By Dr Theo Adebowale
Rikisi is a concept in Yoruba politics which describes a plot by two or more persons to gain an advantage over a group. It is a tool in the hand of a strategist to lure an unsuspecting person into his design. One characteristic of rikisi is that it is conceived by a strategist who begins to recruit members into the plot. Such recruits may remain ignorant of the overall objective of the project. Secrecy is desirable for successful take off, so that beneficiaries of the status quo do not abort it, again, so that competitors do not take advantage and beat them to it.
Rikisi is a common feature in a polygamous setting. Rival wives and siblings employ it to gain advantage or to discredit a rival individual or group. In spite of the negative connotation, the strategy is used for the good of the ‘people’. It was the birthday of the General Manager of a private radio state. Trumpeters were recruited overnight with instruction to herald his coming and treat him to a surprise package as he arrived office. That much, rikisi does in a lighter mood.
The various scheming, horse trading, bargaining, collaborations, coalition deflections and betrayals in political circles are encapsulated in the image of rikisi. A cunning experienced politician at the point of becoming irrelevant beckons at a rising start and volunteers to guide him into stardom. He points out to the ‘neonate’ danger zones and flash points in the terrain. He demonstrates with facts and figures the capacity of inherent dangers. Out of innocence, the newcomer defers to him and takes actions and steps that are supposed to immune him from the viruses of danger. It is a long rope. That was the strategy used for one of the wives of a cocoa baron. She had moved out of her matrimonial home in such an offensive manner that she could not access a welcome pack. But it is more serious for a politician because he is surrounded by many hypocrites, ever on alert to supply him materials to justify his next move. A Nigerian politician in authority is a new being, he can do no wrong. He prefers to be listened to rather than be argued with. So let it be with elites and interest groups.
The immediate past Chief Executive Officer of Ekiti State started a rikisi against his predecessor. He recruited politicians and public officials into the plot to discredit him. He employed the legislative and judicial processes to nail him. They worked assiduously and convinced themselves their target would not ‘rise again’. But when he returned as gubernatorial candidate, he assured them of the shaprapra template. When election came, he defeated his opponent and collected the mantle of authority. While the contest lasted it was like ‘war without end’. But now that it is concluded, Fayose is on the side of power while all those that took an oath that Fayemi would not return are on their own. When rikisi is woven around falsehood to the detriment of an individual or group, it will eventually fall flat. The author may survive it in modern politics but subscribers will definitely pay heavily for it. Rikisi brought them to emergency friendship. That same rikisi will scatter their fraternity.
The Rechabites were recruited into a rikisi by their father. It was against intoxicants. Jonadab forbade them to drink no wine, to build no house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard. They are to dwell in tents all the days of their lives. Centuries after they were recruited into the conspiracy, they still preserve their culture, in many respects, they are able to preserve their identity, they remain monolithic and resistant to foreign influence. In spite of their perceived backwardness before the civilized world, they maintain a functional efficient means of communication with their elite who make it their eternal mandate to sustain and project their cultural heritage. There is no evidence to suggest that they were instructed by their forefathers to embark on lawless murderous ventures but it is embarrassing how much victory they record over those who are supposed to be real civilized.
Whereas their victims are known to be loud, the shepherds make a modest use of modern gadgets and weapons to plunder them and threaten their continued existence. Riches acquired from common wealth to construct architectural edifices cannot intimidate ordinary herders from ‘poaching’ them and holding them till ransom is paid or their lives are wasted. Vigilance is a way of life of nomadic animal farmers as their existence is threatened daily by dangerous snakes, pythons, ferocious animals and circumstances, unlike a people that enjoy relative comfort and can purchase leisure. ‘Civilised’ people can organize ‘human rights’ groups to protect the unlawful detention of their elite who stole budgetary allocations that would have given them infrastructure whereas herdsmen make it their aim, on a daily basis to care for their animals. They feed and keep fit to be able to pastor their sheep profitably unlike the modern man whose care is strictly for self, whose children are even looked after by professionals in boarding houses somewhere else.
It is eternal vigilance to know that the Fulani would have their radio in order to warn the others to have a mouth and a wisdom. The Yoruba for example need to decide the type of society they want. Is it a society of plunderers who sweep the treasury clean and keep the loot by paying huge sums to attorneys who keep securing injunctions to not prosecute them? Do we desire a society of young men and women without skills or trades but loads of money to make merry and junket about the globe? Can we sustain a society where rikisi is employed to truncate breakthroughs of individuals, subvert merit and install mediocrity?
Eternal vigilance dictates that he who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. It calls for families and households, quarters and communities to communicate and reason on issues of interest. They should be able to halt the maddening hustle for riches and give orientation that produces Omoluabi. Rikisi should be converted to research that would require input from the various communities with less sound and fury, to produce the template for development and decent living. It requires reawakening our values and virtues. It calls for discounting unprofitable squabbles and contention for authority that is not there. The authoctonous politics is not about rivalry, it is about safety and security. It is about our colourful and laudable customs, artefacts, history and beauty. There is enough to showcase to convert a marauder to a tourist. There is no future for empty barrels in our present dispensation. If every culture looks inward, there would be enough food to bring out to feed and give to guests knowing full well that hunger provokes violence.
Eternal vigilance is to employ modern science and technology to provide our needs and minimize to the barest minimum our labor. Much progress has been made since discovery of the steam engine, we must only march forward.