Politics: The Dustbin Strikes Again

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EDIFYING ELUCIDATIONS BY OKEY IKECHUKWU

The Dustbin struck yet again, and with devastating impact, on the political fortunes of the Lagos strongman. Reverberation of the recent elections in Edo State made that clear, as it put the lid on everything some people were banking on. People who hitherto thought that they owned the very earth itself, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, were sobered up; even if not totally humbled. Foremost among them in Edo is the now compulsorily retired former labour leader and former party Chairman, who simply got on everyone’s nerves with his bad behaviour. While Tinubu used his tenure as governor to contrive a dynasty of questionable moral standing, Oshiomole used his foray into politics to burn up his contrived image as a genuine leader.

Tinubu made a fatal mistake in 2015. Then, he refused to learn any lessons in the intervening four years after that mistake. Yes he trod on, instead of retracing his steps; like one condemned to a pre-programmed tenure of misfortunes and misery. He dug deeper into the very hole he should not have entered in the first place. Lo and behold, the very Egungun, or masquerade, be dressed up and brought to the village square has flogged him to stupor. The Dustbin of history, not its more glorious anals, has claimed its own.

And so shall a cascade of political calamies, unleashed by a reprobate elite of questionable goodwill, continue to dispatch many to the Dustbin. It will yet hit many political, and other, actors; who have hitherto considered themselves to be the Nigerian State itself. A clear-eyed analysis of the likely direction of things for certain individuals and groups, going forward, indicate, almost with infallible certainty, that the stage has long been set for some inevitabilities. Their actions and inactions shall be the levers for it. This cuts across the ranks of powerful political, religious, traditional and economic actors in Nigeria. It is all coming because of a refusal to listen, or learn, despite experiential nudgings and repeatedly offered opportunities to do so. Lessons that would ordinarily have urged restraint, caution and propriety were ignored. That is why too many cups have filled up for too many national and state actors today. That is why the dustbin of history seem to now be striking with merciless exactitude and unsettling precision.

Tinubu’s ill-advised intervention, to save a doomed Oshiomhole in Edo State, amidst other grand misfortunes that Providence had already laid out for him, constitute the terminal nail on a coffin that has a rakishly won cap sitting on it. That is why, despite dangerous rumblings and the slow movement of events of the last two years, Tinubu seems to be pressing the fast-forward button of the dustbin of history for himself. Like many before him, especially those who held sway either during the era of the most reprehensible military dictatorship, or during the worst expressions of certain aspect of the Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations, many contemporary actors will yet be swept into the dustbin of history. Despite the many books and articles paid hack writers churned out about them, notwithstanding how many prepared speeches they read, ostensibly extolling democracy and responsible leadership, the dustbin will strike. Oblivion!

It was around mid-August, 2012, that we had an intervention on this page titled “Oshiomhole As Metaphor.” The fact that President Jonathan of the PDP, the party that lost the elections, congratulated Oshiomhole after his resounding victory created some hope about a leadership that could birth new national values, “while not renouncing tendentious group interests and loyalties.” It was a great victory for the APC, which won the elections. It was also victory for the PDP, which accepted defeat with dignity. As said in the aforementioned article, “A man may sometimes gain more by a loss that reaffirms his humanity and buys him some slack and goodwill among those who were getting accustomed to calling him a never-do-well. The PDP has not always conducted itself with any form of dignity or grace during elections and, while it shares this ‘defect of character’ with the other parties, it was easily stigmatised because it was the ruling party at the centre.” Today it is the APC, also the ruling party at the centre, that has accepted defeat.

Oshiomhole’s emergence raised the prospect of Edo State moving “…from a restricted and restrictive political culture to consensus building and the progressive expansion of loyalties beyond geographical and political lines.” The perception, then, was that “…it is no longer sufficient to speak of political parties and expect perceptive adults to continue to insult themselves by going along with what does not make sense in the courts of natural justice equity and good conscience.” Yes, the emergence of Oshiomhole as governor of Edo State held so much hope, especially because of his background as a “popular” labour leader and “lover of the masses.”

Today the tide has changed. September 19, 2020 recaptured what was tellingly said in that article of 2012: “It is no longer a matter of parties, but a matter of the people coming out to speak with their votes despite their avowed and widely known party loyalties. No one took to the streets, even where some felt aggrieved. No one mobilized any private terror machines for mayhem and contrived ‘ungovernability’. Thugs had an unseasonal bad market. No one would have expected that this ‘industry’ would suffer such monumental setback; when it should be booming. This means that the massive machinery for the ruination of peoples’ children, called political thuggery, may be facing an irreversible downturn in Edo State. This is good. Other sectors of the economy and empty skills centres may be getting more applications.”

