Men like him do not die. To live in the hearts of those you love, they say, is not to die. And absence, we hear, makes the heart grow fonder. He is absent, the way a pupil would be from school, but he lives on. And will continue to live, in all his power, fame and glory, as long as the kind of circumstances that nurtured his emergence and his flourishing remain the same.
What, you ask, are these circumstances?
Poverty, for one. The kind of grinding poverty that made it possible for a man to become a near-deity by feeding hundreds of people every day, not with chicken ÔÇśn chips or exotic sea-food, but the cheap staple amala, and its unassailable consort, gbegiri. Ours is a country that delights in inflicting strange forms of poverty on its citizens. Poverty that leaves the kind of gap that Baba rose to exploit. We hear it cost him half a million naira a day, to discharge this responsibility. This responsibility of keeping a multitude's hunger at bay.
At half a million a day, we are talking of close to two hundred million naira a day. I imagine that the calculators are busy in Ibadan. Intending Adedibu successors will mutter to themselves: So a mere 200 million per annum will suffice to earn me a fanatical band of loyalists, an army that will prove even more passionate than any NDA-trained army?
How much, I ask, is two hundred million, in these times when retired political-office holders buy abandoned bungalows in Ikoyi for twice that amount; and serving political office-holders renovate new buildings with thrice that amount. (Of course, cooking amala was not all that Baba Adedibu depended on. He was said to hold court daily, listening to the complaints and problems of the masses, doling out cash, paying school fees, issuing notes to be taken to Government offices to secure jobs. These must have cost money too. Add that to the feeding budget)
Coming closely after poverty, is Politics. As long as elections need to be secured, and votes captured with minimal opposition, there will be vacancies for more Adedibus. As long as INEC's data-capture machines (six of which were "installed" in Adedibu's Molete compound during the 2007 elections) retain their hunger for invented votes, Adedibu will not die. He will live, and continue to invent new techniques of prosecuting electoral battles.
And then there is the Media. Whatever else might be said and debated about Adedibu, that he sold newspapers is not a point of controversy. Adedibu was the quintessential Journalist's delight. No one answered journalists' questions like Baba. Without pretence, without diplomacy, without hesitation. He said it as he felt and saw it. He was a prophet, warlord, historian, King, entertainer, political strategist, and sound-bite expert rolled into one. He was the kind of man you never wanted to stop listening to. For him, battles were not to be cowardly fought behind closed doors, anger was not to be mellowed into conspiratorial whispering; dirty linen was meant to be washed on the rooftops. During the Ladoja days he openly admitted to hijacking government vehicles and attacking government property, and he didn't mince words in speaking of his entitlement to a generous chunk of the monthly allocation of Oyo State.
Our newspapers will miss Baba. And they will need a replacement. If you looked at it in a particular way, you might be justified to say that there was the real Baba Adedibu, and then the media creation. A part of his myth was engineered in newsrooms across the country; the weekend papers especially loved him. Now, how can we say that Baba is dead, when business must continue, when reams of paper still need to be shifted, and people like Adedibu have been proven to make that task easier? New Adedibus will therefore rise, after mastering the principles in Baba's own version of "The 48 Laws of Power." And the news media will assemble again at their doorsteps, drooling, for big headlines and in anticipation of bestselling status.
There is an army of Adedibu loyalists, men, women, children, politicians, students (pupils even), traders, civil servants, state governors, party chieftains, and lots more, waiting for direction on what to do next. For now, their faces are turned to the skies, waving bye to their "Master", perhaps even disbelieving his "demise." But not for long. Soon (according to the Rule of Life Must Go On), the hunger pangs will strike again, the school fees will once again be due, the elective offices will need to be filled, opponents' billboards will need to be turned into firewood, old political anointing will need renewalÔÇŽ
At that time, what I presume will happen is that many people will rise on the strength of Baba's spirit. They will have studied Baba's methods and his styles, and they will offer themselves to Baba's band of receptive loyalists. But instead of the loyalists deciding on a single successor (by Baba's unique, patented brand of crude consensus), they will split up into different camps, and each camp will wander off in search of political relevance.
So that where we had one Baba until June 11, 2008, we shall now have many of them, capturing votes, anointing politicians, hijacking ballot-boxes, dividing up the state house of assembly, feeding hungry multitudes. Then, we shall realize that the "Wild Wild West" nomenclature still has the potential of taking up a few more "Wilds."
For now, let the rejoicers hold their peace. Let even the mourners cease their mourning. The Game is not yet over. We have interred Baba ÔÇô into his many graves, and we are all keeping vigil. Some to make sure he stays interred, others laden with bowls of hot amala and gbegiri in an attempt to entice him back to life. All of us bleary-eyed, and busy.
Baba (who, in his last Grand Act of Conquest, captured the date June 12) is proving to be even more potent in death, than in life. How can we then say that he is dead?