June 25, 2024
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Marcus Brutus, the villain of William Shakespear’s epic drama, Julius Caesar, poetically defines the emergence of dictators thus:

…But ‘tis a common proof,

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That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,

Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;

But when he once attains the upmost round,

He then unto the ladder turns his back,

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend (Julius Caesar, Act II, sc.1)

To Brutus, the lead conspirator in the assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC, dictatorship begins with emotional appeal to the conscience of the masses by a latent oppressor. He cleverly covers his intention with the innocence of a Bishop at a tea party. The dictator gives his ‘last’ meal to the poor, so he seems; and the unsuspecting victims hail him. At another time, he throws the wretched crumbs from his sumptuous meal at the masses, who grab them, munch them with intense rapacity; and praise the ‘geneours donour’ as God-sent!

While preparing the masses for the eventual brutal Golgotha execution, the dictator massages their ego by pretending to be one of them. It is an art and act that only the mean can master; and only the unfeeling can deliver. The net of the oppressor is usually wide, enticing and cooling. The same way the net becomes suffocating when the dictator takes hold of the windpipes of the poor. Funny enough, the masses willingly submit their sovereignty to their oppressors.

The battle cry of the masses to their would-be killer rulers has always been like the ‘Come and reign over us’ line in Keith and Kristyn Getty’s song: “Come Thou Almighty King.” By the time the dictator ‘heeds’ the call, it is always too late for the people to realise that they made a mistake by selling their monkeys, which they accuse of habitual squatting, to buy the dog, which proves to be the greatest squatter of all time!

Brutus’ thesis above, ensconced in poetic lines centuries ago, remains relevant in the Nigeria of the year 2024. No one can take away the truth that every dictator started the journey from the side of the masses. Sad, but true! No dictator in history started as a dictator; ugly but factual! They all started as friends of the people; used the people to climb the ladder of leadership and turned around to be the greatest oppressors of the people. While at the final act, they remain detached and completely isolated from those they went so ‘low’ with on the journey to power. In most cases, as can be found in ancient and contemporary histories, most dictators eliminate those who held the ladder from shifting while ascending to power, immediately the leader consolidates his hold on the levers of authority. Hitler and Napoleon are ready examples here.

If you think you are a friend of the king, you need to think twice. Once on the throne, except in very rare cases, kings become dictatorial. They burn all ladders they used in climbing the throne. Why they are like that, no mortal may know. Not long ago, an older friend (a big professional brother) told me about a nasty experience with one of the First-Class monarchs, who was (is) his friend. My friend, in company with other friends, visited the monarch, who happens to be their college classmate. They all played different roles during the preparation for the monarch’s ascendancy to the throne.

So, when the monarch settled down, the old friends felt that it was proper that they paid him a visit. The first shock they got was that they had to wait for weeks before the appointment to see the monarch was approved. Again, on the appointed date, they were kept waiting in the palace for over five hours. When eventually they got to see the monarch, a professor among them was asked to speak on behalf of the group. That was where the problem started. The Alakowe (academic) started by saying that they were in the palace as “friends of the Oba”.

The monarch would not have that. He cut him short. The Oba told the ‘friend’, with whom he had played football, possibly chased lizards with catapults and did all sorts of things that boys do, that “Oba doesn’t have friends!” He did not stop there. He informed them: “You are all lucky that this is a modern age. If it were to be the old times of our fathers, I would have ordered that your heads be cut off at Ogun shrine!” The group apologised! The visit ended! The narrator said he would not remember if they were entertained; all that was on his mind, he told me, was how to get out of the palace with his head still hanging on his neck!

I shared this story with another older pal. His response was: “The Oba was right. Obas don’t have friends. In the past, once a man was installed as an Oba, all his age mates would be eliminated; or asked to leave the town.” As I write this, I try to find the nexus between this weird behaviour and the saying of my people that afoba je ni Oba maá ńkókó ñpa (the king kills first, the one who crowns him).

