In whose interest?

By Bolanle Bolawole

“The Nigerian people have been too docile and tolerant of corruption for too long. Hence, corruption will continue to thrive until determined (and) organised result-driven Nigerians arise in firm resistance against the current order that continues to ridicule and insult our national sensibilities”  – Badejo

Penultimate Wednesday, 5th July, 2023, all roads led to Chrisland University, Abeokuta as my friend and brother, Prof. Babafemi Adesina Badejo, delivered his inaugural lecture as Professor of Political Science and International Relations.

Badejo’s inaugural lecture stood out for at least two reasons: It was the first in the university founded in 2015 and the topic was just one word, “Interests”. Quite captivating and intriguing, even as it was profound and illuminating!

Starting out from Lagos early that morning, I chose to go through the Lagos-Ibadan expressway despite the gridlock associated with that road whose unending construction, which reportedly started in the year of our return to democracy in 1999, is still work in progress, causing commuters excruciating pains and loss of man-hours on a daily basis.

The alternative route – the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Road – was a “no-go” area. The last time I ventured there two years ago, I spent five excruciating hours on a journey to Abeokuta that should have taken less than one hour! To think that this is the same road that passed through the Ota Farm and led to Abeokuta, the advertised homestead of an erstwhile military Head of State and two-term civilian president! Someone needed to be wheeled to Daura, Katsina State to learn some object lessons from a person junior to him in all respects on how charity must begin from home!

I was fortunate that traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was light that Wednesday and I soon found myself coursing into Abeokuta, the city founded by Sodeke and noted for its Olumo Rock and “adire” industry. As if by coincidence, the seat of power where Gov. Dapo Abiodun holds sway (he has won a second term in office in an election still being contested in court); the (contentious?) Conference Hotel belonging to a former governor of the state and now senator elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to represent Ogun East, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; and former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidential library all situate in the same vicinity as I drove into town.

The rumblings in the political forest of Ogun, the Gateway State, of recent have pitched Abiodun against Daniel and vice-versa. The hide-and-seek between the two leaders is as interesting as the side jabs another former governor of the state, Ibikun Amosun, throws at Abiodun and the alliance of convenience he is seemingly trying to forge with Daniel.

When Daniel was governor, Amosun, the senator representing Ogun Central, was an irritant. I can recollect Amosun’s entourage on one occasion contesting the right of way with Gov. Daniel. Amosun took over from Daniel and OGD, as Daniel is fondly called, was consigned into the political wilderness for the eight years that he, Amosun, was in office.

Not only that: Daniel was investigated, the EFCC came for him; he was charged to court on sundry allegations of corruption; and some of his properties, including Conference Hotel, were confiscated by fiat by Amosun. Daniel fought his way through the courts and was exonerated in the end.

When Amosun left office and was no longer in control of the coercive powers of the state, Daniel recovered his seized properties and began to waltz his way back to political relevance. One achievement of Daniel stands out: he started the transformation of Ogun from a sleepy civil service state to its present status as the business destination of choice.

It has been said that in politics, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests. Don’t forget that the title of Prof. Badejo’s inaugural lecture is “Interests”, we shall soon return to that! So it should not surprise anyone that in the build-up to the last governorship election in Ogun State, Amosun reportedly tried to forge an alliance with Daniel to deny Abiodun a second term in office! But since Daniel was running for election as senator on the same APC platform with Abiodun, as the sitting governor and de facto leader of the party in the state, also running for second term, Daniel must have been in a dilemma.

How can he possibly forget his harrowing experience in the hands of Amosun? But here also is Abiodun who reportedly did not want Daniel as senator! Contrary to the information put out there by some elements, Abiodun reportedly never lent a helping hand to Daniel throughout his years in court; neither did he re-issue the Certificate of Occupancy on Daniel’s properties that Amosun revoked. It is to the credit of Abiodun, however, that he did not unleash his powers against Daniel when the latter won his case in court and retook possession of his properties.

One would have thought that Abiodun and Daniel should be the best of friends but the contrary is said to be the case. Why is this so? Partisans of both leaders dish out contrary narratives. Those on the side of Abiodun said he was instrumental to Daniel winning election as senator; the Daniel side countered that, on the contrary, Abiodun made futile efforts to deny Daniel the ticket but only caved in, in a face-saving measure, when it became clear to him that there was no stopping the former governor. Did Abiodun fund Daniel’s election as alleged by some people? Daniel’s partisans said he did not. Did the governor help Daniel in his court cases? Again, Daniel’s supporters said Abiodun minded his own business and left Daniel to fight his battles. Fair, they say, is fair; why then the seeming cold war between the two leaders?

Five reasons have been offered; the first is that Abiodun’s election is still being challenged and until the court makes its final pronouncements, no one can be too sure of anything.

Two: The way Amosun has been courting Daniel lately is said to give Abiodun cause for concern. As if to confirm this, a photograph of Amosun grinning from ear to ear with Daniel flashing his trademark smile, went viral recently. Three: With both Abiodun and Daniel coming from the same Ogun East Senatorial District, what happens in four years’ time if Abiodun, after completing his second term, seeks to retire upstairs to the Senate whose ticket is now firmly in Daniel’s hand?

