By Frederick Obande
“The concept of loyalty is a strange one. The real answer is that may our loyalties never be tested. I always pray that may my loyalty never be tested.” Babatunde Raji Fashola October 14, 2015
The concept of loyalty is indeed a strange one. Unfolding scenarios and expectations in Nigeria prove this adequately. Those who dare speak of loyalty or lack of it must have either never been in the unpleasant condition of having the concept tested in their lives or they are simply beyond being capable of grasping what it entails in the first place.
Examples abound in our recent political history. There was the Ibrahim Babangida and Mamman Vatsa episode, then Babangida and David Mark (of the IBB Boys fame). Recall that when David Mark was edged out of the power game by Babangida, he retorted in his interview when asked by Dan Agbese if he was an IBB boy “I am not IBB’S Boy! We are friends and that is if we are still friends.”
Later, former President Olusegun Obansajo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar created quite a storm in the dying days of their administration as accusations and counter accusations of disloyalty and betrayals flew in the air. The country walked that nebulous era without anyone able to pin down what constitutes loyalty, in the context the nation and both men found themselves.
At about the same time was the Atiku/ Nasir El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu mix. Atiku played roles in bringing both men into the government in which he was vice president but it will seem they later ended up on the other side of the spectrum from him while he fought his boss to whom his erstwhile protégées became beholden.
Incumbent Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike is a beneficiary of opportunities created by his predecessor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, for his rapid ascendancy. The battle between the duo has proven to be a war without end as neither man would not pass on an opportunity to go for the other’s political jugular. It took quite some horse-trading for Amaechi to get screened as a minister nominee as the man he once groomed did everything possible to frustrate his becoming a minister.
In other areas, as former Senate President David Mark fights for his political life in the wake of the annulment of his election with a court ordered re-run, his compatriot and former Senate Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba switched from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, the platform on which he held the highest position of his career. Ndoma-Egba is now dancing on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC and possibly offering strategies on how his new party can defeat his former presiding officer in Benue south senatorial district.
Coming home to Benue state, Senator Iyorchia had the loyalty tiff with his mentee, George Akume. Whatever brings both men to the same side of the table certainly has some air of necessity around it. The pattern continued even with the emergence of the incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom, who was as a onetime associate of his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, had to defect from the PDP to APC in pursuit of his political ambition. Upon assuming office, being pressured by popular demands, he had no option but to open the books on the Gabriel Suswam’s years with minding boggling details pouring out on daily basis. He was of course accused of being a betrayer.
Suswam had himself administered the bitter potion to his predecessor, George Akume. He had enjoyed a very chummy relationship with his predecessor, which led to Akume to anoint him over and above the many giants that contested the governorship ticket with him. The honeymoon lasted less than a year after Suswam won and was inaugurated as governor! Akume was locked out of Benue and Suswam even sponsored Hon Terngu Tsegba in an attempt to sack Akume from the Senate.
The wheel sure turns full circle, the pain inflicted on Akume might have propelled him in to attempt unseating Suswam in 2011 before finally preventing him from installing a successor to cover his track upon departing in 2015. Suswam’s political family was heavy decimated by defections shortly before the polls.
Currently, whatever consolation Suswam had thought he could draw from his remaining associates is evaporating faster than dew during dry season. The Deputy Governor of his administration, Chief Stephen Lawani, former Minister of State for Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode and a former federal permanent Secretary Chief Mike Okibe Onoja are among the latest people to have called it quits with the PDP in Benue state, leaving Suswam to rue how much loyalty they had for him or his party in the first place. Among the latest departures from the PDP in Benue, Lawani and Dr. Ode’s own must have been particularly painful for the one time Benue numero uno.
But does the defection of someone like Ode constitute betrayal? Whatever the answer is, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps Suswam should have embraced what one can describe as Tinubuism. He should have not only groom a successor but also position them in other strategic places. If they had other options, even engagements that kept them busy while on political sabbaticals, they possibly wouldn’t have need to migrate. It is only such fall back options that made it possible for associates to willingly bid their time for several years in opposition at the federal level without rushing to port.
In essence, Ode’s defection to the APC, with others, at this point does not amount to betraying former governor Suswam. It would be counterproductive not just for Dr Ode’s as an individual but also for Benue state as staying on in PDP would stifle his ability to continue making meaningful contributions where they are needed.
As Fashola said during his screening, “In public life, I have remained loyal to causes that I have signed on to,” One’s loyalty must thus not solely be to an individual but to noble ideas and to the common good of humanity. If Dr Ode has discovered that the causes that are dear to him are no longer being served on his former platform or that they are better actualized in the APC, then vilifying him for doing the right thing will be inhuman and wicked. The limit of his loyalty to one person is reached at the exact point when that loyalty conflicts with what serves the interest of the populace.
Oftentimes critics, public commentators and the populace base their perception and judgment of loyalty or betrayal on the basis of information that is available to them. This is understandable but beneath the surface a lot of issues may inform the decisions taken by actors.
This is because when subordinates are betrayed in the power game they remain silent for fear of persecution. They wait until the opportune time to express themselves. This expression could be in form of actions that come out looking like well-orchestrated payback regardless of how much public good is being served. Such reaction is of course termed as betrayal.
In the Suswam/Ode scenario only the two men can tell the betrayed.