The Nigerian masses are the friends and kingmakers, who crowned Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the President cum Emperor of the Nigerian State in March 2023. Many of the members of the Emilokan clappers club who enthroned Tinubu and made his May 29, 2023, inauguration as President possible, thought that Tinubu was their friend; a very insignificant few did that out of ignorance. It has been one year now that President Tinubu has been in the saddle. The question we are asking the Emilokan apologists, in the street lingo, is: How market? Unfortunately, every Nigerian is paying the price of the 2023 political misadventure!

The pain in the land spares nobody; the agony visits every homestead. We are all paying for what we did not buy, and Tinubu and his cold-hearted handlers are still asking us to pay more with their unending sadistic economic policies. And most unfortunately, while the masses groan, asking God to intervene, the one who rode to power on the high horse of oré mèkúnnù (friend of the masses), keeps throwing crumbs that project his fake love to the people, like he cares for the masses. In the Yoruba political parlance, such is called e wá isé fún won (give them work to do); this is what those in Public Relations and Marketing Communications also call “Talkability” The way of the dictator!

Tinubu, just last week, gave Nigerians two “talkabilities”. The first came in the name of the law that brought back our old National Anthem of Nigeria We Hail Thee. The second is the issue of complete autonomy for the local government system. Ever since the president threw those two issues into the nation’s political firmament; nobody has paid attention to his abysmal failure in power and government in the last one year.

It was so sad that Nigerians got preoccupied with the two issues, especially the old National Anthem, that many people did not remember that President Tinubu marked one year in office as President-do-nothing on May 29, 2024! My concern is not about the old National Anthem; its slavery tendencies (especially when we are virtually all slaves to Tinubu’s misrule); its desirability or otherwise; and those who refused to sing it or find it difficult to learn it. My worry here is the pig-ignorant applause Tinubu promoters are asking us to give to him for initiating the court matter on local government autonomy.

In my engagement with one of the folks hailing Tinubu for the suit as a demonstration of his “love for the masses”, I told him that the appellation of “Tinubu’s pathological hater” notwithstanding, I make no bone about my conviction that there is nothing altruistic in the Federal Government-championed litigation for local government autonomy. It would also not matter if I happened to be the only one with this feeling about the facade going on in the Supreme Court. President Tinubu cannot give what he does not have! That is exactly what he attempts to do with his bojuboju Supreme Court case!

While one would support 100 percent an autonomous local government system, it beats my imagination to discover that someone like President Tinubu; a disguised federalist in a unitary garb, would be the one carrying the placard of that agitation to the Supreme Court; the autonomy that was killed, cremated and the ashes sprinkled in the Atlantic Ocean, while Tinubu held sway as the governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007.

Noble as his last week’s suit cum ‘crusade’ may appear to be, it is laden with grievous suspicions that the man who never allowed the local government councils to breathe when he was a governor, is the one asking the Supreme Court to order the same now that he is in Abuja as the president. Tinubu did not only strangulate the local government system while he was governor, he sustained the strangulation even as a godfather of the subsequent governors of the state to the present time. He started the idea of appropriating the allocations of the 20 constitutionally recognised local government areas in the state to feed his 37 creatures known as the Local Council Development Authorities (LCDAs).

From the sweepers to the hybrid council chairmen, all players at the local government councils and LCDAs in Lagos State owe their appointments cum elections, retention and continuity to the Godfather himself, Tinubu. It has never been without a cost in every conceivable way, to the occupants of the mushroom chairmanship and councillor positions in that aquatic state. So, what has changed? Why has Tinubu suddenly become the ‘friend’ of the local government councils such that he is in the Supreme Court fighting for their autonomy? The answer is right here, staring us in our faces. It is all about 2027! He did it in the past and it worked for him.

Nothing would stop President Tinubu from doing it again. And I add this based on his antecedent: if President Tinubu wins the 2027 general election, and with an obsequious Senate President like we have in Godswill Akpabio, Nigerians would one day wake up to discover that President Tinubu had signed the bill amending the tenure of all elected office holders to limitless terms! God forbid, you say? That may sound too pessimistic; but I would not put anything pass the Jagaban!

