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Nigeria’s Democrazy and Its Undertakers

Adams Oshiomhole is on a roll. He’s revelling wantonly in his unrestrained power to do as he pleases. 

The ex-comrade and former governor has achieved his aim. He’s now the sovereign of APC and self-anointed godfather of Edo State politics. 

He believes that, as national chairman, he’s beyond the constraints of his party’s constitution and the rules and regulations governing all aspects of the party’s administration and activities. The party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, supposedly a superior organ to the National Working Committee, NWC, which he heads, is just a decoration. That’s why he routinely ignores it, and usurps its power and functions to advance his personal interests.

Like most politicians, Oshiomhole is unprincipled. Whatever serves his interests at the moment is welcome, so long as it enables him to achieve his goal. Let’s give it to him: he’s a brilliant purveyor of puffery, semantic trickery  and verbal overkill. A skill he employs to mask his ruthless streak and relentless advertisement for himself. 

His promotion of Osagie Ize-Iyamu to replace Governor Godwin Obaseki is vintage Oshiomhole. It serves his immediate and urgent need to get rid of the governor, whom he had thought he could walk all over without any serious pushback.

Ize-Iyamu is the same person he vilified so cruelly and unfairly in 2016. Then Ize-Iyamu was the PDP’s candidate running against his own man, Obaseki.

Both of them have had a fraught relationship since Oshiomhole was first elected governor. Ize-Iyamu had always wanted to be governor too and believed he had done enough and showed unblemished loyalty to Oshiomhole to be anointed as his successor.

He was involved in the efforts to get Oshiomhole elected governor in 2007. And he ran the campaign for his re-election in 2012. After the emergence of APC, Ize-Iyamu was elected the party’s deputy national chairman, south. The bromance between them was thriving then. 

But it soured soon after Oshiomhole began his second term as governor. He had begun to take certain steps that signaled that he wasn’t keen on Ize-Iyamu succeeding him. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Ize-Iyamu decamped to PDP and subsequently picked the party’s ticket.

Oshiomhole had said that he didn’t want a professional politician to succeed him. His reason was that, while the professional politicians know how to win elections by all means, they aren’t fit for serious, effective governance. Hence his choice of Obaseki. 

Contrary to his claim that he supported Obaseki because he was an experienced technocrat and the architect of his economic revival plan for the state, the real reason was different. He had thought that he could easily manipulate Obaseki who, before he was co-opted to run for governor, was apolitical.

Oshiomhole’s plan was simple to him. He would replicate the Lagos political power model, where Bola Tinubu is the undisputed leader and absolute lord of the party and the state. And all elected  and appointed officials, starting with the governor, serve only at his whim. Anyone who fails to respect that power configuration is quickly and ruthlessly dispensed with.

We can summon Governor Akinwumi Ambode to bear witness to Tinubu’s ruthless rule of his political empire. He dared to challenge the emperor and was reduced to political anonymity where he was before his elevation to governor. He forgot the rules and protocols of benefiting from Tinubu’s political largesse. Once you’re fortunate to be favored, you must reciprocate with absolute loyalty and unqualified obsequiousness. He learnt this lesson the hard way and too late. 

In their desperation to cling to power, the president and his party ignored the moral essence of June 12 and gave democracy a severe hiding

But Oshiomhole is not Tinubu. Edo is not Lagos. And Obaseki is not Ambode. Oshiomhole’s plan was derailed by Obaseki’s stubborn refusal to be played as just a pawn. The hitherto apolitical Obaseki had become a very political governor, who wouldn’t stand for a godfather breathing down his neck uncomfortably. He opted to resist and die politically, if need be, while doing so.

It’s no surprise that Oshiomhole has turned full circle. He has no qualms at all descending to the basest level to bury himself in the rankest murk and gleefully eat his own vomit.

Ize-Iyamu is no longer a ‘thief’, a ‘cultist’, and a ‘corrupt’ person. He has replaced him with Obaseki as his bete noire, who must be crushed politically for daring to challenge his godfathership.

