Thursday, January 15, 2009

Alao-Akala and chieftaincy titles

POLITICS is a wonderful game if played according to the rules. It has to do with calculations, some deft moves to outwit opponents - real and imagined. It's in the air. I mean 2011. Already, one is enjoying the music playing from the Agodi Government House in Ibadan. But I doubt if many have heard the tone yet because it is barely audible, neither have many seen the notes because they are barely visible. All we know is that in the fullness of time, even the deaf and the blind would hear and see clearly. So I guess it is with some other political camps elsewhere, whether in the main or the opposition.

Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala was a police officer, so he should be versed in strategies when it comes to dealing with opposition. He had one thing going for him when he ran the race in 2007: the Lamidi Adedibu factor. That is far beyond his reach now and the other camps are waiting patiently to see how far he can go without the Molete support. The oppositions are massing, including perhaps from inside the Molete homestead of Baba Adedibu.

Other permutations are being made in Ibadan, of course, to show the Ogbomoso man the exit. I hear the Ibadan people who consider the governorship seat a birthright in Oyo State have not given up the fight yet. Just that Adedibu virtually pocketed all opposition in 2007 and went for the devil he knew in Alao-Akala. Senator Ajimobi, the formidable opponent he had in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), is still waiting in the wings. In fact, Ajimobi is still at the Appeal Court challenging the Election Tribunal's upholding of Alao-Akala's victory at the 2007 polls. We don't know what the Oke Ogun people are up to. They have never been in the governorship reckoning except to be used as willing tools and rewarded with deputy governor's slot.

Governor Alao-Akala is correctly reading the equation and has moved to build his own political base with chieftaincy titles here and there, more like currying the favour of traditional rulers in those areas. Last week, he was taking the title of Bobagunwa of Ogbomoso land conferred by the Soun. Well, that is understandable because Alao-Akala, as one of their own, is an ambassador of Ogbomoso land. Two weeks or so earlier, all attention was on Iseyin in the Oke Ogun area as the governor received the title of Agbaakin from the Aseyin, which subsumed another from the hinterland of Ilua or Iwere Ile. Curiously, the traditional rulers are falling on top of each other to confer titles and nobody would be surprised to see the governor taking at least 33 chieftaincy titles from each of the state's 33 local government areas before he completes his term in 2011, when it would be time for another election. Then, these titles and the Obas would become ready tools for the political battle.

We know of course that nothing goes for nothing. Titles are not conferred on empty stomach, just as traditional rulers realise the importance of being in the good books of a governor in power to have peace of mind while enjoying the "trickle down effect." So, it seems traditional rulers have mastered the psychology of relating with a personality who holds the power. It's a mind game.

Traditional titles are a microcosm of national honours, conferred on very deserving and/or outstanding citizen. The Obas or chiefs have their reasons for deeming it fit on the governor, perhaps, his contributions to the community. In that context, they are faultless. What I find distasteful is to robe the titles in political colours and claim that the awards were being given in recognition of his outstanding achievements as governor in 20 months in office. 20 months out of 48 maximum is a short time to assess him, considering that he even spent the greater part of one year or more sorting out the legality of his stay on the exalted seat. We do not need to be deceived, not much has changed in Oyo State, as in many other states of the federation. Not much has changed at the federal level either. For now, few states - insignificant number really - seem to have made changes we can believe in (they will be recognised at the appropriate time).

At the slightest opportunity, for inexcusable reasons, the 33 local government chairmen are always in competition to congratulate the chief executive. It is as if any defaulting council head would be sanctioned for failing to congratulate the governor on taking a chieftaincy title or his wife launching a programme on HIV/AIDS control! Here are local government areas with obvious absence of governance wasting the meager resources on congratulatory adverts. A trip across the local governments would almost bring one to tears. For instance, one would hardly recognise Jobele on Oyo-Ibadan road as headquarters of a local government, yet Afijio LGA has no other headquarters. If the council headquarters could be so deprived of the status, what would happen to other parts of the local government. Where does the money (allocation) go? Is the state releasing enough for projects, being the conduit for funds from the federation account? Does the state monitor the councils on project execution? Are the councils afraid to complain for the fear of the big brother (governor) wielding the big stick and in the process cutting short the political ambition of the chairman or any of his councilors? This is one of the bad sides of a political party "sweeping all council seats" in elections.

It is more baffling that in Oyo State, praise singing has gone beyond the camp of politicians. Educational institutions are now in the forefront of sycophants and the governor has not seen anything unusual in their misdeed. During the last two chieftaincy awards for Alao-Akala in Iseyin and Ogbomoso, the registrars or vice chancellors of the state-owned The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo, and even Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, were using scarce public funds to compete with councils and contractors in advert spaces to congratulate the governor on his chieftaincy titles! Are they politicians? Who says there would be paucity of subventions to these institutions if they don't congratulate the governor? If really they have excess funds to dispense, could they not have utilised such on students' welfare? The students would have been more appreciative anyway.

That is the level to which the rot in the system has gone. Somebody should please call these people to order before they turn these great institutions to a section in the Political Department of the Governor's Office. Worse things could be happening in other states but I have more stakes in Oyo State, the only one we can call our own. The governor should please concentrate on state duties and collect titles later.

Yar'Adua Vs Leadership Newspaper

Suddenly, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has resuscitated his interest in the defamation suit he filed against Leadership newspapers in the matter concerning his health. The publishers have realised their mistake and have officially apologised to the president. I think the president should listen to the voices of reason. There is no point intimidating a group or a corporate entity because he is the president, more so when the situation cannot be reversed if he happened to be at the receiving end, because of the immunity clause he enjoys in office. After all, Nigerians believe you when you assured them of your clean bill of health. Shikena.