Afenifere and the Titans,  By: Olakunle Abimbola 

Afenifere, the Yoruba political Titans, and newfound friend, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, should go read John Keats’s “Hyperion”, the epic poem.

Both appear to share a common blight: morbid fear of change; which Heraclitus, the Greek physical philosopher, nevertheless reasoned, is the most permanent thing in life.

Hyperion is a throwback to Greek mythology. The Titans, first set of Greek gods, were falling into disgrace. The Olympians, that overthrew them, were rising, in a celestial coup, according to Greek fable.

But then Hyperion, their sun god, still retained his fiery powers. If he dug in and won, the Titans could regain their glory. If he gave in, all was lost.

But the dazzle and sparkle, the beauty and glory, of Apollo the Olympian god of music, light, truth, poetry and latterly, the sun, decided it all. Hyperion decided to give in with grace, rather than risk eternal disgrace.

By that singular grace, the Titans live eternal in the Greek and Western mind, even as the Olympians took over. That death-turned-life was captured in Keats’s “Fall of Hyperion”.

Hyperion, therefore, is the myth as classic metaphor for change. Change will come when it must. But how does that change leave you?

That question appears to plague both Afenifere and Obasanjo. Its lack of resolve also tends to goad both to endless gambits — gambits that lead to their umpteenth baiting of fate, which may ultimately prove fatal.

What is more? From their present posturing, neither seems to have the grace of Hyperion nor the wisdom of Solomon. Yet, both traits are key to navigating change and staying sane.

Fact is, since President Obasanjo quit power in 2007, he has not reconciled himself to the inevitability of a falling, if not yet fallen, Titan.

Yes, post-2007, he emerged as some giant Gulliver, towering over the Lilliput dwarf into which Nigeria had shrunk, no thanks to his presidency’s neo-Liberal policies, which had spawn mass poverty, powered by elite greed.

But that didn’t quite blunt his phobia for change, that dread of vanished public fawning that only power secures, as could be adduced from his alleged “third term” gambit.

That fear drove Obasanjo’s virtual roasting, on his death bed, of ill-fated President Umaru Yar’Adua; and his no less merry burial, of the effete President Goodluck Jonathan, for being the ultimate fall guy, for Obasanjo-era bad politics and policies.

Sensing early signs of a radically changed era, that phobia still drives Obasanjo’s latest neither-APC-nor-PDP hyper huff-and-puff, in which Nigeria’s Hobson has conjured up ’his’ African Democratic Congress (ADC); in which Nigeria’s Narcissus just announced a melting heart for Afenifere!

But neither too, has Afenifere reconciled itself to its loss of influence, since the five South West Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors lost power in 2003, ironically through the perfidy of this same Obasanjo.

Since that 2003 loss, the fear of creeping irrelevance has also hustled and bustled Afenifere into many gambits, the climax of which was its 2015 election-eve whoring with Jonathan, on the restructuring question.

But that itself would birth an election-time manna turned poison, from which the once strutting puritans, of the Nigerian public space, still reel.

Which is why it’s rather sweet to see both serenade each other in new-found romance, nevertheless fated to end in a debacle. Why? Because it is fired by mutual plotting against a common hate — Muhammadu Buhari — than mutually reinforced clinical thinking for public good.

Even then, the sensational appearance of an Awolowo — Dr (Mrs) Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu — at the tryst was enough grave rebuke of Obasanjo’s callow, if not callous, youth. The immortal Awo must be beaming from his grave!

Obasanjo, in Not My Will, his post-military head of state memoirs, had gloated that the power Awo craved all his illustrious life, he, a rural Ibogun boy, was gifted on a platter of gold!

Has the cunning of old age, just schooled the callow youth of yore, that the Awo Rock he once scorned and mocked, is sudden cornerstone of his present plot? Yet, Awo’s memory won’t be mocked, by progressive reaction!

An Azikiwe might not have been part of this sizzling romance. Still, Zik would beam no less. Didn’t the same Obasanjo, in his same Not My Will, heckle Zik as starting life as Zik of Africa but ending it a diminished Owelle of Onitsha?

But how is Obasanjo ending his — a once-upon-a-time global citizen, now locked in a Yoruba ethnic laager, poised to feud to the death with a Fulani president, for no more than shared hate, bred by vacuous ego?

Afenifere! Why does that once puritanical enclave now somewhat echo that Yoruba quip, of a sheep doomed to eating faeces, for schmoozing with dogs?

Shortly after the 2015 elections, an alleged N100 million “obtainment” scandal hit one of Afenifere’s leading lights. Till now, even after much hee-haw, that scandal still hangs.

At the dawn of Obasanjo’s “third force” racket, the same Afenifere noble went serenading both Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Obasanjo, for opportunistic coronation.

Though nothing came of the IBB flirt, the Obasanjo tryst ended in fiasco, when the Ebora Owu ordered the surrender of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) registration papers! Partisan opportunism never met a more pitiable crash!

Yes, a sole member can’t equate Afenifere’s collective conduct. Yet, not huffing over over these matters suggests a creeping, worrying moral flexibility, if not outright debasement.

That seems a far cry from the barging moral puritans of 1998, that in a huff stormed out of the old APP, snorting “Abacha People’s Party!” That moral elasticity would also tend to explain the Obasanjo tryst.

Still, since its 2015 electoral debacle, Afenifere has hugged the public space, grimly staying relevant with its “restructuring” campaign. That, to be sure, is its crusade from the very genesis; and it deserves plaudits for its tenacity on that score.

Still, with increased desperation, Afenifere gives the impression even that is a coin with golden and crooked sides.

The golden side flashes restructuring, which births the re-federalization Nigeria sorely needs; and which every patriot ought to embrace.

But the crooked side glares with ethnic arrogance, tribal slurs, sectional disdain and bristling antagonism, when even-handed dialogue would do just fine. That should explain Afenifere’s latter-day associations and alliances.

Perhaps Afenifere’s own outraged “Olympians”, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), would step up, and put the old Titans out of their misery. Perhaps it would not.

But Afenifere should at least have the honesty to admit it can’t stamp “Yoruba” on every of its whims and caprices; except of course it can produce a plebiscite that earned it such powers.

As for the Obasanjo dalliance, grant Afenifere its democratic right to its friends. But if 2003 is any guide, it could well be the final treachery and mutual end, of two Titans, lacking the grace of Hyperion to navigate change.

That would be a pity. Still, as you lay your bed, you lie on it.

News Reporter