Emi Lo Kan — Like Mother, Like Son

By Anthony Echi

They say the apple does not fall too far from the tree.

While that aphorism may be as trite as they come it contains a large and discomfiting grain of truth.

When the APC presidential flag-bearer Bola Ahmed Tinubu announced that he was throwing his hat into the ring for Nigeria’s presidential election 2023 he highlighted it in Yoruba with what has now become a much maligned Yoruba expression:  Emi lo kan (It is my turn!)

Nigerians were appalled and that sense of outrage was not circumscribed by ethnicity or geography. “How can a man be so entitled,” so many said.

“Nigeria’s highest office is not for the taking” others cried but Tinubu dug in even going as far as to refer to the governor of Ogun state, Dapo Abiodun as ele yi (this one) that we put in office expressing publicly his arrogant conflation of self as a demi-god who determines the political fates of men.

He has now gone a step farther to refer to Governor Udom Emmanuel as that boy who lives in my backyard!

Tinubu’s hubris and sense of entitlement have continued to rub many people the wrong way but with less than one month to the elections on February 25, 2023, the man who said it is his turn to rule keeps trudging on despite clear indications that his ambition may be futile.

With the elections imminent and Tinubu’s campaign in disarray, the time has come to fully contextualize and investigate the origins of that declaration, emi lo kan!

Where did Tinubu’s sense of entitlement emanate from? In what smithy of pride was that odious phrase forged? History provides some context one which must give us pause; Tinubu did not invent the “emi lo kan” clause as political bluster. It clearly was something he must have heard his mother say.

So, it is to that trite aphorism that we must return; Bola Ahmed Tinubu is an apple that did not fall far from the tree.

But first let us take a quick historical excursion to the Second Republic, to the coming of Lateef Jakande under the banner of Obafemi Awolowo’s UPN.

Jakande is the well-respected governor of Lagos state who is universally acknowledged as turning the city on its path to glory despite attempts by Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his team of revisionist historians to change the narrative and turn history on its head.

Baba Kekere, as he was nicknamed, was a visionary and astute politician who started off life as a journalist, a profession in which he acquitted himself creditably and leveraged to become a politician.

Remarkably pro-people, he prioritized education (remember the Jakande schools) and infrastructure (remember the truncated Metro line). But this story is not really about Jakande or his political sagacity and legacy but more about someone who believed she played a key role in his emergence as governor.

That person was Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, a prominent Lagos trader, leader of women and “mother” of the APC Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

In the lead up to the emergence of Lateef Jakande, Alhaja Mogaji was among women leaders who helped mobilise support for the elections and elections over, she believed that having helped “put” Jakande in office that it was her turn to enjoy the fruits of that victory.

So, one day, maybe tired of waiting to be called to “chop”, she woke up early, dressed up and drove to the secretariat while muttering emi lo kan, emi lo kan, emi lo kan, like an incantation.

Once at the secretariat, Alhaja Mogaji proceeded to take over a government office, shutting out the real occupants. When she was asked what she was doing, she told them she was wondering “why she was not given a post in government because she was a major factor in putting the government in place.”

She was eventually talked into leaving the office she had illegally occupied.

Before anyone begins to wonder whether this story is a figment of an over-eager imagination or before the APC media team begins to refute and rebut, let me point out quickly that this is a true story recounted by a UPN insider and published in The Nation newspaper which is owned by Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

For those interested in confirming this, please Google “Life and times of Alhaja Mogaji (1)” which was published on October 23, 2019.

Anyone reading this must have experienced, at this point, a penny drop moment. The sub-text is this; when Bola Ahmed Tinubu said emi lo kan, he was reaching out into the bowels of memory to excavate a term he must have heard as a much younger man from his materfamilias.

Emi lo kan becomes, in that sense, when reduced to its bare bones, an arrogant arrogation of self-importance. “I worked for your campaign so now is my turn.”

So when he says he is working for Nigerians we know he is lying. When he says his campaign is for a revolution, we know he is dissembling. When he says he is coming to fix what the Buhari government is impoverishing Nigerians we  know that there is no truth in his promise.

Tinubu’s campaign is not about changing the lot of longsuffering Nigerians impoverished by 8 years of APC but about Tinubu, the man who thinks he has earned the right to lead Nigeria.

The question to ask Bola Tinubu is this; your turn to do what? A single man does not win an election just like one tree does not a forest make. Electoral victory is at best a collaborative team effort but for people like Tinubu, he is the TEAM and no one else counts which is a sad re-writing of the infamous French quote “L’etat c’est moi” (I am the State) credited to the French king, Louis XIV.

If as a candidate Tinubu is already making such grandiose claims one must shudder to contemplate what he will do if he becomes president with all the powers the office confers.

Fellow Nigerians, the time has come to stop the emi lo kan train.

•Anthony Echi is a Lagos based public affairs analyst.

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