Of Kwara, Prof Oba and verdict of history

Throughout human history, those who emerged as leaders are seldom known by random acts that just anyone can do. Leaders emerged through their heroic, extraordinary conducts in dire times and that was what often stood them out from the crowd. Leaders do what every other persons would not do. From Nelson Mandela to Mahatma Gandhi, we saw how leaders are defined by the choice and sacrifice they make.

In Nigeria today, no state chapter of any political party carries as much burden of history as Kwara APC and its leaders. To that extent, every single leader of the party carries the burden of history as the people of the state again, for the umpteenth time, look forward to next year’s election to finally shake off the yoke of political slavery, chicanery, suppression and socio-economic backwardness. Leaders of the party therefore have a historic duty to look beyond personal interest or disappointments arising from party primaries — whatever its imperfections — and unite for a common cause. Winners must emerge from every contest. Such winners may not necessarily be the best of the lot. In such circumstances, the winners are expected to be magnanimous to make anything meaningful from such victory. Those who lost out in the race are expected to not be sore losers who would want to pull down the roof on account of their loss! This is especially true of political contests where joint efforts are required to win.

Knowing just how important the 2019 race is for the people of Kwara, one must commend some of the APC governorship aspirants for their good sportsmanship — beginning from those who stepped down and backed a fellow contestant to those who went through the primaries, lost and then pledged to work for the victor in the interest of the state and their party. Whatever the outcome of the election, their place is secured in history. No one can accuse them of inordinate ambition or treachery.

This brings to the fore the disappointing activities of one of the contestants, Professor Oba Abdulraheem, in the past few weeks following the declaration of Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq as the APC governorship flag bearer for Kwara state. The professor not only unilaterally declared himself the winner of a contest supervised by party operatives from Abuja, he has also been everywhere either bad-mouthing his party or doing things that no patriot or good party man should ever do. Quite condescending of his stature as an academic and elder statesman, Oba compiled some fictitious figures which he claimed showed he won the primaries. Only the word ‘fictitious’ captures those figures because they bore no semblance to the results known to the party or even another contestant who also challenged the official result but has since congratulated the winner and pledged allegiance to the party in the interest of the state.

Lessons of history and the importance of legacy should never be lost on persons of his age. Whatever their shortcomings, everybody inside and outside of Kwara knows that the opposition needs all the support it can get to crush the 21st century feudalism in the state. Professor Oba, arguably the oldest in the ranks of the near-dozen contestants, is the least expected to exhibit divisive tendencies at this historic moment. Whatever his grievances, he ought to confirm to the doubting Thomases that his interest in the governorship race is not about him but about the collective struggle of the people. People far younger in age and even intellectual pedigree have shown the sort of restraint, finesse, commitment and selflessness expected of an elder statesman like Oba.

Desperation is not a good quality — certainly not of elders in the twilight of their lives. Elders ought to be concerned about posterity and legacy. That is the reason people of our professor’s age mostly refrain from active politics and choose instead to guide younger elements. While this piece seeks not to wrong foot Prof Oba, it should be clear to the Talba Ilorin (the traditional title of the prof) that his utterances and conducts are fast giving way for suspicions and innuendos not good for him.

People are now saying that he may well be acting the script of Senate President Bukola Saraki who, naturally, will do everything to ensure the opposition doesn’t end his reign in Kwara politics. People now claim, for instance, that the professor is being bankrolled from ile l’oke — the political headquarters of the Sarakis. As insulting and damaging as these suggestions are, Prof Oba’s link to the Saraki politics where he cut his teeth as a politician and his conducts of late may strengthen those claims. It is now being said that the professor has briefings to remain in the APC not to partner with those committed to the struggle but to continue to cause confusion and tension. These are quite damaging allegations but students of Machiavellian politics may never dismiss them as totally false.

Let us assume that the professor was aggrieved as a result of the primaries. Let us assume that the primaries had some pitfalls. The truth is that the professor is not the only aggrieved person. Some of the candidates who contested were even disqualified on the morning of the exercise. Yet these persons have put the exercise behind them, congratulated the winner and collapsed their structures in the candidate’s. The party has since held reconciliation meetings with everyone, including professor Oba. Just last week, all the aspirants and other leaders were with President Muhammadu Buhari who pleaded with them to look beyond individual interest. It is only honourable for everyone to queue behind the party’s flag bearer for what should clearly be a struggle for collective good.

Professor Oba must prove the naysayers wrong. He must secure his place in history while he still can. If he is in doubt that his good deeds as a former vice chancellor can easily be eroded if he gets his politics wrong, then the professor certainly needs to check Nigerian history to see how people hitherto hailed for their pro-masses activities easily turned to villains because of their participation in the government of the late General Sani Abacha. Professor should join hands with the Kwara APC and other apolitical elements to end the political servitude in Kwara, keeping in mind that such collaboration is not necessarily in support of APC as a political party or AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq but a sacrifice that every patriot must make at this crucial moment in the history of the people.

Ishaq writes from Ilorin, Kwara state.

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