By Sam Omatseye
It cheers the heart that an old general adds a word to our political vocabulary. Not since Adelabu of what Soyinka calls the Penkelemesi years, the grand loquacity of the great Zik, the pompous orations of Mbadiwe and local vintage of Akintola’s phrases have we seen coinages for the ages.
It is regrettable, though, that when Obasanjo conjures a word it turns out to be Fulanisation. But Obasanjo lacks the glamour of those men of literary legacy. The Owu chief has drawn flaks and combative praise for characterising the waves of northern banditry, including Boko Haram, as Fulanisation and Islamisation of Nigeria.
Before we go into the merit of this assertion, we must know that Obasanjo is a bitter man. Few know that the 2019 poll was the Owu chief’s first major loss. For a man of his age, Cicero says it is his “play’s last act.” He had been a serial winner. He had been blessed with opportunism. He had been like the Italian soccer striker, Paolo Rossi, who was absent in the game until he had slivers of chances. When he had them, he scored. Others toiled, he basked like quicksilver. Obasanjo had been a sweatless conqueror. He reaped where others sowed. The scriptures capture the old man’s legend thus: “One man builds, and another occupies.” Obasanjo had been a tenant with a landlord’s certificate.
He must be in a giddy state today. He is in an unfamiliar time warp. The old man is in a daze. His hilltop palace must be lowly and lonely these days. He thought Buhari would win the last election. But he had no choice but to dig in with Atiku, the old foe whose friendship he had publicly laughed to scorn. The scorn is now their fair-weather reconciliation, their Judas kiss. He had fallen out with his former army subordinate. No more salute from the highbrow of the tall inferior. The Owu chief was cornered into the opposition.
Not like in 2015 when he made a public extravaganza of tearing a PDP card and later welcomed fawning APC invitees. He gambled and lost this time. He has lost his old battle gears, his vivacity of a pugilist. If he dances now it will be a play of self-mockery, like what Samuel Becket designates as risus purus, a laugh laughing at itself. Roger Rosenblatt calls it an abysmal farce. Obj seems to have found his voice somewhat, and in an unlikely place: a church.
It tells how low many so-called men of God have sunken. Rather than make the church a sanctuary of holy writs, it has morphed into a pedestal for political jobbers. If Christ comes to earth today in the flesh, he would whip many of them who think glamour overtakes sobriety of spirit. Nowhere in scripture supports a politician preaching on the podium. What qualifies them? A part of society that has been, for most part, no role model for us except to rig elections and purloin our wealth and misgovern us.
It was because of this that the concept of the two luminaries was developed in the Middle Ages. One is the luminary of the secular world, and the other of the spiritual. It was derived from the scripture when God created two luminaries, one for the night and the other for the day. The medieval age used that concept to distinguish the church and state. They are as apart as what Nobel Prize-winning Poet, Rudyard Kipling wrote in his ballad, “East is east, West is west, And never the twain shall meet.” It is a violation of the holies like idolatry, and Paul said: “Come ye from among them, and be ye separate.”
The Owu chief’s claim of plots to Fulanise Nigeria is not sincere. I thought he knew more about that because he himself was Fulanised. Was it not them he ran to when his people rejected him in 1999, and they vaulted him to be president? Was it convenient then to be Fulanised? Did he not betray his kinsman, General Olufemi Olutoye, as recorded in Kole Omotoso, Just Before Dawn, when he orchestrated his premature retirement? The man had drawn Obasanjo’s attention to the lopsided projects and attitudes of the military government. Rather Obj called in Shehu Yar’Adua to the office and asked Olutoye to repeat his complaint before his Fulani friend.
The same thing I wrote in an earlier essay about TY Danjuma, who is now grouching about the Fulani. His rise in the army was at Fulani behest. Would he deny that today? He and Danjuma are now born again. This is no less than a cry after the fact. Obasanjo’s words could resonate with Buhari’s critics because Buhari also opened the window. His security team is lopsided for the north. Yet, the same security team is impotent, and lacks the imagination, resolve and architecture to tackle the mayhem around the north. Buhari once asserted in anger that he is not partial. He has to show it beyond words. When his SSS chief was removed, he chose a retired man from Kano and pushed away Seiyefa Matthew, an Ijaw man, who was acting. Yet, others in acting positions from the north tend to get the job under him. Not Seiyefa. Obasanjo saw the smoke and screamed fire.
Yet we know that the problem of the north is not just about fulanising or islamising us, if that has always been an agenda. What we have today is different. Even Boko Haram is not Fulanising. The partisans are Kanuri. They want to Islamise, but the targets are everyone, including the traditional elite in the north. They want to purify Islam, according to their own lights.
Yet, as this essayist has noted in the past month, the problem is class revolt. It may not have been articulated, but the actions are clear. Those who seek God want gold first. Ask them in Zamfara. They are the poor who hate the oppressions of the feudal north. The al majiri are now targeting the mai gidas. If it is islamisation, who are the victims in Zamfara in their gold rush? Who are the victims paying fines in order to go to their farms in the Sokoto and Kebbi axis? Is it not a threat to food security? Are they collecting money to Fulanise or Islamise the Fulani? Who are the big guns who cannot now travel the routes from Kaduna to Abuja, and the highways between Kano and Sokoto? Are they not Fulani and Muslims? It is high time we realised that the failures of the feudal north is coming to terms with the subaltern rage of the common man.
Obj raised a false alarm because he knew he had committed political suicide in his hoary age by siding with a team that lost. Winston Churchill said, “The trouble with committing political suicide is that you live to regret it.” Obj’s one suicide is haunting him, and he is regretting it in public by saying the wrong things. He is not having a last hurrah.
Culled from Nation