Age of innocence
Posted By: Sam Omatseye
Over his Atiku romance, the Owu chief has declared that he is not neutral. He wanted to show that he is still in political bed with the Adamawa titan. But he shocked no one. Obj has never been neutral in his life. He has acted as the hyena who did not kill but would take over the spoil after the cheetah has killed the heifer. He is the historic cheat who purloins credit for other people’s toil. Here I take a look at his public life and break it into five acts, like a Greek play. In the last act, I pose a question.
Act one: the beginning of cynicism, or the loss of innocence
He would call it his civil war exploits, but it was a war he exploited for his personal gains. He appropriates the cauldron years and calls his account My Command with an air of proprietary vanity. In his book, it comes out more as ego trip than a trip to the past, a sojourn of alternative history. Adekunle won the war. Obasanjo wore the crown. He demonised the man who commanded the Third Marine Commando, all the way from Warri, through the Niger Delta to what became known as the battle to deliver the OAU of Biafra: Owerri, Aba and Umuahia. Adekunle had laid down the strategy, deployed resources and even preened before OBJ replaced him. Obj, as graphically presented in Alabi Isama’s book, the Tragedy of Victory, wandered away on an Israelite journey while the mainstays of the division with the help of stalwarts like Alani Akinrinade were battering Biafra to surrender. He came back and took the glory.
Act Two: Stooping to conquer.
After his boss, Murtala Muhammed was assassinated, his first speech made him look supine. His look like a mouse made one wonder if he ever held a revolver. But he was stooping to conquer. He knew his allegiance to the cabal, and one of the highlights was to sell out his countryman general who had come to him to point out an inequity in the country and the armed forces. Obj acted as though he was obliging. He called one of the architects of the inequity and put his kinsman in an awkward position by asking him to repeat what he had confided in him. That was the virtue of his loyalty. He also was happy he did not have to hand over to his kinsman, the Ikenne sage, and he stooped to a perversion of mathematics in the court of law. We can remember 12 two-third of 19 states. He became the first to hand over power through mathematical failure. A democrat of flawed arithmetic.
Act Three: Anxiety of Influence
Having retired to the arboreal calm of his farm, he suffered from a fear of irrelevance. His successor would eclipse him. No one would remember Obj anymore. So, he evinced the opposite of what the literary critic Harold Bloom designated as the anxiety of influence. Bloom defined it as the relentless wrestling with the greatest of the dead. It meant writers – and political historians have also borrowed it – would try to imitate the great personages of the past and make it seem those personages were copying them. It is a time-honoured tradition of continuity, what some Brazilian critics did in the first half of the 20th century and designated it cannibalism. It was a great way to eat up the flesh of the avatars of history. In Obasanjo’s case, he wanted to fight the future titans, his “children.” In this case, those who succeeded him. Some critics called it PHD syndrome. Meaning Pull him down. Maybe that is why he wanted to have a proper PHD. He always wanted anyone who became head of state to look bad so he would look good. Never mind that those who succeeded him always found a way to make OBJ look heroic. Remember SAP with human face? Aikhomu mocked him by calling for SAP with human leg, and human arm, etc. That was also the time he went into epistolary battles and wrote his books, including My Command.
Act Four: the dancer
When he became civilian president, he was called Baba. He saw himself as the father of the nation. But it was a father of vengeance. He wanted to be like God, who said, “vengeance Is mine.” First, he set up EFCC to hound his foes. It was also the first time the phrase “heating the polity” became routine in the land. He became a sort of modern butcher. Remember Odi and Zaki Biam. It was his own definition of low-intensity murder or genocide. He became a portentous choreographer, a dancer of misfortune. People learned to fear his happy hour. Especially when at a party. He danced with a certain fellow, and the next day he pushed him off his chair in the legislative chamber. He danced with a senator’s wife and the next day, Chuba Okadigbo was history as senate president. He did not pay for the pounded yam. He tossed cake in the mouth of another legislator, Adolphous Wabara, in the mockery of homosexual romance. The next day, Adolphous was gone.
He also taught us some ‘area boys’ language. Remember “do or die?” In deference, again to our bard, this is not a beatification, or even beautification, of the area boy.
Then to top it all, he wanted to be president for life, at least for a third act. Money changed hands. But unfortunately for him, power also changed from his hands, apologies to MFM church.
Act five: reinventing innocence
Since baba failed as Baba, he went back to his default PHD. Pull Him Down. God so kind he has a proper PHD. In religious knowledge. But in the Bible, we are told that God has made man upright but he has come forth with many inventions. This man is trying hard to reinvent himself. He gave us ‘Umoru’ Yar Adua – when he knew that Umar was not in good enough health. So, he could not outperform him in office. And just for insurance, he gave us our dear Goodluck Jonathan of the shoeless provenance in the hope that he would be his pooch and poodle. Alas, the pooch pushed him aside. So, he went back to his vomit and made an open and extravagant flourish of tearing his PDP card. He joined a winning team and felt flattered to be called a navigator. But he navigated a craft already near the shore. He had jumped off a sinking boat where he once oared like a prince.
Again, the ramrod general has given him the same treatment, so he is going back to his vomit – to Atiku, to PDP. And the same PDP folks he jettisoned, he now wants to jet to power again. Obj would really want to succeed because this is the first time in his career he would fight a battle. He is not playing the hyena over the cheetah’s spoil. If he loses in 2019, it would be the first time his illusion would be shattered. He would have grabbed the spoil of poison.
It would mean at the end of the battle, he will have no crown to wear. He would look at the other side laugh and caper. An unfamiliar position even for our Owu chief. His illusion of being a winner over the past acts will be without evidence of a trophy. German philosopher Nietzsche loathed that scenario. “Please don’t destroy people’s lies, illusions because if you destroy their illusions, they will not be able to live at all,” he wrote. In her classic The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton quoted an old man who fell into misfortune in his twilight hour: “For pity’s sake,” the man cried, “don’t destroy my last illusions.” Obj must be aware of this scenario. If he loses, he would be losing his innocence at 80.
This will be the unravelling of the failing patriarch. He will fight hard to keep the innocence of his age.
Agbaje and the ethnic card
Jimi Agbaje is bringing back his past foible. He noted in the past week that he is still a harbinger of ethnic fight in Lagos, by characterising his APC opponent, Jide Sanwo- Olu as a candidate against the Igbo. This is not only opportunism, but a rascally way to turn a true contest into the mud fight of Yoruba versus Igbo. In the last fight, the pharmacist rallied his supporters into the lagoon. We want responsible campaigns, not appeals to bigotry. Sanwo-Olu replied him with finesse, and would not go down the mud blast with him.
Sanwo-Olu and Agbaje
If all Agbaje would do is return to his 2015 formula of a Yoruba man fighting his kinsmen by rallying another ethnic group, he has shown he has run out of imagination. Mr. Agbaje, is senility at 60 not too early? You saw the scorecard in 2015 and the bad blood.
Credit: The Nation