by Amanze Obi
At first I took it that the statement credited to the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, in which he ordered the Igbo living in Lagos State to vote for Akinwumi Ambode or get ready to die in the lagoon, was a piece of fiction. I refused to believe it because I thought that a royal father of Oba Akiolu’s standing was incapable of such an outburst. My refusal to associate the Oba with the statement was to be reinforced by some other reports, which suggested that the monarch had denied the statement.
But I was not taken in by such suggestions of denial. It was difficult to accept considering the fact that the Oba was copiously quoted by the online medium, which broke the news. The denial did not seek to discountenance the attributions made to the Oba. Then, you began to wonder whether the reporter made up such an unsettling story. Could the imagination of a reporter have roamed so wide to concoct such a damaging tale about the Oba? That was very doubtful.
Besides, the denial, if indeed there was one, was lame and unconvincing because it did not state what was supposed to be the fact of the matter. It is not enough to deny statements credited to you, you give your denial cogency by stating what you really said as against what was wrongly attributed to you. The denial from the Oba’s quarters fell short of this basic requirement.
But all the doubt about the veracity of what the Oba said or did not say melted into thin air when the video footage of the Oba’s outburst hit the social media. I watched the Oba in flesh and blood as he talked down on the Igbo who gathered at his palace.
That, really, was an embarrassing show. I saw an Oba who could not control his anger. He threw his royalty overboard and spoke like a street urchin. That was royal rascality at its most banal. The monarch’s outburst does not only sound offending to the ears and to decorum, it assaults the sensibility of the Igbo people who reserve the right to decide who they will vote for in an election.
The Oba sounded very patronising while addressing his Igbo audience. He gave the impression that their life depends on Lagos. Therefore, as the king of Lagos, he has the power of life and death over them. He told his audience that if they do his bidding, they will continue to prosper in Lagos. Otherwise, death awaits then by the lagoon. This royal rage beats the imagination. It is only someone who is law unto himself that can dish out such reckless orders. This Oba must be the law itself.
But then, even if we leave the Igbo momentarily out of the Oba’s statement and consider its overall import on the polity, we will be faced with an oddity, which is the intrusion of the traditional institution into politics. Traditional rulers are supposed to be neutral on political issues. They are not supposed to hold any political opinion publicly. The basic reason for this can be located in the fact that as custodians of the people’s culture and tradition, traditional rulers are supposed to be the father of all. They are supposed to pay equal attention to their subjects. Part of their role is not to anoint candidates for elections or dictate to the people who they must vote for. If the traditional institution assumes such a role, it loses the moral authority it has over the people. This is because there is no way everybody under a traditional institution can hold the same view or be of the same political persuasion. If a traditional ruler imposes his will on the people, that will be taken to be arbitrary and those who do not share his position will either protest openly or grudge inwardly. In the present circumstance, the Oba has anointed Akinwumi Ambode of the All Progressives Congress (APC) while rejecting Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Yet, both candidates are supposed to be the Oba’s subjects. This discrimination cannot earn the Oba respect in the eyes of the public. It is a situation that cannot speak well of any monarch.
The other point is that the Oba, by engaging in such a disreputable act, has not only wasted his time, he has also disappointed many of those who used to hold him in high esteem. He has wasted his time because he did not speak to any Igbo of substance. Indeed, he could not have invited any Igbo of substance to a meeting and openly threaten his people. That will not be acceptable.
Reports have it that he had a meeting with some people who call themselves Eze Ndigbo of Lagos. It may interest the Oba to know that the Igbo in Lagos do not know, let alone recognise these foreign Ezes. They represent no one but themselves. They are of no consequence in the affairs of their fellow Igbo. It is therefore, a waste of time for anyone who has a message for the Igbo to go through them.
Even in Igboland where certain traditional rulers are recognised and respected, such monarchs are not expected to tell the people who they should vote for at elections. And any one of them who dares to issue such an order will only invite opprobrium to himself. Of course, no one will listen. That is the way the Igbo are. It is, therefore, a waste of time for any one to seek to dissuade them to the contrary or try to make the Igbo who they are not.
If the Oba is angered by the way the Igbo voted during the Presidential and National Assembly elections of March 28, it will be important for him to note that no one directed the Igbo voters on who to cast their votes for. They voted according to their individual persuasions and private convictions. So, the threat will not change anything. Rather than win converts for the monarch’s candidate, the threat is capable of making the Igbo harden their stand on the issue. The threat from the Oba is therefore, counter-productive through and through. I only pity Ambode. The man who set out to protect him has, unwittingly, exposed him to an inclement atmosphere. It is only Ambode that can help himself out of this quagmire.
Ebonyi in the court of equity
Chief Martin Elechi, the insular governor of Ebonyi State, may have spent the greater part of his tenure without a whimper. But his last days in office appear strewn with cobwebs. The governor first hit negative limelight when he sought to contest election into the Senate after his eight-year tenure. His aspiration was greeted with loud disapproval by a wide spectrum of Nigerians, particularly the people of Ebonyi State. They did not understand what a man in his 70s, especially an inactive one, would be looking for at the Senate. His bid was eventually frustrated.
Then he sought to anoint his successor. But again, his choice was thwarted by the henchmen of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the state. Their grouse with the governor was that he took his decision without consultation with those who, in Nigerian politics, are loosely referred to as ‘stakeholders’ . So Elechi failed in his bid again.
This failure may have been his point of departure with his political bedfellows in the politics of the state. One of such people is Dave Umahi, Elechi’s deputy, who emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the state, against Elechi’s wish. The bad blood that ensued after the fractious primary elections in the state almost led to the impeachment of the governor. President Goodluck Jonathan had to intervene to save the old man from terminal embarrassment.
At moment, an eerie silence pervades the political atmosphere in the state. But the bubble is likely to burst sooner than later. With two days left to the governorship election in the state, Elechi and his deputy are working at cross-purposes. In fact, it is believed that Elechi, though still a member of the PDP, is working for the candidate of a rival political party.
But that is not all there is to the issue. The real bone of contention is that Elechi is planning to disrupt the political equilibrium in the state. There is a gentlemanly agreement among the three zones of the state to rotate power. Ebonyi North took the first shot through Dr. Sam Egwu, who was governor from 1999 to 2007. He was succeeded by the current governor, whose tenure will expire next month. Elechi hails from Ebonyi Central. The only zone left out so far is Ebonyi South. And that is where Umahi, the candidate of the PDP, comes from. His emergence as governor will therefore, complete the cycle of equity in the state.
Strangely, however, and to the consternation of the people of Ebonyi South, Governor Elechi is scheming to have someone from his Ebonyi Central Senatorial zone succeed him. This objectionable agenda has, again, put Elechi on the warpath with those who want equity in the state. Issues arising from this will play a deciding role in who emerges as the next governor of Ebonyi State, as the election holds this Saturday. But the popular sentiment in the state appears to favour the aspiration of the people of Ebonyi South. Umahi, the deputy governor, who gave his boss a red eye and went away unscathed, looks set to be the beautiful bride of the day.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija