First of all, ‘emilokan’ for my non-Yoruba readers simply means ‘it’s my turn’ in English. In Nigerian politics it’s a syndrome which affects a narcissistic few who believe they’re entitled to something they’re not. And because they’ve been kingmakers themselves, in the past, hand picking leaders to rule the country, a favour is owed and its now their turn to collect.
It's not something that started recently, as is widely believed, it’s been going on for awhile.
When Murtala Muhammed overthrow General Gowon in 1975 there was no real reason to do so other than the latter believed it was his turn to be at the helm of affairs: the country was relatively stable, growing economically, redeveloping after the civil war and en-route to the return to civil rule before the end of the decade, so there was no need for a change of government.
Coming up to when Babangida ousted then Head of State Buhari in 1985 he had no real policies of his own to prove he was better than his predecessor other than ‘emilokan’ and ended up implementing the Structural Adjustment Program, SAP, a disastrous economic policy, of which the country hasn’t been able to escape from thirty-six years later.
Sani Abacha sacked the Shonekan-led Interim National Government in 1993 because he believed it was his turn to be Head of State despite being warned off by then General Colin Powell, who was at the time the United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but to no avail. He took power anyway and cluelessly led the country for the next five years, nearly looting its coffers dry and racking up human rights abuses unlike any other Nigerian leader. Not even the late Chief Awolowo was exempt from this syndrome: he was so hell-bent on leading his party, from Action Group to Unity Party, to become President that more competent people, like Chief Lateef Jakande, who could have done the job better were left in the shadows. His obsession with wanting to become President, by all means, would eventually lead to his alleged suicide.
Those who suffer from’ emilokan’ syndrome believe it’s an entitlement bestowed upon them at birth (- or the last thing on their bucket list!) and not through some sort of old feudal hierarchy. Yes, an Oba or King’s son can succeed him on the throne because that’s how the royal hierarchy system works just like Prince Charles became King upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth. But when you’re talking of a country of more than 200 million souls the process to elect a leader has to be democratic, the aspirant has to be competent enough to do the job and have the welfare, protection and advancement of the people at heart, unless Nigeria is turning into North Korea or China where they just stick the next idiot in power. Not one person, or persons, can be allowed to hijack the system, because they have the means to, simply to satisfy a personal ambition. In my opinion all the primaries held by the two major parties, APC & PDP, to elect a Presidential candidate, were all a sham: everybody knew who the front runners would be even before a single member cast their votes! The ‘emilokans’ had already cornered the market!
Reason should come into this: sometimes one has to realise one is past it, too old and or not competent enough, and gracefully step aside accepting the fact it’s one dream you can’t fulfil in this lifetime. At my age it would be foolhardy to think I can win a race with Usain Bolt simply because I believe it’s my turn to be World 100m champion. The other day a whole African President, clearly with incontinence problems, wet himself in public on national TV – too old and dumb to know when to step aside. Na by force to be President?
When it comes to running a country the aspirant needs to be competent enough and up to the task at hand along with being healthy and intelligent because one person’s selfish ambition can plunge millions into poverty and uncertainty. An ‘emilokan’ aspirant is not patriotic, they’re simply in it for themselves! And they’ll do anything ( - especially when they have the clout and financial superiority) to get what they want at the expense of the masses. So, in a country like Nigeria where you can ‘buy’ the Presidency an ‘emilokan’ can easily get the top job.
by Tony Ogunlowo