The atmosphere was tense. Major shops shut. Some cutlass-wielding boys moved around in unison, through the Egbeda-Akowonjo lane, spewing incoherent curse words along the way. The unusually calm atmosphere of Iyana-Ipaja and environs testified to the palpable fear that had just engulfed the air. A day earlier, Lagos NURTW boss, Saka Saola had just been assassinated, ostensibly by rival groups. I was on my way back to Eruwa campus of The Polytechnic Ibadan after the Christmas break and it was in the first week of January 2008, exactly eleven years ago today.
There were insinuations that there may be retaliatory attacks and so many simply passed through Iyana-Ipaja with their hearts literally in their mouths. Others avoided the route outright. That day, within the about 50-something minutes spent in Iyana-Ipaja, en route to Abeokuta, I understood the importance of peace and how much we take things for granted.
So when news flew in days ago that NURTW Treasurer, MC Oluomo, was stabbed at an APC rally, I felt this eerie sense of déjà vu––for me, it was January 2008 all over. Yet one would not understand this culture of violence/murder that is at the core of the operational ethics of the NURTW if one fails to dissect the power structure upon which the group itself rests.
The NURTW, especially in South West Nigeria, has thrived largely because of the symbiotic relationships between chieftains of the group and powerful politicians across the region. This, frankly, is not peculiar to Lagos. Many residents of Ibadan would not forget quite easily the Eleweomo-Auxiliary-Tokyo kerfuffle and the Iwo Road harvest of deaths in 2009/10, wherein thugs loyal to major political parties were locked in a proxy war that claimed lives in the city.
It’s not a new phenomenon though. In the second, third and fourth republics, the Adebayo Success, Busari Eruobodos and Lamidi Adedibus of this world earned political capital largely because of their facility for brewing violence, using the instrumentality of transport workers. Ditto other less notorious folks in other places.
But what makes the Lagos case perculiar is that, as in politics, they are believed to be controlled by the dominant political entity in the state, headquartered at Bourdillon. In fact, there are reports that occasional squabbles among members have been settled in Ikoyi in the past. Again, members of the group are much more than mere disciples of death used during elections and disbanded afterwards; many are card-carrying members of the ruling APC and are part of a group called ‘Team Lagos’. In the last Osun guber race, even, the man presently in the eye of the storm, MC Oluomo, was seen threatening to displace Senate President Bukola Saraki as the known hegemon in Kwara. (In any case, pronto, a local thug loyal to the senate president jumped out of obscurity to issue out counter-threats too.)
In essence, at the heart of electioneering and politicking in Nigeria is the core issue of violence, mayhem and brigandage and the NURTW has always been a ready-made instrument. So, frankly, the culture may not end anytime soon. And one thing that will account for its long reign is the institutional support they get from the state. Many of them even have Police officers attached to them as aides!
And so until the hypocritical political elites decide to play politics that’s devoid of brigandage, the boys will remain willing instruments of violence in their hands, with ripple effect on the society’s overall peace. That explains the occasional instability in many areas of Lagos in which they have strong presence. Think Lagos Island. Think Oshodi. Think Mushin.
Since the violence at the APC rally Tuesday, many residents have expressed worry over the security situation in major areas of Lagos, especially as the fear of retaliatory attacks rents the air. The Police have done well by declaring a rival stalwart suspected to have masterminded the attack wanted. But frankly, that’s a palliative. When Hamburger, a stalwart was killed last year, a similar step was taken yet this sort of violence resurfaced. Palliatives don’t solve issues.
Hence, SATIRE SATURDAY has a final, ingenious, never-seen-before solution to the crisis.
First, it is clear that behind the so-called invisibility of most politicians is the NURTW question. Strip many of them of these merchants of violence and they become paperweight politicians. Thus, it will be foolhardy to expect the politicians to do away with the boys. But for the peace of all, there is a better, more integrative approach that could solve the problem: rather than keep the boys in the verandah of power, why not bring them into the inner recesses of power? Here is why.
Already, the political elites have created a huge ‘alternative economy’ for them through the various levies they impose on hapless transport workers. Already they are ‘loyal party members’, which makes them qualified to aspire for positions of leadership. Already, they have a battalion of Policemen guarding them. The question then is, why have the killings continued? Simple answer: Because like Oliver Twist, these perks are never enough and the boys want more. Besides, there are fewer juicy positions in the NURTW, like MC Oluomo’s, unlike the very many ones we have in the Lagos state cabinet.
And so, to quench this incessant rivalry and killings, and since there is very little or no difference between these guys and those we eventually have to deal with as political representatives anyway, why not bring them directly into government, pray?
Last year, Sunday Igboho, another famed ‘strategist’ of politicians in Oyo state, declared that he would be contesting the Oyo guber race. In Igboho’s hearts of heart, he reasoned––quite rightly––that there isn’t any distinguishing difference between him and many bestriding the governance space in Oyo. This column opines that what Igboho has given us is a rare insight into the inner minds of these boys and how to arrest the underlying cause of these incessant killings: put them in power.
Clearly, development is a mirage under an atmosphere of chaos. So if a violence-free society is what Lagosians desire, then we must allow those who understand the architecture of violence control governance, so that there will be peace. While that may be unrealistic in the coming elections since primaries have been conducted, plans must be put in place pronto ahead of the 2023 elections.
In the light of this, ladies and gentlemen, SATIRE SATURDAY proposes MC Oluomo as Lagos governor in 2023. And for the sake of peace, this column nominates his closest rival, Kunle Poly, as deputy governor. In that cabinet, the much older Itu Cardozo, widely known as ‘Baba Oba’ among the boys, could be positioned as the SSG. Alado Baba Bili, the fiery man from Mushin, would be special adviser on security. Koko Zaria, the funky, sociable dude in Oshodi who doubles as the darling of Nollywood actors, could man the ministry of tourism, entertainment and culture. Like Bayelsa’s Alameseiagha, the dude in Police custody over phone theft, Seun Egbegbe, could be granted clemency and be positioned at the ministry of Science and Technology––given his familiarity with phones and Computer Village. For his incredible athletic skills, Tafa Sego, who allegedly fled the scene when the mayhem occurred on Tuesday, could help man the sports ministry.
For those in support of this motion––“Tuaale!” But for folks who choose to oppose this, there is a default response: “Gbe body e!”
Oladeinde tweets via @Ola_deinde