Fourth: Recall that Abiodun backed the wrong horse in the former VP, Yemi Osinbajo, in the last presidential primaries of the APC, which Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu eventually won. The “eleyi” outburst of Tinubu, directed at Abiodun at Abeokuta, is still fresh in our memory.

Finally, the rising profile of both Daniel and Amosun with Tinubu cannot but be a source of worry to Abiodun who had to fight tooth and nail to win his own re-election.

Daniel (a long-time ally of Tinubu) and Amosun (an APC presidential aspirant who stepped down for Tinubu when it mattered most) are names being touted as ministerial nominees to represent Ogun State. If both men have now turned around their hitherto sour relationship; this cannot but be bad news to Abiodun.

Those were the thoughts that raged in my mind as I drove past the Governor’s Office. Gov. Abiodun is said to be leaving no stones unturned to repair his damaged relationship with Tinubu. To worm his way back into the president’s heart will not be easy, but try he must. He cannot afford not to. But as I made the turn at the NNPC filling station and cast a final look at the expansive Obasanjo Presidential Library, I wondered if its owner, who threw all caution to the wind in his support for Labour Party’s Peter Obi, will not be grounded in the political wilderness for whatever years Tinubu occupies the Presidential villa!

Back to INTERESTS! Prof. Badejo’s lecture was gripping; he gave various definitions and levels of interests – at personal, filial, associational, national and international levels – and the three core human interests of air, water and food, being the pivots on which other interests rests since “being alive is a core human interest (and since these three) are crucial for the fulfilment of the right to life, it stands to reason that these crucial values are a sine qua non for the realization of the right to life”.

Persons, families, associations, even states at sub-national, national and international levels have to be “alive” or “living” before they can project, promote or defend interests! But since “for human beings the real purpose of life goes beyond only survival… there are several civil, social, economic and political rights that have been reasonably agreed as fundamental individual or human rights flowing from the core interests (of air, water, and food)” and since “man is a political animal” (quoting from Aristotle’s “Politics”), then, everyone has one interest or the other to project, promote or defend.

Badejo may not have been a dye-in-the-wool or fire-spitting Marxist, but as a student of Political Economy, his understanding of the Marxian explanation of society was lucid. Hear him: “As per Marxist explanation, classes… are objective differences among human beings deriving from their relationships on the means of production in different modes of production… States (therefore) represent the dominant forces in the territories that they represent”. Karl Marx posits that the dominant ideas in any given society are the ideas of the ruling class. Flowing from this, the dominant interests that are served are also those of the ruling class; be it at sub-national, national or international levels.

How, then, are interests served? Badejo posits that “power, influence and authority are modalities involved in providing responses to interest-driven demands of each individual, families, groups, classes, spatial entities and, of course, nations/states. Power is not politics as some easily suggest.

Power is an important instrument needed in the allocation of values. In effect, power (the capacity to make others do what they otherwise would not have done) is important in managing interests, that is, in the management of politics” What, then, is politics? Quoting David Easton who defined politics as “the authoritative allocation of values”, Badejo argues that so much allocation of values takes place outside of authoritative arrangements at different levels of the striving to satisfy interest-driven demands. Of course, yes! What of godfathers and unelected cabals giving orders to elected officials on the allocation of state resources and offices!

Before I turn this into a term paper, let me quickly run through the lecture and close! Badejo tore the 1999 Constitution (as amended) into shreds and advocated a confederacy arrangement for the country to move forward.

Quoting Edmund Burke who defined a political party as “a body of men united for promoting the national interest on some particular principles in which they all agree”, he regretted that there are no political parties properly so-called in Nigeria. What we have are “shifting alliances… that have an identical focus on the capture of political power for the purpose of what Prof. Segun Osoba calls primitive capital accumulation, also known as the plundering of the national patrimony without ideological differentiation, a situation that the World Bank calls ‘elite capture’”

Badejo is sceptical that the country’s present ruling class can successfully fight corruption other than offer platitudes because the political will is lacking. Nigeria, he says, lacks Plato’s kind of philosopher-king to lead the assault on the cankerworm of corruption. No nation develops above the quality of its education and ours, he says, is still deeply mired in the colonial mentality that has stunted our growth decades after attaining what he describes as “Flag Independence”.

A word for the Nigerian people from Prof. Badejo before I close: “The Nigerian people have been too docile and tolerant of corruption for too long. Hence, corruption will continue to thrive until determined (and) organised result-driven Nigerians arise in firm resistance against the current order that continues to ridicule and insult our national sensibilities” It could not have been better put!

Now, whose interest do our leaders serve – self (-ish) interests or the people’s interest? And in our little corners, each and everyone of us, whose interest do we serve?

*BOLAWOLE was Editor, Editorial Board Chairman and Deputy Editor-in-chief of PUNCH newspapers and as well former Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER magazine.

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