The choice of verb distorted the news headlines. Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki did not defect from the APC. He was forced to defect. “Was forced” is a passive tense, which connotes that the subject, that is the senate president, did not take the action out of his own volition. He was temporising. But word leapt to his ears that a query letter was in the offing from Oshiomhole’s office. Eleyinmi fled in spite of the billowy pride of his agbada.
You cannot expect him to respond to the query. The police had just chafed him, and Eleyinmi scoffed back at the IG, acting above the law by not showing up at an invitation. To wait for an APC censure would make him a query letter writer. That would sully his status as a man some people have started to designate “oga na master.”
He stepped out of the APC portal because he had to follow his troops, who had gone to prepare a place for him in the big PDP mansion he had abandoned with regal flourish only a few years ago. Since his men had moved, the clamour revved up for him to scoot over to the other side of the senate aisle. Some wondered why he sat transfixed. But it was the immobility of indecision. The plan had not panned out as envisioned. Some bigwigs had retreated, like Wammako, who thundered into Sokoto last Saturday. Shehu Sani, his near-bouffant hair unfazed by age, looked the other way as his colleagues faded away.
So, Saraki goes over, his hands clipped like the authentic Eleyinmi. And unlike Eleyinmi, some of his colleagues disappointed him by baring their hands of a different political hue. It was like what was said of the Renaissance and reformation era in Europe. “Erasmus laid the egg,” went the saying. “Martin Luther hatched it. But Erasmus said the plumage of the bird was of different colour from what he expected.”
Saraki and his gang laid the defection eggs but, in the fullness of time, some eggs did not hatch. Saraki would call them bad eggs. Saraki waltzed away as the leader of a minority. He did not want to go over naked, exposed as the usurper. A usurper morally, if not legally. By remaining as senate president, he is overthrowing a throne that he once occupied.
He has handed over to himself without a ceremony or oath, or Koran, especially without a holy book since he has embarked on an act of political sacrilege. Like in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he is having a wedding and a funeral on the same throne simultaneously. He is mourning, without admitting it, his office as senate president but he is having a new wedding with it as a minority leader still sitting still on an immoral throne. He is also wedding again a party he jilted about four years ago. He is like Banquo being haunted by the legitimate owner, Macbeth, except that he still sees himself as Macbeth. The usurper in him is yelling out Banquo’s words as Macbeth arrives: “Avaunt and quit my sight/ let the earth hide thee/ thy bone is marrowless and thy blood is cold.” Only a cold, calculating Eleyinmi can pull off that farce of spectacular somersault and schizophrenia.
But more striking has been Eleyinmi’s trouble with the father figure. He has never loved to bow to a father. He started it in his biological state in his relations with his father Oloye. It is a classic Sigmund Freud drama playing out before our eyes. Freud gave birth to psychoanalysis with his theory based on the myth of King Oedipus. The playwright Sophocles turned it into an immortal work of art. The man married his mother and killed his father.
Bukola Saraki takes from father but hates to show gratitude to father. Oloye loved him, nurtured him, and even started him off on the path of commerce. But he was not a good manager. He ruined a major bank in the country with his managerial ineptitude. He became a governor in the shadows of Oloye, and that made him see himself as the master of the Kwara universe, even if his stewardship was not transformational. The story goes that when he was governor, he never wanted to be in town or at venues where his father was scheduled to appear. This was a case of oedipal self-regard. He gave his father a black eye. He never wanted to be a father’s “son.”
This sort of ingratitude only comes out of insecurity. Greek historian and philosopher Tacitus calls that a fear of gratitude. He said “men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden…” So apart was he from his father as he dabbed about on his peacock throne as governor that some mischief makers went about with unfounded allegations of his paternity. Make no bones about it. Oloye was his father. Eleyinmi only had anxiety about his sonship. He was uncomfortable accepting authority.
As governor, he did not feel his powers complete, hence he wanted to become president. In that position, he would have outflanked his father. But he could not do much in the PDP. He had a problem with the hierarchy. He wanted to be seen as the heir but the north thought he was not north enough, and the west and south thought he was not south enough. He became, and still is, a factor of ambiguity in Nigeria’s geopolitics. It is unfair to him, I must say. He should be seen first and foremost as a Nigerian. This anxiety of geo-identity may lay at the bottom of his oedipal problems with party hierarchies. Oloye has been supplanted by party hierarchs as father figures in his life.
He glided over to the APC, and it became the same story. He seemed to have eaten the humble pie by withdrawing any zeal for the post of president. Alas, he was forced again to look for a position of president that would work under another father figure also designated president. Even to obtain that, he fought by stealth. The hierarchs did not want him. He slunk his way like a night cat onto the position of senate president.
Having given his party leaders a punch in the nose, he expected them to kowtow to him. He had not stooped, but he conquered the house. He met a President Buhari, who was too lofty to stoop. It became a standoff of one father against son who did not want a father. For him, it has not always been about vision, but spoils. Was it a Freudian slip when he complained about juicy offices he wanted and did not get? He lamented about “Lagos, Lagos” and Katsina, Katsina.” He did not say “roads, roads,” or “schools, schools,” etc for the poor. He said he did not care for position. So why not step down? This is hypocrisy writ large.
That standoff led to the worst senate in history. He has now moved over to the other side. A new act has begun in Saraki’s quest to exorcise a father. Will he find fulfilment there?
The point as to whether he might become a senate president till the end of this tenure or whether he should be removed is a moot point to me. The eighth senate is, to all intents and purposes, a dead chamber. It cannot achieve much. If Saraki wants the perks and insolence of office till May next year, it will not extricate him from the shadow of historical infamy of a man who usurped a throne until it expired. If the senate prorogues indefinitely, the president has the executive powers to fund INEC elections and other necessities. Eleyinmi already has met his Balogun. It is all over but the puffing.
An Imam of peace
The Imam was the man. Not those who wielded guns and machetes and spilled homesteads and streets with the gore and blood of their fellow humans. He was a cleric in his soul, not for the ceremony of piety or extravagance of sacerdotal powers. Abdullahi Abubakar kept about 300 Christians in his mosque and looked the goons in the eye and said he was not hiding any Christians. That is what Biodun Jeyifo called truthful lie in his book on Nigerian literature. The 83-year-old man did not blink. He could not fight. He had no arms. He had love and his tender heart routed the army of jackals in the name of God and tribe in the recent Plateau genocidal rumble.
Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State gave him due recognition, brought him before camera lights to his office. The man looked fragile but his act rippled with muscles. He is a Muslim, but he is a lover of God first. He is not a sectarian bigot. His blood hums with universal sentiment. Governor Lalong also recommended him for national award. This is the sort of national recognition that makes sense, not the ones handed to charlatans who con us in the name of God, in the name of the people and in the name of tribe.