Times Are Changing

by Michael Egbejumi-David

Sometimes, it appears the easiest thing to do is to give up on Nigeria. But that might be the cowardly way to go. We shouldn’t do that just yet. So we should grab on to any cheery news that comes down the pike – no matter how fuzzy.

The much threatened self-implosion of the PDP would have been a heck of a cheery piece of news. However, we have seen it all before. Just when you think that house of charade will implode, the PDPsters manage to land on their rotund bellies. They would pick themselves up, dust off their smudged agbadas and shamble on. I guess in the end, they manage to remind themselves what they stand to lose if they take their eyes off the till.

And so we trawl through other less spectacular, but nonetheless cheery news. And that is where we situate the discomfort that was recently the lot of the Lagos State Commissioner for Public Transportation, Kayode Opeifa. Opeifa was forced out of an event in his own domain of Lagos in a most disgraceful manner.

It was a pleasant and balmy Lagos evening when Mr Opeifa who sometimes calls himself ‘Comrade Opeifa’ decided to attend – uninvited – a Gani Fawehinmi Memorial event. The comrade didn’t bother to inform the event organisers that he would be gracing their soiree with his esteemed presence. Instead, Opeifa simply turned up, walked up to an already full high-table and had someone bring him and his small entourage spare chairs.

Well, the other people at the event didn’t like that. They didn’t like it one bit. They rose almost in unison and began to boo Opeifa. They booed him long, and they booed him hard. Opeifa smiled benignly, thought the boos would die down, but it turned out the crowd was just warming up. They began to sing and chant, “Thief, thief, thief…Ole, ole, ole!” The audience’s facial expression grew hard as they continued to boo, jeer and generally harass the Commissioner. At some point, a young man walked up to Opeifa and drenched him and his fine Kaftan in water.

The coup de grâce was delivered by the event organisers. Right to his face, they completely disowned the Commissioner. Their spokesperson got up and announced to the packed house that they never invited the man, didn’t know what he was doing there, and that he didn’t even let them know that he was coming. A by then thoroughly ruffled Opeifa had no choice but to get up and slink out of there with his posse. His pride lay wounded and prostrate on the floor. His face wasn’t very far behind.

Outside, the Commissioner was again confronted by more unimpressed protesters. He was escorted into his vehicle with lusty acrimonious jeers and the age old song, “Behold the face of a thief…Thief!”

So why was Opeifa so vilified?

It appears the Commissioner specialises in wrecking transporters’ careers and livelihood. His sub-specialty is making money off their miseries and keeping defaulters locked up in police cells, sometimes for up to two weeks at a stretch.

Opeifa was made Commissioner just two years ago. The gist around Alausa is that he is one of the Commissioners forced on Governor Fashola by Tinubu. Put differently; there is no love lost between them two. In fact, earlier this year, Fashola publicly repudiated Opeifa for arrogating onto himself the power to grant approval before anyone can purchase 200cc capacity motorbikes in Lagos State. Opeifa had flatly stated that no one could purchase 200cc bikes without first getting approval from his office. He said that anyone who purchased the bikes without seeking his approval did so at their own risk. Persons, courier companies and other businesses (like print media houses who use such bikes to dispatch their newspapers) who had purchased the bikes wrote to Opeifa seeking approval but he refused to give it. He claimed his approval was not first sought before those motorbikes were bought. Instead, Opeifa’s agents go around Lagos confiscating such bikes.

At the Memorial event where he was thrown out, protesters claimed that Opeifa has commercialised most public roads in Lagos, banned fairly used Taxis, and asked cab drivers to compulsorily purchase his own taxis called ‘Mega City’ taxis at N4.1million each. What’s more, it is claimed that Opeifa will not allow the drivers to buy those same vehicles anywhere else at their real market price which is considerably lower than N4.1million. He reportedly told the Taxi Drivers Union representatives when they went to remonstrate with him to simply ante up or leave the road.

Opeifa went on to educate his guests that in America, there are no taxi owners. He told them that taxis are owned by large firms and drivers merely drive for such firms with an equitable financial arrangement in place. He finished up by advising the Union people that if they cannot afford to purchase his new ‘Mega City’ taxis, they should all come back to him as drivers.

And just last month, Opeifa labeled auto spare parts and machinery dealers operating within the Trade Fair Complex on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway a security threat to Lagos State.

By the way, I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that the Comrade has his eyes on the governorship seat come 2015.

Up the river in Saraki State…er…sorry, Kwara State, the conduct of the recent re-run Local Government elections took a pleasant, if bizarre, turn. The declared winner, one Jimoh Olawole of the infamous PDP turned up at a press conference and renounced his own victory. Olawole haughtily rejected the victory conferred on him as Councillor-elect for Shawo South-West ward by the State’s electoral body. Mr Olawole grabbed the microphone and declared, “I am and was a bona fide member of PDP during the August 31 re-run of Offa Local Government Area but I did not win the election. I cannot take what does not belong to me because the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the ward, Hon. Adefioye Kayode won the election.”

Olawole added that of the 1,542 votes cast at the ward during the re-run, the APC scored 1,171 votes, while his PDP polled only 361 votes.

Mr Olawole finished off by saying that he also want to ensure that his community did not witness violence and retrogression – a novel idea in Nigeria politics where ‘leaders’ are perfectly happy to preside over burnt out dunghills.

We have to take all of this at face value of course. This being Nigeria, anything can happen, and usually does. Here, motives are frequently not what they seem. When another anti Opeifa protester was asked why he was protesting, he had this to say: “We deported him from our event, and that’s to show him sample what it feels like for his master Fashola to deport people from Lagos!” See?

But still, we thank God for small victories. And as Bob Dylan crooned those many years ago, the times they are a-changing.

Twitter: demdemdem1

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