I concede that one thing Tinubu has in excess, and which his opponents in the political terrain keep underestimating to their own peril, is the ability of the man to think outside the box; maneuvering his ways and tiptoeing among shrubs without missing his steps. Right from his return from the so-called ‘self-imposed’ exile in 1998, the major political venture to which Tinubu has committed his human and material, spiritual and physical resources to, is the Nigerian presidency. He is the real ‘Agba Baller’ in the nation’s political firmament. While the 2023 electioneering lasted, and his opponents were in all United States of America’ courts foraging for evidence of his alleged shady past in terms of forgery and other felonies, they left the man on the streets of Nigeria roaming freely.

By the time they returned to face the electorate, they discovered, to their utter damnation, that the same Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BVAS), that uploaded the results of the National Assembly elections to the INEC result portal, had failed to upload the results for the presidential election. Incidentally, the elections were held at the same time, at the same venues, and the results sorted and inputted into the same machine. While the others were crying wolf all over the place, Tinubu was clinking glasses with his boys in the comfort of his home.

His antecedents as a political tomahawk ready to maul anything on its way, confirms my fear. I tremble each time I remember what became of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, and its political offspring, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), in the hands of Tinubu. Those two noble bodies were annihilated for an all-powerful Tinubu to emerge. Afenifere today is what my people call: kò kú, kò gbáyé (he is neither dead nor alive)!

Here, we are talking of a man who out-witted the old fox himself, General Olusegun Obasanjo, to win a second term as Lagos State governor; when the likes of Chief Segun Osoba (Ogun), the late Adebayo Adefarati (Ondo); Chief Bisi Akande (Osun) and the last sibling of the political quintuplet victims of Obasanjo’s manipulation, Otunba Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), failed woefully. Until recently when Baba Akande learnt how to drink his palm wine, quietly, under the tree in his Ila Orangun country home, nobody would believe that he was once a governor-colleague of Tinubu from 1999 to 2003. Whether we like it or not, that is a rich political voyage, the accompanying shenanigans notwithstanding!

So, no one should make any mistakes about the Supreme Court case. As a political puff adder, Tinubu bares his fangs at anything that will threaten his political hegemony. President Tinubu is not asking for full autonomy for the local governments because of the cliche: “to bring development to the grassroots.” No! Tinubu needs a weak and financially impotent 36 states for him to ride roughshod over all his opponents in the 2027 general election. What he aims to achieve with the Supreme Court case is to have pseudo-autonomous 774 LGAs that will be eternally grateful to him for ‘saving’ them from their respective state governors. By the time the Supreme Court grants the relief, the states would have been down financially as they would no longer have access to the local government funds. Nobody should be deceived about the idea of true federalism.

If President Tinubu is indeed a true promoter of true federalism, I dare him to subject the issue of state creation to public debate; I challenge him to approach the Supreme Court to grant financial autonomy, vide resource control, to all the federating states so that no state would have to go to Abuja cap in hand for revenue allocation. Complete state police is another way of entrenching true federalism. Tinubu should ask the Supreme Court to stop him as the president from appointing the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); put the funding of the umpire on consolidated budget and allow the Judiciary, through the National Judicial Council (NJC), to appoint justices of the Appeal and Supreme Courts without the input of the president. The list is endless.

Without these, anyone supporting President Tinubu in this his perilous voyage is indirectly feeding our future Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and an all-consuming Frankenstein monster! I will not join the train. As long as President Tinubu is the appointing authority for the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), INEC Chairman, all the Service Chiefs and heads of all para-military bodies as the Immigration, Customs and Prison, his fight for local government autonomy remains a huge joke and a mirage. It is nothing but a distraction from our main pains just like his last week’s voyage to our long-forgotten history of slavery in the name of an old-new National Anthem! Time will tell.

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