By Ogaga Ifowodo
Not that when Lamidi Adedibu lived he lacked honour and veneration but that it was tainted adulation. Only his kind, those who do not subscribe to any code of civilised behaviour, could sing his praises as the godfather of “amala politics.”He had only one goal in politics: to take, by crook or hook, fire or thunder as much of what belonged to the public as he wanted.
He raised a standing army of thugs to rig elections and install his minions as governors of Oyo State or intimidate any who came to office in spite of his best efforts. With Lam Adeshina, however, he was confronted by a governor who would not take the state’s treasury to him at his lair in Molete so he would take his portion and give back the balance to the people. Consequently, he ordered his army of thugs to wreak mayhem and render Oyo State ungovernable.
To the bitter end, Adedibu denied that he was actuated by greed. In that perverse logic peculiar to him as “the strongman of Ibadan politics”, he explained that all he had wanted was just 30% of the state’s security vote. Besides, he used what he seized to keep the pots and pans boiling round the clock to feed the endless throng that besieged his home. He was a Robin Hood robbing the rich Oyo State government to give to the poor people.
The difference in this odious political philosophy between Adedibu’s Oyo State and Ayodele Fayose’s Ekiti State lies entirely in form. The Ekitis enjoy the reputation of being a well-read people. Chances are, they boast that in every household is to be found a Ph.D, perhaps a professor. So for the plain “amala politics” which was all the barely literate Adedibu could manage, the sophisticated Ekitis have given us “stomach infrastructure”.
Since Dr Kayode Kayemi lost his office by a large margin to Fayose, an impeached former governor, the stunning upset has been the hottest topic in the land, even managing to displace #BringBackOurGirls to a distant second. Several reasons have been adduced for the convincing defeat of a sitting governor who, it is generally agreed, performed creditably and was not tainted by any act of corruption. Fayemi’s cardinal sin, his triumphant detractors say, is that he was elitist and failed to connect with the people.A prime example of his elitism is the project of bringing Ekiti State into the digital 21st Century through the installation of fibre optics cables. Another was his goal of retraining teachers to make them reliable transmitters of knowledge in a world now transformed beyond imagining by the new information and human sciences technology revolutions, such that yesterday’s confident teacher can become overnight a baffled ignoramus.
Being the one in touch with his people, Fayose knew that what the Ekiti people want has nothing to do with such an enemy of the stomach as industrialisation. Thus, his priority, he says in his victory speech, is to “take good care of the people by awarding contracts to them”. Obviously, Mama Risikat and Baba Moyo must still be dancing in the streets in anticipation of the coming contract award letters. The days of hunger under the elitist Fayemi are gone, never mind that he instituted a social welfare programme for old people living in penury.
For Adedibu’s amala, Fayose substituted cupfuls of raw rice distributed to the voters, including aggrieved students of the state’suniversity who had been resisting a rise in tuition fees. Rice triumphed over fibre optics, but one must wonder who is to be pitied: Fayemi or the people of Ekiti? A friend with whom I discussed the sad event of a people voting against their best interest said: “The people have been pulverized and rendered useless.” He did not mean the Ekiti people only but the Nigerian masses at large. “The thief as hero! That is the cultural and political conjuncture that haunts our democratic aspirations,” he added.
I agree. The fight to liberate our deformed polity must pay equal attention to the urgent task of reviving the numbed psyche of the governed as much as reforming or shaming contract-crazed politicians.
The parallel may be overdrawn, but I can’t stop thinking of the scene in Palestine, over two thousand years ago, when the people asked Pontius Pilate to release Barabbas the murderer to them and crucify Jesus. As the book of Mark tells the story, it was the envious “chief priests” who “moved the people” to that barbaric act.
I suspect that a similar role was played by “the chief priests of the parties,” aka party chieftains. And it is my hope that as we move beyond arm-chair pontification to sober reflection on the Ekiti Verdict 2014, both the impoverished and easily misled people, on the one hand, and the party officials that serve as crucial arbiters of our values-free democracy, on the other hand, must be examined.
For unlike the great German playwright and poet, Bertolt Brecht, counselled tongue-in-cheek in his poem “The Solution” in another context, we cannot “dissolve the people” and “elect another” because they have forfeited our confidence.To retain his mandate, a governor shouldn’t ever have to resort to distributing cupfuls of raw rice to the voters instead of laying fibre optics cables to expand the horizon of knowledge and industry.