As stated back then also: “A redefinition of the criteria for political relevance is emerging…The state needs rebuilding and realignment along the paths of development and reconciliation, not the atavistic distraction that comes from a contrived isolation of perceived political enemies. It is expected that the people will learn the right lessons and begin to use party platforms to throw up those they know, trust and believe can perform; rather than use party politics to midwife a subtle political terrorism in the land.”

The specific reflections on Oshiomhole himself in the article, “Oshiomoiloe As Metaphor,” went thus: “When it became public knowledge that Oshiomhole, the diminutive labour leader of troublesome inclinations, would go into partisan politics, some observers openly laughed and said that the man was about to get his ‘baptism of fire’. The logic was that someone who had spent the better part of his life fighting the perceived enemies of the people would have got so used to complaining and grumbling that he must have lost all capacity for doing any constructive work. In fact, they expected that Oshiomhole’s experience during the election would be reminiscent of that of Gani Fawehinmi, who was thoroughly clobbered by the elections results when he ventured forth to contest for the office of president. Those who argued that an Adams will all the more likely do well in public office, because he had used opposition to understand and develop alternatives to the bad policies he was fighting, were laughed out of court. But see how wrong they were about Oshiomhole.

With all his good points, the redoubtable Gani was part of public conscience and his forte was public and publicised interventions, as well as judicial expositions. He contributed more than any other Nigerian to the development of jurisprudence, especially as it concerns revisiting the validity of certain enactments that successive, and often repressive, governments were eager to pass off as laws. His many court cases ultimately led to the abrogation, or questioning, of many obnoxious laws; as well as a revalidation of the intent and purport of several constitutional provisions. Gani’s mistake was to venture into that area of public intervention for which he was one of the least prepared. Elections are won with active machineries, not by acknowledging the cheers of large crowds of no particular address. Crowds will always disperse after an event, until the next speech.

Gani and Oshiomhole had the common objective, and even similar profiles, of always taking on people-oriented fights, but Oshiomhole had the advantage of working with organised groups. The deceptions, betrayals and internal survival politics within unions were most probably better understood by Oshiomhole, so he relied on the people while making sure that the people did not fail him. Having repeatedly mobilised strikes in the past, he knew that any mass action requires you to agree on such details as timing and logistics with team leaders across the nation. Genuine labour leadership is, therefore, an administrator’s nightmare and Oshiomhole has the advantage of having lived with and survived several such nightmares and being in the field in a way that Gani never was.” All true. But what do we have today?

Change “PDP” to “APC” in this next quotation, which is also taken from the aforementioned article, and you have another tellingly eerie coincidence: “The only other collateral observation here, perhaps, is to say that the PDP now has all it needs in order to go back to the drawing board and organise itself. It should move beyond the quarrel over positions to actively develop an ideological wing that must take over from the hit men it had relied upon. Its youth wings should begin to sift their contents, so that the thriving culture of money-driven political loyalty, including jobless young men and women who own several four-wheel vehicles as glorified thugs, may change into something better.

The party must, at last, develop the capacity to speak intelligently on national issues, campaign coherently during elections and stand up to defend its victories, instead of always looking and sounding guilty simply because it never occurred to its leadership that there are people out there who need to be convinced about what it represents. All things considered, the Edo election puts INEC and Nigeria in a position to take more realistic steps towards sustainable party politics and national development.” Enough said!

While it is Edo and some of its major political collaborators today, it may be dubious religious leaders, foreign exchange racketeers and the betrayers of South-west and South-east interests tomorrow. The dustbin is advancing. Its lid is open. The irreversible march of Providence, of Judgment, of the transience of things and of a day of reckoning is still on. Beware, all ye that forget that everything here lasts only for some time. As our people say: “Abada wuchaa, o naa” (Every fashionable clothing, or wrapper, reigns for a while and is forgotten)!

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While it is Edo and some of its major political collaborators today, it may be dubious religious leaders, foreign exchange racketeers and the betrayers of South-west and South-east interests tomorrow. The dustbin is advancing. Its lid is open. The irreversible march of Providence, of Judgment, of the transience of things and of a day of reckoning is still on.