Of cabals, dynasties and emperors by Gbenga Omotoso

Resolving wage crisis by Banji Ojewale
November 8, 2018
Between political accountability and electoral integrity By Jide Ojo
November 28, 2018

AT first it all seemed like a storm in a teacup – many still insist it is Pockets of protests. Some big guns threatening hell unless they have their way. Desperate shuttles to the seat of power in Abuja. Peace talks here and there. More firefights.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) could not douse the huge fire sparked by its acrimonious but remarkable primaries. Never mind, the irony is sweet; party supremacy trumps impunity. Ego gets a bloody nose. But some governors and party chair Adams “Comrade” Oshiomhole have been locked in a bitter public spar and spat.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) makes a song and dance over the search of Atiku Abubakar’s plane on its arrival from Dubai where the presidential candidate had been strategising for the coming campaigns. The opposition party claims that the search is an act of “violence” and calls on the world to prevail on the Muhammadu Buhari administration to stop what it describes as its intimidation of opponents.

Shi’ite leader El-Zakkyzakky remains in detention. Attempts by his resolute followers to get him out backfire; shots are fired. Fatal.

What is all this? It is so difficult to follow the events, let alone reflect deeply on them and comment dispassionately. They happen at such dizzying speed. At times such as this, it is better to just listen to our usually large army of commentators, including emergency pollsters, tricksters and pranksters – all posing as experts.

Where else do you find a pool of such specialists? The barber shop, of course. So, to Magodo I headed early in the week – after a long while during which my hair had become a bit bushy; neither an afro nor a low cut. Rough, but not the little mounds some men, most especially aspiring pop stars, love to sport.

The shop is in full swing. Noisy and rancorous. The barber, a fairly old man, rotund and, as they say, full of life.”Order! Order!” he shouts like a court clerk. He holds his client by the chin, bends down for a critical view of his work and says with a grunt: “I need to concentrate, please.”

All is quiet. But for a short while. Outside, some boys are trailing an old man, singing his praise and hailing him. “Baba oyoyo; baba oyoyo,” they sing. The old man is slutching a dark piece of cloth that passes for his handkerchief. It obviously used to be white. He throws it into the air like a performing highlife maestro in response to the accolades rained on him.

Papi D sinks into a chair. He dumps his big, brown bag that has obviously seen better days. He wipes sweat off his dark face, smiling.

“Thank you all. I appreciate the honour. Good to see you,” he says, raising his hands like a politician.

All is quiet. A bearded fellow who has been busy on the draught board abandons his game, turns to Papi D. “We have missed you sir. So much has happened. We need your wisdom to make sense of all this nonsense.”

“You’re right; it’s crazy out there. Politics has eventually caught up with some politicians, dealing them deadly blows.”

“Sir, what exactly is the matter. Okorocha says Oshiomhole won’t give his in-law the governorship ticket. They have been quarrelling. The Comrade is accusing the governor of planning to build a dynasty. What is all that?”

“You see, these are interesting times. There are nice dynasties and there are nasty dynasties. There were great dynasties in China, India and even in our dear Africa. What Oshio Baba is saying is that government is not a family business. If you’re governor, your son in-law is the candidate, your daughter is a commissioner and even your father in-law has a federal appointment, you need to slow down. People are watching. If they keep quiet, fine but where there is resentment, democracy must prevail – in an era of change.”

“But Papi D, some people are saying Oshiomhole is merely grandstanding and that he would not have been this hard on Okorocha if the governor had honoured him with a statue in Owerri.”

“I don’t know about that; the erection of statues as a state policy is yet to be proven as an effective weapon against the hunger and poverty we confront everyday. But you may have a point, if Oshio’s erection had been suggested by the experts; Okorocha would have erected it to save the budding dynasty. It is too late now. No sculptor worth his name will embark on such an erection now.”

A young man in sports gears cuts in: “Even in Ogun, the matter is tough, with the governor not being able to secure the governorship ticket for his favourite aspirant. Why should Oshiomhole stop him and call him an emperor? Is it fair?”

