Wednesday, October 3, 2018 6:57 am
-A o Mu Ambode J’oba, Ewe K’ue W’ele
(We will crown the elephant/ Ambode ), lyric from anAfrican folktale)
By Olaleye Olawale
The story of the Tortoise and the Elephant is a familiar age-long folktale with profound lessons in leadership and emphasis on the challenge of sycophancy. I doubt there is anyone, who is not conversant with the story. But for the purpose of this intervention, let me retell the story in a concise form.
A certain great king in the village of Gbogan suddenly took ill. After consulting Ikumejakako, a dreaded herbalist, who lived in the evil forest, the king would have to take a special brew made of elephant body parts to be healed otherwise he dies within seven days.
Concerned about how to capture an elephant, announcement was made outsourcing the assignment and that whoever could deliver it within seven days would get half of the kingdom and also marry the king’s adorable daughter.
The tortoise accepted the challenge, but made a request of the King. He asked that a very deep pit be dug and concealed with raffia and mats and a throne set on top of it.
He also made some akara (fried bean cakes) and set out into the forest in search of an elephant. He wandered through the forest, making enquiries of his fellow animals until the third day, when he ran into an elephant lounging under a tree. He approached and convinced the Elephant to believe he was wanted to be made a king.
He led the elephant all the way to the village, handing out the akara to him at intervals and singing popular coronation songs: ‘A o m’erin j’oba, ewe k’ue w’ele’.
As they both approached the palace, news of the capture of the elephant had spread and everyone came out and started following them to the palace, singing along with the tortoise. All this, of course, created an atmosphere of festivities, reinforcing the belief in the elephant’s mind that he was to be made king.
As they approached the throne, the elephant hobbled into the throne grandly, amidst the dancing and singing. He sat on it and instantly the ground gave way beneath him and he fell into the pit. Immediately, the king’s warriors did the needful. As soon as the king took a sip of the elephant broth, he became whole again and of course, fulfilled his promises to the tortoise. (Story adapted from All Folk Tales).
Since Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s re-election crisis started, the one question some of the objective and discerning minds had asked was: “Who are those advising the governor?” This is because it is taken that he must be talking or listening to some people and as such, the quality of advice they offer is of the essence. Or do they only lie to him for what they seek to get off him?
A Yoruba adage says, ‘A ki t’oni ba rin, k’a ma t’oni ba s’oro’, meaning I cannot be qualified to be called your friend and not be qualified to advise you. No matter how highly placed you are, if I was not in that place to offer advice in my little way, you’d better tick me off your list of friends. You don’t necessarily have to heed my advice, but by right of whatever friendship we share, I should be given that right of place. Brush it aside if you like.
In whatever capacity we relate with people and at whatever level especially those in positions of authority, the least we owe them is the truth and at all times. Indeed, you earn more respect for being the honest type and not one tolerated only for his or her nuisance value. I wasn’t surprised to see that even in the face of clear defeat, Ambode’s strategists were still all over town hopeful that some magic would happen. Those were the kinds of false assurances they must have been giving him.
Two of many things I learnt from former Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State. One, he always says to me: “You must, as a leader, imbibe the culture of talking to yourself and honestly so particularly, when no one is around”. Second, he always warns: “No one can repay good. It is a façade to think so. The least you can do is, ‘don’t ever pay back good deeds with evil’. You can afford to owe any good extended to you; but don’t pay it back with evil.” This is very thoughtful but only if you know it.
From my reading of Ambode, he does not have people, who honestly advise him. He seems to enjoy sycophancy as if it is going out of fashion. He obviously does not have sincere advisers, either as friends or personal aides. Of course, he lacks the capacity to talk to himself and clearly without any iota of doubt, he does not think it is bad paying good with evil, because by resorting to roforofo fight over his re-election bid, he traveled the lowest route.
Now that he had been led to abysmal failure by his cheering crowd (like the tortoise led the elephant), sadly without any exit plan, I wait to see what more damage he longs to inflict on the party that gave him the opportunity of a lifetime.
Already, there were speculations that three very important PDP stalwarts had been in touch with him in the last 72 hours. One is from the South-south and at the top echelon of the party leadership. The second is from the South-east. He is a federal lawmaker. The third is one of the highest ranking PDP personalities in South-west – all waiting for the outcome of the Lagos APC primaries. We wait to see what they’d do next.
Honestly, and without having to hold back anymore, Ambode offers a disturbing lesson in leadership. It is utterly defective and any genuine person would feel let down by his many poor choices!