Ògún, the god of iron, approached Òrúnmìlà (Father of Divination) to be initiated into the cult of Ifá. Ògún came empty handed and Òrúnmìlà noted that if Ògún was too poor to be able to raise the fee for his initiation, he should not be too wretched to afford the materials for the sacrificial offering that will precede his initiation. Yet Ògún had nothing to offer. When it dawned on him that he would not be initiated into the Ifá inner council, Ògún offered Òrúnmìlà the only thing he had; his sword. There was an offer and acceptance and Ògún was initiated.
Shortly thereafter, the folly of handing over his only priceless possession and the only thing that made the people to fear him, the sword, to Òrúnmìlà soon dawned on Ògún. As he stepped out of the initiation room without his well-sharpened and glittering sword, the people noticed that Ògún had become vulnerable and they started making jest of him. He became the village dolt. Village boys made him dance to fatuous songs. He engaged a few in wrestling bouts and he was defeated as many times as he attempted. Wrestling has never been one of Ògún’s strong points. The god of iron is noted for his fiery temper and the dexterity of his sword, which becomes momentarily red the second he is provoked.
The story does not end there. But I will not be going into the details of how Ògún regained his lost reputation because that one is not relevant here today. However, the lesson Ògún learnt after that incident is that no matter the situation, one should not hand over his priceless possession to the other person for any reason.
Things are happening to the political gladiators down south that should not have happened to them if they had consulted their diviners before they handed over their only sword to the north during the 2015 general election. Events are confronting them in such a way that one is forced to interrogate the much touted sophistication of southern Nigerian politics. The north, hate the region or like it, is holding the hilt of the sword as we approach the 2023 general election. Either in the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, with the entitlement mentality of the “Emi lokan” bad-mannered assemblage, to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its self-destruct tendencies; down to the neoteric Labour Party, LP and its motley crowd of “obidients”, the south remains, as far as the 2023 presidential race is concerned, a sharply divided house in the face of the rock solid stand of the north, when push comes to shove. That is bad enough.
I have paid attention to the happenings in the PDP as it waggles its way in the political firmament. I have no single iota of sympathy for the party. More importantly, I wish the current “flogging” of the southern elements in the north-leadership-dominated PDP should get to a level that their northern masters will ask them to queue up like naught primary school pupils and beat senses into their brains (assuming they have any). That is why I had a good laugh when, last week, the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Iyiorchia Ayu, described Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his gang of rebellious southern elements as children. And honestly, children they are; all of them! I ask, why are Wike and his gang of cheeky “children” crying? Who collected their akara? At what point did it occur to them that Ayu retaining his chairmanship of the PDP, with ex Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the party, amounted to the marginalisation of the south? How funny can these “children” be!
What were they thinking when the PDP abandoned its age-long rotational principle and declared that any region could produce the president? What happened to their Asaba July 5, 2021 Southern Nigeria Governors Forum’s declaration that “the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the south”? When the PDP took the decision to throw open its presidential ticket, why did the Wikes of this world not protest and boycott the PDP presidential primaries? Why did he lead his gang of the now weeping “children” to contest the primaries and even gave positive consideration to the idea of becoming a running mate before his fellow “child”, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, was chosen? How politically savoir-faire is the decision of Okowa, who hosted the first meeting of the Southern Nigeria Governors Forum, where they vowed to produce the next president, but now accepted to play second fiddle to Atiku? Who behaves in such a manner if not a child?
Each time I come across the southern “children” talking about the lopsidedness of the structure in the PDP in favour of the north and the Fulani hegemonic propensity of the APC-led federal government, my mind races to the 1819 fable by the American author, Washington Irving. Irving wrote a short story titled: “Rip Van Winkle”. The apologue is about a peasant farmer, Rip Van Winkle, who travels to a mountainous forest, where he encounters a colony of dwarfs-fictional characters playing a nine-pins game and drinking at the same time. Being the merry maker that he is, Rip accepts a cup of the dry gin he is offered and he goes instantly into a deep sleep. He sleeps for 20 years and when he wakes up, he has developed a beard, has grown older, but remains the same as he was before he took the drink of sleep. Ask: will nature wait for a man who goes to bed for two decades? That is what the southern PDP “children”, who were part of the Asaba July 5, 2021 declaration did when they went into the party’s presidential primaries and accepted to be part of the shenanigans the PDP served them.
