Who did't see that quote coming

Babs AjayiMonday, July 12, 2004
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Toronto, Ontario, Canada


he political system in Nigeria has depended too heavily on thugs, hooligans and hoodlums. Their relevance was to help manipulate elections, ensure foolproof political campaigns and electioneering, for the security of the politicians, to "deal" with political opponents, and to move mountains and cause chaos. Chaos became a very prominent word in the days of Alhaji Busari Adelakun in the volatile political scene in the Old Oyo State.

In fact, it was the words "chaos and crisis" (Adelakun pronounced them "shahus and krisis". But mark you, chaos and crisis was not limited to Oyo State; they pervaded the nation and were central to the problems in the nation and the political establishment. The reliance of the political parties and politicians on thugs and hoodlums makes the business of thuggery very lucrative and attractive. All the political parties in the second republic used thugs and relied on them.

The unwanted leaders of the National Party of Nigeria in the Western part of Nigeria often turn to thugs for protection from the same people whose votes they crave because they knew the people loathe them and wish to have nothing to do with them; they would rather have them dead and buried than be seen showing off their ill gotten wealth from the federal coffers controlled by Alhaji Shehu Shagari but disbursed carelessly and wastefully by is lieutenants. Even the late Chief MKO Abiola during his sojourn and romance with the National Party of Nigeria needed thugs to move around and to ward off enemies. As a student at the Ogun State Polytechnic, now deservedly named after MKO Abiola, I remember the war between students of Ogun Poly and the thugs brought to the then Asero Stadium by Sumbiat Abiola during the Ogun State Cup final between the then Abiola Babies and Ogun State Polytechnic.

Understandably the match became a must win for Abiola Babies, Abiola and his National Party of Nigeria and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) managed Polytechnic. It was a fight that left many of the students beaten and injured by NPN thugs. A friend and class mate, Siju Tola, lost his glasses to some hefty kicks and slaps. He was still fiddling in the air and trying to find his bearing when kicks and punches were unloaded on him. That was the closest most of us came to a street fight with thugs. Thugs were considered important and vital to the political success of the political parties.

It gave rise to some super thugs and leaders of the boys. The super thugs consider themselves a vital part of the political process. They begin to expect patronage from the party leaders and elected executives. They were at the easy disposal of the two sides in the Western Region crises and rendered amazing service to their masters by inflicting lasting wounds on opponents. When the Wild-Wild-West dust settled several innocent people have been killed or maimed, houses and properties destroyed and the society at worse for it. Houses were burnt (the wet-e approach) and people displaced, then thugs assumed a new level of relevance. This was the time the likes of Alhaji Busari Adelakun and Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu etched themselves into the consciousness of the people in the West. They provided service and were close to the powers that be at the time.

The second republic was Busari Adelakun's time of relevance and he made the most of it. He was appointed commissioner for health and later local government before the leadership of the party could no longer his ways and methods. Both sides fell apart and things were no longer the same in Oyo State. He moved to the arch rival, the National party of Nigeria and teamed up with Dr. Omololu Olunloye, chief Adisa Akinloye and Chief Sunday Michael Afolabi. He bestrode the Oyo landscape like a man on vengeance, used native medicine to full effect and imposed a curfew in his district from 7:00pm. He went around with chaos and crisis in tow; cutlass and cudgel were professional instruments in his hands. He once slammed Barrister Obisesan with a cutlass unaware that a television camera taped his action. Always held around his chest and under his agbada is a tortoise. Fear was a major weapon he used to maximum effect. But after Olunloye took Agodi he was clever enough to push Busari Adelakun to the Federal Government which made him a director of the Nigerian Ports Authority!

