…when political battle snowballs into a bagarre of bullets and guns and daggers and full blown violence, Armageddon looms. The important issue isn’t that the APC could lose power, but that the gladiators could throw an entire State and its innocent residents and indigenes into chaos. It’s needless to say that development is a mirage under such an atmosphere. We have seen it before in Oyo, in Ondo, even in Osun, and elsewhere.
At dawn, just before the sun rose above the horizon, the attacks were launched with feral intensity. By the time dusk fell, not a few Ilorin soldiers had had their heads severed from their bodies by rampaging Ibadan fighters, led by Balogun Ajayi Ogboriefon. The ones who fled the battle field in an attempt to retreat ran into their doom at the rear of Otin river. They drowned and perished. And then the epic 24-hour battle, staged in Ikirun on Friday November 1, 1878, was christened “Jalumi”— “Drowned in the river.”
Anyone who approaches history in a hurry could misconceive that Battle of Waterloo chiefly as a Yoruba-Fulani war, ostensibly because of its denouement, or, perhaps, its cheeky nomenclature. To be sure, when the Ilorin soldiers were retreating towards Inisa, the Ofa people who cut the bridge across the Otin River from the rear and left the retreating Fulanis of Ilorin devastated were Yoruba. Just like their Ibadan kinsmen who pushed the Ilorin soldiers into the river.
But beneath the rubble of the war layed fratricidal strife and lethal logic built on self-destructive alliances and allegiances. At the base of butchered heads and severed limbs lying in a heap was the attempt by the Ekiti, Ijesa and Ila people to free themselves from the shackles of Ibadan people, whom they considered quite domineering in their pursuit of imperialist agenda across the Yoruba country. As such, they struck an alliance with Ilorin soldiers, who had already considered Ibadan a thorn in the flesh, anyway. In any case, the war was won and lost after the Ilorin soldiers met their waterloo in Otin, in the northeastern part of modern day Osun State.
Today, a battle looms in this same Osun State. It isn’t of the same scale as Jalumi, but there are two men at the epicentre of the impending warfare. The tension between both men has moved away from subtle egoistical showboating and veiled innuendos and petty tantrums. Now, like an untamed monster, it has graduated into full blown violence. And because the battle contains all elements of the macabre dance, the consequences are ominous. In a way, it reminds one of the fratricidal genesis of the Jalumi war, and its attendant chaos and destruction.
The main protagonists are Gboyega Oyetola, the governor of Osun State, and Rauf Aregbesola, the immediate past governor and now national minister of Interior. They are both of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and are both acclaimed progressives. During the eight-year reign of Aregbesola, Oyetola served as Chief of Staff. Of course, in the election that brought in Oyetola, Aregbesola played a significant role. So both men were brothers, but today they do not bother about the comradery of the past. Where there was the fraternal love of yesterday, there is now fratricidal hate.
Oyetola, with his background in insurance and finance, emerged with measured mien. He has shown no pretens toe ‘revolutionary’ ideas, and he appears to have learnt from the chaos of the immediate past, the need to bring relative stability to the state in terms of fiscal concerns. Needlessly controversial policies, for which the opposition pilloried the Aregbesola government, have been reversed — ostensibly in deference to public sentiments.
When brothers fight to death, Achebe warned, a stranger inherits their father’s estate. But the import of the immortal bard’s words seems to be lost on Osun gladiators. Things seem to have fallen apart completely, and the falcon can no longer hear the falconer.
We saw it in the Ikirun attack where those said to be holding a meeting beside Ifelodun Local Government Area council secretariat clashed with officials of the local government; in Ife where alleged gunmen stormed the home of a former commissioner; in Osogbo where a party stalwart was attacked at the secretariat by factional members.
In the midst of the melee, the two big masquerades have displayed practiced indifference to the chaos and violent theatrics. They have both kept mum, even as their supporters continue to maim.
Those who know how Oyetola came to be in Aregbesola’s government would perhaps approach today’s fratricidal war with a tinge of epiphany. As events of the recent months have shown, although he was a part of that government in person, especially in its turbulent twilight, it remains doubtful if Oyetola had any profound ideological belief in its policy directions.
