Opposition Nonsense and Activist’s Wuru-wuru

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel (Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986)

This week and the last was a week of opposition everywhere but Nigeria. Arguably, in Bolivia, the first native Indian President Mr. Morales- a former coca-farmer and peasant was swept to power: making a powerful statement to the ruling white elites of that poor but gas rich count of South America. In Portugal and Canada, conservative opposition candidates that have been left in the cold for many years were back in power after the electorates voted for massive changes in government because of a widespread feeling of entitlement from the ruling parties in both countries. Even in Palestine, the Hamas is made stunning gains over the ruling Fatah party that is notoriously corrupt and inefficient. Near home in Liberia the ‘Iron-Lady’ Sirlef-Johnson took office as the first elected female president against all odds of her country, Liberia. But in my country Nigeria, the opposition was blowing cold and hot.

Like everything Nigerian, opposition is dead. The tragedy of my country is not the actions of bad men; it is the silence or disorganization of good ones that makes our country one of the most backward in the world and definitely ranking among the most decadent society in the history of mankind. Last week, our constitution was kicked into the gutters: in many nations of the world, this will lead to massive street protest by the opposition parties or the non-governmental organizations but what we got in Nigeria was infighting and egotism. In the face of it all, Nigerians living under so called democracy are denied the rights to protest while fellow citizens in nearby Togo or Niger will do so flawlessly without any harassment – what a country!

The week started as usual with the ‘best friend’ of the president or may be it is the ‘sugar daddy’ of Baba Iyabo’s late wife, Professor Wole Soyinka calling a trite press conference to insult or as the President often puts it – make loud noise – at the doors of Aso Rock. As usual the President had a worthy reply from Fani Kayode (who is no bastard by the way- that used to be the work of his father in the first republic – lose canons). At the press conference the lion of Abeokuta called for baba’s resignation and urged all of us to be prepared for the mother of all battles the very next week. What happened? The so-called relocation of headquarters never materialized after all, what we got was diatribes being thrown by one Erubami the leader of Campaign for Democracy against the “Lion” himself over some ‘name use’ over a generally poorly coordinated protest that could not even shake the most wide awakened Nigerian at Iwo Road or Agodi, haba! Even Sir Adams the newly crowned next governor of Edo State denied every knowledge of the rally- he was chilling in Abuja with his buddies; OBJ and Femi Falana!

The reason why I point all these out is to show a pattern that have taken root in this dispensation. On one hand, you will have the regular hot-fire no smoke statements from CNPP (an amalgamation of strange bed fellows with no direction), and the pro-democracy activists will muster a faint will to organize and protest only to be thwarted by one of their godfathers: Soyinka, Fawenhinmi, Oshiomole, Beko Ransome-Kuti, or even Falana. Who says activists don’t have godfathers? The funny thing about all these is that the same thing have repeated itself over and over again that baba Iyabo must be having a very good laugh at the expense of these old soldiers of democracy gone cowards!

Why is the Alliance of Democracy in Oyo state hob-knobbing with wannabe Governor Alao-Akala? Is a so-called illegal governor going by the proclamation of a statement (apparently empty) from the national AD/Afenifere able to swear in a duly elected Local government chairman? Why didn’t the Akintayo not say truth to power and refuse to be sworn in by this Akala of a man? Anyway, is it not Nigeria? I am sure Chairman Akintayo must be a very happy man now that he has finally taken his seat at the local government headquarters but I wonder what he thinks his role is in the chess-board of Akala’s godfather- Chief Adedibu.

Much has been said about the lack of opposition ideology or parties as the case may be in Nigeria. In fact, as she is structured presently Nigeria has two parties: the rich and the poor. With Atiku and Tinubu hobnobbing and Yerima and Obasanjo doing paddy paddy, one wonders where the so called opposition groups frittered away to. If you think that the press can be a veritable opposition, then you need to understand the statement of Adedibu immediately after Ladoja was removed. He said the marabouts rejoicing at his latest victory should thank the newsmen. Why the newsmen?