For now, Oshiomhole seems to be winning the battle. He has landed a knockout punch on Obaseki. He got his screening committee to take him out of the governorship primary contest by disqualifying him.

Whether the knockout punch will be the end of Obaseki’s governorship, or a fatally self-inflicted blow on Oshiomhole and his party will certainly unfold soon. One battle has been decided with naked crookedness. But there are more battles still playing out. So, it may be premature for Oshiomhole to declare victory. 

This is because the victory is badly tainted and purchased at a very huge political cost. He had reckoned wrongly that the governor wouldn’t appear for screening. But Obaseki outsmarted him. He said, after the encounter with the committee he saw as hostile to him, that he wouldn’t “get justice.” In other words, the committee only worked to the answer that had been determined well in advance. 

The committee didn’t waste time pretending to be fair. The reason for the governor’s disqualification was not just risible. It was a sheer mockery of any semblance of fairness and objectivity.

The same person, who was deemed qualified to fly the party’s flag four years ago, is now found to be unworthy. Even an imbecile couldn’t have written such a juvenile script to legitimize a political lynching in broad daylight.

If the governor had refused or failed to be screened, he would’ve handed Oshiomhole and his rabble-rousing Edo People’s Movement a plank to justify their plot to stop him at all costs. He denied them that easy way out of not owning their political chicanery. Even with his setback, he scored a huge moral victory. 

Oshiomhole resorted to outright disqualification of Obaseki apparently because he wasn’t too confident that he could successfully manipulate the primary election against him. It was in desperation that the plan B, disqualification, was activated.

While he was governor, he had boasted endlessly about how he successfully killed off godfatherism in Edo State. It turned out that he did that, so he could become the only 800-pound gorilla in Edo political zoo.

Actually not a zoo. Because a zoo is far more organized and sane than Nigeria’s politics and political parties. It’s more like a political jungle where anything goes and survival of the fittest is the first fundamental law.

And the declaration of Oshiomhole’s ‘triumph’ was made on June 12. The new “Democracy Day” would have passed without a whimper despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast. The people didn’t notice the day as special in any way. They seem not to care anymore.

In any case, why should they care? It was just another day that reminded them of their punishing deprivations and abandonment by the government. But it was also a day that the APC showed once more that our democracy is a farce and more of what  late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the afrobeat maestro and social activist, described as DEMOCRAZY. 

June 12 as Democracy Day was nothing but a sop to the Southwest. It was meant to bring the zone onboard again for Buhari’s re-election. Those who sold the idea to, and Buhari who bought it, had never believed in it. They were happy when M.K.O. Abiola was denied the presidency after his victory. And they pretended to mourn him when he died.

The 2019 general elections desecrated the essence of June 12. They were a violent assault on all democratic norms and the principles that underpin a fair and free electoral contest.

In their desperation to cling to power, the president and his party ignored the moral essence of June 12 and gave democracy a severe hiding. The elections, universally condemned as a gross aberration, affirmed that what we have is even worst than what Fela had feared and excoriated – DEMOCRACY OF THE GUN.

Like father like the son. Desperate to assert his godfathership in Edo, Oshiomhole bent his party’s rules, wrote his own and threw all caution out the window to get his wish. And he chose to announce the pre-determined outcome of his farcical screening exercise on the day we are supposed to celebrate democracy. 

The ‘demononsense’, as someone sarcastically described the screening exercise, is yet another confirmation of the fecklessness and dangerous inclinations of our politicians. It’s always about themselves; never about the people and the country. This is again another clear signal that they will inevitably be the undertakers of our democracy. 

They never fought for it. Yet they are the ones reaping the rewards of the system they have co-opted to feed their whims and caprices. And line their pockets while the rest of us struggle for survival.

Oshiomhole, Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu Photo
Oshiomhole, Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu
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