EBINO TOPSY-TURVY: THE MOVEMENTS OF AN IDEOLOGICAL ICON
By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLIIICAL EDITOR
As the Students Affairs Officer at the University of Lagos in the mid seventies, Mr. Ebenezer Babatope may have once lamented the limitations on him that stopped him from sharing his progressive ideas beyond the confines of the university.
He, was subsequently to be thrust to national limelight when he was detained by the General Yakubu Gowon military dictatorship on account of his writings expressed through a campus magazine. His pro-people leanings well articulated in speech and in his writings would of course have perturbed any of the military regimes of that era.
It was as such not surprising that one way or the other that Ebino Topsy as he was known was axed from the university for reasons hushed-hushed around then because of his ideological bearings. The decision of the Obasanjo dictatorship was of course not surprising. The same junta was about that time also orchestrating some unpopular measures that were to lead to the nationwide clamour against the administration recorded in history as the Ali Must Go riots.
Banished from the university administration he won the confidence of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to whom many other ideologically inclined progressives across the country were also gravitating to.
When the Obasanjo military regime lifted the ban on partisan politics, Babatope was to come into national acclaim as the national organizing secretary/director of organisation of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
As the national organizing secretary of a party that many ideological youths saw as the only light in the cesspool of an ideologically bankrupt political system, he became a sort of icon to many youthful lads across the country.
Youths across the country who could not decipher the elderly political ruminations of Papa Awolowo inclined themselves towards the frontward lucid articulations and posturing of Babatope.
Indeed, as a few disgruntled elements such as Chief Akin Omoboriowo, Prince Olu Mafo, Chief Sunday Afolabi among others moved away from the fellowship of the disciples of Awolowo, Babatope, however, further entrenched himself.
Babatope excelled by all considerations in his duties and proved to be more than a match for the conservative ideologues paraded by the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN.
The progressive thoughts enunciated by the Awoist camp and the retorts of the Uba Ahmed led conservative school were perhaps platforms upon which ideological pillars for the social political transformation of the country would have been laid. But no, the military incursion in December 1983 cut it off.
Thrown into jail for nothing other than his ideological bearing, Babatope came out with his integrity and ideological identity unscathed.
He preserved in his inclinations towards Awoism and had a frontal roll in the burial in 1986 of the man that was hailed as the best President Nigeria never had.
After the death of Awolowo, Babatope's identity has, however, increasingly confused his followers. His comfortable participation in the Sani Abacha regime may have been forgiven as a slip, but his long suffering struggles for satisfaction and status in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP would surely unnerve disciples of Ebino Topsy of old.
Given his personal integrity and continued enunciation of progressive ideas, it is no surprise that the leaders of the PDP have continued to fence him from high positions. His bid to be the national secretary of the PDP understandably caused the party elders to cringe last March.
Obasanjo, the same Obasanjo who saw his exit from the University of Lagos more than thirty years ago, saw to it that not only was he denied the position, but according to some reports lost it at the point of tears.
Last week the apogee of Babatope's ideological convolutions reached its apogee when he dragged the spirit of the sage, Pa Awolowo into the PDP's difficult task to upstage Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Edo State.
Our dear Babatope at a press conference in Benin last weekend said:'This state is very crucial to us for the fact that Papa Awolowo died with the belief that it was the people of old Bendel that gave him the political credibility as a leader in the country.'
The prayer of many ideological soul mates of the beloved Ebino Topsy is that the PDP and its challenges would not finish the credibility of Ebino Topsy of yore!