It is a cosmic reality that the more things appear to change the more they remain the same, while forms and units maintain a steady course once they have been formulated and conditioned in a defined structure and manner. That is why children brought up in Catholicism make the sign of the Cross many times a day, almost by force of habit, the Muslim children perform absolution five times a day while the Pentecostal children seem to pray in explosive staccato, in the attempt by all three groups
to invite the attention of the creator and God Almighty. It is called indoctrination, a process of teaching people to imbibe and believe in a certain set of ideas or practices, be they religious, cultural or political, without criticism or interrogation, but in the concrete conviction that the Leader is always right and never ever wrong!
In the Cross River state experience, the leader has always been right. When the leader speaks, the Lord thereby speaks. When the leader directs, the flock follows without further promptings. All day long to follow has been the hallmark of loyalty, while to question and to interrogate amounted to political harakiri. Mighty Sparrow may well have been singing about the Cross River political culture when he rendered his famous calypso song that urges the dancers to “…..follow the leader, leader, leader, follow the leader…”! And I am sure that carnival buffs will know the song more than I do.
All through the two decades of the People’s Democratic Party domination, a party I truly loved, we common minions and field soldiers without shoes have always followed the leader. No one made the mortal mistake of interrogating the Leader, or questioning his decisions, or offering alternative views. The common refrain was that the Leadership had spoken, even in small matters such as the choice of a Councillor. For higher positions such as the candidacy of the House of Assembly or Representatives, it was considered foolish for a people to make their choice without waiting for the Leader to speak, or to display their subtle body language. As for the Senate, the people only waited for the god – man to speak, or to direct, or to pronounce. The point I am making is that blind followership did not start today.
We have been blind sheep throughout the season. Having been brought up to follow the Leader we have stayed the course without disappointing. Like automatons we functioned under the shinning Leadership of His Excellency, Mr Donald Duke, we looked up at the avatar, Senator Liyel Imoke, sitting high up on Mount Olympus for direction even in the little matters of chosing a Chapter Chairman. So why are some people surprised that we are following the digital Leader, His Excellency, Senator Ben Ayade? What exactly has changed now? Weren’t we brought up to obey and to follow?
Just as the wife of Tony Blair accused her husband’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown of rattling the keys of No 10 Downing Street even when Blair was still PM, Senator Imoke became Governor long before Donald Duke left Peregrino Lodge. Imoke dreamt, power, craved the office of Governor and the pomp and circumstance that came with it. Once he ascended the throne he put a vice grip on the office, leaving no one in doubt as to who was in charge. His word was law. His wishes were horses. He thought for everyone and spoke for all. The rest of the state was left with only one simple task – to obey and to follow. A virtual political shrine was erected in Itigidi, his home town, with himself as the deity to whom everyone came to pay obeisance on the first of January every year. While he enjoyed the adulation and worship, the people clapped, and followed like willing sheep to, they knew not where. Once Senator Imoke didn’t like you, even for a simple reason as a quirk in your left eye, there was nothing under the sun you could do to get into government. If you had once made the mistake of annoying him, eternal political damnation was your portion which he administered with a deadpan mien and a wry smile. I believe Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, Ambassador Soni Abang, Prince J. D. Agba and a slew of others can testify to that.
In the end he was an outstanding Governor and administrator, by the sheer transformation he brought to the rural communities just as Donald Duke had earlier also transformed the very image of the state and opened the floodgates to tourists, visitors and investors. His politics, his lust for power, his inability to share power and his quest for eternal relevance at all times seem to have manifested into his irreversible tragic flaw.
And the people continued to follow, matching unto a certain kind of imagined salvation. Senator Imoke’s transition program fetched him no new friends, and depleted the ranks of those who had loved, trusted and followed him. He gave everyone hope and left all of them in tears and in penury. There are skulls in the graveyard of his politics – broken skulls, broken egos, shattered aspirations, and the incriminating looks of children who believe that daddy was a fool. Did I hear someone say that we are following Ayade to APC because of the feeding bottle he holds? Maybe no. But maybe yes. But who put us in that situation? Could it be that there is a groundswell of resentment against Senator Liyel Imoke by the very people who called him father? Like the story of Okonkwo and his foster son, Ikemefuna? The alerts are certainly a factor, but not the only factor. There are other underlying reasons boosting the Broom Revolution we are seeing.
The dictatorship of one man is always antithetical to the growth of liberal democracy and the building of an egalitarian state. And what seems to be loyalty instanta soon peels off once the potentate losses the imprimatur of office. This is a lesson for all, that the essence of power is in one’s ability not to use it, not in the sheer force and potency of its fangs at the fecund but transient moment of its fleeting reign. No one man can supervise the destiny of a people and speak for them for three decades. A look at the Caretaker Committee of the PDP will confirm to anyone that in all seasons the Kingsmen would always ride on jewelled unicorns while the labourers’ tragic fate leaves them adrift in the baking sun of his estates. In that uncanny circumstance the adventure provided by the APC will then appear to be worth a decent wagger.
(To be continued).