He was the master once in the state. Now, he is neither home nor host. But hostile is what he will call the treatment he is getting. Ali Modu Sheriff can no longer play sheriff anymore in Borno State. He must be chafing at his impotence, his peripatetic paralysis, a rolling stone gathering no political moss.
After playing a futile role as headsman of the PDP, he is now like a herdsman looking for pasture. He wants to return to the APC. But resistance awaits him from the party he once called home, a party he played a part, however dubious, in bringing into being.
We should look at what kind of a returnee he is going to be if or when he actually morphs into an APC man. Is he arriving in the penitential humility of a prodigal son, where everyone, including himself, acknowledges the extravagance of his wayward past? Or shall we say he will come as the golden fleece metaphor in traditional African society where a son or daughter is financed to study abroad? They return as the lone figure of enlightenment now ready to impart knowledge and bring prosperity to the subaltern quiet of the village. Is Sheriff the political version of that man of enlightenment?
Or is he like Jephthah, the biblical war hero who must pay with the pound of his daughter’s flesh, a humongous sacrifice, when he returns in the flush of victory? Shall we compare his return to that of Odysseus, as recorded in Homer’s The Odyssey, who must fight a battle of disguise? The chiefs in the village have turned themselves simultaneously into suitors and watchmen for his beautiful wife, Penelope, and are hoping to slay him as he berths.
Or shall we say he is the new Ojukwu of the APC northeast? Ojukwu returned after exile to an ecstasy of embrace from his folks in eastern Nigeria but he got a pardon from an opportunistic northern elite who turned this jubilation into an ululation of a political funeral.
So, where do we classify the bid of the Kanuri man who is like a public desperado banging his shoes to gain attention? His biography will help to situate him.
When he was governor, he started his notoriety. He was a poor performer and the media rasped him for undermining his pact with the people. He scoffed at the media and said his people did not read newspapers because they could not read. The media could write as much as they wanted but the people, in their ignorance, would not move in their deference of him, the governor.
But it was because of him that Boko Haram erupted in being. He did not educate the people, so they fell into the wiles of Mohammed Yusuf, who turned the sect into an alternative society. Where Sheriff’s Borno could not feed them, he gave them food. When they could not get shelter, Yusuf tented them. Where they lived alone, he gave them wives and a platform to breed their kind.
Sheriff became the harbinger of intellectual darkness in the northeast. Yusuf died and the group, now indoctrinated and empowered, unleashed venom on society. He did not feel any remorse. He saw himself as a man with good to give.
He duelled with Kashim Shettima, now helmsman of the state, but failed time and again. Governor Shettima was trying to repair and restore Borno. Sheriff fumed and wanted his successor to return the place to its antediluvian rot. In those years, especially under the inept Jonathan, Boko Haram soared as a bird of prey and Borno gradually turned into a wasteland.
He had formed an army of bigots and bandits. Yet he was not ashamed to join the APC and thought he could edge out the governor, so his goons could continue in their lifestyle of fanaticism and murder. He tried in the state and in the centre, but the new party was not going to bow to this sheriff. He eventually read the message and entered into a bargain with the enemy. He moved over to the PDP. He was an opportunist who wanted to ride on the party’s chaos. He was well-heeled, and PDP was still treating its gaping wound from the Jonathan defeat. He was now suffering from a delusion of grandeur. They needed his money. He obliged, and thought by the time the party wheel horses were ready, he would have pocketed the PDP.
For a while, he was the top man of the party. But the wily party chieftains were bidding their time, waiting to recover from the APC spanking. When some of them, including Wike and Fayose, felt the party was ready, they battled him in conventions and in the courts. Eventually, they showed him the door. The party shunned him first. But the law did not save him.
He no longer can abide the humiliation in PDP. So he is coming home. He evinced the following qualities: incompetence, opportunism, arrogance. So where do we place Sheriff in the classic stories of heroic returns. Not as prodigal son, because he has demonstrated no remorse. He is no golden fleece as no one in Borno sent him on a journey of impunity and chaos. He is no enlightenment man. He fathered ignorance and darkness in Borno.
He is not Jephthah as he was no political war hero and he is not a type to sacrifice precious possession for principles. He is no Odysseus either. He needs no disguise and he cannot win his way to the party even when his fellow travellers like Gbemi Saraki have returned. Nor is he Ojukwu, who needs a pardon.
Where does he fall then? He belongs to the character in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native, who wants to return home for love but finds herself an alien. So, Sheriff is a returnee as outcast. He comes to Borno to his house, not political home. He is like one suffering from political sokugo in Cyprian Ekwensi’s Burning Grass. We hope against hope though that the man will give up. Such men don’t give up until they give up.
Adams 2, Oyegun 0
Finally John Odigie-Oyegun will bow out as APC chairman. He will give way to Adams Oshiomhole, the former governor of Edo State. But it was not the first both men will battle in recent times. In the battle for Adams’ successor, Oyegun wanted a different candidate who went belly up against the present governor of the state. That was defeat number one. Now, the second one has now happened, and it is rattling him in his geriatric time, a man in about his eighth decade on earth. I hope the man will keep quiet and quit playing stooge at this age.
The first combat between the two men was through proxies. Now, it is a contact sport and we are seeing Oyegun go down the mud. So, we can say Adams has floored Oyegun both at home in Edo State and abroad on the national level. I think this is enough humiliation for the perfect stooge.
Osunkeye: From Hands-on to visionary
I recently was a guest of one of the world’s gentlemen, the debonair Chief Emeka Anyaoku, at the Metropolitan Club, and I had a conversation with Chief Olusegun Osunkeye, former managing director of Nestle Foods. He confirmed my primary view of how to lead. He said in the early 1970’s, even before he was head of the company, he observed that the Nigerian staff lacked expertise, and he decided to embark on a ruthless regime of training. Some, he observed, could not write a good sentence. So particular was he that he earned the nickname Black Power.
By the time he became MD, he found out he no longer needed to do much supervision. “I discovered, they already knew about their assignments than I,” he said. So, he did not stay in their way and he allowed them blossom. He showed that the first job of a leader is to make leaders. Having made them self-sufficient, he now could sit back and concentrate on the big picture as a visionary. That accounts for why he became one of the outstanding leaders of corporate Nigeria.