There’s no retelling that Chief Joshua Shagari Oni came, saw but did not conquer. He was the proverbial Moses that couldn’t see the promised land, in spite of the enormous hope vested on him. Strictly speaking, it’s not entirely so much about his obvious personal frailties and inadequacies but largely that of the Nigerian society that applauds deceit, treachery, absurdity, emptiness, and off course, detestable political patronage system.
Unfortunate for the late Chief, he always found himself being sacked from either elective or political positions he ever held for lack of transparency and efficiency. He was sacked as the Board Chairman of National Properties Of Nigeria (NPN); he was sacked as a Local Government Council Chairman, he was sacked as a Special Adviser on Political Affairs to Governor Lucky Igbinedion, he was also sacked as Igueben College of Education governing Council Chairman.
On the traditional front – the late Chief – as the Head Chief of Osi Community was less than an achiever. He left Eruere Community fractured, poorer, brazenly divided, broken, vanquished, tottering at a tipping point of virtual debasement than he met it. Each time you asked a former Local Government Chairman why a three classroom building in Oseze Primary School, Eruere is not completed, he would simply answer thus: “Go and ask Chief J. S. Oni”, a subtle way of saying the late Chief got the contract and abandoned the project!
Born in Sokoto State in Shagari village in northern Nigeria to Mr. Oni Osaghagua, a colonial police officer, Chief Shagari himself was a former classroom teacher, who rose from the ashes of political obscurity to dominate the political destiny of Owan people for over three decades. He however failed to use his humbled political elevation to liberate himself or his people.
At the rise of political consciousness in the 1970s, the tripartite Erurere Community of Oshiofo, Osi and Oralla contributed huge amount of money to the late chief to pursue his political career after an unpleasant teaching career at Edekin Grammar School, Otua, present day Owan East. He subsequently became the Chairman of Owan Local Government Council of the then Bendel State for a period of time and never paid back the money to the community. The only visible achievement was the Osi’s masquerade shrine he fenced round in his immediate village.
Many have openly expressed hope that his demise would mark the end of unnecessary chieftaincy squabbles, reckless resource misappropriation, nauseating litigation, merciless land sales, invasions, grabbing, and decadent leadership in Eruere Community. His era, no doubts, witnessed a caricature of despotism at its summit.
My personal encounter with him was at best convulsing, and at worst literally eviscerating. I was a member of Prof Julius Ihonvbere’s Support Group, Lagos Chapter in 2006 for which Engr. Humphrey Omo-Ohain was the Publicity Secretary. Our team arrived Benin in solidarity with the good Prof’s governorship bid. After his declaration and subsequent interface with the group, Professor Ihonvbere begged me to join his convoy to Uzebba which I obliged without hesitation.
On arrival, his house was packed full with thousands of supporters for which the late Chief was one. Chief Oni was not comfortable with my presence and pre-emince on that occasion. Typical of him, as soon as I left Prof Ihonvbere’s house, he went straight to downgrade my person before him. He told Prof Ihonvbere thus: “Erasmus Ikhide is a son of nobody from a rejected village on a mission to destroy you with his caustic pen; he’s a spie on you from political opponents”.
Having been briefed of his incendiaries against me and my forebears, I went straight to his house the following morning with the intention to roast and set his house ablaze. It took the intervention of the entire community to restore the peace. He later opened up after I sued him to Erah-Eruere shrine for character assassination and damages. That nostalgic episode of the rawest barefaced falsehood saw the end of my respect for him regardless of the noble contribution he made among other political elites in his time who ensured that Eruere was delineated and became a ward of its own in 1991.
The second unforgettable encounter with him was when he dubiously inserted a non-existent name called Mohamed Tukor into Owan West Local Government Council’s Care-taker Committee list as Ward 07 Counsellor. His intention was to appropriate whatever financial resources for himself at the expense of the entire community. At the Palace of late Chief Bernard Orein, I chastised him thoroughly in the presence of Mr. Stanley Amu Esq and the Eruere Community for his vices. Thereafter, I removed Muhamed Tukor’s name from the list. While the community applauded me for it, Chief Oni never forgave me over the open disgrace he received on that day.
True to type, he gave it back to me when I declared my intention to run as Chairman of Owan Local Government Council in 2013. Being the Party Leader and from the same ward with me, he roared when I visited him in his house: “Erasmus, you know I can’t pray for you or support your ambition because we have unfinished business”. I knew what he meant by that in all ramifications. I knew the Chief has been prosecuting his late father’s war against Oshiofo Community. As early as 1920, his father militantly mobilised Osi Community as a Chief and created a road from the neighbouring community and boycotted Oshiofo community. That devilish exhibition of uncanny hatred was resisted by Chief Longe Oyende and the community.
Lately, Chief Oni has been stroking the fire of antagonism in Oshiofo’s Chieftaincy tussle that have lingered on for years with litigation so as to manufacture ‘Ore 11’ title that is never known to history for his personal gains. But for the collective resistance of battle tested Oshiofo Community, he would have rode roughshod on the people.
Those who’re singing Hosanah to the life and times of Chief J. S. Oni are welcome to their delusion. It’s the typical African way of seeing no evil and saying no evil about the dead, even when it’s obvious that such characters shouldn’t have existed in the first place. This is at the heart of the failure of African spiritualism and methodology of its cosmic forces that celebrates dead corrupt souls who transit to the realm of ancestors or godheadship at the same time expecting to find solace to their supplication.
For a fact, I don’t blame the Hosanah singers for the late Chief. The reason is clear: most Nigerians as well as the denizens of the present and the old world order and its archaic values, the tendency is to live in denial; a collective state of child-like daydreaming and regression into a phantasmagorical world of delusion and deception in which uncomfortable truths and reality are pressed out to be replaced by saccharine versions. This strategic elision of the truth as a way of evading social responsibility and confrontation with evil is a function of societies rooted in ritual and magic as the order of existence rather than hurtful science.
For me history is useless if it’s not usable for now or in the future. I know for a fact that history has never failed to carve its own original part. It’s always the business of mind manipulators to rewrite history and remake society in their own image. It’s the same reason individuals like late Chief Shagari Oni got away with everything and became a turncoat.
Email address: Ikhideerasmus@gmail.com
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