Aregbesola danced into the Abere Government House in 2010 with rarefied Marxist-Leninist thought, so he barely kept his excitement in check. He sang, laughed and cried with the people, limping from hamlets to villages with promises of ‘radical’ ideas like O’Yes, O’Meal, etc. He wanted to change their fortunes. But the problem was that the ideas came with little or no fiscal discipline or foresight, hence the financial turbulence we saw at the twilight of his reign.
Of course, by the time Aregbesola left Osun, the State was in a complete fiscal mess. Salaries and pensions were largely unpaid; bills could barely be settled in government parastatals; and there was so much drama around his policies on education. It’s plausible that the former governor meant well with his numerous programmes and projects, which came with asphyxiating loans, but the aftermath was quite devastating.
When brothers fight, they do not care about the implication of striking alliances with anyone, including mutual enemies, to gain advantage over one another. And because the invited party always comes with a more sinister motive, the plausible consequences might be dire for everyone. The history of Yoruba wars is littered with tales of such self-hating fratricidal theatrics.
Oyetola, with his background in insurance and finance, emerged with measured mien. He has shown no pretens toe ‘revolutionary’ ideas, and he appears to have learnt from the chaos of the immediate past, the need to bring relative stability to the state in terms of fiscal concerns. Needlessly controversial policies, for which the opposition pilloried the Aregbesola government, have been reversed — ostensibly in deference to public sentiments. And as he continues to make a detour in policy pronouncements, there has been bound to be tension.
I reckon now that but for the bitter intrigues of politics, there are ways the ideological differences in philosophy of governance could be resolved between the duo without acrimony. But politicians would always try to outpace one another for influence and control, and the craftiest among them are the silent, meek-looking ones. That perhaps explains why there have been claims and counter-claims around issues of party structure, the sharing of cabinet positions, etc.
To be sure, I do not give a damn about the immediate implication of the Aregbesola-Oyetola battle for the soul of the Osun APC, and the damage it could do to the party in the forthcoming governorship election. But I am worried about the short-sighted attempt to dismiss the supremacy battle as a mere intra-party affair. When brothers fight, they do not care about the implication of striking alliances with anyone, including mutual enemies, to gain advantage over one another. And because the invited party always comes with a more sinister motive, the plausible consequences might be dire for everyone. The history of Yoruba wars is littered with tales of such self-hating fratricidal theatrics. The Ila, Ekiti and Ijesa allied forces that invited the Fulani army of Ilorin to the Jalumi War had the intention of fighting their Ibadan kinsmen and checking their excesses, but the Ilorin saw the invitation as a means to continue its conquest and take its pound of flesh from Ibadan, and by extension, the entire Yoruba country. Although the Ilorin army fell, it’s the devastating nature of war that many lives equally perished on the side of the victorious Ibadan, too. Same for the Ila, Ekiti and Ijesa.
On Thursday, gunmen suspected to be political thugs attacked Oranmiyan House, the campaign office of Aregbesola, in Osogbo. They reportedly shot sporadically after they invaded the building, and the internet is now littered with pictures of the bullet-riddled edifice. Already, the Aregbesola-supported faction of the APC has called for the immediate transfer of the state Commissioner of Police, Wale Olokode, accusing him of bias. Tension.
“War is tragedy,” wrote David Mamet, American playwright and author. “The great war stories are tragedies. It’s the failure of diplomacy…” And when political battle snowballs into a bagarre of bullets and guns and daggers and full blown violence, Armageddon looms. The important issue isn’t that the APC could lose power, but that the gladiators could throw an entire State and its innocent residents and indigenes into chaos. It’s needless to say that development is a mirage under such an atmosphere. We have seen it before in Oyo, in Ondo, even in Osun, and elsewhere.
The big masquerades must halt the macabre dance in Osogbo now.
Oladeinde Olawoyin tweets via @Ola_deinde.
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