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Sam Omatseye: The whitlow and the quisling


Sam Omatseye: The whitlow and the quisling

by Sam Omatseye

Many lovers of language and metaphors use the word quisling as though an English word in essence and roots. It is, but not like most words. It means traitor, but it was the name of a Norwegian politician. His attitude, so noxious and so aberrant, imposed his name in conversations all over Europe and, later, the rest of the world.

His full name was Vidkun Quisling, and the Q was written in capital letters. His notoriety arose from the cauldron of the Second World War when the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, rolled his then impregnable military machine from country to country in a bid to lob all of Europe and the world into the fire and fury of a Nazi empire. While resistance flared all over, Vidkun Quisling collaborated with Hitler as a Man Friday to orchestrate Norway’s surrender to the German Reich. He reigned for a while as Hitler’s planting before the Nazi behemoth unravelled and Quisling lost favour and fell into the dunghill of history.

He became a metaphor for anyone who betrayed his people. Winston Churchill popularised it when he used it in a speech. To quisle, a verb from that name, has fallen out of use. But quisling has remained an irreplaceable word, especially in political dialogue.

In the Southwest today, quislings abound, but two of them come into sharp focus as conversations stir in Ekiti State as the governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, marks his third year in office. Two persons are bracing themselves to take a battle to him and the people of the state as next year’s election looms.

The two men are the Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko and a former commissioner in Lagos and member of the House of Representatives, Opeyemi Bamidele. These two men once paraded themselves as progressives, a term that is increasingly losing its pristine beauty because of many comers uninvited.

What is at play here is not that Governor Fayemi has not done well. They are ambitious and drowsy in search of raw power. If Fayemi is not transforming the infrastructure of the state, if he is not turning the educational system from the rut he met, if he had not revolutionised a sense of belonging in all with his welfare programme, or birthed rule of law in a way that made accountability inevitable, one would have said they wanted to change the government for good.

When Governor Fayemi was sworn in, I wrote in this column the high road ahead of him, and I wondered how he was going to tackle a state so idealistic yet so forlorn. Within a year and half, I drove through the streets of Ado Ekiti, and I witnessed a transformation at variance with what obtained while I left the city on the day of his swearing-in. The streets narrow, unlit and dust-laden, the houses discloured, the brow of its inhabitants shorn of optimism, Ekiti did not seem, even with its new chaperon’s good intentions, capable of the lift you see in its streets today.

So why is it that some persons want a change? If it is because a person belongs to another party or group, say the PDP, one would not sense any moral disappointment. Once political cycles come, opponents will fight through creative ways to wrest power from the incumbent, even if the incumbent has performed miracle. Fayemi has not performed miracle. But his miracle is on the make. Even then no one should ask the PDP not to fight. It has the right and the obligation to test its waters.

But when politics is seen only in Machiavellian terms because one nurses an ambition fuelled by a grudge, the whole principle of leadership is abused. That is what I see in the upstart Bamidele and his ambition to run.

He is running with confidence given to him by his fellow quisling, Governor Mimiko. When I wrote a column last year, Brother today, gone tomorrow, I witnessed an eruption of choreographed rage from his publicists. None of them pointed out any major achievements except markets that local governments’ funds could build without whimper. They also pointed out a token clinic for mother and child. He should go to Lagos and Delta States where a whole lot has been done in that regard. He is still building a model school up till today.

He earned in this column the glory of the title, the whitlow of the west. In the five fingers that represent the five states in the Southwest, Mimiko is the quisling. Immediately he won the election, he ran to master Jonathan in Aso Rock for a photo op. We all saw the quisling in full colour during the governor’s forum crisis when he pitched his tent against the progressives and voted for his master’s candidate. None of his loud supporters came out of the vestry of ignominy to defend his role.

Jonathan with the PDP now see him as a bridgehead to capture the Southwest for the president. It does not matter that it creates a crisis for the PDP mainstays. But for Jonathan, the best PDP chieftain in the Southwest is the impostor, the one who goes about as a Labour Party wheel horse. He would not formally join the PDP because he would be accused of overt betrayal. He also knows how effective the subterranean work can be in politics. He is shooting from the shadows.

That is why he is backing Bamidele, now overfed from the other side, who now feels the hubris of all those who cannot resist the overweening impulse of ambition. Having served as commissioner for close to three terms in another state, he wanted to be governor of his state. And that was fine. But he acted as though he was fighting for Fayemi while the latter battled in court with the man with the phony Awo cap. But Bamidele already had started building a political infrastructure for himself in the hope that the courts would fail Fayemi and that would default into an opportunity for him to arise and shine.

Fayemi won, and a disappointed Bamidele failed again in a Senate bid. Too impatient, he moved over to the other party that he so publicly disdained in words and deeds. Now, it is not about opportunity but opportunism, a pragmatic desperation. So he bivouacs with a quisling and a whitlow, who has the nod of master Jonathan. He becomes the lackey of a lackey. He, a lackey of Mimiko, the whitlow, who is Jonathan’s lackey. Bamidele is now servile to the slave of the presidency. It is like what the Argentine writer, Luis Borges, describes as “a mere discipline usurping the place of clear thinking..” The black American author, Edward Jones in his novel, The Known World, recreates the story of black slaves who owned slaves in the age of servitude, a servility within servility.

One would expect that people want to move to freedom from slavery like Mandela, but Bamidele and his slave-master are doing the opposite. A new movie, titled 12 Years a Slave starring Nigeria’s own Chiwetel Ejiofor, recreates the true story of a man who moved from freedom to slavery. That story is as true then as it is today.

– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Sam Omatseye

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