The demonisation of baba Lamidi Apapa, By Simbo Olorunfemi

It was, every inch, a poor show on Arise TV this week, as the Presenters on the Morning Show aggressively interrogated Mr Lamidi Apapa in the name of what was presented as an interview, but ended up as a rather cruel grilling on live TV.

One would not blame anyone who came to the conclusion that the objective ab initio was to humiliate the man. To some extent, he did brave a fight. But against three presenters in firm grip of their platform, he stood very little chance, which he put to some use.

The height of what I consider as an embarrassing and unprofessional display was one of the presenters, in an obvious mocking tone, baiting the man about showing up in court the following day, as if the assault of the previous day was something to make a joke of, even as they had refused to condemn it, to my hearing.

Here was a victim of assault that played out in public view in court premises and recorded by the media, being grilled as if he was a villain, as if he had committed a crime by being present in a matter which had to do with a party in which he was the Deputy Chairman, before he assumed the position of Acting Chairman, which had by then become a subject of dispute.

On TV, he was being taunted by Journalists into bowing to those who had issued a threat barring him from making appearance in a public place, a court for that matter, rather than denou the threat and those who issued it to be condemned. It was such an unbelievably cringeworthy moment, such as I would not have believed was possible to see on TV.

Again, perhaps I missed an earlier part of the programme when the Presenters condemned the assault, but not once in the course of the interview did I see them empathise with this elderly victim of assault. But they were kind enough to remind him of the superstitious significance of losing the cap in public.

With all that has played out, not a few must have been forced to ask – Who is this Lamidi Apapa? What exactly is the crime that he committed to be this villified, that even supposedly neutral Journalists will rather make him an object of ridicule than empathy?

Not many knew Lamidi Apapa until a few weeks ago. He was the Deputy Chairman of the Labour Party, but few knew him. That is understandable though. Who knows the Deputy Chairman of PDP? Who knows the Deputy Chairman of the APC. Barring the rare circumstance of non-availability of the substantive, the deputy usually remains an unknown, a spare tyre, tucked away until there is an emergency.

From facts freely available in the public domain, that exactly is what happened in Labour party a month ago, over an internal party matter that had been on since 2022, months before the election.

“Justice Hamza Muazu of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, had granted an order stopping Julius Abure; the national secretary, Farouk Ibrahim; the national organising secretary, Clement Ojukwu, and one other person from parading themselves as national officers of the party.

The court made the order in Abuja while ruling in an ex-parte application argued by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Chief James Ogwu Onoja.

Mr Onoja had, in the application, informed the court how the restrained national officers allegedly forged several documents of the FCT High Court, Abuja, to carry out unlawful substitutions in the last general elections. Among the documents were the receipts, seal and affidavits of the court to carry out criminal activities.

The senior lawyer, who tendered several documents, told the judge that the chief registrar of the court had written the Labour Party to disown several documents used for the alleged criminal activities by Abure and three others.

Onoja said that following their indictment by a police investigation, the four people are to be arraigned in court and that warrants for their arrest had already been obtained.”

Whereas there could be a debate about the rightfulness of the exparte order, there was no doubt about its validity. Some members of the EXCO, perhaps responding to prior undercurrents about how the Chairman had managed the party as well disenchantment on the part of legacy members who feel slighted about having been ‘sidelined’ under the new dispensation, thought to seize the moment by naming Lamidi Apapa, then Deputy Chairman, as acting Chairman.

That was Baba Lamidi Apapa’s crime. Stepping up as acting Chairman, in place of the Chairman restrained from office by a court. The other side threw everything they could find at him, chief of which was the use of carefully fabricated falsehood to label the man a mole, accusing him of having requested for withdrawal of cases instituted in court, knowing that the mob at the base do not have much time for reading, not to talk of thinking. Once a man has been pronounced as enemy, the mob simply goes charging, asking for blood.

Apapa, in standing his ground, got those on the other side more desperate. His case was made worse by the fact that the Presidential candidate of the party, who he had been on his campaign trail, denied knowing him, making a 21-year veteran of the party which gave him platform look like an impostor, effectively throwing him under the bus. They chose to be on the side of Abure, in spite of the weighty allegations against him. Their choice. Their right.

But nothing can ever justify the manner in which Baba Lamidi Apapa has been treated. He might have been caught up with the moment, but to accuse him of all sorts and not offer one line of evidence is support is the height of wickedness.

The party obviously has many issues unresolved around how candidates for different positions were changed, in the wake of the surge in interest, as well as managing those who had laboured for the party before this new found fame. Many of the new arrivals have no idea of the history or ‘ideology’ of the party. Some of them think the party only emerged with Peter Obi. The same party that had produced legislators at State and national levels and Governor in Ondo state as far back as 2009, under the watch of same Apapa who was at different times Oyo State Chairman and South- West Chairman of the party.

No evidence has been put forward to back the claims made to blackmail the man. They have not produced a copy of the letter the man wrote, requesting for a withdrawal of petition in court. Yet, this allegation is on auto-repeat by the bots all over social media.

It is unconscionable what they have done to Baba Lamidi Apapa. They have assassinated the character of an innocent man on the altar of politics. It is sad that even those who ought to be able to see through are too emotionally invested in what is going on, believing all the lies being thrown around, imagining anyone not lining up behind the lies put out as the enemy. Labour party has a lot of unresolved internal issues, especially at state level. Rather than confront that, they keep deflecting them. claiming it is APC that is after them.
Assault on an elderly is being glamourised and celebrated in the name of politics.

Baba Lamidi Apapa has been so cruelly savaged for simply standing his ground. He is ‘Ogogoro’ to some. He has been branded as ‘Babalawo’, ‘Baba Suwe’ in a manner not exactly distinct from ethnic profiling. The other lawyer, perhaps confused about the role he was in the cast to play, upped the ante, derisively referring to Apapa as Pampers.

Some will argue that the elephant in the room, in the first place, is in fact, Apapa’s ethnicity. The nature and character of the abuse hurled at him and the direction from which most have come makes it difficult to fault that.

Apapa’s character has been so brutally assassinated with no single evidence for the allegations that have been put out there by those tussling with him over control of the party and the repeater stations on social media. His credentials ha been subjected to scrutiny.

He has been asked of his polling unit result by a supposedly neutral Journalist, so that this TV Presenter can verify that Labour party actually won there as he claimed, so that this same neutral Journalist, can be convinced that the man is not a ‘small politician’, whatever that means.

It is the new arrivals couldn’t spell ‘labour’ twenty years ago that are querying the credentials of a man who, unlike the fly by night activists, has been with this same fringe party for 21 years, even when there really was not much in terms of spoils to hope for. Such a shame.

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