“For what Ricardo foresaw was the end of a theory of society in which everyone moved together up the escalator of progress. Unlike Smith, Ricardo saw that the escalator worked with different effects on different classes, that some rode triumphantly on the top, while others were carried up a few steps and then were kicked back down to the bottom. Worse yet, those who kept the escalator moving were not those who rose with its motion, and those who got the full benefit of the ride did nothing to earn their reward. And to carry the metaphor one step further, if you looked carefully at those who were ascending to the top, you could see that all was not well here either; there was a furious struggle going on for a secure place on the stairs.”—The worldly philosophers: the lives, times and ideas of the great economic thinkers by Robert L. Heilbroner.
Remi Tinubu’s outburst on the seeming side-line of her hubby, Bola Tinubu, by the Muhammadu Buhari administration illustrates the existence of an acrimonious struggle for dominance by actors in the political space. It connotes the very fact that the poor masses of Nigeria are not the only victims of the serial subterfuge by politicians who find their thumbs useful before elections only to find their faces unworthy after. But with the investiture of Ms Tinubu to the wailers’ club, the masses at least found consolation in the reality of jungle life as reflected in the present configuration of forces striving for political dominance and influence. In a twist of fate, the flag of political cannibalism was hoisted on Bourdillon, reducing an acclaimed think tank, with all its boisterousness and efficacy to a mere thin tank!
To the naïve, Remi’s disillusionment at the use-and-dump tactic of the president is a national or perhaps regional insult. To these persons confusing a clash of personal interest with an infraction against our collective sensibilities, Tinubu is the voice of the Yoruba, embodying in totality, the mood and aspirations of the people. With this puerile mindset, an affront on his person is nothing but an affront on the millions of people in the south-western part of the nation. This thinking takes one back to antiquity, for while the rest of the world have since entered the race to surge toward post-modernity, local dwellers continue to wander in the illusion that the fly has still not realised the foolhardiness inherent in the pursuit of a carcass to the grave.
The less fortunate citizens, who have been subjected to evil-living conditions which both Bourdillon and Aso Rock are insulated from, must engage their reasoning faculties to situate their place in this country. Such an intellectual task would mirror to them the grim reality of their wretched conditions as a direct fallout of the perfidious acts of members of the political class, for save the very fact that the leadership space has been reduced to a safe house for mediocrities—from the legislative clown who found it amusing cutting a ribbon on an electric pole to the constituted authority who left his backyard to go wander in a Danish ranch—the people would have had no difficulty reconciling the class war amongst members of the political elite as a rare opportunity to shatter the ethnic and religious conundrums they are entangled in to rally fellow disenchanted citizens toward changing the present order.
Remi Tinubu’s frustration at the government of President Buhari has very little to do with the advancement of the nation’s political and economic hygiene but from the restrictions placed on her husband's sphere of influence, one characterized by political cronyism and debasing meddlesomeness. Tinubu pushed his luck too far by thinking that his pervasion of Lagos’ and regional politics was beyond the preying eyes of an insecure public—north down south, east through west, four cardinal points, complete. As a regional leader, he authored an oxymoronic script of reverse fidelity, reducing party loyalty to a devotion to his person.
For almost two decades, the nation stood in utter disbelief as he blazed in the euphoric contradictions of wearing a crown on a stool built on the firm principles of republicanism, exaggerating the power of his thumb beyond singularity. He wallowed in the presumption that his fellow politicians suffered from the condition of acute forgetfulness and memory shot-termism which the mass of the people are afflicted by without realising that each time he had his way against men and women who queue to vote during his party primaries only to learn that an aspirant who barely participated had been declared winner, the ambitious hawks outside of his region oil their defence mechanisms that prepare them against him replicating such on a national scale.
This is not to imply that he had an easy ride within his region as his over domineering attitude pitched a number of Young Turks against him. In a feel of political opportunism, the PDP lingered to see the exit of Babatunde Fashola from the Action Congress when the former Lagos governor was engulfed in a battle to save his soul from Tinubu’s butt in. Kayode Fayemi, like his Lagos counterpart, found it bewildering to have his administration tied to the apron strings of our subject. Olusegun Mimiko got Tinubu’s money to reclaim his mandate but slyly avoided his chains.
While these were ongoing, the hawks who realised how impossible their shot at the presidency would be without an alliance with the Tinubu camp kept rapt attention. Even before the merger was put into motion, they had already formulated strategies to curtail Tinubu’s excesses. The aftermath is seen in Kogi and Ondo States, the national assembly and presidency. The stalemate in Kogi afforded both the hawks and Young Turks the first opportunity to test-run their offensive, deploying both executive and judicial might to install the misfit, Yahaya Bello, to the consternation of all. Rotimi Akeredolu also rode on to power with his soul intact, effecting a master plan birthed from a protesting breast.
At the national assembly, the duo of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara had very little to fear having got the backing of a soulless opposition. The coup was swift and penetrating. It had every inkling of painstaking preparedness. At the presidency, the contrasting demeanour of Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu made the whole thing look easy. With the ethnic card in the pocket of the former, only the constitution could get in his way of wanting to extend his parochial worldview to the nation’s governance architecture.
Remi mounted the dais to foist her frustrations on us because she understood the psyche of Nigerians and their penchant for entering the ring when the circumstance clearly requires spectatorship. Nigerians would do well to jettison the belief that political infighting could in any way trickle-in some goodness into the polity. They must go back to history to learn that when the dust settles, the rabid misogynist, Dino Melaye, would invite Yahaya Bello to bed; Buhari shall unclad his chauvinistic apparel to announce Tinubu as his brother, and Shehu Sani in all possibilities would call his constituents to a feast of reconciliation with his miniscule adversary, Governor el-Rufai.
Just as it was impossible in ancient days for the rampaging elite of command societies to either agree or disagree strictly on the basis of the ordinary people, Nigerians must isolate themselves from the fight Ms Tinubu indirectly asked that they partake in.
They lost yesterday, they are losing today, and they will lose tomorrow. The only chance the masses have got at winning is to see both parties as inimical to their collective aspirations. They've got to see Ms Tinubu's wail for what it really is: a furious struggle going on for a secure place on the stairs.
Modiu Olaguro can be reached on [email protected]