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My brothers are fighting – I need help, Bernard Balogun

By News Express on 17/07/2017

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•Bernard Balogun (BenPino).
•Bernard Balogun (BenPino).

I had initially intended to continue with my conversation on the BiafraExit, which I began last year. However, the recent happening in my home state, Kogi, do not offer me that luxury. After all, charity, they say, begins at home.

This is certainly not a satiric caption but a reality, and a painful experience. Frankly, it is not the best of times for me. I am genuinely sad. I urgently need the wisdom of God to handle this explosive misunderstanding, of utter distrust and mutual disrespect between two brothers.  It is a fight that is already in the public domain, and it is so bad indeed. The good and industrious people of Kogi State will be worst off, if this ‘Roforofo fight’ continues for too long. And this is my fear, over which I have spoken with a number of Kogites residing outside the state.

I respectfully call on the two gladiators to kindly bury their grievances against each other. This is not a fight for personal aggrandisement, or for self-centred superiority contest. It is a misunderstanding between with two brothers (egbon and aburo). In all of these, it is visible that these brothers indeed, consider, cheerfully enough, their personal interest as being subordinate to the larger and superior interest of the state, which is a commendable instinct from both directions.

Senator Dino Melaye represents Kogi West (representing my own place of birth – Lokoja), but I am fully an Ebira indigene. Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello (current Governor of Kogi State), whom God has brought to this Olympian height, is from Okene Local Government with me.  Please, tolerate me: this is certainly not an advert stint. These references are necessary because they bring to the fore the fact that I wear two caps in this unenviable circumstance. This is why I am particularly pained about this unnecessary dissipation of energy and resources, which ought to have been converted into productive use for the benefit of the state.

I remember Dino and Bello were very close during the struggle for the actualisation of Bello’s march to Lugard House on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). This narrative is not about the role played by one person or the other in achieving their respective dreams, but a narrative to bring to the fore that these gentlemen have been together as brothers, collaborated with each other and supported each other, ever before each of them occupied their present enviable positions, God helped them. 

Around mid-November 2015, at the All Progressives Congress’ national headquarters, on Blantyre Street, Abuja, Dino and one senator (name withheld) visited the national chairman of the APC to pledge his (or their)  support for Bello’s ticket. It was same day that some elders from Ebiraland met with Chief John Odigie Oyegun, to commiserate with him and the party on the sudden demise of Prince Audu Abubakar, and to pledge their support and further encourage the national chairman to give Bello the party’s ticket as governorship candidate in the inconclusive election that was scheduled to hold in the first week of December. It was indeed later that same day, after due diligence and wider consultation, that the APC national headquarters sent Bello’s name to INEC office in Abuja, and Channels TV aired it in its major news bulletin at 10pm. In fact, I recall, just as everyone else, that Dino was the MC during the governor’s inauguration in January 27, 2016. They were that close. But the question that now bothers many is: When and how did this distrust and misunderstanding begin?

Governor Bello and Senator Melaye are leaders in their own rights, and they certainly have followers and sympathisers across the state. The two of them have demonstrated examples of good brothers ab initio. Please, do not only go back to that status quo but, indeed, promote such robust relationship further, and Kogi will be better for it. “In politics”, as Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed and memory said: “There are no permanent enemies but permanent interest.”

This reminds me of an incident that happened many years ago. In 1979, in the days of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) was led by Chief Awolowo, SAN; and the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) led by late Chief Adisa Meredith Akinloye, also a lawyer from Ibadan. Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide, SAN, was the governorship candidate of NPN in the 1979 general elections conducted by the then Federal Electoral Commission (FEDCO). Akinjide is, of course, an enviable but humble son of Ibadan, and one of the earliest beneficiaries of the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Chief James Ajibola Ige (SAN), a native of Esa-Oke, in today’s Osun State, was the governorship candidate of the UPN. That was in the old Oyo State. Ige, as was popularly known, was married to late Justice Atinuke Omobonike Amoke Ige, JCA, OFR (nee Oloko). 

The Nigerian Television (NTV-Ibadan), a precursor to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), with Chief Yemi Farounbi, an iconic broadcaster, was the general manager of the station, organised a Governorship Debate. It was a live programme. The two governorship candidates were expected to come and sell their programmes to the electorate on air. The debate was hot, incisive, lively, entertaining and cordial, until it got to the point that they had to sell their respective education policy. At this juncture, tempers rose, passion, emotion and sentiment took centre-stage, heated but lively elucidation. In all of these, there were decency, moderation in the choice of words, and mutual respect for their individual persons. In the end, however, Akinjide had to angrily leave the studio unceremoniously. That was politics, but not politics of hatred, bitterness. It is important to clearly state that Ige and Akinjide were very close friends, and gleefully attended each other’s family functions, even after that memorable television encounter. In fact, their disagreement was not personal, but based on party ideology: nothing more. In fact, Ige recognised Akinjide as his in-law, having married to a wonderful Ibadan lady.  The lesson here is, we may disagree on principles, but that does not make us enemies. Let the modern-day politicians key into such wonderful puritanical trait and hold strong unto it.

