By Anthony A. Kila
The presidential campaign team of the PDP and their presidential flag bearer, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan must know something we do not know about the electoral value of the monarchs in some parts of Yourubaland for he is spending quite some time with them lately. Let us be clear, such move is legitimate: a candidate has the right even the duty to do anything within the law to secure his or her victory. Seeking support and endorsements is not only a natural part of the electoral process; it is indeed a healthy part of it.
The norm and expectation is that the endorser states why he or she is endorsing a candidate rather than another one. When the support and or endorsement come from Yoruba monarchs it however begets some peculiar but simple questions that these monarchs need to answer.
The ultimate appellation for a Yoruba monarch is “Kabiyesi” which means the “unquestionable one” and herein lies a peculiar situation that provokes a simple question: Do these Yoruba monarchs realise that by endorsing a candidate rather another one, they are opening themselves to scrutiny? Do they understand that in an electoral process once a person or personality goes public to endorse a candidate or is seen in any shape or form to support a candidate, it becomes natural not only to question and analyse the reasons for endorsement but also the person and personality of the endorser?
Are our monarchs aware of the fact that it is not possible to be seen to endorse or support a candidate and demand to be treated as non-partisan? It would be great to know if our monarchs have, for the sake of their personal dignity and feelings as well as the sake of thrones they sit on and the people they reign over, considered the effect of being seen as partisan. As their royal highnesses might have observed, partisan language these days is rarely deferential or charitable. I doubt their royal highnesses would like it if someone from the other side tells them to mind their business or worse still if they got the Femi Fani-Kayode, Fayose or Dame Jonathan treatment from the other side they are endorsing.
In the general perception, Yoruba monarchs are seen as fathers in their communities, now beyond their feeling and dignity, I would like to ask if their royal highnesses have considered what will happen if we get into a situation where members of their communities who are today divided along partisan lines get into a stalemate and require the attention and intervention of a father like figure that can be trusted to be above conflicting parts to arbitrate? Do their royal highnesses really think that side they have endorsed and supported against will trust them as fathers that love in equal measure?
In the event political gladiators don’t unanimously perceive and trust traditional rulers as above partisan forays and interests anymore, who will these gladiators approach to settle their disputes? Students of politics will readily agree that whilst it is true that in democracies, though the partisan actors and activities are the most visible and operational parts of the system, what makes a democratic state function and any union stable is in reality the non partisan organs and actors. No democratic state can function or union remain stable without a strong non-partisan wedge and each state and era invents its own. Are their royal highnesses aware that with their partisan posture they risk abdicating their natural role as part of the non-partisan block of the society? Have they considered the effect of these political gladiators going elsewhere for arbitration and having a new rallying point outside our palaces?
The best case an advocate of the royal endorsement can put up for their royal highnesses is that the monarchs are through their endorsement and support advancing the Yoruba cause. That may very well be so and even where we take that argument at face value another question pops up: Have their royal highnesses sought to advance the same cause with the opposing parties? Have they at least had or tried to have conversations with the presidential campaign team of the APC and their presidential flag bearer to discuss what their royal highnesses deem important for the Yoruba people? The answer to this question is crucial because it will let the confused or unsure Yoruba voter know who is committed to their cause.
The mode in which their royal highnesses have been meeting the presidential campaign team of the PDP and their presidential flag standard bearer also constitutes a sore to our sight and leaves some of us with a bitter taste in our mouth. The image of their royal highnesses hurled together into one space with no semblance of royalty as they sit and wait to meet the presidential campaign team of the PDP and their presidential standard bearer like lobbyist or beneficiaries meeting their benefactors does not help the image and dignity of these royal fathers. Is it too much to for a Yoruba monarch to ask any politician that wants to see him to come to the palace to meet a king on the throne of his forefathers that will still be there after the politician has left office?
An observant reader will by now understand that I hold the office of their royal highnesses in high regard; I can assure you that there are many of us like that. Their royal highnesses, however, need to let us know if we are mere unrealistic romantics.