by Sam Omatseye
His cap fits him, especially as a measure of his ego. It points up like an airport tower as though intending to graze the sky. Ibikunle Amosun’s head gear suffers from what Sigmund Freud and his followers would call phallic anxiety. From base to top, the cap occupies a real estate bigger than his face from fore-head to chin. To his credit, few politicians have so mastered what I would call the “political look.” Some showcase their shirts, others their shoes, many their caps. But few set themselves apart like the Ogun State governor as a fop of the head. Many say it is inelegant with the top rims caved in so the centre spikes up like a blade. But it is his own.
What does not fit, though, is the man and his task. So, Amosun may be a governor, but he is not gubernatorial. He has never been gubernatorial, not even before he mounted the throne and grovelled in prayer from party leader to party leader, sitting in lobbies on end and playing the suppliant fellow as an impresario of humility. Like Oliver Goldsmith’s familiar character, Amosun thinks he stooped then. Now it is his time to conquer. He was afflicted early by the fear of gratitude, and his ogas must pay for his humble pie.
The first shadow of the ego at work was a picture of a flood few months into his reign. The man paid a visit, and in spite of his ponderous boots, he would not allow his special footwear to touch the intrusive waters. He cruised on a canoe while the rest of Ogun humanity around swam. He, with his boots, was too pristine for the stain.
Of late though, what he has done puts the man in bold relief, especially his bold belief. He wanted to post his successor, and he had the right to it. But he wanted to do it without due process. A godfather must earn the respect of his son. The scriptures warn parents not to provoke their children to wrath. It was lesson number one that he did not understand. He was less than the lesson. Godfathers must play a delicate game of balance and flattery of conflicting interests and tendencies. If he wants to impose he must follow the paradox of imposition by consent. He followed the path of imposition by fiat.
Because he was too confident, he fell out of touch with the grassroots. The primary poll came, and he lost. His candidate for governor had to wait on the side-lines. But while others cheered, he lamented. His party, the APC, had thumbed its finger for another man, Dapo Abiodun. Amosun would not yield. His patriarchal air would not absorb such a defeat. He had to seek oxygen elsewhere.
His path was to seek another party, and be on record as one of a few governors who are leaders without discipline. He betrayed what Joseph Conrad calls a “bravado of guilt” or “an adventurer’s easy morality.” He, like his Imo State mate of erections, Rochas Okorocha, announced that his candidate was going to another party. A party leader masterminded an anti-party activity. Party chairman Adams Oshiomhole yelled, but the man Amosun yelled back. He had cried that party leaders had squeezed him out of contention in his own realm.
He screamed at Lagos, and at Abuja, and he screamed until he turned hoarse. He said he wanted to run as senatorial candidate of APC. The people of Ogun State he urged to vote him as APC senator and his candidate Akinlade of the APM as the governor pick. That was local politics.
He who claimed to love Buhari more than the so-called cabal decided to play another stunt. His people should vote Buhari of the APC for president, him for senator and Akinlade for governor. A confused trinity. He took his man Akinlade on a sojourn to Aso Rock. It was indeed a theatre when even Buhari received Amosun in Aso Rock and received the candidate and posed for the camera. If all politics is local, Amosun is making the byway the main road. Governor is main road but by asking his supporters to go to another party for the top post in the state, he made the byway the main road.
Segun Osoba had to remind Buhari that he had erred woefully by taking the party pick to visit him. But Buhari is for everyone and nobody and the translation is that Buhari is for Buhari only. By that, Buhari had become guilty like Amosun.
But nothing reflected the absurdity like what happened in Abeokuta at the APC rally when members of his own rival party APM pelted the president with missiles and boos. He endangered the life of the first citizen. Rauf Aregbesola called him a hypocrite. It was a lawless scene that day. Eyewitness accounts show that persons were mauled and one person’s eye was gouged.
Yet he wants to be a senator. As I tweeted, we have enough of the tout in a certain fellow from Kogi State. The senate cannot abide another one, especially if he was once governor. Amosun is a great shuffler. That day, he jostled Abiodun from the front row. It took the vice president’s intervention who ceded his place beside the president to him. Prof Yemi Osinbajo had to secure a place on the other side of the president. More than one governor has told me that when his colleagues gather around the president, he often pushes them away so as to stand beside Buhari. Hence he is often beside the man for photo ops, unless on a few occasions when the shuffler fails.
Amosun ought to learn about the limits of power. A friend of mine apprised me of a text message he sent Amosun as new year greetings in 2017. Excerpt: “…it is obvious the euphoria that greeted your ascension to power in 2011 has avoidably vanished… rather than be the solution, most inhabitants of the Gateway state, including civil servants, most politicians, civil society groups, market men and women now see you as the problem…this could be traced only to one factor: …you listen only to yourself…which can only lead to self-perdition…why are you daring God with your published statement that you know the person that won’t be governor come 2019…you’re determined to play Babangida here but we all know how Babangida ended…but try to reflect on why the populace of that state no longer like you. Remember the verdict of history and the incontrovertible fact that: today is not forever.”
During the Yoruba Wars, the story is told of an Alafin, who grovelled by day and plotted by night, and he ended up in the night of infamy. For now, we can say Amosun is playing emperor, but an expiring one. His reign is going roughneck into that goodnight. He is raging against the dying of his light, apologies Dylan Thomas.
Like a comet
We all woke up to a day different from what we slept for. The polls did not come but the day came and left. So after INEC chief Mahmood Yakubu explained all that happened, I said to myself, one week will be over soon, and the election will come and go like a comet. The significant point he made was that he wanted to avoid a scenario where most states would have performed their duties and a few would be left, like Edo or Taraba or Oyo, and it would look like a staggered election. So if it becomes a tight race, it would look like a few states would vote after the fact and exploit perceived momentum or spike it.
It would look like a rerun rather than an election of the whole country. If epochs sweep by and are defined by a few sentences, like the Second World War or the life of Mandela, what is a week in a nation’s life? Time seems to grind when we are impatient, but it has the wings of a bat.