Pardon this piece’s headline’s recourse to the Yoruba language. Finding an English synonym that aptly describes the trajectory of the unseen battles besieging the Jagaban Borgu, former governor of Lagos State and a man who stands by the periphery of Yoruba leadership, has been a herculean task. I am aware that, in just two previous sentences, I have provoked two problematic issues which need explanation. The first is, a o m’erin j’oba and the other, “stand(ing) by the periphery of Yoruba leadership.” I will explain presently.
Except for native speakers of Yoruba, a o m’erin j’oba may be very convoluted. Though it had long been confronted in folklores and tales told by the moonlight in traditional African Yoruba settings, Obafemi Awolowo’s Minister of Works and folklorist/writer, Joseph Odunjo brought a o m’erin j’oba into vivid perspective in his Alawiye Yoruba literature series. Using the animal world as a motif, it is a story that depicts gross human deception and how human beings are easily susceptible to and capable of mischief.
The story goes thus: Represented as a character with power, majesty and acclaim, the mammoth-sized beast was the untouchable king of the jungle and lord of the manor whose humongous size was a huge bother to other animals in the jungle. Several efforts were made to oust his prowess, to no avail. So, a plot was hatched using his majesty as his destruction. Tortoise, a clever and serpentine animal, was procured to do the hatchet job. Tortoise resolved that, given Elephant’s size and height, violence would not bring him to his hilt but a seemingly innocuous strategy of deception, praise-singing and bootlicking.
Tortoise then went into the cave of the Almighty Elephant. His message was that, all animals had purposed to make him King of all Animals in the jungle. Elephant was to come to the palace adorned in the full regalia of a King. Prior to the day, Tortoise dug a very deep hole that could occupy Elephant’s mammoth size by the palace but decorated it with a beautiful wool carpet worthy of a king’s royal feet, complete with an ornamented chair just at the edge of the royal carpet. Encircling the carpet, all the animals in the town clapped and hailed the new King dressed in flowery royal robe as he walked majestically towards the royal carpet. They cheered the Elephant on, shouting a o m’erin j’oba, eweku ewele and he in turn, fascinated by the splendor and cheer, walked majestically until he fell into the ditch and unto his death.
Why is Tinubu standing by the periphery of Yoruba leadership? Unfortunately for those who cannot stand the person of Bola Tinubu, there is no Yoruba man alive today who has his kind of strategic placement on the radar of Nigerian politics and power. For people of this persuasion, Tinubu does not fit into either Ali Mazrui’s classification of leadership nor Max Weber’s. Mazrui identified five leadership patterns in Africa. They are: intimidatory leadership, patriarchal leadership, leadership of reconciliation, the mobilizational leadership and bureaucratic leadership. Weber, however, dwells on what he calls the charismatic leadership. It is a leadership which derives from the vocabulary of early Christianity which saw some leaders possessing the “gift of grace,” granted to leaders who were seen as “prime movers of the political system.”
Moral leadership is folded into the Weber charismatic leadership and, either rightly or wrongly, many Yoruba feel Tinubu does not possess the necessary quantum of moral makeup to fit into their definition of charismatic leadership. Obafemi Awolowo, to this group, approximated what a leader should be. Yoruba leaders after Awo – Michael Ajasin, Abraham Adesanya, though didn’t have Tinubu’s national reach and wealth, were perceived to be way beyond him in moral, charismatic leadership. To this group, Tinubu is a political merchant who sees power as merchandize meant to be traded for the benefit of self and a tiny corpus of political hangers-on.
Unfortunately for those who believe that Tinubu cannot be the Yoruba leader, he is in today’s Nigerian equation, the most strategically placed for the leadership of his people. His network is octopus in size and reach; his wealth is said to be humongous and he has the ability to pull a few strings that can cause national unrest. This is why the life trajectory of this kind of individual cannot but engage any meaningful analysis.
In Tinubu, why you must discuss Buhari, 2019, this writer submitted that since Tinubu landed his Yoruba people in the Buhari governmental mess, playing ostrich was akin to a soldier’s desertion in war. The piece also acknowledged that though he would not come into the open to discuss his dilemma, Tinubu was ruing his support for the Fulani General in 2015. The writer backed this assertion with copious details of how Buhari’s apparatchik had mooted the idea to destroy Tinubu after the 2015 elections and how Buhari himself “trashed” Tinubu in his political appointments. Many analysts however give graphic details of how Tinubu’s financial base has received great fillip from government since 2015. Tinubu’s wife, Remi was to come openly to affirm this reading of the interface between Buhari and the Katsina-born President.
Not long after, the tiff in the All Progressives Congress (APC) burst into the open. Odigie Oyegun, erstwhile Tinubu acolyte, whom he tipped for the chairmanship of the party, thereafter played Judas on him.
