Opinion (10/8/2020): Sokugo Assembly – By Sam Omatseye


‘Do not think you are better than you really are’ – St. Paul

EDO is an infinite jest just now.

And it is a test, another quest of this rambunctious democracy.

It is in turmoil, but the rest of the story is yet to unveil itself.

Soon we shall know where and when it will rest.

Meanwhile, the jest is on us, as the story takes on all the varieties of drama. We have seen the comedy in the form of an arithmetical summersault where five or seven claims to be greater than 17. It is a farce when the courts assent. Even more farcical it is when we realise that the law judge and the lawmaker are in cahoots to subvert the law. As Henry Thoreau said: “The law never made anyone a whit more just.” It is bad if the act is against the law, but it is worse when it is legal.

We cannot avoid the theatre when a governor suddenly realises that there is fire on his own roof. That is, his political roof. But rather than take care of that incendiary hour and invite the political fireman and gravels and hose and the gallons of water, he mistakes the one roof for another. He sends minions to hire the crane and its workers to pull down another roof. That is, the roof of the House of Assembly. There he waxes into an illusionist; he sees a leak, where there is no rain. He sees a crack and, through it, he even ogles the moon though in broad daylight. He becomes a fabulist like Don Quixote the character of the novel of that name – the best novel ever written – who makes himself a knight-errant. He mistakes a flock of sheep for giants of villainy and delights himself as he chases them, sword in hand and on horseback, like a hero that he is not.

The minions obey Godwin Obaseki. Suddenly he assigns money, and the roof goes for another to come. He who does not do so well with infrastructure work has become an emergency governor of works, or a governor of roof-making. But after fixing the roof, the fire still blazes. You cannot put out the molten magma of political heat with a crane, gravels and thousand jack hammers.

Remember the case of a lawmaker who hurries to be sworn-in in shorts because he is probably playing when he is told that Obaseki has issued a secret letter of proclamation. He will not be counted if he goes home to wear his Edo regalia complete with head gear. His profile in shorts as a ceremonial clothing is a sartorial laugh, like Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Above all, Governor Obaseki turned lawmakers into a sort of mock epic. The lawmakers are not only a source of infinite jest, but a species stung by a wandering disease. In Cyprian Ekwensi’s novel, The Burning Grass, he designates it sokugo, the wandering disease. No one can say where the law makers’ house is. They can be everywhere. It could be in Ogbe Stadium unless it rains. It could be Governor’s club house, or state house. It could be, like a secret society, in a dark room in a fabled forest beyond Ikpoba Hill.

So, the number of his law makers, whether seven or five or eight, fail to pass into majority. But it is the same number that makes him sane, that endorses his cabinet, sanctifies his budget, nods at his actions, and massages him in his sorest and sorriest place: his ego.

Last week, we saw the number turn scary. The lawmakers made itinerant by His Excellency, met and kicked out a deputy speaker of the minority. The farce extends for Obaseki: Minority is majority, white is black, just as a good roof is a bad roof. Just because its deputy speaker swivels to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, with four others, he becomes a sinner and should be impeached. About half a dozen sit and decide the fate without others who were voted into office by the good people of Edo State. Shakespeare said: “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” This essayist wonders, “Is something rotten in the state of mathematics in Edo State?” Edo State of the high scores at WAEC and many a storied scientist? One of their daughters is teaching white kids coding in the United Kingdom. To imagine that the man at the helm was a stock broker! Math is broken at Edo rooftop.

That is why 17 lawmakers are not majority and he had to make a broadcast referring to a court decision that undermines arithmetic, reason and republic. He latches on to a court in these days of manufactured verdicts and an era of tax collectors, as Wike said. He made the lawmakers into the mock epic just as in V.S. Naipaul’s Nobel Prize winning novel, A House for Mr. Biswas, where a character moves from house to house, never happy and always looking for a better place but never getting there. It is a metaphor for the average Nigerian who does not have his own roof over his head. This fulfills the existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s view that everything humans do is in quest of a home. The average Nigerian has to save in vain, dodge his landlord when he cannot pay or pay through his nose when he can. Obaseki’s roof repair job and the lawmaker’s homeless state typify the rootless state of governance under the former stock broker.

What all this indicates is that Edo State is on the cusp of decision. It is not going to be decided by the National Assembly that tried to make Obaseki yield to republican virtue. He would not allow all those elected by the Edo people to have their place under the legitimate House of Assembly. It is not Adams Oshiomhole’s vote alone, although Adams stormed Oba Market recently to an uproar of popular ecstasy as he walked through the entrails of the place.

It is the people who hold the ace, not those who stole the mace, that will have their way. It is not the gravels the make the roof, or the gavel of a few. The Edo navel is the people.

But the question, as the campaigns kick off, is: Will it be a return to the status quo, or are the people going to look at their state like a deflowered maiden in Roman times when a king’s son raped the rosy damsel Lucretia. It forced the people to seize their destiny and, under Brutus, turned Rome from a monarchy to a republic? What we see now in Edo are the trappings of an aspiring monarch in a republican toga. After all, he did not put off his cap recently in the presence of the Oba of Benin. Isn’t that royal impunity? A subversive cap? Was he trying to pitch his cap against the crown? I can hear voices in Edo cry, “the gods forbid.”

– Omatseye, a respected columnist, writes for The Nation

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