Monday, April 2, 2018 12:29 pm
By Lasisi Olagunju
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has been in power for three years. It has kept to the strict formulae of its witch doctors: blame the past; eat, sleep and eat and sleep and abuse the party you upstaged. Repetition is potent in incantations – conscious (and even unconscious). Repeat and maintain the lines. Repetition encircles the sense of the audience; it enslaves the listener, delivering him to vulnerability. Repeat names and the infractions of the years of the PDP. Chant and repeat the chant and go and sleep; the people won’t regain their seized sense. They will hail power and flay wailers; they will toil and pay taxes – and vote again without questions. So, for three years, the APC, sure of its charm and chants, went asleep, loudly farting and yawning; sleep-walking and sleep-talking. It enjoyed playing the big boss, dividing and insulting all and dreaming of eternity in power.
Now, suddenly the cock is crowing at dawn. There is a presidential election in less than a year from now. Before next year, there will be governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states. These two will be test-runs for the 2019 epochal battle for the soul of the nation. The vultures are hovering now and the APC appears awake, roused from its long sleep by the chill of uncertain victory. From Abuja to Lagos, its jolted leaders, last week, recalibrated their spell. They saw friends and allies as soiled diapers. They changed their untidy underwear to embrace worthwhile infidelity. It makes political and electoral sense to ditch friends and principles and embrace political expediency. Having Bola Tinubu makes better sense than keeping John Odigie-Oyegun. Enjoying Buhari’s presidential freebies is sweet and incomparable with any stale Yoruba agenda. Was that the politics of what happened in Abuja and Lagos last week – or just a continuation of the Janus-faced politics of APC?
“We suffered extreme sleepiness and our enemies erupted in celebrations. They thought we won’t wake up again. Shame on their bad belle fathers and their poisoned letters; we are now up and well.” That was the unsung song at the APC multi-purpose event held last week Thursday in Lagos. The ruling party danced and spoke and talked down their enemies, big and small. It was a post-maturity talk-shop; a premature victory festival for 2019. And you know, celebrations of victory over any form of enemies can be sweet. And the Lagos ensemble has a very rich repertoire of victory songs. If the enemy thinks he could send down the rains to drench their celebratory dance steps, they respond with Eyo songs of deviance: Let the threatening rains fall; aren’t we all armed from home with raincoats? And true; they have more than raincoats to defeat the elements. Nothing is a threat; no enemy is unconquerable. Lagos is not that effeminate dude whose wife is snatched without consequences. You can’t even seduce his wife. He is loaded – purse and pouch, brain and brawn. You can’t use and dump Lagos without a fight. You cannot con Lagos – even if you are the most powerful in the land. Lagos is armed with everything for everyone – friend or foe. Full of surprises, he is never taken by surprise.
Abduction is one of the most popular words in use in Nigeria today. It is the more psychedelic synonym of kidnapping. Those words represent the most lucrative business in Nigeria of the present. Abductors are everywhere. And I am not about to talk of Evans, the billionaire in Lagos. That one was a kingpin with a difference. Until he was unraveled, neighbours probably saw in him an ogbagba who bails out the community in days of challenges. He was cool, he was nice, he minded his business. Then he was busted and the nation gasped. I’m interested this moment in the abductors of the destiny of the nation. They populate the house of the saviour APC; and in the mansion of the fallen angel, the PDP, they are there. Like Boko Haram and murderous herdsmen, they mix sometimes – to compare notes and plan the next operation. Sometimes they square up against one another, fighting over their feasts of lies. The last one week was one of such periods. The vulture of our angels descended on the carrion of the nation and feasted in rancorous munchies. The APC spoke. The PDP responded. Back and forth, they fought and argued over who has been more devoted to theft, to robbery, to 419 and to cluelessness. They also did some rehearsals in self immolation – killing the self for self preservation.