“You see, don’t misunderstand the party chair. His stand is simply that party tickets can’t be handed out like candies to kiddies. Even if you must be an  emperor, don’t be a Nero. The Roman emperor was not just accused of making merry and playing his fiddle while Rome was burning, he was said to have started the fire. No chairman worth his chair will accept that.

“Amosun, the governor, as you may have heard, has since replied Oshiomhole. He said a valid congress was held – Oshiomhole rejects that vehemently – and candidates were elected, but that the party chair colluded with the ‘Lagos cabal’ to do him in.

“I can’t just stop laughing. A congress with self-appointed officials presiding. And you’re shouting ‘cabal, cabal’. ‘Cabals are to be differentiated from ‘cannibals’. The goal should always be fairness and justice so that in the end democracy is enriched.”

“But, Papi D, the DSS has invited Oshiomhole who has been accused of taking bribes and selling tickets.”

“Oshiomhole selling tickets? Where; at the stadium or at the theatre? You see, young man, the DSS seems to have some zealots who are being overzealous if not outright mischievous. What business has the security outfit in a party’s internal affair? If governors can’t secure tickets for their surrogates, how has that become a security threat to Nigeria? This is why we say regime protection should not be mixed with national security.

“Soon, husbands will be reporting their wives to the DSS and vice versa.”

“The leader of the Islamic Movement is being held despite a court admitting him to bail. Is this rule of law?”

“Now you are going spiritual. Spiritual matters, law, politics and rights issues often collide. You need to be in the spirit to sort them out. He drags his bag from the floor, opens the side and brings out a medium-sized bottle of a popular gin. He opens it carefully and kisses the bottle. He gulps the entire content of the half-full bottle, his face wearing a deep frown. He smiles and clears his throat ’gbai!gbai!gbau!’.

“I am sorry for that short break. I needed to be in the spirit since you people are going spiritual. You see, it is not lawful to keep a man in detention after a court has asked him to go home on bail. A spiritual leader who can find worthy sureties. But then, when rule of law jams rule of interests, there is ruin of law. I hear the man’s upkeep is huge. If he is let off, what happens to the contractors supplying his exotic meals? Several cows a day, the best of non-alcoholic wines the world can offer, the golden plates and cutlery sets, the expensive toothpicks, the imported bottled water, the water bed on which he relaxes and such other items that befit a royalty.  For once we should be proud; ours is the world’s most expensive detainee.“

“Hmmm!’ the small crowd choruses. Papi D stands up and hauls his bag from the floor onto his shoulder. “Gentlemen, I leave. God bless Nigeria.

The last flight

He was always the first to welcome me home whenever I visited my picturesque hometown. He would walk majestically from the lush grass while foraging for little insects, turning his neck slowly to survey his surrounding. After going round the car for a short while and seeing his image on it – courtesy of the glittering paint – he would then set to work. Kaa! Kaa!Kaa!  He would be pecking the body, poking some annoying marks on it.

Visitors who loved their vehicles never found this funny. They would grumble and threaten him. Those who dared him by trying to chase him off their vehicles ended up taking a flight as he would suddenly turn to attack them. He was always walking alone, shunning the others who obviously had learnt to let him be.

In a good mood, he would twerk to shake his massive feathers, raise them gradually until they formed the shape of a big hand fan. He would then turn around to show his back side, its colours winking and glowing. He would turn and turn to become a moving rainbow of seductive colours.

Visitors would bring out their phones to record the exciting spectacle. After a while, he would end the show by just bringing down the flowers in a mechanical manner, like a tipper after dropping its load of gravel or sand. He would then walk away in those slow loyal steps as if to say, ‘that’s enough for now’.

Alas, he will no longer show off. Last Wednesday, I got a call that my favourite peacock was dead, stung by bees. Incredible. If any bird was qualified to be so called, he was, going by his mannerism. I have been searching for an expert to tell me how a swarm of bees could kill a peacock, leaving the others, including some peahens and peachicks.

So sad.

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