Rumpus, said the report from a well-respected online medium, had erupted at the Oyo State Government House. An aide to Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State’s wife, Florence, had reportedly stolen part of an over N1billion being siphoned out of the Government House. This was May 25, 2019. Two days later, specifically on May 27, Ajimobi was subject of the medium’s cudgel again. Niyi Ajao, Special Adviser on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to Ajimobi, who “has a long history of using the Governor to dishonestly enrich himself,” had been suspended. His crime, for which penal sanction was a loss of place in the Governor’s good books, according to the medium, was his “mismanagement of funds meant to provide ‘logistics’ to APC leaders and foot soldiers during the general election.”
A few weeks before all these, specifically on May 5, an APC jingle, said the medium, had chastised “proud” Ajimobi. A day before this, same medium reported that APC party leader, Bola Tinubu, had decreed the banishment of Ajimobi from campaigning with the party in the governorship election and on May 19, Ajimobi had “lost his bid to install his Principal Private Secretary as the next Speaker of Oyo House of Assembly,” a la this respectable medium. The above are just a tissue of several tackles on the outgoing government of Oyo State.
If you know the template of hegemony, which involves a subtle and subterranean attempt to colonize the heart of readers, you will understand that the above is akin to what Yoruba say a goldsmith does when he consistently hits a ball of gold on the same spot. The persistency of this act at the smithy cannot be regarded as a happenstance but a concerted effort to forge a particular narrative. In like manner, those who enable narratives in the media ensure that they form a single file of an ostensibly deft attempt at structuring the minds of readers, with the ultimate aim of tailoring them along a predicted profile.
Of a truth, the relationship between governments in a Third World and the governed is really very worrisome. Regardless of the fact that they are elected by the selfsame electorate to administer them for a fixed term of years, what operates between this Siamese couple can at best be described as a hide-and-seek, cat-and-mouse game. The apparent offending partner in this no- love-lost spousal relationship is government.
In virtually all societies, the electorate is about the easiest to please. They demand just a token of goodwill from their leaders and elected governments. Almost immediately their leaders take the mantle of power however, they squander this goodwill reposed in them, take the people for granted and amass the whole world at the expense of the people’s collective wealth, ultimately leaving the people worse than they met them.
This trend has gained notorious recognition in virtually all Third World countries. Elected representatives, who were barely scrounging up a living a while ago, suddenly build castles in Uranus, leaving tongues wagging in the marketplace. Decades of such betrayals of the governed have bred a people who barely trust their leaders. The people are thus forced to use a general tar-brush to sweep every one of them into the trash receptacle. If you do an opinion poll on the people’s perception of those who lead them, you will be shocked. The people think that their leaders have a comparable thieving tendency of the mouse and believe they have flavor of its insatiable greed to steal. These leaders loot the people’s collective wealth and store it for use of their generations yet unborn. It is thus easy to profile them as the people’s enemy.
The above background is apparently the reason why sleaze stories about elected public officials are taken as real, ab initio. And why, the duty of rebutting their involvement in these thieving spectacles is solely that of these public officials while that of society is to connect the grey areas and arrive at what is near to the truth. While it is difficult to ask the dramatis personae of alleged sleaze in office what actually transpired, reliance of an informed analysis can only be on logic and commonsense.
It is a common knowledge that the media is a very powerful institution in the world. It is the only medium that can make information available to recipients all over the world and in a twinkle of an eye. Some analysts compare this media power to that of the mandarin. Politics, being a game of the agama eating the agama for supper, latches up this equation of the awesomeness of media power. Aware of this awesome mandarin power, political barons devise clandestine means of using the media to their advantage and enhancing their visibility to the electorate. In some instances, they damage their colleagues who sprint or have the potential of sprinting ahead of them in the political race. Many times, unbeknown to media runners themselves, these political barons covertly manipulate news messages so as to push particular narratives, with the aim of gaining favourable political advantage.
Now, back to Ajimobi. I submit that we will get near the truth hidden in those profiled stories published by that popular medium if we interrogate the issues once after the other. So, is the story true that Ajimobi and his government are engaged in a last-minute looting of the wealth of the people of Oyo State? Or, are the reports provoked basically by the thirst for ‘exclusives,’ which is the credo of journalism? In other words, are the stories being instigated to gain political advantage and naively published? Answers to these rhetorical questions are almost impossible to find.
After Ajimobi lost the last senatorial election to Dr. Kola Balogun of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) a stampede began in the state’s All Progressive Congress (APC) for who will be the leader of the party and its key representative in local politics and in the interface with the central government. Being a party that would soon relapse into playing the opposition role, ministerial and senatorial positions are offices that can shovel political juices accruable from the federal government to constituents, the politicians themselves and their retinue of cronies and hangers-on. They will also ensure a fief-hold on local politics of the state. Whoever holds these positions has a window into the hearts of the people. Some known juggernauts, about five of them, are said to be in a fierce contest for the ministerial slot that is expected to be demised to the state.
