FEATURE ARTICLE

Abiodun KomolafeSunday, November 18, 2007
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Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria

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OSUN: LESSONS FROM SALON POLITICS

t was Plato who defined a State as the product of "the needs of mankind" where "no one is self-sufficing, but all have many wants and many persons are needed to supply them." Therefore, "one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another; and when the helpers and partners are gathered together in one habitation, the body of inhabitants is termed a state And they exchange with one another under the idea that the exchange will be for their good" thereby making "the true creator of a state" to be "necessity which is the mother of invention." G.D.H. Cole, in his book, 'Social Theory', also stated that "a State is an inclusive territorial association, ignoring differences between men and compulsorily taking in every one who ordinarily dwells within its area." Matter-of-factly speaking, my interest in this piece is not in a nation being a state or vice versa but in the ability of a nation, or a state, to make its inhabitants become self-sufficient and fulfilled. And, since he who holds the political sword ultimately controls the socio-economic power-house of a nation, whatever eventually becomes - or fails to become - of such a nation state is attributable to the cumulative beingness of all its integral territorial associations.


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Taking into consideration recent events in the country, Osun, my home State, is in focus. Though the state has come a long way, and, despite her people's socio-economic potentials, she has all along been a victim of epidemic politicking, what Simon Kolawole once referred to as "the shortcomings of democracy" in which "a majority elects a minority which in turn does not consult the majority in taking decisions that affect the majority." It is a 'we-we' class structure which believes only in itself. It is elitist in concept, porous in content and fuzzy in implementation. It revels in the relics of past resentment, carouses in the catastrophes of witch-hunting and prejudices in the misfortunes of under-development. Because politicians, not thinkers; and administrators, not managers, have held sway for so long, ours has remained an antiquated system of governance in which the voice of the king is always law.

Eight years after self-rule, these pepper-soup politicians, tea-room democrats and semi-illiterate analysts still seem to believe that it is their exclusive preserve to toy with the people's future. Therefore, in gratitude for the people's calmness even in the face of indefinable manipulations, these rulers not only separated the ruled from the freedom of choice but also put them in the punishment cell by bequeathing to them a gift of political paralysis and accompanying irrelevances wrapped in a ridiculous fusses and feather of 'family affair.' It was this system that threw up the likes of Patricia Etteh as Osun State's choice for the Speakership of the Lower House.

Let us pretend as if Etteh's choice as Speaker was a mistake in the first place! But, should we have attempted to subject the state to another round of embarrassment by treating her succession to another round of hairdressing 'Etteh-tainment'? At least, I was not too petite a boy to underestimate the dilemma faced by the old Oyo State close to two decades ago following the creation of Osun State. Then, if tribal, among any other ludicrously extraneous reasons, was a major consideration for Etteh's succession, are others from the tribes of slaves? For God's sake, there were competent legislators of Osun State descent in the Lower House among whom the so-called godfathers could have at least nominated; or supported; or, in a 'do-or-die' fashion, selected, a candidate. For example, putting aside the crude system that produced them, including, of course, President Umar Musa Yar'Adua, and, which, no doubt, needs to be reformed, the candidature of either of Oluwole Oke or Gbenga Olugbogi, among some other qualified legislators from the state, would have been better received by the members than any circus show of imposition for which the ruling People's Democratic Party, PDP, has won laurels.

Oke is reputedly a thoroughbred politician and a manager of men and resources. He is down-to-earth, with sound intellectual disposition, superior innovative and realistic solutions to problems and, as such, he is ably qualified to occupy that coveted office. He was Chairman, House Committee on Defence in the immediate past dispensation. I learnt he still occupies that office. I even learnt he has done a lot for the country in the area of defence and defence-related issues and that it was to his credit that some N800million, which was originally siphoned by some economic nincompoops, was returned back into government treasury. Olugbogi, on his own part, is a renowned lawyer with outstanding leadership qualities that can withstand emerging global challenges. He is patronymic, with creative determination, delightful coherence and comforting commitment suitable for any leadership position.

