In my primary and secondary school days, it was common to see someone run to the staffroom to gleefully announce to the hearing of teachers: “Two fighting, Sir/Ma”! And the teachers would send the “reporter” back to the errant students to report with automatic alacrity. On occasions where either or both errant students could be strong-headed enough to ignore the summon, one or more teachers would rise up in anger, cane in hand, and follow the reporter to the classroom where “two (are) fighting” and flog the offenders all the way to the staff room.
“Two fighting” was a serious offence in my own school days and could earn the offenders severe corporal punishment or even suspension from school. Whenever any errant student was dragged before my secondary school principal, the late ex-governor of old Ondo State and fire-eating, even-in-his-old-age, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) leader, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, and he orders you: “Go and call your father”; you knew straight away that suspension was knocking on your door! I understand that corporal punishment has now been banned in our schools; in this “modern” age, it is called child abuse and violation of fundamental human rights! Yet, we turn round to complain that standards are falling and also that discipline has dipped!
While it might be easy to handle “two fighting” amongst minors and youths in our schools, how do we handle a situation when the “two fighting” involves two leaders, especially when one of the two appears unwilling to let sleeping dogs lie? In Ogun State, the immediate past Governor and now Senator of the Federal Republic, Ibikunle Amosun, appears unwilling to allow his successor, Governor Dapo Abiodun a breathing space. Readers of this column will remember that I once told the story of how Amosun reportedly keyed into his said-to-be-cosy relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari to strewn the seat of power in Abuja, the Presidential Villa, with land mines for Abiodun.
Not that there’s anything wrong in Amosun being close to – or cosy with – Buhari; in fact, it could be an advantage that one expects Amosun to use to benefit Ogun state and its people, who graciously gifted him eight unbroken years of enjoyment as their No 1 Citizen. I was, however, miffed that rather than use his advertised “long legs” in Aso Villa to draw the dividends of democracy to Ogun state and its people, Amosun’s focus was waging a war of attrition against Abiodun. And, as it is said, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. The two elephants in this case are ex-Governor Amosun and the incumbent Abiodun. The grass, unfortunately, are the good but long-suffering people of the state.
The cause of this “war” seemeth to me as the politics of “bad belle” that Amosun seems determined to play to the bitter end in his opposition to Abiodun. There must be more to this than meets the eye. In the run-down to the party nominations for the 2018 governorship election in the state, Amosun, the then sitting governor, favoured another aspirant to succeed him but Abiodun, with the support of some political juggarnauts, outwitted Amosun to beat his candidate to the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag. Amosun and his supporters moved to another party to contest the election but Abiodun still beat them as he was declared the winner of the governorship election in 2018. Amosun’s strident opposition to Abiodun did not cease after the 2018 election; the erstwhile governor never allowed his successor a breathing space but erected hurdles on his way all the way. Does this act aid or deter good governance? And who suffers? Is it not the same Ogun people?
Those who claimed to know said Abiodun had to stoop to conquer; silently, patiently and painstakingly working to worm his way to the heart of the Presidency to dispel the negative narratives that had travelled ahead of him to the seat of power. And he appears to have succeeded. Whereas Amosun rose again to oppose Abiodun’s second term ambition, the governor one more time floored the senator and got the nod of his party, APC, to be its candidate in next year’s governorship election. That was why I was surprised when, last week, Amosun was reported again as saying he was not yet done with Abiodun, vowing that the governor would fail in his second term bid!
Haba! As the Yoruba would say: Ti a ba le’ni ta o ba’ni; iwon la n ba’ni s’ota mo. Listen to the Juju music maestro, King Sunny Ade’s talking drummer in the evergreen song, Ki le ni a se o ti e fi n binu? We should ask Amosun what it is that Abiodun has done to offend him that is not known to the public. Is this more than the normal tussle for position by politicians? Henceforth, let Amosun devote his energies, contacts, connections, and influence into attracting the dividends of democracy to the state. As a politician, and a professed progressive at that, this is what is expected of him. Harold Lasswell has aptly defined politics as the art (or science) of “who gets what, when (and) how”; politics is not any senseless power tussle or endless personality clashes between political leaders to the chagrin of the constituents they claim to represent.
Another angle to the Abiodun/Amosun tango is the conspiracy theory of those who see it as a proxy war. In the run down to the APC presidential primary, Abiodun was reportedly torn between the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (who seemingly “defected” from Lagos as his state of origin to Ogun) and the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Many had felt this left Abiodun as the First Citizen of Ogun State with no choice than to tread gingerly between Osinbajo and Tinubu, who had reportedly been instrumental to Abiodun’s emergence as the APC flag bearer in 2018. Another school of thought, however, countered that Tinubu could not single-handedly claim the credit for Abiodun’s emergence but that it was the combination of Tinubu and Osinbajo that worked the magic that left Amosun and his candidate flustered, despite Amosun’s touted closeness to Buhari and the Presidential Villa.
