By Festus Adedayo
Professor of Linguistics and President, Academy of Letters, Francis Egbokhare of the University of Ibadan, on an Ibadan, Oyo State, radio programme where we both appeared yesterday, made a profound analysis of the ongoing political chess-gaming in the All Progressives Party (APC). Only last week, at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari had dissolved the party’s National Working Committee, (NWC) appointing the Yobe State governor, Mai-Mala Buni, as Caretaker Chairman. Other chain reactions which apparently signaled a huge conflagration in the party, came in tow. This was reminiscent of similar crisis which led to the implosion that became manifest in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the twilight of Goodluck Jonathan’s stay in office.
Egbokhare had likened the contest in the APC to one between the lion, cobra and hyena. This analogy caught my interest. One of the television channels that catch my interest the most is the animal channels. There are so many issues that would get fitting and ample resolutions if we watch the mannerisms, body languages, hunting methodologies and associational characters of our cousins in the pre-historic time – the animals.
The lion is undoubtedly the king of the forest. Its appearance alone is scary, only second to the hippopotamus’. Zoologists tell us of the awesome strength of the lion, the humongous energy Providence packed into its jaws and claws. It is very alert for intruders, is slow to pounce on its prey and when it does, tears them into unrecognizable pieces in a jiffy.
The lion shares so many traits with the restless hyena. Their jaws are not dissimilar, even though the lion’s is stronger. Their relationship, zoologists call commensalism. This is that, when lion goes hunting for preys, the hyenas gather to watch the king tear the prey. When the king gobbles what it could, it leaves the painstakingly waiting hyenas to scavenge the let-over. Though they both constitute a string in the ecosystem chain and share similar geographic range, the two animals are very defensive and mindful of their territorial areas of operations and exhibit extremely aggressive tendencies toward one another. On occasions when they veered into their territories, lions shred hyenas into pieces and also vice versa, especially when a lone lion unguardedly strays into the hyena enclave. Female lions especially, due to their weaker disposition than their male counterpart, pose easy prey to the more aggressive hyenas and their cubs and are subject of easy intimidation for these restless wild cats.
Cobra on the other side, though dissimilar to the cat family above, is also known to be one of the most venomous snakes ever. While its own hunting methodology differs from the wild cat’s, it first stings its prey to death with its very deadly venom, incapacitates it and when it had been demobilized, the cobra wraps itself round the animal and then begins to swallow it bit by bit. In duels in the forest, venomous cobra species have been known to kill even a male lion. A National Geographic channel video that went viral not too long ago depicted how a venomous cobra spat into the eyes of a lion cub, blinding it.
So how does the Egbokhare analogy apply to the APC dirty internal power struggle, brought to the fore mainly by its erstwhile chairman, Adams Oshiomhole’s punitive and despotic attempt to copy Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s successful model of eliminating a godson in Lagos, for cloning in his native state, Edo? By the way, those politicians who attempt to shut analytical forays into what they consider internal party matters, must have by now known that analysts and Nigerians as a whole won’t succumb to such barren escapism. This is because, what they call internal matters affect the generality of Nigerians, set the polity on edge and have very definitive impacts on our social, economic and national lives. It will be suicidal to allow politicians escape with the impunities they call family matters which in real sense are urgent matters of national concerns.
Now, according to Egbokhare, the old Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) rump that coalesced into the APC and headed by Tinubu, who is incidentally named the Lion of Bourdillon, is the lion in this analogy. The CPC, headed by Buhari, which had been going on barren forays into presidential contests before 2015 but which clinched it only when it shared the prey with the ACN, is the hyena and the cobra is the Bukola Saraki’s New-PDP which had the likes of Rotimi Amaechi, the Transportation Minister, as its venomous commissars.
So what is the role of this trio of lion, hyena and cobra in the Nigerian political ecosystem that makes their relationship tick? The Tinubu ACN was already controlling a sizeable chunk of the venison of the South West forest, with prospect of apprehending some other meaty conquests in a larger Nigerian forest, especially in the South East. The Buhari CPC hyena, unable to successfully hunt its own venison, allowed the lion celebrate its hunting prowess but asked it to share the chunky meat. The lion then uncritically let go of the venison mid-way but unbeknown to it, it had been stampeded by the hyena to leave the gourmand process midstream, thus forfeiting very chunky meats hidden in the crevices of the bony-looking remnants, to the restless hyena. While the cobra has no role to play in this feasting process, it however has a key role to play in the forest which they all inhabit. Except in rare cases, the cobra, lion and hyena go about their specific hunting expeditions without interfacing. Each of them has their nature-endowed abilities and capabilities that rank them champions of their individual turfs. Take for instance the amount of poisonous neurotoxin resident in the mouth of a king cobra which it can emit in one bite, said to be enough to kill 20 human beings or one elephant.
While the APC executive dissembler, Victor Giadom, held sway, until the dissolution of the NWC by Buhari last week, he was said to be a strong ambassador of the Cobra family, an Amaechi ally. After the Lion’s mane, Oshiomhole was unprecedentedly stung by the cobra, Bukola Saraki, another strong New-PDP cobra family, laughed cynically at the deadly venom the cobra spat at the representative of the Lion of Bourdillon. Dino Melaye, an infantile member of that family, even cynically mocked the fall of the lion in a video he circulated.