There are other equally capable hands from our dear state whose names I have decided not to mention here, lest some people simulate settlement on my part! It is therefore important I state here that, though Oke and Olugbogi, among other equally qualified hands, may be from my native Ijesaland, I know neither of them and have met neither of them in my life; not even Oke who is alleged to have been born some three kilometres or thereabout from Ijebu-Jesa, my native Nazareth. My concern is that, if, in a village of the blind, one-eyed is a preferred kingship material, then, Nigeria deserves qualified and elected, not questionable yet imposed 'one-eyeds' to run her affairs. Further, since we are all stakeholders and, since whatever becomes of us as a nation state is a direct consequence of the leadership [qualities] that we not only process but also possess, it is high time we discarded the dogma of Quietism that has for long left governance in the hands of hypocrites and maniacs. It is time we all shed the toga of political paralysis and superfluous imaginations that have only demeaned us as submissive sheep in the hands of political wolves who, rather than fraternize democracy, have only ended up fertilizing hatred and practical falsity.

But for some mischievous innuendoes, if representative governance is always specific and functional, and not about one man or clique sitting down somewhere, lording those who govern over the governed, why should we as a people be subjected to the individualistic meddlesomeness and criminal small-mindedness of political Methuselahs and party hawks whose sole mission is to destroy our common, collective monument? Take for example the comical attachment between Ahmadu Alli and Ebenezer Babatope. The former is a retired military officer and former Federal Commissioner for Education who once held "the trigger on the throats of students" while the latter is a former student activist. Time it was when the duo were seeing things differently. But time and tide have changed; two parallel lines have strangely met and the once tormented is now one of the former tormentor's foot-soldiers. Added to this is the case of two Lamidis - Lamidi Adedibu, that Ibadan political warlord, and Lamidi Adesina, erstwhile Lam Adesina, and former governor of Oyo State. Possibly, Lam has lately realized that gentleman politics no dey pay again in a gladiatorial fiefdom like ours and has reportedly teamed up with the Garrison Commander under some questionable religious thermometer to determine the faith and fate of Oyo State politics.

In any case, 'appropriate quarters' in Osun State should have learnt some lessons about the transience of power. Time it was when former President Olusegun Obasanjo's image loomed large not only over PDP but also over the whole nation. Then, the fear of Obasanjo was the beginning of wisdom for, you either deigned before the deity of the ruling party or be prepared to live under questionable circumstances even in your country. Balogun Owu became so drugged with power that he assumed the All-seeing and All-knowing personality in a supposed democratic country where different strokes were expected to be for different games and where well over 70% of her population were (made) illiterates. Then, he would not only appoint a Special Adviser whose 'special advice' he would not heed but would also fold his arms while the country's constituent components were being oiled by Adedibuistic arts of arson. But the man of yesterday has with time become the boy of today and the erstwhile cantankerous image has been dispatched to the dustbin of the past. It was this change in state, coupled with PDP's fragmented yet autocratic antecedents and Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola's philistine sentimentalism that eventually robbed Osun State of another opportunity of producing a Speaker for the country's Lower House. Of course, we now know better: Osun State's loss was Ogun State's gain!

In the words of Cole, "leadership is as vital to a democracy as to an aristocracy or monarchy. And it is true in a democracy as anywhere else that the good leader must be given a great deal of rope." Honestly, if Nigeria will want to forget her sad past, especially, the sad history of Obasanjo's eight years as Nigeria's ruler, she needs leaders with sound minds whose policies are encapsulated in an optimistic vision of Nigeria's future; certainly, not those who will see and treat her as a warfront or a trading enclave where the stock-in-trade language is profit. It is our duty as Nigerians to shout against bad leadership for, when the hen comes home to roost, it is the common masses who bear the brunt. Addressing the specifics, Osun State has paid too much unnecessary dues to political jobbers whose sole duty is to expend our commonweal on jamborees and at resort centres. It is because we have kept silent for so long that we have been consigned to a hideous clime and dungeon of decay where politics is played with excessive theatricalities that only glorify steep cataclysms. Without doubt, that is why, close to two decades after her creation, she is yet to justify the purpose for which she was created.

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