Finally, there is hope of respite from the boredom that has characterised the nation’s politics since the unceremonial exit of the rambunctious former governor of Kano State, Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo. The emergence, penultimate Saturday, of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ademola Adeleke, as the winner of the governorship election of Osun State is in every sense a cause for optimism that the nation’s political firmament may soon witness the return of the comic extravaganza that made Zuwo the darling of every Nigerian.
His reign as Kano State governor was painfully short. He had barely been sworn in for three months when he and other political actors of the Second Republic were booted out of office via a coup d’état. Yet he had done enough by the time he left in December 1983 to etch his name on the psyche of every Nigerian who knew the true worth of a comedian governor in a country where governance is nothing but drudgery.
Right from the build-up to the election that brought him in as governor in October 1983, the discerning Kano electorate had taken notice of Zuwo’s penchant for theatrics with his exciting responses even to the most insipid of questions from unimaginative interlocutors. The story is told of how Zuwo told a journalist that his running mate as the candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in the run-up to the 1983 governorship election was no other than Abubakar Rimi, his fierce political rival at the time. The journalist asked why his biggest rival would be his running mate and he retorted: “Don’t mind him; he is always running after me!”
Zuwo’s governorship aspiration had coincided with a time Nigerian university students were protesting the poor living conditions on their campuses, prompting his interviewer to ask how an end could be brought to students’ unrest. To this, Zuwo asked: “How can students rest? From their hostels, they go to the classroom, from the classroom they go to the library, from the library they go to the cafeteria, from the cafeteria they go to the toilet… Students can never rest!”
In an age when the union of Nigerian students was a very influential pressure group and the then civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari was growing increasingly unpopular, another journalist asked Zuwo whether he thought the Shagari administration still had the support of Nigerian students. “Of course,” he quipped. “UI Ibadan, they are in support; UI Lagos, they are in support; UI Kano, they are in support; UI Sokoto, they are in support. In fact, all the UIs in Nigeria are in support of the government!”
Asked what mineral resources he was banking on as sources of revenue for his government if he became the governor of Kano State, he wasted no time in drawing the attention of his interviewer to the fact that Coca-Cola, Mirinda, Pepsi Cola, and other forms of mineral drinks were being produced in different parts of the state. He said: “You guys (pressmen), you always say we don’t have mineral resources in Kano. We have Coca-Cola, Fanta, Mirinda, and a newly invented one Sipirit (Sprite),” he said.
It was no surprise to anyone that Zuwo took his antics to the height he did when he was pushed out by a military coup and a sum huge enough to fund the state’s budget for two years was reportedly found under his bed in the Kano State Government House. Confronted by security agents with the allegation that he diverted government money into private use, Zuwo said he did nothing wrong by keeping government money in government house. His admirers deemed his brilliant defence great enough to earn him a change of name from Bakin Zuwo to Banking Zuwo.
Events have turned full circle 39 years after Bakin Zuwo’s unceremonious exit from the nation’s political space, and the destination for his transmogrification is no other place than Osun, with Adeleke as the protagonist in the unfolding times. Many who think that Zuwo’s reported histrionics are nothing more than tales by moonlight are about to witness a replica of them in flesh and blood. While the governor-elect may not be endowed with as much verbal dramatics as Zuwo, his physical intelligence highlighted by his penchant for vigorous dancing at the slightest opportunity sets him up beautifully for bigger comic exploits.
He gave a hint of it the other day when he returned from the US on the eve of the election and announced gleefully that he was backloaded with local and foreign currencies that ranged from the naira to the euro, the dollar, and the pound sterling. In the build-up to the governorship election he lost to the incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola in 2019, he was said to have threatened to dance in the reverse gear from his Ede hometown to Oshogbo, the state capital, if he emerged the winner. Sadly, he lost the election, and Oyetola’s success robbed us of what would have been an unforgettable spectacle.
Mercifully, there is always a second chance. A reliable family source informed the writer that contrary to the popular thinking that Davido, the governor-elect’s nephew and music star would supply the beats for his daily dancing session in the Osun State Government House. A committee had been constituted to find a musician with the right beats because Davido’s music is devoid of the percussion and talking drum needed to get the best of the governor’s dancing skills. Be it as it may, the happy times are here again, especially in the State of Living Spring.