Opinion: Why the ‘O to ge’ bird didn’t fly in Lagos By -TAYO OKE
The sweeping aside of the Saraki dynasty in Kwara State in this year’s general elections is nothing short of a political earthquake, although it is a tragedy otherwise foretold by the very fact of the dynastic castle having been grounded on sand (see; “Whatever happened to Saraki’s sand castle” The PUNCH March 5 2019). The chant of “O to ge” (enough is enough) rented the putrid air around the Senate President’s entourage in the state until he gracefully (credit to him) bowed to the superior wisdom of the people two weeks ago. It underlines the possibility of politics in an environment of perennial pessimism and anything goes in public administration and accountability.
No sooner had the dust on the Saraki’s fallen sand castle settled than the echo of the people’s ‘revolution’ in Kwara State transposed unto the situation in Lagos in an effort to upset a similar status quo spearheaded by “Jagaban” Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Before then, the mantra of the Peoples Democratic Party’s campaign rhetoric was the less catchy; “Free Lagos” from the stranglehold of Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress. Then, momentarily, the Saraki downfall under the “O to ge” revolutionary swan song was thought capable of repetition in Lagos, but, it was not to be. It is indeed a tale of two cities.
When asked whether he was worried that Lagos might suffer the Kwara effect, Tinubu quipped: “In Kwara, it was “O to ge” – rightly, but it is “O to pe” (worthy of praise) in Lagos”. It is a brave politician indeed who counts his chickens before they are hatched. Tinubu made the statement to a horde of journalists in Lagos as the votes for governor of the state as well as the state assembly elections were being tallied. Make no doubt, there has been discontent in some sections of the community against Tinubu and his hands-on approach to Lagos politics for several years. The discontent extends far beyond the usual suspects of the PDP and the “Igbo settlers” desirous of “taking over” the state for their own interest. It extends to the self-styled “Lagos real indigenes”, the “omo isale Ekos” (sons/daughters of the soil); the Australian equivalent of the Aborigines, who are dissatisfied with what the “interlopers” like Tinubu himself are doing to their beloved Lagos. There was also the current of opinion that Tinubu may have overreached his influence by casually dislodging the outgoing governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, from the State House in favour of his long-term protégé, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, now, governor-elect of the state by all counts.
In football as well as in politics, results count far more than anything else. It is always difficult to argue over tactics with a coach whose team keeps winning the crucial games. President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged this much three years ago, when he and his wife went out of their way to credit Tinubu for Buhari’s assent to power. His re-election to the second and final term in office could also be credited to the handiwork of the same Tinubu. He foresaw the role of tactical voting in the South-West in particular, going in favour of Buhari, despite a groundswell of opinion against the APC’s presidential torchbearer. There was a lot of anti-Buhari sentiment being expressed across the Yoruba-speaking region, but it did not translate into votes for the PDP and Atiku Abubakar. They largely voted to keep the vice presidential slot, and with it, the tantalising prospect of one their own succeeding Buhari in office in 2023. While the North voted for Buhari because it mattered so much to them, the South-West and a large chunk of the South-South voted for Buhari because it did not matter so much. The South-East vote was rightly discounted, as it was not statistically significant. It takes someone with some political nous to understand this parochial logic. It is classic realpolitik.
Beyond this, the question that boggles so many people’s minds is why “O to ge” remained a bird that never flew in Lagos. Tinubu has never denied his omnipresence in Lagos politics, nor that he has made some lucrative business deals in the state to augment his personal economy. Far unlike many other politicians on the continent, Tinubu is happy to live in a goldfish bowl in many respects. There is little about his private life that is not common knowledge. He sees this and revels in it as a source of pride rather than as an embarrassment. It’s a high-risk sweepstake that could still boomerang on him the longer it persists. So, why did the Saraki effect not work in Lagos?
The answer to the question is Tinubu, the man, himself. His political longevity owes much to the people around him than the “master tactician” sobriquet many people are wont to adduce to him would suggest. For instance, he is one politician whose countless former officials, hangers-on, and protégés, have gone on to be men and women of substance in their own rights. Some of them have been known to declare: “After God, it is Tinubu”. I know no other former governor in Nigeria’s history with such a level of loyalty and devotion. By contrast, Saraki’s goal has been almost entirely directed at eliminating threats to his dynasty, even if that means stabbing his own sister and father in the front. Tinubu plants seeds, where Saraki uproots them; he builds membership, where Saraki amasses large following; plays by the rules of addition and multiplication, where Saraki plays by the rules of division and subtraction; lives in an extended family compound, where Saraki ensconces himself in his sand castle; above all, Tinubu is eminently aware of his own limitations, where Saraki presents as a master of the universe.
In the end, politics is about people, not raw power. Tinubu has numerous enemies in Lagos politics, no doubt. A lot of them would really wish him disappear into the oblivion, but, those are miniscule in number by comparison to those who have benefited directly or indirectly from his largesse and general comportment as a powerbroker. Rightly or wrongly, the teeming masses and political actors who believe in Tinubu do so because they think they know the endgame; the bus stop. Nothing of such could ever be said or thought of Saraki before being thrown off his perch.
As of today, Tinubu remains the most powerful figure in Nigerian politics. That speaks volumes for a man who himself holds no political office. Punch