When the Wikes of this world left Asaba and went back to the PDP, like Rip, who escapes into the forest to avoid his tetchy and nagging wife, but forgets his mission at the sight of alcohol, they forgot what drove them to Abuja, and accepted the liquor (open-ended presidency) served them. They got drunk, went to sleep, woke up and contested the primaries. Abandoned by their so-called allies from the north and trashed by Atiku, here they are being flogged mercilessly again by their “big daddy”, Ayu. Naughty children, who forget their parents’ errands deserve paternal scolding.
As long as the southern political elites fail to keep fidelity with their avowed commitment, they will have an Ayu hanging somewhere to call them names. I don’t blame Ayu; though I also don’t approve his name calling comment, which, in my own opinion, makes him more a petty being than the statesmanship clout his pedigrees as a university lecturer, former senator and national chairman of a political party confer on him. But Dr Ayu is a politician, and politicians, I have been told several times, have their peculiar ways of doing things. The north, at any bend of our political trajectory, seems to teach us political lessons.
In the PDP today, a northerner is the national chairman. PDP Board of Trustees, BoT, Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, is a northerner too. The presidential candidate, Atiku, is also from the north. That is how ‘national’ the party looks at the moment. Former South-West Deputy National Chairman of the party, an “old child” from the south, Retired Commodore Olabode George, speaking while standing beside Wike in River State last week, described the situation as “antithesis and against the norm and culture of the PDP”. I laughed!
He lamented: “Party members from the south are already feeling alienated. PDP is not a private company. So, before we start the presidential campaign at the end of this month, the National Chairman must go to the south. That is what Governor Wike is saying and as a life member of the Board of Trustees of our party, I support this position 100 percent”. Bode George is 76 years old. Wike is 54 years and Ayu is 69 years old. Yet Ayu said all those asking him to step down as PDP national chairman were children in 1998, when the party was formed. Being a philosopher, Ayu knows the age difference between him and George. But he used the term, “children”, metaphorically. And I tend to agree with him. George and Wike knew that the BoT and national chairmanship positions of the PDP were occupied by northerners before they accepted that the party could pick its presidential candidate from anywhere and went ahead to participate in the primaries that produced Atiku. Why won’t Ayu call them children who cry after the milk is spilt.
Like or hate the north, the region knows what it wants politically. And the leaders over there have a way of testing the waters. Whenever they want to send a message down south, they either go to the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, Hausa service, to relay the message or get an event organised at Arewa House, Kaduna, where one of their leaders will be primed to give the keynote address. Ayu spoke to the BBC and he was followed by Professor Ango Abdullahi at Arewa House. Ango, Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, speaking at a book launch in Kaduna dropped a resounding message, to wit: the north would be more critical about who to support for the 2023 elections.
He knew those the region would not support; a candidate who seeks to benefit from strategies that exploit the ethnic and religious diversity of the geo-political zone. “We will not support a candidate that fails to convince us that he will radically improve the quality of governance and the integrity of leaders. Secondly, northerners will not be intimidated into making choices that do not improve the chances of real changes in their current circumstances. We will participate in all political and electoral activities as equals, and concerning other Nigerians who respect us… Northern votes will make a major impact in the 2023 elections as well, but they will be cast by people who are now wiser and more discerning”, he stated matter-of-factly. He was unequivocal. You must love him for that. That is how leaders, who truly love their people speak. It does not matter who inflicted the “scars from governance” the professor of Agriculture and former Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, alluded to. Such, he noted, would not be allowed to repeat itself as the “northern votes will make a major (if you like, critical) impact” next year.
Great talk from a great leader of his people. Now I ask: who is that southerner, who speaks for the region the way Ango Abdulahi does for the north? When the NEF Chairman spoke, he made no distinction about the “Core North”, “Middle Belt”, or the “Hausa North”. And that is the beauty of the north when it comes to politics. No discrimination, no segregation; one monolithic north. Check the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections results. Come down south. Check how churlish and brash the “Emi lo kan” batch is once you disagree with them. Take a look at the southern “Atikulated” assortment and their uncoordinated movement, whenever they want to project their “rescuer”. Then swerve to the medley “Obidient” crowd and experience raw insults for daring to share a contrary view to their “revolution”. When will the south be able to say: “southern votes will make a major impact in 2023 elections as well”? Pray, when will the southern politicians lose their deciduous teeth and shed their child-like attitudes to issues of common interest? When will they grow up?