By Lasisi Olagunju
Some decisions have irreversible consequences, no matter how much you try. One of such is deciding who to marry. Another is choosing who rules over you. A lady got married and walked into a media house to publish her change of name advert. A week after the publication, she was back with another advert to revert to her maiden name. Her marriage lasted only four days and she was unfazed by it. She was calm and cool as she gave instructions on when she wanted it published. Such status reversals are very common nowadays. Someone advised every man and woman to choose their life mate carefully. From that sole decision, he says, “will come ninety per cent of all your happiness or misery.” He may be right. Every action (or inaction) has intended (and unintended) consequences. You can reset your phone to factory settings but that doesn’t make it new again. That device, no matter how expensive and new, has lost its innocence forever. It is the same with that lady who breezed through a marriage. She is a tokunbo forever, her beauty notwithstanding.
Atiku Abubakar has changed party again. He is wise, and he should know that jumping up and down has wear and tear effects on brand integrity. His friends defend him; his enemies deride him. They liken him to practitioners of harlotry. They think political party membership is Catholic marriage: till death do us part. But Atiku is a legendary proof of the falsity of that idea. Walking in and out of political parties has become the bane of his politics. And Atiku is not alone here. He is just the bold tsar holding court in the chancellery of camp switching. Apart from Muhammadu Buhari who joined politics after the 1999 elections, who else hasn’t been a PDP member among the saints and sinners in our public space? Our twenty-something-year -old millennial cyber warriors can’t know that the heroes and heroines they worship started with that old, dirty, diseased PDP 19 years ago. They may be too young to know that the PDP is the source of all these sparkling parties they hail. The PDP is old, creaky and unfortunate. It is a badly used, poorly maintained old war horse. Politicians will continue to do what Atiku does with it every season. They will dance back and forth in the courtyard of the PDP. The ones who have built new mansions will keep welcoming PDP members into their bedrooms. It is the ancestral home of the Nigerian politician. Its members are the extended family of these other peacocks in the marbled APC. Nothing will make them abandon their source completely.
Switching parties happens also in other climes. And it worked for some while others fail to their sorrow. Theodore Roosevelt was Republican governor of New York 1899-1900. He was also Republican US President 1901-1909. Yet, when he could not secure his party’s third term ticket in 1911, he left to form his own Progressive Party. He failed woefully. But it worked for Ronald Reagan who was to become US President from 1981 to 1989. Until 1962, he was a Democrat. Something snapped in his relationship with that party, he left and told Americans: “I did not leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”
So, changing friends and enemies is a salient feature of politics. But the examples I have seen abroad are not the every-season-back-and -forth type we have in Nigeria. Should persons who lead or aspire to lead be seen as rolling stones? The English say that a rolling stone gathers no moss. ‘Rolling’ means wandering. A wanderer cannot hope to go far in matters of trust. He cannot also amount to much. Latin writer, Publilius Syrus, is unflattering in his definition of who a rolling stone is: “People who are always moving, with no roots in one place or another, avoid responsibilities and cares.”
Choosing and dropping friends and friendships diminish the glitz in the gem of leadership. And Atiku is not alone here. He is no worse than Bola Tinubu who is in Afenifere’s coven today and is dropping vital info in Buhari’s cosy jet tomorrow. And those two, again, aren’t worse than Buhari who embraces an Atiku and a Tinubu in daytime and fetes their ‘enemies’ at night. And all of these potentates and their tribesmen are still not worse than you, the profligate party man without constancy. When the leader drifts and rolls without any explanation and you drift and roll with him without questioning, what kind of human are you? Trust thrives on deeply entrenched tap root of consistency. You cannot frequently replant a tree and expect it to yield good fruits — Planta quae saepius transfertus non coalescit… But we are being told that changing friends like sanitary pads is a choice – the choice makers say they have the right to so do. And the people also should have the right to choose who to trust and enthrone – and to enjoy the fruits of their choice.
Knowing the consequences of making wrong choices is wisdom. It is the reason our fathers take extra care in endorsing marriages or approving princes for thrones. Choosing presidents and governors is like choosing spouses. That singular decision affects lives, careers and destinies. You don’t entrust such decisions to the manipulative influences of strangers to goodness.
Two weeks ago, Ogun state governor, Ibikunle Amosun, said a foreigner would not succeed him in 2019. He did not name names. I was amused by the noise that followed that statement. Who among his critics would pray to be ruled by foreigners? Your brother may be a stranger if his ways are strange and weird. I expected every freeborn of that state to endorse that Amosun statement. He is not alone on that puritanical route. The position is already an issue in the coming elections in some other states. There will be louder noise on it in weeks to come. Does the Bible not even decree against giving your throne to outsiders? “You may not put a foreigner over you who is not your brother”(Deuteronomy 17:15). It is like marrying a stranger to the values you cherish. He will wantonly violate you while professing love. Every morning on Islam (TV) Channel, there is this profound prayer of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “…Let not those who do not show mercy towards us rule over us.” (Hadith al- Tirmidhi). Foreigners don’t know it pains you when it hurts. Almost all the wars ever fought by humanity were wars against foreign rule. If our fathers were not averse to rule by just any sovereign, the Fulani would be installing their emirs in Yorubaland. And the British would still be around, giving tasks to Her Majesty’s subjects to perform.
Our fathers took special care to choose their kings from among the best. They also never solely relied on their own mortal wisdom. They knew that every installed sovereign possessed awesome powers of life and death. So, they worked deliberately to exact “moral guarantees” against the powers they were investing the king with. They tied the human sovereign to the powers of the transcendent Creator. They trusted the divine in making vital choices. And they were very clear on the dangers that follow and come with strangeness. They kept vigils on their throne to make it pure and free of predatory saviours. Choosing presidents and governors is not as simple as choosing a sleep partner. It is not even as flexible as that marriage that can be dissolved whimsically. It is the same as giving the brass ring to the priest in the market shrine. It will take more than violence to wean the ring off the finger of the powerful. When you empower someone to become your president or governor, he becomes your lord and saviour or the opposite of what a saviour is. Kingmakers know the risk when they kneel down to hang the power sack. They know that when they are done and risen on their feet, their hands won’t reach that pouch again.
Another season of elections is here. There are already many strange movements here and there. Godfathers who suffered abandonment are being rehabilitated. It is wisdom to feed the ones you plan to sell. Political hostages are also showing affections towards their powerful captors. They appear ready to do what kidnapped Patricia Hearst did in 1974: She assisted her kidnappers to rob a bank in California, United States. There is an ongoing redefinition of the virtues of loyalty, honesty and friendship. Politicians are changing shades and colours. They will soon adopt new names and oriki. They will wear new masks and costumes to confound many. They will switch camps the same casual way s3xual perverts change paramours. Kingmakers, priests and prophets will take over the night with long knives. They will anoint the next destiny deciders for the millions who follow without questioning. Choosing rulers is a life-changing decision. The wise won’t follow monkeys of spin doctors to feed on bananas of foolishness. Wisdom teaches that you choose wisely, carefully. I pray that those who won’t show you mercy won’t rule over you — again.