Oo to gee and the boiling cauldron of rage
It is no derogation or diminution of the other week’s achievement of the Oo to gee or “Our mumu don do” advocacy to say that the task ahead is huge or daunting. The requirement to throw off the yoke of age-long political hegemony, chicanery or tomfoolery will continue to test the will of the people. It is instructive to learn however that the struggle did not start and will not end in Ilorin or Kwara State. Its furnace had been ignited long before avant garde Dr. Bukola Saraki was born. The under-current of the abuse of the generosity, coyness or bashfulness of a people in welcoming an itinerant but skillfully devious migrant population, granting them civic and social relationship rights has boiled over several times. it is still boiling.
Pre-colonial Nigerian society was composed of thousands of relatively small communities, interspersed with a smaller number of towns and a handful of huge “rural cities.” Shared relationships, concerns, speech, manners, rights and obligations contributed to a powerful sense of place of origin or belonging. This in turn played a significant role in personal identity and most times could excite fierce local loyalties. These sentiments should never be underestimated although they may not be exaggerated either. Localism is therefore an important element in both the social experience and the mentality of the local people.
With the advent of colonial administration, the diversity of provincial society has become contained within a strong framework of national integration. Much as they belonged to their villages, the rural people also moved in a larger world for each of a variety of purposes in their economic activities, in their family relationships or in their general sociability. This is the sociological background explanation of our individual claim of belonging somewhere or some place.
Good neighborliness, a pre-requisite for public order, is the mutual recognition of reciprocal obligations of a practical kind. It is also the sense of normative consensus as to the nature of proper behaviour between neighbours. It involves a sense of equality, mutuality, reciprocity, etc. Good neighbourliness is key to our understanding of the relative peace or “peace of the graveyard” which many of our local communities have enjoyed over time. It is important to stress the recognition by the progenitor of the Saraki political dynasty in Ilorin, the late Abubakar Olusola Saraki, of the strong limitation which existed in the economic individualism of the Ilorin community.
The elder Saraki’s generosity in this regard is fortunately well documented in the abundant references to debt and credit relationships between or among the villagers. These relationships may serve to illustrate the numerous instances of aid, of material deployment and the emotional or psychological support he rendered to his people. So the concrete benefits of good neighbourliness and the generally understood limit within which neighbourly sentiment could operate were on display for all to see while he held sway as the god-father of Kwara politics. Under him, neighbourliness and friendship operated to promote harmonious and co-operative relationships even among groups of largely un-related house-holders. The importance of these bonds is seen in the form of the effective social organisation which he led throughout and which was easily mobilisable even to meet political or electoral ends.
Relationships of patronage and clientage, paternalism and deference do not emerge overnight. They involve a fairly long period of reciprocity in un-equal obligations and the recognition of the power of one party and the dependence of the other. This situation existed throughout between the Oloye and his teeming admirers. Paternalism however has its limits particularly when it comes too sharply into conflict with the abiding interests of the people. There have been instances after the demise of the Oloye of fundamental contradiction between the realities of an individualistic rural capitalism and the inherent ethics of traditional social obligations even as the Ilorin society is getting more and more sophisticated by the day. The teachings of the people’s religion on the relations between a superior and his inferior neighbour were so thoroughly internalised by the people. Their hegemony has been made possible by the lack of any practical alternative conception of the nature of the social order or regime.
A constant process of accommodation is necessary for maintaining the balance between co-operation and conflict. This balance could be upset as we may see presently or even in the unfolding drama. Conflict between individual neighbours is an essential feature of the natural process of re-adjustment of social relationships. At times it may develop into feuds between rival groups. A quarrel or disagreement between one leader and his rival may begin to split the community from top to bottom by the patronage connections of the two main protagonists. Given these possibilities, the maintenance of order, harmony and subordination in particular local societies require a constant albeit un-dramatic attention to balancing the forces of tension and co-operation. The ability to be self-effacing or un-dramatic is however not a forte of the present pretenders to the crown of pontifex.
The ends of society’s aspiration for peace or for the absence of meaningless conflicts are not served by the cheap demagoguery often espoused regarding the existence, necessity or promotion of political godfathers. In many parts of Nigeria, supposedly well-heeled members of their various communities subsume their substance or intellect to grovel under some peevish grandmaster who is reputed to be able to advance their cause or determine their political future.
Whereas a large majority of the people are dis-satisfied with the dominance of the political space by a pool of negative contributors to society’s social and political value chain, some who are desperate for power and cheap money or who have become despondent concerning the eventual emergence of true change have been sympathetic towards the leadership claim of these opportunists, ignoring the instinctive distrust of the people for political charlatans or nincompoops.
It is tempting to come to the conclusion that the coast is clear now, particularly in Kwara State for political brats or upstarts to begin to appropriate the gains of the Oo to gee triumph to themselves and begin to see themselves as the champions of the people. These ones are out to replace Saraki in the full amplitude of that usage. They have become intensely restless, furiously pacing or straddling the length and breadth of beleaguered Kwara State and being constantly in motion without movement.We conclude by saying that dialectics of the on-going offensive against hegemony or internal colonialism point in the direction of the replication of the recent Ilorin experience in varying motifs in many places that have had similar leadership insensitivity, deviousness and one-up manship trajectory.
Rotimi-John is a lawyer and public affairs commentator
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