Anyway for your information, the new press secretary to Akala is a Tribune man- Diran Odeyemi. Diran Odeyemi used to be a nice column writer, criticizing and speaking truth to power, now my man is cool and silent enjoying the trappings of power or the congratulatory messages of brand new government appointments. A cursory look at Tribune since the crisis begun will show where their loyalties lean. While The Punch was busy questioning the qualifications of the new deputy governor, Tribune and some other papers (names withheld) was busy pushing himself and his new boss on us. The Tribune has been printing out fresh new congratulation Ads like no tomorrow and their feature editors remarkably silent; even in their award winning editorials there have been no mention of the illegality that have just been perpetrated at the behest of their founders’ grave. Pa Awo must be turning in his grave!

As for the pro-democracy activists everyone that is a regular reader of my articles will know I have fundamental distrusts for them. From Onagoruwa to the recent Information Commissioner for the disgraced ex-governor of Bayelsa, Mr. Oronto Douglas – most activists are simply noise makers hoping that one day they will be called to take a sit across the table to share in the loot. My knowledge of activist is not by any means long distance, I grew up with them all around me (don’t ask me how). But what I noticed then and now is that most of them don’t even have control over their homes or lives yet they criticize a man trying to govern a country.

Chronic womanizers, charlatans and even debtors dominate the civil right and pro-democracy movement of Nigeria. While there are few credible ones among them, most of them have been driven blind with hate of the rich (whether money is legitimate or otherwise) with

little dose of patriotism. Their own lives are poorly organized, which has translated to the disorganization on the public level that have marked all the failed protests they have organized since 1999. Worse of these group are those of them that fled abroad- they are not even better, most subsisting on rubbishing the name of their country and collecting handouts from faceless international organizations in return for more bad news. As we all know, “he who pays the piper, dictates the tune”. The tune that our activists sing these days I wonder where they originate from.

It is very unfortunate that a once vibrant movement that used to be a nightmare of the Nigerian elites have gone the way of everything good in Nigeria. The press has been bought, the pro-democracy activist is sorely disorganized and the opposition parties are virtually non-existent. That is why it is not surprising that when the details of who succeeds to the presidency after the end of the current term is being framed, it is always framed in the context of a deeply corrupt, detested and publicly damaged ruling party. Yet they are the only alternative to themselves, so what do you expect Nigerians to do? What is sorely needed at this moment is a ‘return to the drawing board grassroots movement’ that will focus on the enormous task at hand of dislodging the impostors that have positioned themselves as the rulers of our country. This task can be accomplished by looking up to other opposition renaissance far away from home: the sudden revitalization of The New Labor under Tony Blair had a lot to do with unity of purpose and a program that shows confidence and tenacity in the face of tremendous resistance in the political sphere: the electorate always respect that!

Let it not be on record, that while Nigerian burned and while bad men plundered her treasuries- the good men fiddled and were not there to save a system that had gone awfully stinking! Certainly, as I mourn for an opportunity lost once again, I remember the salient words of W.B. Yeats in “The Second Coming” most famously quoted by Chinua Achebe: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood dimm’d tide is loosed, and everywhere. The ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. To the later day cowards,why do you let your erstwhile enemies become co-conspirators against the Nigerian project?” Again we are at a crossroad, can Nigeria be saved from itself?

Last Line:

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”

Martin Luther King, Jr, from his Autobiography, Chapter 2

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Diran Odeyemi March 2, 2006 - 4:09 pm

You got my title wrong, I am Special Adviser to Gov Akala on Communication and Strategy. Please note that I have not and will not depart from the ideals and principles I had highlighted in my prvious write-ups. My decision to take the appointment was based on the convinction that it is an opportunity to correct some societal ills I have preached against. For your information and based on my advise to the governor, we have abolished the office of the first lady in Oyo state. The use of siren and unnecessry haarassment of motorist on the road had been stopped while pratical governance has been put in place where Gov Akala meets the people on radio and television phone-in progrmme to give account of his stewardship and listen to concerns of the governs. Salaries are paid promptly while we allow and encourage peaceful protest to ginger up the government. All this are there for verification. May I assure you that I will not depart from my principle, I am determined to make a change and could not have turned down the oppotunity when it came unsolicited. Please mark my word, the day I no longer get the support of the governor in giving the people the best is the day I will resign. I was not jobless before the appointmnet and will not be jobless if and when I leave. I am not going to lose my head about the appointment I know has a terminal date. Now that you know, please correct the wrong inuedoes that I have cool down. This is not true. Thank you for your interrest in me and remain blessed.

