The year of our Lord 2019 is closer than you think. The political leaves are already changing colour and the wind feel different. Politicians are getting set for a new season. They are moving around, stealthily, nocturnally, but they are moving, definitely. It is at times like this that you see that politicians are the same at a time like this, whether they are carrying an umbrella, a maize, a cock or a broom. It does not matter whether they are on the carpet or crossing it. And all that got me thinking, and somehow I found that Nigeria’s former ruling party and the present ruling party have so much in common. You can hazard a guess or two why that is so but just before you get disinterested, enjoy this story.
A clan of grass-cutters went in search of food one day. It had been a bad season for the clan, the famine was particularly biting that year. The mummy-grass-cutters were nagging the daddy grass-cutters and the baby grass-cutters were losing weight at an alarming rate. Of course, the granny grass-cutters were dying in their sleep from hunger and ill-health. So, this particular hunting trip was a find-food-or-die-trying one. They were all desperate. It was also their lucky day. Within minutes of setting out, they happened on a big cassava farm. They descended on their good fortune and ate to their heart’s content. Belly distended, happy at last, they started making their way out of the farm, all of them except one. He told the others to go ahead home and he would see them later. They pleaded with him to consider the risk of being caught by the owner of the farm but he sneered and told them he could take care of himself. Not willing to risk their own lives, they reluctantly left their greedy kinsman to his reprobate heart. He continued to stuff his face until he became too full and heavy to move. Indeed, he was so full, so overfed he couldn’t breathe. And that was when the farmer arrived. The grass-cutter was stunned but stumped. The farmer was angry at the destruction of his farm and even more so at the culprit staring at him instead of scampering off. He brought the handle of his hoe down swiftly on the full belly of the overfed grass-cutter. End of story. The grass-cutter ended in the spicy egusi soup which accompanied the pounded yam the farmer’s wife and children enjoyed that evening.
The overfed grass-cutter. He is called ‘oya adimu’ in Yoruba. That is the grass-cutter that eats until it cannot move, the one that is caught in the act. Above all, it is the one that doesn’t get a second chance because he does not make it back home at the end of the day. His joy at finding so much food and pleasure gets to its head, seizes his brain until he chokes on his pleasure, the pleasure that eventually leads him to the clay pot of spicy soup.
Does that remind you of Nigerian political parties and the men and women who run them? Give them power and they eat and eat until they develop pear belly. And they still go on eating as if there is no tomorrow. They go on enjoying the perks of office until tomorrow arrives with the handle of a hoe, swiftly ending their reign and pleasure. And then the overfed grass-cutter becomes food.
Like I said earlier on, whether it is the ruling party of the day or the ruling party of yesterday, the tendency to forget tomorrow and the arrogant refusal to learn from mistakes of the past are the banes of political people. Yes, political people. They get lost in the moment, stuff themselves with the lucre of power and affluence until the following election season finds them stunned and stumped.
You are thinking of the PDP and APC, right? Me too. And there shouldn’t be so many similarities but there are, so many similarities in fact that the two parties sometimes are only different like the difference between six and half a dozen. It should not be but just take a closer look. When a woman moves from one man to the other, she expects her lot to improve but when she finds that she has just exchanged six for half a dozen, she has every right to feel physically and emotionally swindled.
The PDP had a 16-year run. It actually made three successful trips to the farm. It managed to stuff everywhere for almost two decades but I’m worried about our new husband. It looks like he may get caught right on this first visit to the cassava farm, with a big bang on its small head that most likely will land him in the egusi soup pot. And that should worry us because when a woman is forced to change husbands by circumstances beyond her control (nobody believes her), she gets tagged with a derogatory name.
Would it be terribly bad if this new husband can keep his new wife happy for another 16 years like the last husband? Is it not possible for the APC to learn from all the mistakes made by PDP in 16 years and avoid them instead of trying to fine-tune those mistakes? Why am I even asking? Politicians just do what they think they have to do and forget the consequences, at least that is what it looks like to me. Do not take my word for it, check out some of the things they forget.
One, four years is not forever, unlike in a monarchy. The political calendar in Nigeria is different from the regular calendar. A political office holder here is assessed based on his performance in two years. After that, his enemies, detractors, political opponents (or whatever he decides to call them) grab the hoe and start swinging it around his head or belly.
Two, political godfathers tend to forget they are not God and that there is always the God-factor in who becomes anything anywhere in the world. They throw their weights around, decree who should become what and then when God shows up, the godfather is forced to acknowledge that leadership, political office is not in the destiny of certain political godsons. It happens all the time, look around the world, but do they learn? No, godfathers still discount God in their power plays. That is why primaries are still messy and ungodly. In the days of PDP, we had situations where one aspirant had the flag and another one held the ticket just because the godfathers were flexing muscles and playing God, creating in- fighting and planting seeds of discord that grow into trees of meanness and vengeance.
Three, ruling parties are like the weekly village markets, they are not always full. But do politicians know? They do not behave like they do and that is strange because they all grew up somewhere not too far from one village market or the other.
The village market is boisterous, full and bursting at the seams in the morning, all the way to midday but smart traders know that all that noise and busy activities starts thinning out after midday. That same way, political parties in Nigeria have a tendency to lose their crowd, their boisterous membership as their popularities wane.
Where they forget to take full advantage of their acceptance and milk it to the hilt for the benefit of all, they soon find themselves alone in the market with just a few traders and even fewer buyers.
And four, there is this saying among the Yoruba that no matter how long the Egungun festival lasts, it will surely come to an end and that is when even the children of the chief priest will have to pay for the bean cakes. There are only free bean cakes during the festival.
However, it is possible that there are politicians who didn’t grow up around village markets and may not know anything about masquerade (egungun) festivals. To those ones, I bring some relevant lines from the deep lyrics of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler:
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run…
The secret to surviving
Is knowing what to throw away
And knowing what to keep
Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser…
Time and timing are as precious in business as they are in politics. There is a price to be paid for indiscretion and forgetting nothing, especially good luck or goodwill lasts forever.
If you doubt my words, ask the overfed grass-cutter. Oh, he died, right? My point exactly.