By Bisi Lawrence
The recent gathering of ten State Governors in Lagos reminds me personally of a spectacle I used to cherish in my boyhood days around the late thirties and early forties.
It was in the heyday of traditional rulers in the Western Provinces, consisting mostly of Yoruba “obas.” They held an annual conference organized by the colonial government, for which they would foregather at a designated venue annually in rotation.
The citizens of the appointed town would come out in great numbers to watch and cheer each royal train procession as it went past with towering pomp and lavish pageantry towards the town hall. Every oba had a large, colorful ceremonial umbrella held high above his beaded crown which he flaunted in open rivalry with the other traditional rulers.
They also showed off the magnificence of their hand-woven apparels and the comeliness of their most presentable wives. It was carnival time and everybody was invited.
However, it was not entirely a time of jamboree. The traditional fathers were each the head of the Native Administration, now similar to the Local Government Council, of his area. They had important matters of general interest to discuss. Their relationship was also suffused with historical and traditional jealousies which added some tension in the normal interaction among peers at that level. So there were positive as well as negative motivations within the structure of the intercourse at the conference.
The ten governors who are coincidentally from Yorubaland did not exude the same colourful flamboyance in their appearance; they did not bring their wives along with them; none of them had a ceremonial umbrella above him. In fact, they were neatly attired and appeared suitably sober.
*Their intention was to find ways or means of effecting the fusion of their political base, in order to act as one. The purpose is to thereby gather threpresentede clout to confront more forcefully and thereby confound the ruling party at the national level, the Peoples Democratic Party. And yet, there seemed to be an underlying tone of a jamboree to the meeting.
We are all too aware that this was not their first meeting of that nature. Other political parties had met with such a gripping passion to dislodge the ruling party in the government on some occasions in the past without any success.
*The factors of distrust, egomania, vaunting ambition and insincerity conspired to ensure inevitable breakdown of their objective. Those functions seem to be more rampant in the present circumstances than ever before. The number of the groups intending merge as one is quite high, which would naturally increase the difficulty in obtaining a consensus, and widen that gap of the extent of temperament.
But perhaps the most vital aspect is the arriving at a spearhead of a leadership that would enjoy the full loyalty of the predominant section of the alliance. That is comprised of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, which has five of the governors from Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti qnd Oshun states.
The sixth governor of the “broom” banner from Edo was prominently absent at that gathering, though earlier indications might have led to the assumption that he was heart and soul with the movement to collaborate with any movement that was intent on having the PDP removed from the seat of power.
The State Governor of Ondo from the Yoruba group was not prominent in the drive for the change envisaged by the group, and so his absence from that meeting was not unexpected. It did not, however, succeed in stamping it with a purely ACN character because there were the State Governors of Imo (All Progressive Grand Alliance),
Nassarawa (Congress for Progressive Change), and Zamfara (All Nigeria’s Peoples’ Party). The State Governors of Borno and Yobe, both ANPP, were adequately represented.
Many cynics, in which number I have to count myself, were still wondering whether the new party could possibly come out of the meeting when, some twenty-four hours later, the All Progressive Party was born … or, at least, formed though not yet formally inaugurated.
We are inclined to congratulate these lion-hearted gentlemen for it is no small feat to open oneself to public ridicule by associating with a venture that seems fool-hardy from the start. So many people find it easy to glibly criticize the Jonathan administration, and then move on.
Of course, there is so much to say about the Federal Government course as it drifts seemingly aimlessly like a rudderless craft. And when it lists dangerously to one side, the array of hired minders mindlessly dip in their oars at the deep end.
That is the time we joyfully unleash darts and arrows to lambaste the sloppy policy, or the inept implementation, or the moronic concept in connection with as aspect of the administration or the other. But now his peers have stepped out at last to forcefully challenge the fountainhead of his actions—his political base.
They must know that they have their work cut out for them, the PDP is no babe in the woods. They may appear to be in total disarray at the moment as an organization, with everyone attacking everyone else, and the “President Emeritus” glowing in his element as he reconciles from yet another combat with a former devotee. But wait until real trouble is at the gate, and you will be amazed at the speed at which solid re-organization is established.
There are still many rivers for the All Progressive Congress to cross then. There has to be one head, supreme. A joint leadership never works for a political party. Two mouths never speak as one. When (and it is my increasing faith in this movement that bids me not to say, if) when that vital step is taken, we can all sit up and start praying.
the Ghanaian days
How I wish the final of the African Cup of Nations, which comes up between Nigeria and Burkina Faso tomorrow, were between us and Ghana. It would have recalled the long history of football encounters between the two West African “sister” countries.
Indeed, there is a copious log of sports association between us in various aspects of sports for decades, right from the time we were both under the colonial suzerainty of Britain.
Because we were not yet nations in our right in those days, the matches were called “inter-colonial” games. We engaged each other in Cricket, Tennis, Table Tennis, Track and Field and what—have you, but the main encounter over the years had been football— which our Ghanaian brothers called “secca”
The games were conducted in the best of the spirit of sports. We shared heroes on the field across nationalities. Ghanaian players like Baba Yara, Gyamfi, Dogo Moro had fans in Nigeria, and Teslim “Thunder” Balogun had a large following in Ghana.
He even eventually went to play in their league over there. But then, Ghanaians had been doing that here all the time. The Cudgoe brothers, who played for Railways here in Lagos, even went across to Ghana to play against their national teams. Pius Anthony, a Ghanaian by birth, even became the Chairman of the Nigerian Football Association.
In the case of his younger brother, Alex, he played cricket for Nigeria and also for Ghana at different periods, of course. The national lines had become so blurred that you might say only the white jerseys of Ghana and the red shirts of Nigeria served to distinguish both teams on the field of play.
And so it went on until Ghana became independent, and then wham! Our “brethers” became almost insufferable. That really was when the country’s named was changed to Ghana. It had been Gold Coast all along through tha halcyon days of brotherliness. Bloated with pride, they now considered it a come-down in life for them to fraternize with lowly Nigerians.
The contests continued for a while but the sporting spirit which sustained them was in tatters. Going to play against Ghana was like going to war.
There was a series of skirmishes both in Lagos and Accra in one of which I was almost hospitalized from a kick in the groin – of all places -and that from a policeman! It was total war!
The Nigerian government and its Ghanaian counterpart made efforts to re-establish the old friendly encounters; a sports festival was created exclusively between both countries. But nothing came out of it. We both went our separate ways.
About the match tomorrow? Well, let the sportswriters handle hat. I shall be rooting for the Super Eagles, of course. I have had my generator specially serviced, and thank God, I have a decoder that brings in both the GFA and Joy Sports from … Ghana.