Immediately the ebullient Lagos socialite, Chief Olabode George, was released from prison last Saturday, he gushed that the coming campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan in Lagos was going to shake the earth and give the opposition the jitters. Analysts, particularly those sympathetic to the heavily maligned opposition resented George’s enthusiasm and openly wondered whether prison had not dulled his imagination and clouded his reasoning. There would be no crowd explosion, said the resentful analysts, and no one would get the jitters, they mocked. Either because George had lost touch or the Lagos crowd was irritated by the paradoxically heroic reception given to him, the expectations for the Jonathan/Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rally were mercilessly dashed. There was a crowd quite alright, but it was nothing near what the PDP craved nor what the opposition feared. The Tafawa Balewa Square venue of the rally was not filled to capacity, let alone spill into the streets. The speeches were the usual stale mockeries of such low amperage that they could neither wake the dead nor stir the living.
Perhaps the most memorable promise of that depressing and exasperating afternoon was the one from Jonathan acknowledging that Lagos had been neglected for far too long. He was poised to reverse it once he won the election, he said superciliously. How very thoughtful of the president. He had all of two years to demonstrate he cared about Lagos, but all he did was swear at the state, demanding it transferred its affections to a better lover, presumably the PDP. Like his two predecessors, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua, Jonathan’s quaint way of showing affection was to ask the state to act like a whore before being paid. Worse, all the three gentlemen had with perfect calmness first tormented the state only to turn round when elections neared to demand unexampled and unusual affection from the state. It didn’t work under Obasanjo; it would have been a disaster under Yar’Adua; and Jonathan and his PDP crowed must be so unrealistic to expect anything but catastrophe.
What probably worsened the problem for the PDP and made its Tuesday rally unexciting is the seemingly officially sanctioned celebration that heralded the release of George. There was no way, coming just a few days before the rally, that the celebrations would not offend the gentle and cultured spirit of Lagosians. Jonathan himself talked of the education and sophistication of the Southwest when he campaigned in Ibadan a while ago. Ibadan, in spite of the bohemians that now oppress it from the famous Government House at Agodi, has not forsworn its sophistication and is reason the people groan under Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. But Ibadan passed the torch of liberty and civilisation to Lagos many decades ago, and the coastal city has since refined and consolidated on that great legacy. Why Jonathan, George and the other motley assembly of colourless politicians think the city would embrace their philistinism is hard to rationalise.
The PDP must have got the message on Tuesday, and they have but two options only to contemplate: to concede Lagos and go back to the drawing board, a task that would strain their lack of discipline to breaking point, or to attempt to rig the elections as they are wont. Neither option is palatable. And neither is without its enormous risks.
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