By Abimbola Adelakun
Life has some pleasantly ironic moments. Before the Lagos State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party woke up to the news that the former governor of the state, Bola Tinubu, was about to install his daughter as the Iyaloja of Lagos, who could have thought the party would ever understand –or even acknowledge- that anything portends “great danger” to Nigerian democracy? Or, that the party would even canvass a process that is “transparent, liberal and credible?” These are surely interesting times we live in.
Since the PDP put out its press release, part of which was quoted above, there has been some robust discourse on the social media about whether another Tinubu should step into the shoes of the late Abibatu Mogaji, “pioneer Iyaloja/President-General of Nigerian Market Men and Women” who held the prestigious position for many years even when she was old and frail; and at 96, was clearly incapable of functioning in that role with as much vitality as she would have exuded in her younger years.
The PDP, on getting to know about the announcement purportedly made at Mogaji’s burial, panicked and quickly issued the press release I excerpted above. It does not quite seem it has awoken to the reality that Lagos is Tinubu’s property; from there his influence extends to other states in South-West Nigeria. He is the go-to godfather of the region such that men like Lamidi Adedibu who once trod that path look like upstarts when contrasted with him.
My advice to the PDP is to cease its caterwauling and focus its energies on winning the 23 states President Goodluck Jonathan recently stipulated as their 2015 target. For now, not much will change as regards the ownership of Lagos political structure. The Tinubus own a lot and like the proverbial greedy man who insists on acquiring every parcel of land that touches his land, they keep expanding.
It is not for nothing that Tinubu was assigned an anti-democratic title of “Governor Emeritus.” There are similar examples of such labels created by fawning Nigerians to massage the egos of their leaders who are obviously plagued by the Mugabe Complex. This attitude, taken in its entirety, illustrates the intractable problems of leadership in Africa.
The Mugabe Complex is a fear of ordinariness; a symptom exhibited by people in power who just do not want to be out of the picture. In their minds, they are the awaited messiahs so they impose themselves on people by every means possible. Such people jump from Governor to Senator; from First Lady, they become Permanent Secretaries or Mother-of-the-nation; or transform into tribal leaders and godfathers. They practically configure the state finances to lead to their pockets. They clog the state machinery so that those who succeed them in office would have to contact them for solutions.
Leaders from this part of the world who are plagued by the Mugabe Complex lack virtue. They do not walk away when they complete their tenure; rather, they create enough problems so that we can always look back wistfully at their tenure. They cannot even stand successors who outshine them in performance. They will do anything, as long as it gives them continued relevance and help them exhibit a sense of patriarchal proprietary over their constituencies.
During the 2011 elections, not a few people were astounded at how the former governor reportedly put forward members of his family in the Lagos State elections when it was quite certain they would win since their party controlled the state. If it had been a PDP leader who was taking advantage in that manner, it would be an opportunity for the Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Lai Mohammed, to gallop on his high horse over and over again.
He would have issued his famous press releases to “yab” the party and then self-righteously proclaim a fatwa on them. That is one of the reasons the PDP is an easier party to understand than the ACN; it has no progressive agenda that enables it to pretend. The classic opposition-to-the-rescue image the ACN has created for itself over the years has enabled it and its Big Daddies to evade a lot of scrutiny.
The ACN has tried to play down the Iyaloja story by pretending that it has bigger fishes to hunt than the leadership of mere markets. That kind of attitude –pretended or otherwise — is wrong. Whoever eventually emerges as the Iyaloja is important, actually. The post is a culturally created one but considering how traditional market systems are a vital component of our existence, it’s not a trivial one.
A scholar, Manthia Diawara, pointed out that the traditional market system poses the greatest obstacle to modernity in Africa and should be coopted into efforts made at building modern societies. The traditional market system forms a significant part of cultural life that we cannot divorce from our corporate-contemporary existence.
They are important gateways to trade and globalisation. Markets, anthropologically considered, represent interwoven strands of primitiveness and modernity in our societies. How far our country will go can be determined from the dynamics of these markets. In Nigeria where manufacturing efforts are low, what constitutes our economy owes a lot to the markets. I hope the ACN treats the market system with more deference than the political advantages accruable from the office of the Iyaloja.
As things go, I am not hopeful the PDP can achieve much by seeking Fashola’s intervention. In 2011, people grumbled out quite loudly about a leadership that was inbreeding to the point of incest, but then what? The Tinubu family members still won with a landslide. The grumblings ceased and life continued.
If the post of Iyaloja gets ceded to another Tinubu, people will murmur and live with it. If anything will change, it should –and will — come from Lagosians themselves. Lagosians are sophisticated people and when they have had enough, they will do the needful.