PROFESSOR Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is remembered by many readers for different reasons. For me in particular, its richness in African proverbs provides an invaluable insight into the continent’s traditional philosophy.
The import of one which states that a man must be careful while trying to knock off a Tse-tse fly perched on his scrotum sack is particularly instructive. I can imagine some wracking pains shooting through the man’s brains as his balls receive a bang as he attempts to knock off one annoying fly. Ooops!
Achebe’s proverbs are virtually too many to recall but there is another one that concisely situates the thin line between peace and war.
According to the erudite professor, when handshake goes beyond the elbow, it is no longer a hand shake. It is a wrestling match. It is very instructive to the evolving political development in Edo state.
From jibes involving inciting statements, some politicians simply decided to raise the stakes to a more dangerous height. The result is that in less than one week, four people have been sent prematurely to their graves. Certainly, the forthcoming July 14 governorship contest, which ought to be a demonstration of good sportsmanship, has become a war of attrition. The implication for the nation’s body polity, as exemplified by recent politically motivated tragic deaths in the state, is better imagined than said.
The flag off of the campaign rally for the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, was set to begin on Saturday, April 28, 2012. But it was called off following an incident in which a tipper rammed into the comrade governor’s official vehicle, knocks it off the road and ended up killing three journalists on the convoy in an accident that have all the hallmarks of a premeditated attack.
Five days after the rescheduled flag off, just when arrangements were once again concluded to stage the event at the same venue the next Saturday, May 5, it was almost not to be as the people of the state woke up to another rude shock on Thursday, May 4, when news hit them rather too harshly that the very amiable Olaitan Oyerinde, Principal Private Secretary to the governor, had been assassinated.
If the road rage that claimed the lives of the three journalists was an insidious heart breaking accident, Oyerinde’s murder was a callous undertaking calculated as an added impetus to practically cripple the comrade governor’s campaign efforts. Though it has failed to achieve that purpose, sceptics will be hard put, explaining the gruesome murder in front of his wife and young children.
For everyone familiar with recent developments in the state, Oyerinde’s murder is truly one heck of an unfortunate evil deed. But for the comrade governor in particular, it is a near fatal blow. Olaitan, as he was better known, was more than a private secretary to him; he was more of his brother, son and loyal aide for over all the years their path met. Oyerinde it is who is responsible for most of the important duties that made Oshiomhole the performer that he is. Little wonder, the governor gave security agents 14 working days to fish out the murderers.
According to impeccable sources, Olaitan, as he is better known, left his office late Thursday evening having completed the day’s job. As confirmed by his security guard, he arrived home at about 9 pm. But at about one or two in the morning of Friday, May 4, the killers arrived, scaled the perimeter fence surrounding his residence and forced their way into the living room. Having specifically asked for and identified him, they pumped hot leads into his head, chest and stomach at close range.
The essence was to make sure he died instantly. It remains for sceptics to prove that his murder is not deliberately orchestrated politically to cripple the comrade governor’s campaign effort for his second term re-election bid. If the first incident was an accident as claimed by sceptics, is the second one a coincidence?
I am an Ishan man, proudly so. And I take delight in studying the wisdom in my people’s adages. That may perhaps explain why I began this piece with some of Achebe’s many local wise sayings.
Among my people, there is one which states that when witches and wizards bay for blood the night before and a child dies the morning after, it is pointless looking too far for who is responsible. The same situation appears to have been replicated in recent fatal attacks the state has recorded.
I have pointed out in a different paper that there is a sense of morbid inevitability in the drums of war being beaten by the opposition in the state. I am of the opinion that unless an immediate break is applied, the state will, God forbids, turn into one huge human abattoir, sooner than later.
With two apparently premeditated actions resulting in the gruesome death of four people, the shape of things to come appears to be heading that lethal direction indeed.
And without meaning to sound as an apostle of doom, it is likely that more deaths, seemingly motivated by politics, stand to be recorded if immediate measures are not put in place by all stake holders to halt the ugly trend. But it only can be prevented if security agencies wake up to their responsibility.
There is something devious about the manner the killings are unfolding.
Fingers are pointing, arguably of course, in the direction of the opposition PDP. And its leaders have laboured unconvincingly though that neither the party nor its leaders have a hand in the plethora of deaths that have visited the state.
