Kwara, Kano, Benue, et al: When ‘O to ge’ won’t be enough

‘O to ge’ means ‘enough is enough’. When should enough really be enough in a nation where bad governments are replaced with despicable ones and where state-supported thugs instal governors?  ‘O to ge’ is a repudiation of what is for a new order. However, when a bird flies off the earth only to land on an anthill, would that bird ever deny that it is still on the ground? That is what I see when a people change their overlord for another and then sing that their chains are broken.

I have followed with interest the current street euphoria in Kwara State about freedom from the Saraki dynasty. I have a number of friends there, some of them hitherto perennially silent or habitually quiet, but have suddenly regained their voice following the rout of Bukola Saraki and his army. I met one of them last week and congratulated him on the ‘O to ge’ victory. He smiled and thanked me while avoiding my ‘ignorant’ eyes. Why he would do that, I am still trying to find out. What I know, however, is that the joy of that marriage will last only if the inheritors of the Kwara widow manage to beat the street record of the exited husband. And that is where the trouble lies.

The ‘O to ge’ uprising in Kwara reminds me of the mid-19th century series of revolts against European monarchies. Historians call them the ‘Revolutions of 1848.’ They kicked off in Sicily, then moved to France, Germany, Italy, and the Austrian Empire. The record of history says “they all ended in failure and repression, and were followed by widespread disillusionment among liberals.”

Kwara is like its pod, Nigeria, in destiny, texture and behaviour. It does not look to me a state created for lasting revolts. Spiders are among the wisest of God’s creations. Their cobweb is their home; it is also their food trap. Kwara, as it is today, is a carefully woven web of private estates. Some societies live to service leaders who pay back in kind and cash. And you could see it in the leadership selection model that is almost exclusively Kwara’s. The Sarakis did not reach their height by singing Iyaladuke’s Senwele or Odolaye’s Dadakuada to the market. They paid for it — literally. There were credible stories of the elder Saraki demolishing mountains of cash daily to service the people and their needs.

The fable, some thirty-something years ago, was that Saraki’s pocket was a river of ceaseless cash. Every naira note he spent replaced itself automatically and immediately. So, the queue of the needy at his house never shortened. He even established a bakery which closed shop after several years of baking free loaves. There was (is) also the pool of needy old and middle aged women who collect regular weekly wages without service. You remember that old bard who waxed a record for the old man and likened him to Kwara’s rain that soothed the rich and the poor, government and the governed? The old lion died and passed the baton of all these to the inheritor of his den who kept the fire burning. Bukola took over from Olusola Saraki and kept the engine running. The giver continued giving; the taker kept on taking. So, why did the falcon suddenly turn round to complain about the owners possessing their possession in perpetuity? The O to ge revolution had to happen because every reign must end and no empire lasts forever. Even the Zhou dynasty that ruled China for 790 years ended one day. But it will be a great mistake to assume that the Saraki dynasty will go forever into the night following this defeat. Some dynasties do stage comebacks. The Sarakis can do too.

I asked my friend from Kwara: this your new man, how much of him do you know? “Well”, he told me, “his family is a very prominent one in Ilorin. His aged parents live in Abuja. He lives in Lagos.” Huh! I looked at my friend with the corner of my eyes and pitied him. I didn’t know how to commiserate or condole with him. With a very heavy heart, I wish that state luck. If Bukky was trounced because he was not as cozy in his dealings with the people as his dad was, then the new man who lives his real life outside that state will be potentially worse than whatever Bukola has been accused of.  There will be aloofness. There will be no usual ‘sweet and suya’ and the people will recall the past and resent the austere present.

