One of the things that I cannot do as a discourse analyst involved with public issues and policies is to focus unnecessarily on personalities or personal attributes of prominent people or their failings. Getting involved with personalities and their idiosyncrasies is a serious flaw in the reasoning process known as argumentum ad-hominiem. My analysis is usually issues-related but if I have to discuss people, I merely use them to highlight certain aspects of the issues I discuss. Issues are issues but issues come to life only if they are contextualized and humanized.
And discuss the issues is what we should do here today. However, I find myself at a T-Junction where I would have to decide whether or not to hold on to the principles and practices of my vocation or ignore them entirely. So what I decided to do is reverse the order, that is, we would be looking at the person first and use him to highlight the issues. Today we will highlight and analyze the predilection to insincerity inherent in political behavior of most politicians in Nigeria, using the new chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC as an index. The new chairman of the All Peoples Congress, APC, is a man well-known to most of us who lived in Edo State in the late 80s. He was the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and the battle that saw him through to being governor of Edo state forms an aspect of this discussion.
While it was very clear that his rival, Chief Lucky Igbinedion of the National Republican Convention, NRC, cut himself out as someone with the wherewithal to finance his election as governor, three factors helped Odigie-Oyegun as an underdog to win that election. One, his rival had incurred the displeasure of the palace: he had a father who was seen as arrogant and a threat to the authority of the Oba of Benin. Two, there were speculations as well that the military president at that time, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida favoured a candidate whose personal and political disposition fit the ethos of his dream of a ‘new breed’ of politicians. But by far Odigie-Oyegun’s power base was with the people of Edo State. He was a consummate demagogue who won everyone over with his television campaign adverts that showed him pulling off his cap and expose the grey his on his bald head. ‘Na me and una go join hand together to build Edo State’, he used to say. To the ordinary citizen, this was a Daniel or a Moses who had come to save inhabitants of that ancient city. Odigie-Oyegun called for ‘support’ from his supporters and most of them obliged him. Some sold their houses and cars, and sent in their pension money.
One of such person who invested most of his time and effort and life savings was my father of blessed memory. I used to go with him to those meetings in our ward in Benin City, where Odigie-Oyegun the candidate would make promises of a better tomorrow to his supporters. But when he eventually became governor of Edo State, he shut every one of those who supported him out of the system. The series of letters that my father and he exchanged on this issue were with me after my father passed on and rather than keep them as some kind of reminder of the treachery and betrayal, I burnt them all and moved on.
After Odigie-Oyegun eventually became governor of Edo State, the better tomorrow he swore with his grey hair on television did not materialize. Instead everybody was going on strike – teachers, doctors and civil servants. We all watched him on television again, this time reeling out figures upon figures in which he tried to convince everyone that Edo State was broke had no money for development. The Ogbe Stadium in Benin City which used to be the pride of the Binis fell into ruins, and roads became dilapidated under him than ever. We felt sorry for ourselves when we heard him saying this because the Edo State under his watch was one of the wealthiest ever in terms of human and natural resources.
Over the years, I have taken only a passing interest in the now new APC Chairman, and from a great distance. I realize that his participation as NADECO ‘chieftain’ was probably part of his desire to remain relevant after he was shoved aside by Abacha. So, my first memo would be to the people who came together to ask him to chair them: John Odigie-Oyegun is a good man but not an angel. I strongly recommend him to you as one excellent at being meticulous at deception and betrayal. Like his Edo fiasco, I know It would not be long before his true colours begin to manifest. And to the APC Chair, I want to wish you well in your new job. Most Nigerians see many people in your party as very disgruntled former members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and insincere with their claim to want to change our country. Some of our people see your party as a weak opposition, and this weakness stems from your party’s inability to be constructive with criticism.