In the beginning was the father. The son was yet in the womb when a certain Koro was misbegotten by the father Bode George. Many believed that Koro was the legitimate son and had earned the right to the cot to suckle on the milk of childhood.
But Jimi Agbaje came in from another mother, and wanted to be the son. The father preferred Jimi because he thought he would be the right heir, the soldier he would deploy to do battle to bestow legitimacy on the family. Jimi, he swore, would unseat the dynasty and usher in a new era of father and son, one a soldier, the other a pharmacist. Who did not know that a big chemistry was afoot. The soldier suffers an injury, the pharmacist son dangles the right aid.
This set off an earthquake for familial combo. But not quite long after, Koro cried foul over the internecine malice of an intrigue. Legitimacy belonged not to the rules but to the winner. Jimi became the standard bearer of battle.
So, hubris came early to Jimi, as the story went. Before the election day, Agbaje had started to assert the power of royalty. I am not referring to his threat to mount Igwes on thrones in the megacity. That has turned out to be a sideshow in the embroiling theatre. He would side-line the moustachioed George with his fuddy-duddy crowd. He had been his own prophet, and Agbaje saw that he would be the potentate of PDP in Lagos. He thought he was cruising to victory. Each had pissed in the pond between them, and a classic oedipal rage had swirled in the family.
To worsen the tale, the family failed to win. Failure has many orphans. Suddenly, everyone knew George had divorced his son, and vice versa. The soldier father had been wounded in battle, and the son, too, had been routed. The pharmacy had no answer for the wound. So the family, in a manner of speaking, bled to death.
Koro, better known as Musiliu Obanikoro, flailed in vain to restore his place in the family. He had no prayer, so he moved away and was embraced by the winning party. Meanwhile, father and son sulked peevishly in silence, until another warfront erupted in the PDP.
This is the battle for the chairmanship of the PDP. If they had lost favour in their homestead, they thought they could find traction on a bigger, wider stage. After all, as the Good Lord said, a prophet is not without honour save by his own people.
Father and son took the battle up there. George saw him as the 21st century Absalom who wanted to overthrow and slay his father. Agbaje saw himself in the innocence of Oedipus. But they both fought, and fierce was the contest. It, however, ended in an anti-climax. Neither father nor son won. They did not only lose, the party decided that their homestead had none of the beauty or majesty required to bedeck the position of party chairman.
Father was obviously furious. He wanted that position badly. He had been a party bulwark, while he regarded Agbade as a reed. The humiliation was serious. Agbaje quietly retreated from the race. He knew it was over. Father and son, who should help heal each other, waited for their very conquerors to come to them to say, sorry. In the midst of the humiliation, one of the main men of the PDP had spoken with contempt about their homestead, the southwest.
But George and Agbaje became the metaphor of the oedipal tension in the larger PDP. There, the fathers of the PDP, including Ibrahim Babangida, Goodluck Jonathan and peripatetic rambler Atiku Abubakar, had wanted to decide who should chair the top seat. The sons, who we know as the governors, decided to push the fathers away.
Unknown to George and Agbaje, they had sown the seed of potential patricide in the party. They poisoned the larger pool of the PDP. The tool of battle is money. A father loses his power over his son, if he does not control the purse string. Agbaje did not rely on George for money to run his campaign for the governor post in Lagos. He relied on Jonathan and the party at the centre. George realised his impotence. He could not fell the son.
On the bigger PDP canvas, the governors had money. The Wikes and co, had the nest, and the old goons could not match them dollar for dollar. Not even the great Atiku, who learned that the governors had something as potent as money: delegates. In the end, they governor sons prevailed over the fathers like IBB and Jonathan. Jonathan found himself fighting against the so-called “unity list.” In the final hour, united they stood. But for George and Agbaje, divided they fell.
It is not good when fathers fall. It is worse when sons fall as well. Okonkwo succeeded in order to vitiate the public folly of his father. Abraham had faith enough to gain redemption in the eyes of Isaac. “God shall provide,” he assured his son.
The Kennedy sons, including John Fitzgerald, saw their father soar in American politics and commerce, and it buoyed their rise. Never mind that his first son Joe, just like Awo’s first son Segun, did not survive to carry the father’s wishes as they envisioned. But father and son parted with each in blessedness of thoughts about the other. J.F.k’s biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger in his book titled A Thousand Days relates the intimacy and spartan discipline between Joe Kennedy snr and his sons.
That was clear in George Sander’s Booker-winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, where the United States 16th president visits limbo to commune with his departed son. Biographers tell of how Lincoln grieved about him. He died of typhus. “That’s my boy who died,” he was quoted as saying when he pointed to his framed picture on the wall as a way of dealing with his grief.
We might say that Agbaje was the Absalom and he had killed his political father. Whether he will survive like characters of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is yet to be seen. But the more tempting comparison is the story of Russian writer Ivan Turgenev in his novel, Fathers and Sons. He tracks a medical student Basarov who falls from idealist to a craven opportunist. Agbaje has no ideal although he brandished a phony progressive credentials in the past until the true colour pops out of his skin in their iridescent ugliness. Credentials without credence.
The real issue is whether the PDP has the moral power to look inward and deal with its mammoth contradiction, even as APC still battles with its own existential worms.