WHEN a friend of mine called on Monday afternoon to ask if I had read Sam Omatseye’s ‘obituary’ in The Nation newspaper, my heart skipped a beat.
I have not seen The Nation newspaper’s Editorial Board chairman this year and not being one of my favourite columnists because of his penchant for puerile exuberance and indecency, I hardly read him. His solecism in the guise of intellectualism puts me off. Did I miss any news of an ill-health? I wondered.
But I was relieved when I was told he was hale and hearty. The ‘obituary’ was the title of his column this week. My friend urged me to read it. I did. And what I read was typical of Omatseye’s asinine, zany predilection. It was beneath contempt. Was I offended? Yes! But I also pitied him because it amounts to self-hatred for anyone to put his name to such beyond the pale piece all in the name of waging a proxy political battle. But I would have shrugged it off, having no appetite whatsoever to suffer fools gladly, except for the fact that he upped his impolitic ante on Tuesday with a tweet calling out the major target of his unprovoked vitriol on Monday, Mr. Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party.
“Mr. Peter Obi, call your supporters to order. They are calling and issuing death threats. If anything happens to me, you will be held responsible!” Omatseye tweeted. What impudence! Apparently, he is beginning to take himself way too serious. Such exaggerated sense of self-worth fueled by insouciant hubris is a deadly brew.
I wasn’t going to respond initially despite Omatseye’s deliberate and unprovoked denigration of the entire Igbo race just to pander to the whims and caprices of his benefactor because in idolatrously fawning over his god, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, he had also insulted venerable personages like the late Mama H.I.D Awolowo and Pa Ayo Adebanjo in the past. Just as he did with his ‘obituary’ article, in June 2011, Omatseye, to the revulsion of all, launched an unprovoked attack on the Awolowo family in an article titled, “Awo Family Without An Awo”.
He disparaged the entire Awolowo clan and dismissed them as nonentities who were too worthless to step into their patriarch’s big shoes, a lofty height he claimed Tinubu had clambered on, but he had the harshest words for Awolowo’s ‘jewel of inestimable value’. “I wrote once that this woman whom Awo once described as the jewel of inestimable value has lost value to his cause.
If he came back to life, he would have committed the extraordinary act of divorce after death. Even his newspaper, The Tribune, has so stumbled and fallen that it swims in Awo’s vomit,” Omatseye, an Itsekiri, wrote about the wife of a man who the Yorubas regard as next to Oduduwa in their leadership pantheon.
What crime did the Awolowos commit? None! They only had the audacity to choose their friends and refused to fawn over Omatseye’s god. Providing justification for his harebrained piece, Omatseye said: “The Awo son that many expected to take after the father was Olusegun, who unfortunately died in a car crash. We shall never know if he could have pulled it off. But the others have not shown much of the paterfamilias’ brio and depth.
In the past decade, under this republic, they have blended with the wrong crowd. Even H.I.D hobnobbed with Alao-Akala, who brought illiteracy to governance; with Oyinlola who turned the grace of office into a hell-hole of despots; with Daniel who could not arrest his quick fall into megalomania.” A distraught Mama Awolowo lamented thusly: “At 95, I have lived long enough to expect common civility from younger ones, assuming that they received and imbibed proper home training. Having just lost my daughter less than two months ago, I also expect that normal people would spare me the kind of vitriolic attack that was unleashed on my person and my family; particularly as such an attack was entirely unprovoked.”
But the old woman expected too much from her traducer. Obviously Omatseye had no home training and he is uncouth. Anyone who could address a 95-year-old woman as he did is not a normal person. Because he is harebrained and unhinged, on April 16, 2018, he meted out the same condescending treatment to the indefatigable Pa Adebanjo, an Awo protégé, in his piece, “Adebanjo: Not my progressive”, on the man’s 90th birthday, labelling him a “turncoat”.
Like Mama Awolowo, Pa Adebanjo’s crime according to Omatseye was that he “was part of the unblushing train of Goodluck Jonathan”, in the 2015 election campaigns, and both attacks were prompted by Tinubu, the self-acclaimed Awo-incarnate, in furtherance of his deleterious agenda of pulling down the house that Awolowo built and becoming the leader of the Yoruba.
Being in the crosshairs of Tinubu’s vaunting political ambition is the only excuse that Omatseye needs to assume the role of a vicious attack dog. The fact that he willingly lends himself to such inelegant exertions makes his situation pathetic. A man who, without any qualms, eviscerates nonagenarians as he did to Mama Awolowo, Pa Adebanjo and many others, just to ingratiate himself with another man is lost.
The tragedy of the Sam Omatseye malady is that at 61 years and a grandfather, he is no longer a spring chicken and should not be associated with this hideous rascality.
Such smarmy conduct is beneath contempt. Omatseye’s obsession with the candidacy of Peter Obi is a perfect study in historical revisionism that should worry every well-meaning Nigerian. Obi is only one out of the motley crowd of presidential candidates. So far, he has run a clean campaign based on issues.
So, why is Omatseye and his patrons so obsessed with his candidature? Yes, Obi is Igbo, just as Tinubu is Yoruba and Atiku is Fulani. Most other ethnic nationalities have also registered their names in this titanic battle. But Obi is neither running as an Igbo candidate nor is he gunning for the presidency of the South-East.
If anything, it is Tinubu that from the onset adorned his quest in ethnic garbs. He made it clear that it is the turn of the Yoruba and he is the only one the cap fits.
It is amazing that those who ridiculed Ndigbo only yesterday as people lacking in political sagacity and worth are today wetting their underthings just because an Igbo man is on the 2023 ballot. But the 2023 election is not a war between the Yoruba and Ndigbo. It is a battle for the soul of Nigeria. And Nigerians who are disenchanted with the status-quo understand what is at stake. It is this realisation that informed the principled stance of Yoruba leaders such as Pa Adebanjo who have thrown their considerable moral weight behind Obi’s aspiration and ultimatum rejection of Tinubu’s nauseating entitlement mentality.
This is the reason for Tinubu’s rage against Ndigbo and Omatseye’s acerbic piece. They want to draw the Igbos out by provoking a fight between the two ethnic nationalities. Ndigbo will not fall for that bait because what is at stake in 2023 is far bigger than Tinubu and Obi. It is about Nigeria and ‘Kept Men’ like Sam Omatseye (apologies to Uzor Maxim-Uzoatu) are too inconsequential in the prevailing circumstance.