The story is a bit different for Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, the self-proclaimed strong man of Ibadan politics and creator and sponsor of amala politics. Amala politics is nothing but a chop-I-chop, eat-make-I-eat approach to political life. Politics is the major means of livelihood-maybe sole means- for Alhaji Adedibu. He may not know it, but he is a believer in the AGIP method of political survival, AGIP being "Any Government In Power". Adedibu is friends to the power grabbers of the day. He makes himself available to them and renders all kinds of grotesque service to them, and all kinds of errands. He is a political go-between, a messenger of both soft and hard messages. He is at play on the political stage and theatre longer than anyone can remember; a figure that has refused to dim despite his negative contribution and damage to the psyche of the people. During the days of General Sani Abacha, Lamidi Adedibu and Alao Arisekola were the loud mouths making the case of General Abacha in the South West. They intimidated and harassed the masses and held the people bound. Their errands were not for the sake of friendship or love for Sani Abacha; good money and in millions of naira warmed them up to the Khalifa. It was an amala loyalty that sustained them and Arisekola had to cough out millions of naira to the new government of General Adbusalam Abubakar while Adedibu insisted he was only paid for services rendered!

Then came Governor Kolapo Ishola and Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu became a major force of some sort, calling the shot and remotely controlling the government of Oyo State. He boasted that he installed Kolapo Ishola and has full control of the government. He expected a repeat performance when Governor Rashidi Ladoja assumed office having supported the nomination of the latter. It was said that Governor Rashidi Ladoja was also installed by Alhaji Adedibu with a clear understanding that he would remain the power behind the scene. But Governor Rashidi Ladoja had other ideas. He pushed his godfather into irrelevance and no longer subscribe to the tenets of amala politics. Of course, Alhaji Adedibu would have none of this. He went public and accused Governor Rashidi Ladoja of betraying a simple agreement, boasting that he put Ladoja there as governor and nominated all but one of the governor's commissioners. The bickering between the two sides continued for months and now Governor Ladoja has told the world that the crisis "gave me a diversion, people called from everywhere and this disturbed the business of government. People were incited to do otherwise what they would not have done". Who were those people incited? Are they still within the government? If yes, why are they still being kept to disturb and disrupt the governance of Oyo State?

I cannot get over the idea of spending useful time needed to carry out the affairs of the state and the scarce resources of Oyo State to travel to Abuja to meet Alhaji Adedibu for a meeting. From all the interviews granted by Alhaji Adedibu it was obvious that he was only displeased with the governor because he would not play amala politics and allow Ghana-must-go bags to get to him. The national executive of the Peoles Democratic Party (PDP) are idle and jobless otherwise where would they find the time to call a "truce meeting" between an elected state executive and a disgruntled old man who only wanted goodies. The only goodies Lamidi Adedibu deserves should not be different from the goodies the people of Oyo State expect from good governance. If there is divergence in expectation between Lamidi Adedibu and the people, then the governor has the right and support of sensible people the world over to brush the demands of his godfather aside and move on with the goodies he has in store for the people. It is shameful that people of Alhaji Adedibu's age and generation would still be clamouring for self benefits rather than asking that the governor implement programs and policies that will bring change for their grand children.

There is no longer room for amala politics and its other variations in Nigeria. If the governor is not open and decent enough, then he, too, would have trouble and face problems. Political office is not for self-aggrandizement but for service to the people, to alleviate their sufferings and to bring development near to the people, create jobs and make schools and colleges rise up to those names. There would be no more amala at Agodi and no freebies for anyone, and that includes Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu. Alhaji Adedibu had said many times in the past that the last job he did was sometime in 1956/57 when he supplied some cement for the construction of the Liberty Stadium. It is painful but the truth is that anyone who does not work must not eat.

Political godfatherism and patronage cannot be a means of livelihood and must be discouraged at all levels of government in Nigeria. It is unacceptable that some people expect to make much money from simply being in the governor's campaign team or being his relation or school mate. As long as a few people expect direct benefit of cash and patronage from the governor, then we should not expect development and forget about progress. Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, I plead, should retire from amala politics, in fact, from politics all together. He has no more to offer and need not call Rashidi Ladoja at Agodi any longer. He should leave the rest to his children and grand-children, and I am not saying he should send his children to Agodi to seek for contracts. Governor Ladoja must not allow state funds to flow freely and recklessly to the defenders of amala politics or their supporters. He must also check the excesses of his own relatives and lieutenants who are known to be grabbing contracts at inflated figures. Nothing is hidden and people are aware of what is going on. Let the people of Oyo State feel the impact of governance and experience change.