Anonymous February 5, 2006 - 3:17 pm

To the clown in post #7, Soyinka was raising hell looong before he even had the resources to send his family anywhere. And his family mostly grew up in Nigeria and chose of their own individual free will AS ADULTS to travel abroad, probably just like you did. He had mostly nothing to do with it. Why do people try to erase the good works a man has spent his entire life doing by spreading false stories? Many times, the man faced death on your behalf. Sorry ungrateful Nigerians that we all are…I saw how at Ife he was hounded all over by secret police. Whenever they called a strike or protest march, you probably hid under your bed like the sissy you are. Soyinka is not perfect, but he definitely deserves more respect than the likes of you throwing barbs at him. Nonsense.

Nosa February 5, 2006 - 1:47 pm

Hello Elegbeleye, you said "at 70 -something Wole Soyinka and others are working their old bones fighting for all of their generation and ours….."

People like you are just too gullible to realize that you're more into hero worship than anything else.

Soyinka is simply an old spoilt brat…..from youth exuberance of the 1950/60s to being a wine connoiseure and gross playboy in the 2000s, all he has contributed to Nigeria is great literature. Now, that's fine in its own but you guys should not turn him into a savior.He is not my savior!

And to the guy who wondered why Soyinka would raise trouble at home and vanish to America, the answer is that one of his women (Folake) and the kids she has for our dear Nobel Laureate are safely hidden in the U.S.

One of his grown up kids is working for Obasanjo while the other grown up kids are in some other safe havens. Now, you know why the man can afford to raise hell in Nigeria—–because his family is safe.

Anonymous February 5, 2006 - 3:37 am

Hello Michael,

I ve just finished reading your opinion on Ladojas saga and the response, or nonchalant attitude exhibited by the civil society and human right activists towards the day light robbery and pervasion of justice that took place in Oyo state. If one has a thought process that functions normally then one cannot but a look at the merit and the demerit of Ladojas case from two perspectives, one on issues: which is all about nurturing our democracy and good governance, the other is the personalty of Ladoja?

It is clear to most of us that most governors that are being harassed or under threat of removal for their political views or leaning and seem helpless in most cases are the ones that are morally bankrupt. An outrageous allegation of corruption is a ready tool in the hand of federal government and their agents. The easiest way to remove a governor in Nigeria is to smear him up in his own mess. Please note well that there has been the allegation of financial procedural indiscretions which Ladoja has not deny. He was even alleged to have refused to swear in a duly elected local government chairman, in spite of the fact that there was a standing court order to the contrary he went ahead and did whatever catch his fancy. My view here is that Ladoja has been a beneficiary of a process he did not believe in, he seems to have met his match in men who has his mind set. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. The whole scenario is a funny one, political thugs and men without scruples are the ones pointing accusing fingers at the former governors

quarter on the issue of corruption, now that they have the key to the till lets wait and see what Mr. pussy cat is going to do with the pieces of fried meat he claims he is in a better position to secure for the common good.

The major issue here is, was the due process followed on Ladojas removal, the answer is no. Will our nascent democracy benefit in any way if Ladoja was returned, my view here is also no because Ladoja has proved by his action by disobeying a court order that he does not respect for the judiciary? No principled man will go out of his way to fight for the reinstatement of a man who confessed to funneling state government money to a bank in which he has vested interest.

Chief Gani Fawehinmi was even reported by the press to have turned down Ladojas brief on the ground that he needs some clarification all issues raised especially those that bother on financial impropriety. Those who seem to be fighting Ladojas cause are those that are close to him, any man with some common sense will certainly ask those questions Chief Fawehinmi asked, will the frontiers of democracy or good governance be moved forward if we decide to be part of the struggle.