Ige won that governorship contest. But, Akinjide got appointed as the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, under Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s presidency in Lagos. This story should be viewed in the realm of “politics without bitterness” – apologies to our revered late Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri of blessed memory.

There is another important lesson to buttress this discourse. When Bola Ige’s first tenure as governor was running out, his deputy (late Chief Sunday Michael Afolabi), wanted to succeed him as governor. He went to Ikenne to brief Papa Awolowo about his ambition. Papa Awolowo commended him for his ambition, but asked if he had discussed with Ige, to know if he was not going for second term.  Afolabi confessed he had not. Awo then advised him to go and do so.

Instead, Afolabi returned to Ibadan to resign as deputy-governor. Consequently, he decamped to the rival party NPN. He wanted the governorship ticket at all cost. Of course, he did not get it. The ticket was zoned to Ibadan, whereas Afolabi hailed from Iree in Osun, but at that time, it was part of the old Oyo State. That was how Prof Victor Omololu Olunloyo, an Ibadan-man proper (son of the soil, do you still remember that slang?), became the candidate of the NPN in the 1983 general elections.

It is pertinent I add this too. Bola Ige, after due consultation, appointed Chief Adebisi Akande, a former head of the civil service of Oyo State, as his deputy. Akande later became the second governor of Osun State (1999 – 2003), under Alliance for Democracy (AD). What is the benefit of this background story? It has a correlation. The moral lesson was that Afolabi of blessed memory never ruled Oyo State. This was largely due to his impatience.  If he had listened to wise counsel from elders at that time, he would have become the governor.  But, it must be said of Afolabi, in fairness to him, that he was a man of strong principle, who was not selfish in his consideration of matters pertaining to his followers.  He was a man of cheerful and friendly disposition, and expressed himself without reservation.

I have made these references, certainly not with the intention to vilify anyone, but to appreciate each other’s worth and value and to draw the needed puritanical lessons from similar occurrences of the past as I have enumerated above. Let us wait for our turn. Let us share ideas with each other. Let us never be afraid to communicate, whenever there is need to do so. In communication lies our collective strength, the strength to grow and develop, to the glory of God and mankind. It is, therefore, right and proper to understand and appreciate each other’s peculiar challenges of office. The person at the helm of affairs at the moment should be given maximum support to succeed in his current task, and the party will be better for it. As leaders of our respective groups, our body language and reaction count a lot, and it should regularly be under control. Such body language, if wrongly transmitted, could be misinterpreted by followers/supports, who are indeed gullible.

Opinion, in my own view, is a natural expression of one’s inner feeling, and everyone is entitled to it. But, there are opinions that naturally break joy. Therefore, beware of such joy-breakers, and they are commonly found within the corridors of power.

As humans, each of you has offended the other as brothers. There is nothing wrong with that. We are human after all. My effort here is not to apportion blames, but to look at the possibilities of genuine reconciliation and move ahead, as if nothing had happened. That is indeed the hallmark of a sound and people-based leadership quality. Lock yourselves up in a room, away from your followers and supports, look at each in the face, eye-ball to eye-ball, and iron out your differences. It is a possibility. Two of you have the humility and grace to do so, in the overall interest of the larger Kogites, home and abroad.

Finally, I respectfully invite our respectable royal fathers, the Ohionyi of Ebiraland and his counterpart, the Obaro of Kabba to, please, call their children to a round-table, for discussion and kindly reconcile them in the best interest of peace, justice and development and in the larger interest of our people. Happily, this has not degenerated into a tribal coloration of “Okun man versus Ebira man”.

As our distinguished royal fathers, you owe us this responsibility, and as you do this, God will guide you appropriately. Kogi State can develop only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

Ipinle Kogi koni baje lagbara Olorun Oba, Amin. (Yoruba).

Ete ekura Ikogi ayiononi oyinva vi ahaireku inu Obanyi Ohomorihi. Ose. (Ebira).

The land of Kogi State shall never be the theatre of war, by the special grace of God.

Bernard Balogun (BenPino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja. He can be reached via 08037879275;

Source News Express

Posted 17/07/2017 5:44:56 PM


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