It may sound bookish but critics think it cannot be interpreted other than an alarming signal when the ruling party in Nigeria can dispense with its own sole philosopher for reasons that have nothing to do with leadership ability or inability. It is possible that Godwin Obaseki played the strong head or even treachery but he got a degree in Classics and from the University of Ibadan in 1979. Classics is not MBA or a course everyone can read, being very tough. Moreover, the University of Ibadan itself could, as at 1979, fit perfectly into the University of London family to which it originally belonged. Even today when it could be said to have climbed down in comparison to what it used to be, it still has a self-understanding that is not jejune.
What all these amount to in the emerging view of the nomination crisis in Nigeria’s Edo State is that Godwin Obaseki has the Philosopher-king grooming. And unless he did not manifest any signs of that, he is the sort of material a country would keep in view in terms of leadership recruitment. This has nothing to do with whether one likes him as a person or not but that if any national leadership skills have been observed in him, then the worst that should have happened to him is being called into the inner sanctum of power and given an unforgettable tongue lashing for rebellious tendency or treachery or disrespect for the party but not being sent packing. This for the precise reason that no one is perfect and all claims of perfection are mostly manifestations of inferiority complex, somehow. How it happened that this has not been the case cannot but be read as a dangerous message from the All Progressives Congress, (APC).
This is particularly so for a party such as the APC desperately in need of philosophers and ideologues, having just one and a half in the aftermath of Obaseki. These are Dr. Kayode Fayemi as the philosopher and el-Rufai as the half ideologue. He is half because he is a man weighed down by his baggage in the politics of power. And even Fayemi is not sending that unique message that weaves a banner of hope at a time of malaise and distress although he has the academic preparation. That could be a matter of tactics but is it not a time of distress that the trumpet should be sounded. Every other things considered, the Obaseki treatment beggars belief for its critics.
Until some APC leader steps out to say that nothing corresponding to his background as someone who read Classics has been spotted in his four years as governor, this would be a message with implications far into the future. No critics of the APC can be dismissed for calling the party a contraption that cannot even respect its internal protocols, not to talk of elevated thoughts about leadership recruitment and the bigger picture of the country’s future.
More puzzling is the philosophical absence of President Buhari in the entire crisis. As the party leader and the president, he is the one who could have taken a longer term view and summoned everyone else involved to the session of the nomenclatura that would have allowed Obaseki the second term but after a tongue lashing. That he didn’t do so is considered truly puzzling. It could not be that age has challenged him to a position where he doesn’t think about issues that keep other Nigerians awake. Even a president on sick bed can give instructions on such issues from the sick bed. In any case, the president has so many examples of where godfatherism just didn’t work, ever since 1999. Nnamani versus Nwobodo in Enugu State; Ladoja and Adedibu in Oyo State; Ndom versus Akpabio in Akwa Ibom State; Ortom versus Akume in Benue State and Nyesom Nwike’s current taming of Rotimi Amaechi in Rivers State shows that conclusively. Victory here is not about how good one is over the other but about power relations. So, why might the president have thought that Obaseki versus Oshiomhole in Edo State would be different?
Unfortunately, most Nigerians do not have the stature of General T Y Danjuma as for their threat of going on exile to make the headlines. Otherwise, a country where party mandarins are scrutinizing and dispensing with the services of a Classics graduate of Nigeria’s Harvard 41 years ago is a country that has questioned its basis. It may sound bookish but it is no less an alarming message because of the implications for Nigeria’s claim to any space in a knowledge soaked global society. More importantly, why should Nigerians vote for a party that is telling them it is about to fragment out of power? Of course, that is the message because it is the sort of recklessness in disregarding internal protocol that sent the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) out of power that is also playing out in the APC.
Those who say that the PDP is more intelligent than the APC tend to have a point. It took the PDP 16 years to fragment. It is taking the APC just 5/6 years to achieve that. PDP did not divide the country, APC has divided the country in a way generally assessed to be unseen before. It is not a justification for discourses of break-up but this is the position of the jury today.
PDP too has shown anti-intellectual tendencies but even on its death bed, it still managed to produce a Professor of Political Science as a contestant for the position of the National Chairman. That was a soothing commentary on its diversity as crucially opposed to the observable style of the APC which sees national leadership as a monological performance. The outcome has been such a tragedy, mainly because the power/knowledge nexus as well as the knowledge/power linkage are missing in most cases. And to think that this party is not lining up a crew with any elevated notions of Nigeria based on knowledge makes the dismissive notion of it by critics absolutely tenable. Can it re-construct itself or it is all too late?