Apart from the bad press provoked by Ajimobi himself, it is generally held that his government reshaped the road infrastructure of Oyo State. Of all the contenders for the ministerial slot, he sure has an edge over all others. Could the serial negative reports, per chance, be targeted at crippling his eligibility for that office, taking into consideration alleged disgust of President Muhammadu Buhari with public officials who go on a frolic with people’s money? Can the regularity and apparently adversarial rapidity with which the stories are churned out be targeted at conveying this impression? When such scampering for federal lot is at issue, God help anybody who stands in the way of desperate politicians, especially an incumbent who had just lost an election like Ajimobi. When you are about to leave office, seldom do people remember all good you have done. Even people who feed from your palm will deny you like the biblical Peter the Apostle.
While the above questions were engaging the mind about the vicious circle called the heart of the Nigerian politician, Adebayo Adelabu, Ajimobi’s candidate in the last election, during the week, released what some political watchers call a haughty sermon on the mount. It was addressed to his constituents in the last election. Young, brilliant, First Class degree holder in Accounting, extremely lucky thus far in this journey of an unfair life, his appreciation letter to his constituents should worry any sensible mind. It was a puffy underscore of self from its beginning to the end, reeking of a needlessly immodest chest-thumping. After reeling into what seemed like a political beatitude, he said he took solace “in the persistence and tenacity of our 357,000 strong genuine voters” which he claimed “is (sic) larger than what ushered in the last three successive governors.” You do not need a binocular to see in this garrulous and unscientific claim a deft punch at an Ajimobi who abandoned his gubernatorial choice to pick the young man as the candidate of his party. Till today, many have wondered what lay atop Adelabu’s mind while writing this epistle.
His campaign, said Adelabu, would “go down in history as one of the most flamboyant… ever in the history of Oyo state politics… simply for the singular reason of my involvement.” Apart from this blind approximation of the serious business of seeking the electorate’s buy-in to flamboyance, that unpleasant epithet of self above others, which I dare say worked against Adelabu in the last election, eventually escaped from his epistle, in spite of rigorous attempt by an apparent media hireling who wrote it, to cloak a puffy turkey in an unusual apparel. What sounded very ludicrous in the statement is Adelabu’s claim that “everywhere seems to be in a state of mourning and no signs of celebrations or jubilations ushering in a popularly elected new government,” which, many have tagged a political hallucination.
If, as he claimed, there was ever a gang-up against him in the last election, it was a gang-up against him by the people of Oyo State, many of whom heard him when he said that he would banish vehicles with Lagos number on Oyo roads and his dangerous ambivalent religious politics of playing the chameleon when confronted on the issue of his religion.
I am also worried that no single vowel or consonant can be quoted by him in appreciation of Ajimobi who fought tooth and nails for his election, nor is there anywhere in that long epistle by Adelabu can you see an appreciation of the role played by Ajimobi on his side. That wasn’t good for a young man who is already seen as haughty and who believes only himself is responsible thus far for his mileage in life. In that epistle, he blamed everybody but himself, oblivious of the fact that his personality greatly alienated the votes from him.
Now to the news of the alleged heists in the Oyo Government House that is governing the information highway at the moment. The first question to ask is, why is it that the same medium focusing on the so-called scoops is the only one that has taken liberty to go on a junket with the stories? Is it that the medium is the only one capable of “knowing” about the alleged siphoning of funds? Could the serial publications of these alleged thefts be a manifestation of a clandestine manipulation and exploitation of the excitement of the media for scoops by a political baron shielded by the dark and intent on gaining unearned political advantage? Specifically, could Ajimobi be a victim of someone who wants to be considered for a ministerial slot, who feels that muck-raking and destroying the Oyo governor at the last minute would open a window for him into this office?
I submit a hypothesis which states that the consistent and regularized projection of these messages in the medium under reference may be a medley of what, in media studies, is referred to as hegemonic battle for the minds of both the people and the locus of political power in Abuja, with the overall attempt at gaining political advantage. While I am not capable of providing answers to all the posers raised above, we as a people should not allow some political felons to impose their jaundiced narratives on us. If we have irrefutable claims of Ajimobi or anyone in his government looting the patrimony of the people of Oyo State this last minute, let us bring such to the public space. Political barons with an axe to grind and an advantage to nurture should not be allowed to turn our minds into a colony which they can manipulate like plasticine.