Yet, one is at a loss somewhat because ordinarily, particularly given the legendry sit tight tendency of most incumbent executives in the country, Oshiomhole is the one who ought to be very desperate about protecting his seat by employing everything available.
Rather uncharacteristically, it is the other way round. Is it because the opposition knows that it stands no chance of winning the election given the unprecedented achievement of the governor? Obvious as the answer is, it is for now, better left unsaid.
In all his battles for a better deal for Nigerian masses including the one to reclaim his stolen mandate and free the state from the debilitating stranglehold of certain people, Oshomhole has never considered violence as an option.
As if he is in a hurry to prove that he is an apostle of fair play, he gave out on several occasions the use of state-owned property to his opponent without any charge whatsoever. In as many times or more, he appealed to his opponents to make the governorship election campaign an issue-based one when indications began to emerge that the opposition opted to beat the drums of war.
In one instance, he practically begged some of the leaders to desist from making statements that tend to give the impression that the state was in a state of war ready to be conquered. Obviously, given the scale of violence preceding the election, his appeal must have fallen on deaf ears.
As it stands, the two unfortunate incidents are not only an attack on Oshiomhole who is moving the state out of the woods after nearly a decade of deliberate stagnation, it is also an affront on the people of the state who are witnesses to the man’s unprecedented development drive.
For once, they placed their faith on a man and gave him their mandate of trust and to justify the trust, the man lived up to every inch of his promise to them. His honour, the pride of an emerging Edo state is not just being threatened, his current travails is an assault on the intelligence of the people for opting for a man with a genuine development agenda. That is the more reason all hands must be on deck in order for those who masterminded the death of Oyerinde and others to be unmasked.
At the moment, violence ought not to be an option for anyone wishing to win the people’s vote and by extension, lead them. More than ever before, the people are aware that violence is both undemocratic and against the spirit of fair play, hence their expectation that anyone with any leadership conviction should go ahead and prove his/her worth with superior logic on the level playing field that currently exists in the state.
And they reserve the right to choose who governs them given their privileged position of quality assessment. Therefore, no matter the level of attacks, intimidation or the strength of those backing the perpetrators, they know too well what and who they want.
They will give their mandate to the person they know they can trust to defend their mandate. The only one worthy of that trust is the man who has done what he promised them. By every stretch of the imagination, the comrade governor appears to stand head and shoulder above everyone else.
Rather than accept the challenge of opting for a more viable campaign option, we are propagating violent prone alternatives, including ethnic politics, the greatest enemy of peace and tranquillity and promoter of discord and violence. For obvious reasons, I am worried about the manner of ethnic politics as currently played by the opposition.
I am even more so given the support it enjoys from its leadership. For instance, on the same day the comrade governor’s convoy was involved in the crash that claimed the lives of three journalists, the PDP was in Ekiadolor, Ovia North Local Government Area, fanning embers of ethnic politics. In his address to the people, Chief Dan Orbih, the state chairman told the people of the community that it is an abomination for any man from any other ethnic nationality in the state to break kola nut in all occasions.
It must, he said, be broken by a Bini man as dictated by tradition irrespective of whether he is the youngest in the crowd. Orbih did not stop there as he told his audience that the right to become the next governor after the July 14 governorship election is the next kola nut Bini people must not allow any other tribe to break. In his final appeal, Orbih declared that it is only proper that Bini people must defend this traditional right at all cost. In other words, they must not allow any other person from any other tribe to become governor. He spoke in Pidgin English and it was also televised.
The implication of Orbih’s call is not difficult to understand or interpret. His call is for non-discerning Bini politicians to rise up in arms against Oshiomhole a non-indigene. In country like ours where ethnic struggle has resulted in wanton destruction of lives and property, the implication of his call are not only dire but requires that the police step in immediately.
That is why it appears more worrisome that given the implications of his call to arms, none of the security agencies has deemed it necessary to call him to order or for questioning. As the July 14 governorship election in the state approaches, it is important that the police in particular, caution Orbih and his group in order not to be seen by observers as complicit in recent attacks that resulted in the death of three journalists and Oshiomhole’s Principal Private Secretary. The attack and murder of Olaitan Oyerinde is one too many.