Every marriage has its honeymoon which is always a short period. Revolutions last when they address the problem that birthed them. Kwara’s ‘O to ge’ will not last if the new power caucus seeks to redefine leadership and governance in its own elitist image. The Kwara allied forces will succeed only if they study the secret of the Sarakis’ over 40 years control of the levers of Kwara and why they lost in 2019. The new people will last only if they learn from history and rule with wisdom and with the welfare of the people as their priority. Otherwise, the people’s revolt will become like the French Revolution of 1789 which sought to entrench representative government but plunged the people into  ‘the Great Fear,’ followed by the ‘Reign of Terror’ – and ended with the military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte. Six months of hunger on the streets of Ilorin alone will be enough to redirect the muzzle of the  ‘O to ge’ musket at its creators. And the people won’t mind to storm the Ilorin Bastille again…

Away from Kwara. At another level, now that the endless elections appear to have ended, we should come out to shout ‘O to ge’ to INEC and its largely absent leadership. After seeing how we dealt with democracy in Kano, Benue, Bauchi, Sokoto and Plateau on Saturday, is there still anyone who doubt where we are headed as a nation? A professor was shot in Benue. In Bauchi, professors openly accused professors of abetting criminal manipulation of election figures. In Kano, daggers and swords cast the votes while the people crouched in fear. Across the states, big men in the electoral commission dissolved into thugs and absconded with result sheets.

The supplementary governorship elections in these states expectedly became a festival of blood. Butchers must be green with envy at the expertise with which thugs in Kano carved voters and journalists and election observers. The person who won was the one with the maddest madness. How do we expect to use this brand of ‘democracy’ to drive development? We cannot be taller than the cripple we are.

Right on national television, we saw thugs with clubs, daggers and machetes chasing voters and observers as if they were hunters pursuing hares. And the security forces were either active in conniving with the criminals or were passive conspirators. They were simply not there at all when it mattered most for democracy and the people. They lost it a long time ago, but with their latest dismal outing, they deserve a career closure. And in all these, where was INEC? If politicians were horrible and lawless players, the compromised referees were as bad as the worst of the political players. Any referee who says ‘play on’ in the face of very grievous infractions cannot claim to be a paragon of integrity. It is worse when a referee uses his own leg or hand to score for a contestant and then declare a goal. Whenever politicians accuse one another of mass thumbprinting of ballot papers, the question to ask is: who released the ballot papers to the felons?

In Kano, people died, murdered in the course of electing a governor. The Kano war was between two childhood friends whose democratic destiny and that of that State are almost intertwined. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was governor of Kano State in 1999. His deputy was Abdullah Ganduje. Because Kwankwaso lost his re-election match in 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo made him Defence Minister and he was there till 2007 with Ganduje as his Special Adviser. He recontested the Kano governorship in 2011 and carried Ganduje back to Kano as his running mate. They won and remained so close and mutually trustworthy enough for Kwankwaso to foist Ganduje on the State as his successor. Ganduje’s opponent in the bloody election of last Saturday, Abba, is Kwankwaso’s son-in-law. You imagine what the people would have got if they were not related in friendship at all.

Our democracy is a closed circle of power barons. Sokoto was another ‘war’ zone. Sokoto people, in the past 20 years, have heard of only four closely related people in their gubernatorial lives. Attahiru Bafarawa was governor from 1999 to 2003 with Aliyu Wammako as his deputy during those years. He ended his tenure and control after Wammako defeated his preferred choice in the governorship election of 2007. Wammako left office in 2015 handing over to his ally, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. That same Tambuwal has just been reelected after a fierce battle with his own former deputy, Ahmad Aliyu, who was Wammako’s preferred candidate. It is a circus. These are the people who determine whether the temperature of their state stays normal or goes up.

I sympathize with the innocent voters, journalists and observers who received the fire of political thuggery in Kano, Benue and other places. But the greatest casualties are the minders of INEC who lost whatever remained of their names with those elections. They blamed violence for the cancellation of the earlier polls held on March 9 which claimed no life but okayed these supplementary ones with a harvest of body bags. There was clearly a very loud absence of leadership in the INEC that conducted the 2019 elections. And it is a very big shame.

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