So, Abiodun had to diplomatically walk a tightrope when both Tinubu and Osinbajo went for broke in the race for the APC presidential flag, prompting a visibly agitated Tinubu to make his now famous Abeokuta declarations, which Nigerians will not forget in a hurry. It was a three-pronged inter-continental ballistic missile: The first was directed at Abiodun while the second hit Buhari full blast. Tinubu described how the erstwhile Daura-born military dictator had vied for the country’s presidency thrice but failed on each occasion. Tinubu said with all hopes seemingly lost, Buhari went back home crying like a baby but he, Tinubu, went to encourage him to try one more time, pledging to lend him the “magic wand” that would make his dream come true. And, indeed, Tinubu did! The magic wand was the cobbling together of the APC alliance and the demonization of the sitting President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the PDP, which eventually landed Buhari the Presidency. The rest, as they say, is history!
Those who claim to know say Tinubu did not offer his back to Buhari for free: There was an understanding or a gentleman’s agreement that, after Buhari, it would be Tinubu – and not the pastor who keeps saying he is Number 16! That was what gave birth to Tinubu’s third ballistic missile of emi l’okan (it’s is my turn!) – a statement that has assumed a life of its own in Nigeria’s political lexicon. Awa lo kan (It is our turn) is what Tinubu supporters now chorus all over Yoruba nation.
Many had thought – and, indeed, had vowed – that Tinubu’s Abeokuta outbursts would backfire and sound his political death knell; that Buhari, feeling insulted, would unleash his Alsatian dogs on Tinubu; that the Presidency cabals and Buhari die-hard supporters would stand against Tinubu’s presidential ambition; and that Abiodun himself would go for broke against the Jagaban Borgu. Surprisingly but interestingly, none of that happened.
From Abeokuta, Tinubu went ahead to clinch the APC presidential primary handsomely; not only that, a couple of other aspirants, including Amosun and the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, made a last-minute stepdown for Tinubu at the Eagle Square venue of the APC presidential primary. However, subsequent events have set tongues wagging concerning how genuine some of the stepping downs were!
The primary over, the well-wishers of Tinubu say this is the time for all hands to be on the deck to promote the Asiwaju’s candidature, just like the supporters of his other opponents are doing; rather than stoke the embers of disunity and disharmony in what is supposed to be Tinubu’s strongest stronghold. It is in this light that the APC’s loss of the governorship election in Osun state is viewed with suspicion by many. Apart from the fact that the APC governor who lost the Osun State election is touted as Tinubu’s nephew or whatever, the APC losing a state n the South-west immediately after Tinubu’s victory in Abuja is seen not just as an embarrassment but also a warning signal to the APC presidential candidate to quickly return to the drawing board.
With Amosun’s threat to make Abiodun lose the 2023 governorship election, tongues cannot but wag. Whereas Amosun’s threat is seen as a tall order by political analysts, the mere talk of the APC losing another state in the South-west cannot be glossed over. In this instance, whose interest will Amosun be serving? This cannot but become the subject of conjectures! Is Amosun working for or against Tinubu’s presidential ambition? It will be a surprise if, as an accomplished politician, the senator is unmindful of the implications of his statements and actions. Or is he taking everyone else for a fool?
In his tango with Abiodun, Amosun should consult Adams Oshiomhole, erstwhile Labour leader and ex-governor of Edo State, to share latter’s bitter experience with Governor Godwin Obaseki. That was the beginning of Oshiomhole’s fall from grace to grass when his ward suspended him from the party. Already, APC leaders in Ogun State and elsewhere are calling for Amosun’s head. Will they give him the Oshiomhole treatment? But can the APC or Tinubu afford at this critical juncture the kind of rofo-rofo that heaped lorryloads of embarrassment on both Oshiomhole and Obaseki? For, as they say, a house divided against itself shall not stand. Is this, then, the trick playing out? First it was Osun; is Ogun next?
To conclude the way we started: “Two fighting” in the same party – and which can derail the ambition and goal of the party – is a serious offence that should not be taken lightly. Anti-party activities not quickly and firmly nipped in the bud weakens a party in that it sends a signal to others that rascality pays.
Former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of PUNCH newspapers, also Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Westerner newsmagazine, Bolawole maintains columns in the Sunday Tribune and New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television. He can be reached by email on firstname.lastname@example.org and +2347052631058