By Bola Bolawole
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As the parties step up preparations for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states coming up in a few months, the clouds are gathering and the signs are ominous. Storms lie in wait and history is about to repeat itself – except for those adamant to learn from George Santayana’s admonitions that those who ignore the lessons of history are condemned to repeating its mistakes. We must apply the brakes before catastrophe strikes.
The two leading political parties, the APC and PDP, are different only in name. They are two fingers of the same leprous hand. Imagine the shenanigans of Adams Oshiomhole concerning the Edo governorship election! His gutter language, his “youthful” exuberance, his speaking from both sides of the mouth; his “agbero” mentality and the way he has reduced politics to a trade shorn of every modicum of morality and respectability – these must be why it is said that politics is a dirty game. A rabble-rousing Labour leader, yes; but to think that such a man was a State governor and leader of a national party!
But Oshiomhole is not alone in the gutter of gibberish and miry clay of senselessness into which he has fallen! In APC and PDP, many are not better than Oshiomhole. In fact, they are exactly what the scripture says of them in 2 Peter 2:22: “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” Birds of a feather, they are co-travellers on the road to infamy.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the man Oshiomhole/APC thoroughly stripped naked four years ago, is the same that the same Oshiomhol/APC are promoting now and raising his hands up as their party’s flag bearer! They cannot be right in 2016 and also be right in 2020. If they insist they are right now, then, they were wrong then. Where is their apology and remorse?
Same with the PDP and its new-found honeymoon with Godwin Obaseki, a man they allegedly said stole their mandate in 2016. A man “stole” your mandate in 2016; in 2020 you are the one helping him to secure and retain it! If this is not ludicrous, then, I do not know what is! Whining; wining; dining with a “robber”; and dashing him your platform on a platter! He put your back to the wall and made demands – and you acquiesced!
PDP cannot be right in 2016 and also be right in 2020. Pray, where is their integrity? Just to win an election and have access to government coffers? Simply to grab power and act like those monkeys who were voraciously and avariciously grabbing bananas in a video shared on social media a few days ago?
More worrisome, however, are the parallels being drawn between political happenings then and now: The fall of the First and Second republics, and civil war (6 July 1967 – 15 January, 1970) in which over two million lives were lost on both sides of the divide, were some of the grim harvests. Some posts on social media, referred to Obaseki as “the SLA of Edo”! That is scary!
SLA is the acronym for Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the deputy party leader to the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in the First Republic politics of the then Western Region when the Action Group controlled the South-west. After the October/December 1954 Nigerian general election, Awo became the first premier with SLA his deputy. In the Federal elections of 1959, Awo moved to the Federal parliament (House of Representatives) in Lagos as the Leader of Opposition while Akintola took over as premier of Western Region (December 1959 to January 15, 1966).
To cut a long story short, Awo and Akintola parted ways. SLA formed his own party (Nigerian National Democratic Party) and aligned with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). In the December 1964/March 1965 parliamentary elections, which were massively rigged, SLA’s alliance with the NPC (the Nigerian National Alliance, NNA) was declared the winner. Awo was subsequently accused of plotting to overthrow the Tafawa Balewa government; was tried on trumped-up charges of treasonable felony and sent to jail.
Despite Federal might, SLA had a tough time mastering a restive Western Region sold out in their love and adoration for Awo because of his distinguished service to the region and its people. The last straw was the blatant rigging of the 1964 elections, leading to the political upheavals famously known as “Operation Wetie” and giving the region the sobriquet of the “Wild, Wild West”
The collapse of civil authority led to the first military coup of January 15, 1966 which killed SLA and many other prominent politicians across the country, including the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, and the power behind the throne, premier of the North, Ahmadu Bello. That coup effectively foreclosed the First Republic and, together with subsequent coups, destroyed regionalism and fiscal federalism, whose restoration has become the battle cry of today.
There are, however, dissimilarities in the SLA of the Western Region and the touted SLA of Edo! Who did Obaseki betray; if at all? If Oshiomhole, then, Oshiomhole does not command the same respect, status, stature, acceptability, credibility, personality and cult-hero standing as Awo. Comparing Awo with Oshiomhole is like comparing rose with thorns and thistles. All the same, we must watch it!
When people draw parallels, they aim at the same result or outcome. The result of the political tango between the real SLA and Awo led to dire consequences. Is that what we are being warned already to beware of? Will the October election in Edo be war fought by other means (apologies, von Clausewitz)? But while the SLA of the Western Region had the backing of Federal might with which he unleashed mayhem, the touted SLA of Edo belongs to the opposition and does not command Federal might.
Jettisoning APC for PDP, Obaseki, in fact, turned his back on Federal might, as it were; expect that they will want to teach him a lesson. Obaseki’s succour, however, is in the support he will garner from the base of his new-found party – the South-South. We are all familiar with the militancy of that region and how elections there have become war. When “Federal might” collides with Niger Delta militancy in Edo State in October, God help Nigeria! As they say, when iron meets iron, one must bend, “by force, by tulasi”! Can we escape the approaching cataclysm?
The prognosis for Ondo is no less mind-boggling! There, the more frightening imagery of an Akin Omoboriowo has been created! In the Second Republic, Akin Omoboriowo (from Ijero-Ekiti) was deputy governor to Ondo State’s Gov. Michael Adekunle Ajasin (from Owo). Ambition got into Omoboriowo’s head and he challenged his boss for control of the party (UPN). He lost and moved to the party at the Centre, NPN.
Omoboriowo could have waited, serving two terms as deputy governor before moving up as governor but he would have none of that. In the 1983 elections, “Federal might” helped Omoboriowo, who was announced winner. Ondo State (comprised of present-day Ondo and Ekiti) went wild with “Operation Wetie”, erupting in a manner reminiscent of the “Wild, Wild West”
To cut a long story short, “People power” upturned the verdict of Abuja. Omoboriowo, who found no hiding place, not even in his native Ekiti, reportedly stole away from Ondo in the boot of a car! The mandate was restored to Ajasin, the rightful owner, but the Second Republic did not recover from the mortal blow that election dealt it. Months later on December 31, 1983, the army struck; consigned democracy into the dustbins of history and enthroned the dictatorship of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Fast forward to 2020: Agboola Ajayi, the deputy governor of Ondo State, is being portrayed as the Akin Omoboriowo of these times in that he challenged his boss, Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu, for control. Sensing he could not uproot the governor in APC, Ajayi has moved to PDP. Like Ajasin, Akeredolu is from Owo. But unlike Omoboriowo (an Ijero-Ekiti man), Ajayi is Apoi from the Ondo South senatorial district. And while Omoboriowo relied on Federal might, Ajayi’s “new” home (PDP) is opposition party.
In PDP, Ajayi also has a battle on his hands: He abandoned the party years back and in the party’s hour of need; now, he returns to try to upstage and dislodge those who stayed put and painstakingly built the party.
Distinguished as Akin Omoboriowo’s career was, and illustrious as his story would have been, one blind act of disloyalty, treachery, betrayal, and disrespect to constituted authority ruined it all – and he ended up burning his fingers. He is remembered today not for any good that he did but for the wrong reasons.
SLA’s bad politics brought an end to Western Nigeria’s golden era of “first this, first that”; it ruined the First Republic and led to civil war. Omoboriowo’s politics of self led to arson and blood-letting in Ondo State, the scars of which remain till date; it also caused the downfall of the Second Republic. The same SLA and Omoboriowo phenomena are being flagged in Edo and Ondo right now! We must watch it!