-die, win-at-all-costs politics that APC has re-introduced and its penchant to compromise all the agencies of government, from INEC and EFCC to the security agencies – my reading is that Fayose may not need all the troubles. Eventually, this may be another of Fashola’s storm in a tea cup.

Now to Fashola storm in Ambode’s tea cup or is it the other way round? This is a clear case of when two elephants fight; it is the grass that suffers. The “grass” in this case is Lagos state. Worse, is that it is another evidence of the bad politics that our Yoruba leaders play to the detriment of the Yoruba people. When Yoruba sons and daughters are in positions of authority, you expect the Yoruba people to benefit but this is usually not the case. What did the Yoruba benefit from Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years’ in office as president? Last week he launched his presidential library; which benefits him as a person. It is sad that a brilliant journalist, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, died on his way from that event.

Yoruba leaders are often like the proverbial mad man: give them a hoe and they hoe only unto themselves. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu led the Yoruba to APC; let him tell us the benefits to the Yoruba people but we have heard of humongous personal benefits. Yemi Osinbajo has been acting President one-and-half months: When he visited the Niger Delta states, the only state in that region that he failed to visit was Ondo. I am sorry to say this but it is a fact of our national life: Make some other ethnic groups acting President for one day and behold what they will do for their own people. I feel like echoing the cry of the Ugandan poet, the late Prof. Okot p’Bitek, through Ochol, his male character in his epic “Songs of Lawino” and Songs of Ochol”: “Mother, mother, why, why was I born Yoruba!”?

The behaviour of most Yoruba leaders is tragic, to say the least. When should we have the best of times? Is it when our own people are in positions of authority? Alas! That has not always been the case. Unfortunately, when others are in power, they, too, hardly treat us well: witness Yar’Adua, Jonathan, and now Buhari. The reasons for our brazen and unbridled marginalization are not far to fetch: Yoruba leaders are narrow-minded, selfish, and have no sense of community. They also always demonstrate very poor understanding and reading of the politics of Nigeria. They fumble and wobble in government and pander to the wishes and demands of other groups while they neglect their own people. We know all is not well between Fashola on the one hand, and Tinubu and Ambode on the other.

Fashola as governor was said to have eased Ambode out of the services of the Lagos state government. He was also said to have opposed Ambode’s choice as governorship candidate as well as denied Ambode’s campaign of support. When Ambode became governor, he, too, was said to have authorised the release of those damaging documents that proved that Fashola was not the saint that most Lagosians had thought he was. Lagos only stopped the ridicule when Fashola reportedly threatened to fight back. By the recent disclosures, we know that the war of proxy is still on-going to the chagrin of Lagos and the Yoruba race. Can you imagine Ambode standing aloof from Fashola and still wanting favours from him? Where other governors would not allow Fashola to rest, Ambode who should have advantage chose to sacrifice it on the altar of ego and banal, selfish politics!

And Fashola himself kept criminally silent up to this point, not bothering that it is the opportunity of his own people that is ticking away! Where, then, is these men’s love for Lagos? Are there no respectable Yoruba elders that these gentlemen could have complained to rather than wash their dirty linen in the public? “Agba o ki n wa l’oja, k’ori omo tuntun wo!” Are there no more respectable elders in Yoruba land? It is time to do away with child-like excuses and work towards the interest of Lagos in particular and the Yoruba people in general.

LAST WORD: I invite Dr. Kayode Fayemi and other Yoruba leaders in this government to learn useful lessons. Selfish-interest politics must not blindfold you from helping your state in particular and Yoruba land in general.

-turnpot@gmail.com 0705 263 1058

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