Like the biblical Apostle Paul’s lamentation of how Demas had forsaken him for the lucre of this world, Oyegun forsook Tinubu when faced with the greater power and allures of the presidency. Tinubu sulked openly. He met the President in the company of his protégé and side-kick, Bisi Akande a couple of times and Oyegun’s removal was apparently atop his shopping list. Oyegun himself knew that, atop the list of principalities and power singing his nunc dimities was Bola Tinubu. The first National Executive Council meeting of APC held, with Buhari in attendance and Tinubu himself watching the proceedings. Therein, Oyegun’s NWC was given a new lease of life. Tinubu realized, there and then that, as the Yoruba proverb says, that he was being shown by his host that the family merely had left a scraggy and miserable half of yam tuber left to consume. It was an open advertisement of the need for him to head for the gate of the house he built.
So Tinubu and his professoriate thinkers got into strategic thinking. Politically disgraced by Buhari in the appointments of all his erstwhile allies-turned enemies – Kayode Fayemi, Raji Fashola; and the rise in the Villa-friendship fortune of his gubernatorial arch-enemy – Ibikunle Amosun, it was obvious that Buhari and his allies were planning the Jagaban’s political downfall. So, on the day the APC NEC was to meet last week, Tinubu not only absented himself, his picture paying visit to Buhari’s most audacious political foe, Ayodele Fayose, donned pages of Nigerian newspapers, in company of Rauf Aregbesola, Tinubu’s political lickspittle. And mysteriously, Buhari acted the righteous in an unfolding script whose purport Tinubu either naively cannot read or is too overwhelmed by the rout of his Judas – Oyegun, to assimilate. Buhari openly sacrificed Oyegun and waxed righteous in his speech. He followed this up with a visit to Lagos to honour Tinubu at his 66th birthday colloquium. Oh, where are my manners! Happy birthday, Jagaban.
This writer is of the view that Tinubu’s political flesh is being prepared for a political barbecue by a Machiavellian General who, though taciturn and weak, scores high rating in mauling his opponents. After mauling them, he smiles like one in whose vein blood doesn’t flow. A few indices will show this. Wasn’t it awkward and indeed curious that a Buhari who was privy to the earlier decision to prolong Oyegun’s tenure was same person who was waxing sanctimonious in support of his ouster? How come two of Buhari’s acolytes and Tinubu’s friends-turned foes – Ondo’s Rotimi Akeredolu and Muiz Banire, both SANs, were the ones who rose in trenchant opposition to the President’s speech, while only VP Yemi Osinbajo stood in defence of Tinubu? What audacity could they have had to openly oppose the President if this was not an opera script beautifully acted?
With mounting opposition to his insidious presidency, it is dawning on Buhari that the only person who can ensure his win in 2019 is Tinubu. I personally think this mindset is wrong because the South West that Tinubu penetrated in 2015 is different from the one of today. It is strewn with millions of voters who see Buhari as undesirable for the office he occupies. The President is thus prepared to play the Tortoise, sing a o m’erin j’oba and fawn Tinubu the Elephant so as to humour his ego. The strategy would be that by the time it would be too late for Tinubu to make a U-turn, the Hannibal and Chaka the Zulu would lift up his scabbard, draw out his dagger and skewer the flesh of an Elephant who cannot see that he is on a dangerous path. However, let us also reckon that a political and strategic nitwit couldn’t have risen to Tinubu’s current political height. It could be that he is actually the one singing a o m’erin j’oba for the Fulani General. And that the plan for total destruction is mutual!
Spirit of Zamani Lekwot
As General Theophilus Danjuma made that acidic speech asking Nigerians to defend themselves against the rampaging bloodthirstiness of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Fulani kinsmen at the University of Taraba last week, the picture of that hapless man, Zamani Lekwot, hopped up this writer’s mind. A retired Nigerian Army Major General who was military governor of Rivers State from July 1975 to July, 1978 under the administrations of Generals Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo, Lekwot, a Kataf from Kaduna State, was to be hanged by the Ibrahim Babangida military government. On May 15, 1992, a hot violence had engulfed his Kaduna state between the Moslem Hausa and the mainly Christian Kataf communities of the Zangon-Kataf Local Government area. Many died in the turmoil and a tribunal which was set up by the Babangida government sentenced Lekwot and 16 others to death. They were alleged to be complicit in the killings. He was eventually freed in December, 1995 and received a state pardon.
Something tells me that Buhari’s speech which weighed the number of cadavers of the Fulani herdsmen terrorizing Taraba who were allegedly killed by Taraba militia, against the people killed in Benue, as well as Emir Lamido Sanusi’s claim that 800 people were killed in Taraba, were all aimed at making Danjuma a Lekwot. I also suspect that Danjuma’s call on Nigerians to defend themselves was a bid to universalize a perfect model in Taraba that has kept this notorious terrorist group at bay in Taraba. Unfortunately for Buhari, Danjuma is a General, warrior and fighter; his boss. He was reputed to have led Aguiyi Ironsi out of this world and has enough wealth to confront the herdsmen insurgents. Much more, making D.Y another Lekwot, in a democracy like this could boomerng; it can even precipitate a war.