Opinion

Obaseki-Oshiomhole feud and Nigeria’s vicious politics

The Godwin Obaseki/Adams Oshiomhole political feud remains a playback of the vicious culture of Nigerian politics. The vicious nature of Nigerian politics is an inherited legacy flowing from the nature of the colonially-created Nigerian State and the political infrastructure founded on it. It did not start today. It has been there from the dawn of nationalist politics modulated by British colonial administration from 1945 to 1960 and thereafter. What is the nature of this Nigerian politics that it is so vicious and denatured to the point of criminality in all its viciousness? Nigerian politics is essentially a criminal enterprise that every imaginable crime is embedded in it. Every crime (electoral crimes/armed robbery/insurgency/kidnapping/ banditry, etc.) ravaging Nigeria originated from Nigerian political culture.

The vicious nature of Nigeria politics did not start today. It has been a culture that followed the artificial state structure and the equally false political infrastructure Britain built on it.

The European culture of party politics is alien to native political governance system as African political culture is more of cooperative and conciliatory as opposed to the adversarial and competitive western political culture. For instance, Yoruba and Igbo customary political thought cannot think of a fellow community leader as an enemy otherwise as an opponent who only thinks differently.

But in Africa’s adoption of western adversarial politics the principle and praxis of it are corrupted as political opponent is translated an ‘enemy’ and cannot be thought or related otherwise because what is at stake is either the control or loss of the state power or authority the possession of which machinery translates to personal material enrichment/gain beneficial exclusively to the holder.

So, in a nutshell, the political fight in Nigeria is a camouflaged personal struggle for power, wealth and privileges clothed in public veil hence the vicious battle to win in a ‘do-or-die’ encounters as coined by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The vicious politics of Nigeria otherwise baptized as ‘do-or-die’ is no longer alien to Nigerians. It has become part and parcel of Nigerian culture. Was it the NPC vicious use of Northern Region’s Native Authority police to intimidate their opponents or the thuggery that defined the Western Region’s 1964/65 election culminating to the ‘Operation We tie’ brigandage that result in the national crises leading to 1996 coup d’états and the civil war or the Shagari’s ‘Verdict ‘83’ and the accompanying riots in defunct Anambra, Ondo and Oyo states? All these are well documented. The present political dispensation has not been spared this vicious politics.

It is rather magnified now, but President Umaru Yar’Adua condemned it and even repudiated his benefits under it and worked to give Nigeria a culture of decent elections which was upheld by his successor, President Jonathan even if, half-heartedly and he was consumed by it as he conducted the 2015 general election on free and fair basis.

However, that putative culture began by President Yar’Adua and upheld by President Jonathan has suffered serious impairment as most of the elections since 2015 to date have been either inconclusive or conducted in breach of fairness as were the Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Kano and several other elections from 2015 to date.

But what are the reasons for this vicious political culture? The answer is simply that politics has been reduced to an occupation and a business which individuals engaged in to advance narrow personal interests as opposed to public interests.

The pursuit of personal interests of acquisition of public power with the ensuing material and immaterial gains such as money, land, privileges, influence and the consequent need to safeguard its custody and control entails that public power now seized must be protected from competitors or rivals.

It is the need to protect and guard this public power captured and privatized that makes politics vicious in Nigeria. How to cure Nigeria of this vicious politics has been a furlong hope of every Nigerian, but given the type of state structure and the political infrastructure built on it that desire will never materialize.

It can only materialize when Nigerian state is cured of its feudal nature and prebendary system and transformed to a popular republic. The recent Obaseki-Oshiomhole political feud should be interpreted and understood in the light of the foregoing because every Nigerian State, Edo or Akwa Ibom State is a microcosm of Nigeria in all its starkness.

The 2015 elections were so charged with emotive currents that some elders constituting themselves as National Peace Committee (NPC) led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar had to intervene to talk to the principal actors then, General Buhari and President Jonathan to embrace peace and eschew violence, of course, having the 2011 general election violence at the background.

2015 general election held without degenerating to violence largely due to the statesmanship disposition of President Jonathan in conceding victory to APC’s Buhari. 2019 election was almost a replica of 2015 general election.

So, when Adams Oshiomhole and his political godson, Governor Obaseki started their quarrels, Edo State became the cynosure of national attention. The drumbeat of war was so deafening that Oba of Benin and other well-meaning Nigerians appealed for a peaceful electioneering and election. Until the signing of accord brokered by the General Abdulsalami-led NPC, Edo State was turned into a war zone given the sabre-rattling and threats by Oshiomhole and Obaseki.

But what is in it that an acclaimed decent Catholic Christian, a trade unionist and a father presumably guided by Christian ethics and parental concerns for life would descend to the level of turning the vocational cause of politics to a war that must be won? The answer lies in the objects of politics in neo-colonial states that is created to serve selfish personal ends as opposed to public good.

Nigeria is created to serve selfish private concerns from its being the property of Sir George Taubman Goldie’s chartered Royal Niger Company later acquired by Britain in 1900 to become colonial facility serving British metropolitan needs and thereafter transferred upon Independence to serve the selfish needs of the rulers carefully selected and entrusted with the public power and authority.

The Nigerian Head of State from 1966 remains the world most powerful ruler and is virtually unassailable by any earthly power within. He is infallible. Around him is coterie of vassals such as governors, ministers, council chairmen, etc. beholden to his patronage and beneficence.

In possession of this public power and authority flowing from Nigerian President’s enormous powers and privileges that without much ado translate to enormous wealth and privileges, every vassal fights for relevance. So Obaseki and Oshiomhole fight over the seizure and control of that public authority is not so much because they believe in the just cause of the public, but that they need that public power to serve selfish personal ends that extend to acquisition of wealth, privileges and influence.

That is what the fight is for and nothing else. It is the contest to acquire or retain this power and authority that Oshiomhole and Obaseki, having tasted it as governors were ready to spill blood to capture. Without electoral value, which is in winning elections, a Nigerian politician is as good as dead. Coupled with the 2023 permutations and the fact that he was dismissed ignobly as chairman of APC, Oshiomhole’s need to launch back to relevance became more compelling and urgent. That is the kernel of his personal fight for power. It is the same for all Nigerian politicians. And it is sad!

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