In his earlier incarnation, Eleyinmi hid his hands under a voluminous agbada. It was a display of a sort of royal extravagance. His face skewed with disdain, his carriage lofty like a peacock, he spoke from a high pedestal. His voice, with its peculiar polish, played out of a palatial voice box. He walked not on earth but above it, above all who thought they were on the same soil. He is, after all, called Oloye, and an Oloye does not belong to the pedestrian promenade.
He abided the sort of illusion that former American President, Abraham Lincoln inspired in blacks when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed blacks. One famous quote of that era came from a legend.
A black man was reported as saying in his poetic pidgin “Massa Linkum, he be ebery whai; he know ebery ting; he walk the earf like de lord.” Translation: “Master Lincoln, he is everywhere; he knows everything; he walks the earth like the Lord.” The sentiment was exaggerated, but the awe was genuine. The blacks breathed liberty after over a century of chains and shame.
Oloye Eleyinmi might have lived that delusion of grandeur, and thought words like that came from his fawning followers. He probably heard them.
But the present Eleyinmi saw what he had not seen, felt what had not touched him, and ran away from what had always run away from him. So, Eleyinmi was used to hiding his hands as a flourish of royal joy. But last week, when he was asked to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, he ducked before he was docked.
This time, he was not just hiding the hand, he was hiding the whole massive fabric of royalty. They sought him in court, and he was not found. Oloye was royalty. Royalty is court. How dare anyone redefine royalty by subjecting it to the logic of obedience? That was probably the refrain of his thought.
Suddenly though, we saw that Eleyinmi could not hide anything, not agbada, not hand, and he appeared in the court. Even at that, his self-image was not vitiated. He still affected the superior gaze of the palace. His band of adoring followers, in regalia and dance and court flattery, trailed him like a boisterous wave.
He at one moment wanted to play Awolowo on the dock. He looked back at another royalty, a genuine one not built on bloodline but on industry and time-tested wisdom. He thought he was an Awolowo and in his peroration after his treasonable felony trial. But Oloye Bukola Saraki was not Awolowo, and he had taken advantage of judge’s magnanimity in allowing him to say a word, and he turned it into a political platform for tirades.
He and his folks say it is political persecution, and so the matter should be allowed to lie. That was a lie. The Oloye was at work. He does not know that this is no royalty but democracy. And in democracy, it is the rule of law, and not the sentiment of the big man. He was part of the change mantra and he is about to be a victim of a tiger he let out of the zoo.
By the way, his is no royalty in a traditional sense, but in a contrivance of our big man politics. He inherited it from his father, and he has been adept at it in a small pond in Kwara State. In the ocean, however, the tilapia discovers he is not master but in contention with larger jaws and deft swimmers. Tilapia is about to end up in a jaw he pooh-poohed.
In democracy, law enforces liberty. The individual is subsumed in what French philosopher Jean Jacque Rousseau termed “the collective will.” When he appeared in court, he must have realised that his royalty was a ruse. That accounts for his charge that he was a victim of persecution. That charge is neither here nor there. There are specific charges. He should account for himself and not hide under victimhood the way he hides his hands under his massive agbada.
His supporters are also appealing to pity by referring to an earlier case, and saying that his example of persecution was akin to that of Asiwaju Tinubu during the era of Goodluck Jonathan. Are they kidding? His was about an account he operated before he became governor, and certain other facts were clear.
It was dud because even the bank wrote him to show the account was closed. Again Tinubu did not hide like Oloye. He did not say he was above the law. He had even earlier won a case against Ribadu’s EFCC with a N10 million damage awarded to him. He said in a release after he was acquitted: “I was ready to defend my name and most importantly blunt the dangling sword of Damocles over my head.
“Then I challenged them to go to court and maintained that those who allege must prove. I am glad that the Code of Conduct Tribunal, consistent with the laws of the land and after painstaking trial, have dispensed of my case.”
Oloye should not have ducked. He suffered the humiliation of appearing in the box of the accused. What we are seeing is the architecture of political disgrace. In 2002, the U.S. Senate Leader and equivalent of Senate President in Nigeria, Trent Lott, fell into scandal. He had uttered a statement that affirmed he was a racist.
He said he voted for Strum Thurmond, a self-confessed segregationist, who hated freedom for blacks. Lott asserted in the man’s 100th birthday that he supported him still. The statement triggered a windstorm that swept him out of office as the top legislator in the land.
The world has seen quite of few scandals. In Nigeria, scandal often is associated with murder and financial fraud. In other lands, it adds a steamy context: sex. John Edwards loft his prestige and ended his quest to be U.S. President when he was caught in an affair, especially when his wife was dying of cancer. We know of the Keating Five about lobbying corruption, and it involved five U.S. senators.
In Italy, we know of Silvio Berlusconi, playboy, pedophile, gangster, fraud and swindler and his famous party for nubile girls called bunga bunga. Lott resigned when the American public frowned. But here we want a way out. Well, Eleyinmi would have to confront the bear ahead. Already his friends are shopping for his replacement. He is literally and metaphorically in a box. Who will help Eleyinmi?