By Suyi Ayodele
THE election of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president of Nigeria has thrown up some interesting topics, one of which is the fate of those opposed to his ambition, especially in Yorubaland. I am one of them. His ardent fanatics are already on our case. Tinubu, APC candidate, was declared winner of the February 25, 2023, presidential election. That was at 4.05 am on Wednesday, February 28. A very close friend, who is more or less a relation, called me at about 4.48 am on the WhatsApp platform. He had called about three times before I picked the call as I was sleeping. This is what he said to me: “Now that Tinubu has been declared winner, where will you run to”? I struggled out of sleep to respond thus: “Really? Well, I will run to a place far better than where your father once ran to”. His father was once a fugitive in Accra, Ghana. And he knows why.
It was never my intention to insult the memories of his late father, and, or scathe the feelings of his other siblings, especially, the reasonable ones among them. We had had very ‘strong’ political arguments on the ‘appropriateness’ or otherwise of my stance on his deity, Tinubu. I had stomached his invectives in the past. In one of his responses to my column before the election, he told me that only a “Yoruba bastard” would not support Tinubu. Even when I told him the inappropriateness of that phrase, he was not remorseful. He said worse things later in our subsequent interactions on the matter. I reported him to those who should be able to intervene and correct him. He was unyielding. So, that post-election call was the height of it, for me. He wondered what I just said. I repeated exactly the words. He called me some unprintable names and subsequently terminated the call before blocking me on all platforms. One of our common elderly friends called to mediate in the matter. He apparently reported me to the older fellow. Why should he be angry? Our elders say: “Omo to ba ya igbe si ona, lo nmu iri Iya re gbà òpò” – a child who defecates on the pathway, invites insults on his mother. Why should such a fella, who had called me names several times in the past, get angry at my response to his question? We both grew up with the tradition that teaches us that:”Isoro ni igbesi; Isa nsa ‘lubo, peerere ni esi e”. The closest translation will be proposition breeds response!
That was not all. My attention was equally drawn to another post by someone I do not know. He wrote, in a photo-frame post thus: “How far with those Yooba Nesan writers (Yoruba Nation) in Tribune? Festus Adedayo, Suyi Ayodele, Lasisi Olagunju? They’ll soon be hunting for appointments o”. I smiled, especially with the emoji the person used as background. I confess here. This particular post gives me utmost joy. I have a sense of self-fulfilment. So, the Emilokan apologists read what I write? Ogo ni fun Olorun – Glory be to God. Look at the identikit description above, “Yooba Nesan Writers”. Who, among the truly freeborn Yoruba persons, with clear cut ancestry, will not be happy to defend Yoruba cause and aspirations? Who would not be proud to be listed among those who champion the Yoruba ethos of supporting that which is noble, just, fair, and equitable? Anyone who holds a contrary definition of the Yoruba race needs to undergo paternity test.
Look at the three persons the unknown writer mentioned and labelled “Yooba Nesan writers”. Adedayo and Olagunju hold PhD degrees. Nesan, a name of Indian descent means “one who is remarkable”. We are the best any tribe should be proud to have. What better commendation can anyone crave? Self-adulation? Yeah! Chinua Achebe said: “The lizard that jumped from a high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no-one else did”. Adedayo and Olagunju are among the best brains around. They both added Law degrees to their already fecund kitties. No apologies that we share almost the same opinions on common issues.
By the time I joined Tribune in 1999, Adedayo was already an established columnist with his most dreaded Flickers. He and Olagunju have over 600 essays, spanning over two decades each. Yours sincerely started writing Tuesday Flat Out some two years and three months ago; precisely on December 2, 2020. Then, a joker stratified me with the legends. How does the anonymous poster expect me to feel by adding me to the list of these brains? Permit me to parody Amaneno Amapiano’s album, You Wanna Bamba, “I want to bam bam”. Honestly, I am already “chilling with the big boys” (not cultists, felons, fugitives, junkies, shameless election riggers and certificate forgers); without “running kiti kiti and kata kata” Bunkum!
Before I close on the unfortunate two, let me say this: not everyone’s life can be measured in terms of Naira and Kobo. Not everyone runs away from the battlefield. Some of us were raised in environments where we were taught not to join the company of the despicable. Besides, God has been kind to me, and I know what I want at any time! I am not out of job at the moment. And if there is the need for me to change batons, I have my personal parameters on who I will join, work for or with. I don’t have anything personal with Tinubu or against him. I have never met him in person. I don’t hope to do so in the near future. Whatever I might have written, and will write about him, were and will be purely on how I feel about his style of politics. And, honestly, I owe neither him nor his Hallelujah orchestra any apology for the views I espouse in this column. His presidency, if it eventually materialises, will be assessed based on its outputs. I have resolved to stand firmly with the people. Nothing will ever change that. I don’t have any regret for not “supporting”- so they say – Tinubu’s ambition. While I cannot recollect where and when, on this page I asked people to vote for any other person or political party; I say, without sounding arrogant, that if I ever did, I was still within the permissible limits of the law. So much for the Emilokan apologists. Tinubu can combine the Nigerian presidency with those of other West African sub-regions for all I care but, his attitudes, actions, the virtues or vices he brings to governance will remain my concern to boo or laud as the case may be. God willing, nothing will hold me back. That is as sure as Olodumare!