Egbokhare made it known that a lot happens in the covens of political actors than are volunteered by their legmen in public discourses. Of a truth too, many a times, our analyses miss the point when we try to psychoanalyze the unorthodox political maneuverings of Nigerian politicians. However, Nigerians seeking explanation into the sacking of Oshiomhole by the Appeal Court, the drama enacted about 48 hours to the dissolution of the APC NWC, the judicial acting chairman recognition ding-dongs and the ultimate dissolution of the NWC were at a loss on what to affix as happenings in the party. While loyalists of Tinubu claim he hasn’t lost out in the party, manifest in his cousin, the Osun State governor, Gboyega Oyetola, being appointed as a member of the Caretaker Committee and some others close to him still there, the truth is that the Lion of Bourdillon has been fatally wounded by the deadly pellets of gunfire the cabal trying to neutralize his hold on the APC fired last week. You cannot claim that having a Man Friday like Oshiomhole, who gladly carried Tinubu’s poo-pan about, was synonymous with his cousin being appointed into the NWC, whose hold on the NWC would be at best tepid. To claim that this isn’t a political castration of a man who was erecting building blocks of 2023 in every political action undertaken by the flippant Oshiomhole would sound very awkward.
Like the lion in this analogy, even as I forewarned in an earlier piece entitled A o m’erin j’oba at Tinubu’s colloquium, Tinubu the lion may have been defrauded by more calculative, more sophisticated political chess-gamers who though didn’t have his political brawns but possessed more stratagems aimed at colonizing the venison he hunted for dinner. The restless and wily CPC hyenas merely stampeded him out of the chunk of his South West control meat. But, like the Egbokhare lion, the Lion of Bourdillon has remained silent in this equation since his Man Friday was flung off the dais. I remember the story of the self-acclaimed prophet who was devoured in the University of Ibadan zoo some decades ago. Reports claimed that when the man leapt into the lion’s den, the animals first scampered off in seeming fright at the very unusual intrusion. Immediately they apprehended the equation however, the lions went for providence’s whole meat sent to them and tore the divine venison into shreds.
So, is the Lion of Bourdillon also studying the equation? Is it fazed by the Buhari hyenas’ impudence and insolence of arresting its meat by stealth last week? Will the King of the Forest merely forfeit its blithely stolen meat and hunt for another chunky one in the forest or will it fight back? Where in this scampering by the lion, hyena and cobra is the interest of the forest, the people of Nigeria? Or, is the clan of analysts seeing a mere tempest when in fact there is calm? Or, put more succinctly, are we mistaken to think that there is a dissonance in the gourmand quest of the lion, hyena and the cobra?
As I wrote the last words of this piece, Tinubu’s belated reaction, presidency’s Tinubu friendship-baiting riposte through its virulent and combative publicist, Garba Shehu, and Oshiomhole’s chewing-the-humble-pie reaction were published. They were at best syndicated acknowledgement and blind attempts to avoid an obvious sinking boat with the tendency to sweep all of them away. While Shehu attributed snide comments on Buhari’s unilateral abatement of Tinubu’s Oshiomhole NWC’s roller-coaster ride to the handiworks of “political vulturism” – whatever that meant – he couldn’t explain why Buhari had to pull the rug off the feet of “his friend” like the head of a coup-plotting junta. My reading of Tinubu’s needless epistle, dwelling majorly on cants and sophism, was a man who had entered a one-chance bus, something in the mould of what Ibadan people would call Suara Sobo truck and is praying hard to his chi to let him alight in peace. While in one breath, he blamed Oshiomhole for “his fence-mending attempts (that) were perhaps too little too late.,” in another, he thanked him for the decisions he took.
Where was Tinubu when “the litigious” members of the party were getting disagreeable? If he hadn’t acted like a headmaster cross with his errant pupil when Godwin Obaseki and other APC governors came to him to prevail on his hireling to stop the drift into anarchy in the party, the “fusillades of lawsuits” probably wouldn’t come. The Oshiomhole who now ate the humble pie, in concert with his clique, had threatened to take Buhari and the Caretaker Committee to court immediately it was constituted.
The reaction of this self-same Oshiomhole group when Buhari gave support to Giadom, and I would laugh if it is said that Tinubu wasn’t in the know of it, in a statement signed by its Hilliard Eta and Waziri Bulama, was that Buhari might have been “offered wrong advice or blackmailed” into supporting Giadom, an euphemism for the face of the decision not being in possession of a mind of its own. So when those latter platitudes came from the accuser and the accused, you will agree that it was what, in legal jargons, is called a consensus ad idem on matters of individual survival and personal safety.
In all, you cannot impeach the analogy of the lion, hyena and cobra in the APC. When the conflict reaches its full maturation, it will no doubt tingle Nigerians’ ears and the lion which had entered the Suara Sobo truck will confess that it had all along been a captive of its ambition.