The progress of former progressives
It is one of the great paradoxes of Nigerian history that the most vicious and venal reactionaries are often former progressives. Given the enormous damage they subsequently cause to the progressive cause, the question must now be asked as to whether they were ever progressive at all in the first instance or mere ideological choir boys chanting what they hardly understood or barely believed in.
Some of them may even be innocent victims of political disorientation or mere wannabes looking for a political platform to actualise their legitimate ambition. Or in some extreme cases, this crisis of ideological orientation can be traced to the political equivalent of gender confusion or some more profound case of genital conflation which produces political hermaphrodites.
As it is now being revealed in the twilight of their political career, it is even possible that a few of our progressive avatars were nominal conservatives who cheated demystification by sheer good luck. Rather than hurling insults and invectives at each other, it may be better to understudy the very notion of progressive politics in order to lay bare the structure of contradictions that power politics at any given time and place and the radical restructuring of the status quo which happens to be the hallmark of progressive politics.
It may well be that we have all along been confusing an abiding preference for modernity and modernisation which is the default temperament of the majority of the Yoruba people as well as the template for their pre-colonial and post-colonial politics with progressive ideology which is marked by a clear and intellectually sustained preference for the radical reorganisation of the existing order.
To say that the Yoruba are naturally progressive because of their instinctive preference for modernity and the modernisation project may well be true. But it does not exhaust the possibilities of the term. In the same individual, the same people and the same society, the conservative may well coexist and cohere with the progressive until a defining crisis forces one tendency to supplant the other. .
As we have seen in the case of Dubai, Singapore and the Asian Tigers, it is quite possible for great modernising drives to be sustained by or anchored on conservative politics which is suspicious of the radically disruptive. Yet by creating a potent and prosperous middle class, these conservative societies have already provided the future nursery beds of radical discontent with the existing status quo.
With the resounding victory of Governor Rauf Aregbesola in the Osun gubernatorial election, a new vista has opened up in the perpetual struggle between progressives and former progressives in the old western region of Nigeria. It was a major political rout and electoral shellacking of the Yoruba conservatives and sundry mainstream apostles of federal power.
Yet some rabid ideologues of the right and their ethnic carrion feeder collaborators are already insinuating that having captured forty two per cent of the total votes cast, the PDP is clearly ascendant in this heartland of Yoruba progressive politics. They have conveniently forgotten that this was the same state they claimed to have legitimately ruled between 2003 and 2010 when they were dislodged by judicial justice. What happened to that majority of their imaginary hallucinations?
In the 2011 elections, Aregbesola completely cleaned out the entire state in a brilliant display of total politics. Was it possible to proceed from nothing to this electoral substantiality? It is obvious that this is all part of the anticipatory approval of the looming electoral heist their principal is preparing to foist on the entire nation come 2015. The PDP has been hoisted by the petard of its own lies and electoral chicaneries.
For Aregbesola, it has been a close shave indeed, but they have not managed to touch his shrubby beard. That magical goatee should be preserved for posterity and in the interest of electoral sanity in Nigeria. Having captured the old Ondo province, had the PDP succeeded in overrunning Osun State through its blatant intimidation and electoral cajolery, it would have been a straight dash to the sea through Oyo and Ogun..
Like his illustrious warrior forebears did in 1840 at the Jalumi battle, Aregbesola has managed to turn the tide against federal invaders. Like all those who have tried to turn Yorubaland into a theatre of war using Yoruba renegades, Jonathan will learn his lesson the hard way. By trying once again to humiliate the Yoruba people and rob them of their electoral preference, the federal authorities have roused a slumbering bear. The magnitude of Aregbesola’s victory will appear in bold relief as we slouch towards 2015. We may yet have to thank the federal authorities.
Before taking a look at the immediate future and its portents, we have chosen to take a retrospective glance at the immediate past by republishing an article which first appeared on this page about four years ago.
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