The word perfect was a perfect word until it lost its innocence. Perfect used to be pristine and flawless. So, we had a perfect soul, perfect strategy, a perfect dream and even a perfect society. Now the mind of humans has now perverted things.
Even in the scriptures, God called for humans to be perfect. “I am God Almighty,” God told Abraham, “walk before me and be thou perfect.” But that was when the definition of perfect was straightforward.
“The mind is its own place,” crooned poet John Milton in his Paradise Lost. “It can make hell of heaven and heaven of hell.” Because of the endless elasticity of the human intellect, we can pervert the perfect. So, we have the perfect murder, one in which the killer is never caught, nor even prosecuted. Just as we now have of the Dele Giwa letter bomb.
Or the perfect escape, like the famous Alcataraz episode, where daredevil men manoeuvred into myth as no one has accounted for the men who were flesh and penned but turned ghosts for the rest of their lives. Or the perfect heist, like the theft of 50 million pounds from a Kent security depot over a decade ago. Or the perfect lie, like the serpent who slithered to Eve in Eden, or the perfect buffoon like Baba Sala or Mr. Magoo. Or the perfect savage like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The list goes on. It is the human capacity for invention. As the Bible says, “God has made man upright, but he has brought forth many inventions.”
Politics cannot but inveigle itself into the fare. We just had one with a man who loves to wear a cap and sport a smile and carry the air of dignity. He has succeeded to become successful in gerrymandering. To be a stooge is not to be fool. It is a distinction. John Oyegun, former Edo State governor (if for a short span), APC chieftain, perennial hustler for relevance and now APC chairman, is the stooge of the era, a perfect stooge.
He shot into prominence in this era when his name crested the list of contenders for the post of party chairman. He did not, on his own, have the human stature or political structure, or what scholars call the presence, charisma, or the financial chest to run for such a high office. But as a good tortoise of the African tale, he had to ride on the shoulders of others. He was humble enough to accept his acute limitations. He was not like typical politicians who exaggerate their influence. He learned to stoop. And he conquered by latching on to the structure of others to realise his ambition.
He was faithful as an obedient servant. And that way he won, besting other contestants, including the quisling and self-indulgent Tom Ikimi, whose political obituary hung in effigy on his loss in that night of a thousand flames.
But he was clever enough not stay in one corridor. He saw another master elsewhere. He is a perpetual obedient, and so he heard a call to service in the battle for the National Assembly. Swiftly, he joined the impunity that made “Eleyinmi” Saraki Senate President. That was the day he became a new stooge. Since then, he has played the role with great dramatic acuity. He has manoeuvred like James Bond, amused like Gringori, played the ominous straitlaced villain like hairless lord Talab Abass of the TV series Ripples. Oyegun is no Talab Abass in size or influence but in reflected glory., etc. He has achieved this by being a serial and obedient servant.
Give him the credit. He has perfected the art of anticipating who the master will be and how to ingratiate himself. Psycho-social thinker Daniel Goleman enunciated what he called emotional intelligence. He wrote it for those who knew how to succeed not by intellect or moral heft but by behaviour that suited the times. He comes from the tradition of the ethical philosophers of situationism. In order words, situation dictated attitude. To the just, you are just. To the cruel, you are cruel. To the opportunist, you are Paulo Rossi. That is the making of John Odigie Oyegun.
Never mind that he has not been a great leader of the APC as an organisation in any classic sense of a leader. Under him, the party, which was a hodgepodge to win an election, has not grown into a cohesive body either ideologically or architecturally. It has been a loose bond of a body, governors at odds with party apparatchik, president overthrown by lawmakers, state organs riven by the throes of ego and hero worship.
In Kaduna State, the small man hews down a senator’s house because he can. Meanwhile a section of the party suspends the governor in a flourish that works only as spectacle. They know it cannot work, since the party at the centre will nullify it. But tempers flare all the same. In Kogi, parallel excos headline a party in which a besieged governor hedges its power because of an assurance in the centre. In Benue, the party is in tatters over the herdsmen’s crisis, and he has no word to bring the party to harmony or, shall I say, to existence. It is virtually dead in Benue State.
There is virtually no state where the party is not in crisis, including Ondo State where Governor Rotimi Akeredolu tries in vain to paper over the cracks. In Ogun, in Imo, in Oyo, the fire is coming next time. In Kano, Kwankwaso is looking at his political obituary but he will go down with the Samson complex, tearing down the edifice with him.
It is not because Oyegun has done a great job that he was given a year by the governors. Because he has done a great job as stooge. He served lawmakers, served the president, served the governors. But he has not served the party, and that is why the party is in disarray. Power comes from above, but chaos from beneath. Historians will distinguish him as the greatest failure as party chairman in Nigerian history of democracy since 1960. His is a paradox of a failure that gets another chance. Which is actually the way of our democracy. We reward loyalty over principle or competence.
But the party men had to do it through impunity. They had to break the law first and follow due process after. That is, they had to commit a crime and look for a law to legitimise it afterwards. As Samuel Butler noted, society creates the crime, the criminal commits it. That was the point that Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari made after Oyegun was given another year.
The consequence of Oyegun is that he made the party a chaos so he can have the chance to lead it. If he were a good leader, he might not have earned a full and second term because he would have made way for another stooge. His “stoogeship” he will not share with anyone else.
Oyegun is what sociologist William H. Whyte described as “the organisation man.” He works to keep his job by not rocking the boat, but by following rules. Whyte explains in that classic that great organisations do not innovate or make ground breaking progress with such men, but with leaders of Daniel Defoe saw as “rugged individualists” like Robinson Crusoe. Or what Theodore Roosevelt called “the man in the arena.”
Great leaders like Awo, Mandela, Che, Castro, Churchill were rugged individualists who followed tough paths and took their associates along those paths. Oyegun has no liver, lever or conscience for such sublimity. So, Oyegun is contented to be a stuffed puppy, squealing and barking any which way the masters point.
Two weddings and a riot
In the past few weeks, we have witnessed two weddings and riot. It sounds like the title of a play or novel. But it is a reality. First was the wedding of the children of the Osinbajos and the Shagayas. It sparked a mini-controversy about inter-faith tryst. But it was clarified that it was a Christian-Christian fest, and the cross and crescent did not kiss. It was good thing for inter-tribal concord. The Osinbajos are Yoruba from the Southwest and the Shagayas from the Middle Belt.
The other was last weekend between the son of Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi and the daughter of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State. A society wedding, expectedly. Such weddings are less about the intending couples as about their fathers and mothers who turn the ceremonies into spectacles of glamour.
But what struck me is the riot that tore the city of Kaduna into bloodshed and hate over inter-faith marriage. The crux? The Christians complain that when their daughter is married away to the Muslim, she is forced to surrender to the husband’s belief. But the Christian is forbidden such luxury. I am looking towards a society wedding when it is a Christian-Muslim tie up with no pious pre-conditions. The Muslim and Christian should marry in freedom. There should be no compulsion. Apostle Paul wrote that if a Christian marries a non-believer, they should abide in peace and one can bless the other. Love is the first principle of marriage, but it is lost in all the bigotry of faith.