On your views on Soyinka, it has been said so many times that Nigeria is a country without heros but those who made those statements may have a different definition of what the word a hero is, so they may not have the capability to recognize one. Soyinka it was who out of love for our country Nigeria, took steps to contact people on the territory of the secessionist side called Biafra, his intention was to bring the warring leaders to together to discuss peace and avoid carnage on both sides that some estimate says runs to about a million. He actually crossed over to the other side, he was quite possible for him to come to some harm, he could have lost his life but because of his love for Nigeria and humanity he did what he thought was right, he obeyed his conscience. His action was misconstrued by federal government and he was detained consequently. General Gowon has since apologized for the way Soyinka was treated. You may also recall the issue of the radio station where he was alleged to have disrupted transmission. It was on record that he has helped save so many lives as a result of his road safety activities. The point here is Soyinka has been known to plunge head long into any thing he believes in. Perhaps he came to the conclusion just the way Chief Gani Fawehinmi did that Ladojas ship does not deserve any serious salvage effort.

It is just unfortunate that you are taking the lull in the human right activist community as a sign of weakness or capitulation, but you have refuse to analyze the difficult situations under which these people work presently for instance how can you stick your neck out for the defense of a public office holder who was democratically elected, but serves the people with selfish motives and was neck deep in corruption. The situation under Abacha was different nobody wants a dictator and that was the shared interest then in the human right community

Do recall what happen when the Bola Ige was robbed of votes in the old Oyo state he did not need any human right activist he appealed to the people whom he knew he has served diligently and honestly and those who took part in that fraud and their relatives would live to remember that period as an era in which they wronged a leader and a people.

Finally you have always taken issues with the indignation and disdain of human right activists for the corrupt/rich. If you made money without being corrupt certainly you will be respected for being shrewd and smart.. But if you made money through dishonest means you may earn respect from some quarters but certainly not from those who knew the genesis to the revelation of the source of your loot

Godwin Kwushue.

Maryland USA

Anonymous February 5, 2006 - 12:48 am

The commentator on comment 3 and 4 are apparently ignorant- the young man that write this article said nothing bad about Soyinka.he rightly questioned the impotence of the current opposition group and press and all you have are diatribes for him? What has become of you the opposition that is intolenrant to freedom of speech . Who is soyinka that we cannot criticize him? Thesame soyinka that wines and dines with OBJ while people like you suffer?

Anonymous February 5, 2006 - 12:21 am

Soyinka started this fight long before many of these stone-throwers were born. His few shortcomings as just another human being notwithstanding, he has consistently stood on the side of the man on the street. His articles, his literature, scathing plays, his ethical revolution album, his activism and life…Before he turned 30, he had already held up a radio station to denounce a coup. He deserves a lot more than these armchair critics are throwing at him. Mr. Oluwagbemi, a few articles posted on web pages do not give you the right to poke your finger in the face of such obvious achievements.

Elegbeleye February 4, 2006 - 11:01 pm

Where is this writer writing from, while at 70 -something Wole Soyinka and others are working their old bones fighting for all of their generation and ours, something they started since they were really young. You sit behind a set of letters arranged on a plastic esconced somewhere pouring vituperations on the laudable efforts of these patriots and also encourage such nosensical talks from your "arrangee" commentaries attached. Why not ask you,Mike, what you have done for Nigeria to oppose the evil men, in what protest have you ever participated recently?

May I ask: Is this website becoming the "FOXNEWS" of Nigerian websites?

Just worried!

Bayo February 3, 2006 - 1:04 pm

Thanks for a good piece. You really captured the situation when you wrote among other things that "Chronic womanizers, charlatans and even debtors dominate the civil right and pro-democracy movement of Nigeria. While there are few credible ones among them, most of them have been driven blind with hate of the rich (whether money is legitimate or otherwise) with little dose of patriotism. Their own lives are poorly organized, which has translated to the disorganization on the public level that have marked all the failed protests they have organized since 1999. Worse of these group are those of them that fled abroad- they are not even better, most subsisting on rubbishing the name of their country and collecting handouts from faceless international organizations in return for more bad news."

Anonymous February 3, 2006 - 10:58 am

Have you asked Soyinka if he is now a US citizen, I wonder with the way he shuttles the US Nigerian route so often. He talk Big English in Nigeria and by the time one scrambles through the dictionary to find the meaning he is already in the US. Think about this for a moment.

I enjoy your articles and keep up the good work.


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