By Bolanle Bolawole
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Today, I will begin by telling some bible stories to illustrate the points that I seek to make; the first is that of David and Goliath recorded in 1 Samuel 17: 1–58: “Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle… 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them. 4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span… 8 And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. 9 If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. 11 When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid… 16 And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days… 20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse (his father) had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle… 25 And the men of Israel said (to David), Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel. 26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel… 27 And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him… 31 And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.32 And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine… 40 And he (David) took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. 41 And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him…48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him… And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled”. Allahu Akbar! God is great!
The second story is that of a wise but foolish man recorded in the Book of Ecclesiastes 9: 14 – 15: “There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man”. Compare this with the Yoruba mythical story of “Afi-fila-p’erin” which runs thus: “One day a mischievous elephant ravaged a village maiming, killing and destroying everyone and everything in sight. Everyone scampered for safety but there was found in that village a man with magical powers who confronted and killed the elephant with his cap. He was carried shoulder high and everyone sang his praise that day. But the next day, news spread that this man’s son was having an argument with his peers at the market square; every mother quickly rushed to the scene to hurry their child home. “Will you let them kill you with a cap like his father killed the elephant yesterday?” Hence, the saying, to this day, that the popularity of the man that kills an elephant with a cap lasts only for a moment! Crest-fallen, the elephant-killer reportedly committed suicide.
The last story is that of Jephthah as was recorded in the Book of Judges 11: 1 – 11: “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. 2 And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.3 Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him. 4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: 6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. 7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? 8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. 9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be your head? 10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words. 11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them…”
Let the South-west leaders apply wisdom like David and Jephthah did! Politics is in the air; in a few days’ time Nigerians will go to the polls; that is, if the election is allowed to hold by the intimidating array of forces ranged against it. Politicians are all over the place making promises, many of which they have no intention of keeping, and many of which they will hardly remember they made if you ask them the following morning! It is important, all the same, that they are forced to make the promises if only for record purposes. We can at least quote them, like we now quote Muhammadu Buhari and other APC leaders. We can also hold their feet to the fire for whatever it is worth. I have heard the presidential candidates say they will dredge River Niger, complete Ajaokuta, revisit Baro port, drill for more oil in the North, stop Boko Haram insurgency and banditry; make the Middle Belt the country’s food basket and Igboland the Singapore, Hong Kong and China of Nigeria, etc, etc. But I cannot remember a single thing they have promised to do for the South-west! No one has said he will give special attention to Lagos as was promised when the capital was being moved to Abuja in 1976 or that he will redress the local government imbalance stacked unconscionably against Lagos. What have they promised my own Ondo State whose bitumen deposits are said to be the second largest in the world after Venezuela’s? What of the Olokola Free Trade Zone straddling Ondo and Ogun states that erstwhile governors Gbenga Daniel and the late Olusegun Agagu laboured so much over? Have they said anything about the Nigeria Machine Tools, Osogbo or of Osun state’s gold deposits, Oyo’s gemstone deposits, Igbeti marbles, etc? The “japa” phenomenon affects the South-west more than any other region of the country; so also the area boy, cultism, yahoo-yahoo, and rituals-for-money pandemic. What demands have South-west leaders powerfully made in these regards?
Are the South-west leaders only offering prayers and pledging support to visiting presidential candidates without making strong demands? The story is told of how the country that recently hosted the world cup bribed football’s big bosses to win the hosting rights; while the officials of other countries demanded and got projects that would benefit football in their respective countries, the Africans among them reportedly demanded dollars to line their individual pockets! I hope Southwest leaders are all not only interested in “pressing” their pockets! I am also worried that South-west leaders may be playing their losing game again. They did in 1999 and ended up having a hostile “Yoruba man” in Aso Villa. Tell me, do you think the Northern governors fighting tooth-and-nail for Tinubu are doing so for the fun of it? Why are their southern, especially South-west, counterparts numb and dumb? Who tied their tongue must untie it, biko! In this country, people do not give their vote for free. An empty mouth, they say, does not sound yummy-yummy! The poor folks know this, hence they sell their votes. In Ondo, it was “D’ibo k’o se’be!” Vote and collect cash good enough for you to cook a pot of soup! In Ekiti, it was “Point and kill!” Deliver and get paid! Everywhere in Nigeria, election is “money for hand, back for ground” This is what Richard A. Joseph calls prebendal politics in his “Democracy and prebendal politics in Nigeria” where tribal and sectarian sentiments, religion, and “stomach infrastructure” (made notoriously popular by one-time governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose) determine the choices that people make. While not being the ideal, it is, nonetheless, the reality of the Nigerian situation which promises to remain so or even get worse with time if the country survives without being fundamentally restructured. Restructure or break!
Having secured PDP/Atiku Abubakar, Northern leaders are playing what the Yoruba call the game of “eyi-je, eyi-o-je” Head or tail, we win! If Atiku wins, they win with him! If Tinubu wins, they can claim they installed him and seek to corner his government to continue their political domination or relevance by other means. Otto von Clausewitz, in “War and Politics”, posits that what you cannot procure frontally, you achieve by other means. Rancorous youths/social media activists want to avenge their defeat at #ENDSARSNOW and punish those they hold accountable for that defeat! Rambunctious “Obidients” made up largely of Igbos see in Peter Obi their brightest opportunity since the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970 to add political domination to their economic domination of the country. Presidency cabals reported to be made up largely of the Fulani are setting the country on fire just to be able to instal another Fulani man to take over from Buhari, who is unrepentantly Fulani.
But of all the three major Nigerian ethnic groups, it appears only the Yoruba are not adequately looking after their own interests. Consider, for instance, the shrill cry of Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, that Nigeria will break in the (very likely!) event that Obi, whom he supports, does not win the forthcoming election! Not that I fear or loathe the breakup of Nigeria! But not for the reason being advanced by Pa Adebanjo! I studied History. AFENIFERE from the days of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was not founded to defend the interests of Igbos or of Nigeria per se (a country which Awo described as “a mere geographical expression”) but has as its raison detre articulating, projecting, promoting, defending and advancing YORUBA interests, just as the leaders of the other ethnic groups were doing for their own people. I want to most respectfully ask Pa Adebanjo if that has changed and, if so, why? How does Obi, an Igbo man whose tribe has serially worked against Yoruba political interests – Awo’s, MKO Abiola’s, Olu Falae’s, and who are vociferously doing so now against Tinubu’s – how do such people qualify for Yoruba support as Pa Adebanjo stridently advocates? We need to be educated on how Obi as Nigeria’s president serves Yoruba interests. Or has Pa Adebanjo’s faction of Afenifere shifted ground from Awo’s ideology and metamorphosed into something else?
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.