Morning shows the day. When you get these types of responses from a ‘family’ that just won their ‘ancestral’ crown, it tells you what to expect. And I love that! Quickly, if these mountebanks spoke the mind of their demi-god, Tinubu, and what the “Yooba Nesan writers” should expect, I say this without hesitation: my responses will not disappoint them. The first element I referenced in the intro knows my cognomen: “Omo abu’ba mose. Omo abu’lu gbangba jagun” – Son of the one who abuses the king and does not deny. The son of the one who wages war (single handedly) against a vast community. That is the ancestry that I have; very well-known and I dare them to go and verify. From “Hira lila Tapa” (the strong men of Tapa) to “Eliju Apoti” (The Savannah of Apoti), I don’t have any suspected akudaaya (apparition) disposition. My forebears were “Amu’ko se yanyan kaju” (he who holds his sword dexterously in the savannah). They were “Ag’eshi soro” (He who inflicts pains on the enemies from the horse’s back). We are never cowards. I am certainly not a coward. I was in journalism when Sani Abacha reigned. We survived him. We are almost out of the eight years of the effete leadership of Muhammadu Buhari. We have seen 99, we are not afraid of 100, so says the Dark Rum pay-off line! I run to nowhere. What will a Tinubu presidency do that will make me to check out? The legendary Adebayo Faleti, a Yoruba atata who did his roots proud, scoring many firsts in newscasting, stage play directing and editing and also played Baba Opalaba in the epic Mainframe Yoruba movie, Saworo Ide, sang: “E ma pe wa lalejo mo, awa yin la ni’lu” – do not call us strangers, we jointly own the town.
How does anyone reason that because a candidate emerged winner of a contest, everyone who did not support his aspiration is in ‘trouble’? I asked a question on this page last week. In fact, the headline of my immediate reaction to the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections was a question that I left hanging (Nigeria on the path of rebirth?). I was deliberate in not answering that question. I was on the field to monitor the election. I witnessed some things. After the election, I was going back to the INEC electronic site for the results. When they were not forthcoming, I knew something was cooking. How many people ‘elected’ Tinubu as president? Just eight million, seven hundred and ninety-four thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six Nigerians (8,794,726). How many people rejected him at the poll? Sixteen million, four hundred and ninety-one thousand, eight hundred and ninety (16,491,890) persons did. So, how many of that figure will go on ‘exile’?
When I sat down to write this essay on Monday, February 28, no winner had been announced. I took some intermittent moments to watch the dramas that were playing out at the National Collation Centre. I looked at the INEC Chairman, Mamhood Yakubu. I shook my head. I knew we had lost the opportunity to make a difference and join the community of decent people. It never happened! I promised myself, I would not get into the analysis of the election, irrespective of the outcome. A veteran broadcaster, Tony Abolo, while responding to my column used a phrase that reinforced my resolve. He described Nigeria as “unworking Nigeria”! He added that he had stopped “worrying” about “an unworking Nigeria”. I said to myself, I would do the same for the election. The only anti-hero of the election is Professor Yakubu who assured Nigerians of a digital electoral system but ended up midwifing an exorbitant failure; an antediluvian election that made the 1983 FEDECO appear like a saint. He had the opportunity to write his name in gold but chose quicksand on a rainy day. Posterity will judge him accordingly!
I expected a street-wide jubilation when Tinubu was declared winner. The towns were gloomy like a misfortune just happened. Victory is relative. The ‘winner’ knew how he ‘won’. He is used to that kind of ‘winning’. You don’t teach an old dog new tricks. What is even my own? If Tinubu rules well, all of us will enjoy it. If he does otherwise, the portions will equally go round in almost equal measure. If heaven falls, we all become victims. Haven’t we all been the ultimate victims of Buhari’s rule that has taken us eight years down the dark alley? A university classmate bombarded my private platform with some messages. I asked him to be truthful enough to share his personal improvement with me after six months of Tinubu’s presidency. Like I said last week, I care less who ‘won’ or ‘lost’. The nation was lost long ago. Opportunity came on February 25 to retrieve our lost decency. We allowed it to slip by and embrace political brigandage which the rest of the world has come to regard as our identity.
The tales and trails are all over the place. A woman thumb-printed the ballot with her blood. I ‘conferred’ on her “My Man of the Year” award. A dripping cradle voted in Kano; I linked him to the shame of the failed leadership up north. A local government chairman in Kogi State went to a polling unit and personally destroyed the ballots. He had police escorts. I shouldered that. He was merely taking a cue from his governor, Yahaya Bello, who, on the eve of the election excavated the roads leading to the community of one of the opposition senatorial candidates. Even at that, I was not bothered. Yahaya Bello is just a product of his forebears. In literature and psychology, it is called atavistic regression. He couldn’t have behaved otherwise.
Tinubu lost Lagos, his base and a state that has been in his vice grip for decades, I celebrated the resilience of the people. Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State could not win a single seat or the presidential election for his PDP in spite of the 1.5 million votes he promised, I hailed the sophistication of Edo politics and its people. Samuel Ortom, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu of the infamous G5 governors of the catastrophic PDP lost their senatorial ambitions and I said: when a knife destroys its pouch, it invariably destroys its home. Ben Ayade lost in Cross River. I knew that crying on national television does not win elections. The APC National Chairman, Abdulahi Adamu and the DG of the party’s campaign council, who doubles as the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, lost their states and I asked if they had ever won any election! General Muhammadu Buhari voted and showed the electorate waiting to vote his ballot and who he voted for in clear violation of the laws of the exercise and I was not moved? Why? Buhari, “to the best of my ignorance”, has never obeyed any law. When eventually he lost Katsina State, I laughed. Why, again? My people say: eke nba eke soro, iro npa’ro fun iro – falsehood talks to falsehood, lie lies to lie. I would like to end this with the saying of my people. “Èfó hí lé’fó l’aáhò” (one vegetable does not chase out another from the cooking pot. Hope the Emilokans get this!
(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, March 7, 2023)