Before the Lagos event, President Muhammadu Buhari had shelled his Abuja friends in Abuja. He stormed his party’s NEC meeting and annulled what he endorsed at the previous meeting. Tenure elongation for party chiefs is illegal; it is immoral, even, dangerous, he said magisterially. His friends gasped. But he was here the last time? He endorsed one more year for the principals of his party. Now, he is quoting the law, disowning his creation. Who wrote that speech for him? There will be another NEC meeting, what will his position be that time? His friends saw the shift as a rebellion against the self. But sometimes the shifty moves in scandalous mockery of the self. The president maintained a straight face. He aligned with ‘due process’, a poisonous magical pill for the illness of the current power abductors. But then, the king is king over everything – including over processes. And processes can be ‘due or un-due’ or an ambiguous, dangerous mix of both. Was he real? And that U-turn, was it part of the con-game for the coming battle? Or it was pure libation, appeasement demanded by the principality waiting to renew the APC marriage in Lagos.
Then Thursday’s festival of claps and applause in Lagos. Nigeria’s saviours savoured their champagne while the saved trekked to the places of their hunger. Everybody spoke good of the living. There was a competition for the leader’s attention. Some got; maybe some didn’t but everyone ate, sang and danced. After the Lagos festival, can we conclude that Lagos and Abuja are friends again? What manner of friendship? The APC is a child conceived in ambiguity. And that gene of crisis has ruled its world since its birth. Should we therefore be surprised at its complex strain of politics and friendship? Friendship in APC changes both colour and form as dictated by expediency. It lives Andrew Apter’s duality concepts of familiarity and avoidance; conjunction and disjunction. The principalities of this amalgam consolidate by rearranging relationships, wooing enemies and shooing friends, shuffling alliances. And it is normal. Lion and hyena can form a hunting party and jointly hunt down antelopes. But do they feast on their prey without a fight? We saw just that after the 2015 elections. The foolish was in the thicket driving out game for the wise to kill and take home.
That was three years ago; it was a long time ago. Now, the store of the eat-alone is almost empty. This is the time to use the greed of the cheated to woo him back; the hour has come to relaunch the hunting party for fresh supplies of meat. They are back as friends and what are friends for? For Aristotle, genuine friendship is not selfish – “each alike wish good for the other…and they are good in themselves.” Where friendship is genuine, Suzanne Stern-Gillet says, “a friend is another himself.” There are no cloak-and-dagger schemes where friends are true to one another. But there are two other forms of friendship. Aristotle says these ones are framed by utility and pleasure. As long as there is something to benefit, they cling together. There is utility in APC friendship and alliances. APC’s soup-pot is rich; it is an orisirisi collective. Federal power comes with endlessly flowing streams of income and opportunities. To keep the spring alive, the allies must work together, patch up and brace up. That is why even thieves don’t disband and blow whistle. Where they did they lost all including themselves. The principalities of thievery always remain true and loyal to the fidelity of togetherness. Because there is joy and pleasure in being a winning team, they forgive and go back to hunt.
So, Thursday’s event in Lagos wasn’t Eko’s birthday. It was a victory party. A recapture of the lost; a triumphalist ritual feast; a celebration of the defeat of tides of politics and treachery of power. It was a consolidation of the abduction of power for its own sake. So who was in Lagos who was not there? Who is now with Lagos who is against him? Has Abuja recolonised Lagos or is it Lagos that has counter-abducted Abuja? Where is the strength of Lagos in all these? The strength is in the myth of the slave catcher; the other side knows that he can spin anything if the price is right. His strength is also in the various faces he has. He is the con master who smiles dagger into the back of the used. But conning the conman is a game that Abuja plays too. Two Can Play That Game is the title of a Hollywood film made in September 2001. It is the story of dividends of romance and fidelity. It is also the story of the consequences of straying to the other side – the side of the arch rival. Nollywood has its own version made and remade in 2017. Indeed, Abuja and Lagos (with their fringe allies) will play this game of thrones going on in the celebratory APC. And they will play it, beginning this week, probably. We should all get our popcorn and soft drinks as we sit in this cinema while the tape rolls.