Wait, Your Turn Will Soon Come
Reflections on “emilokan”, our ingrained turn-by-turn culture
“E gbe kini yi wa, emi lokan”.
These famous words were spoken by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in June 2022 as he addressed party members in Abeokuta, Ogun State preparatory to the party’s national convention and nomination of its presidential candidate. Said in Yoruba, it loosely translates to mean “give me this opportunity, it is my turn”.
Many were shocked that he could boldly declare that it was now his turn to become President. How audacious and yet, selfish. Was the presidency now by birthright or some other right? Did he have no regard for the established order by which the party would decide its presidential candidate? Was he the first person to support other people’s political ambitions? Why should he feel entitled to anyone’s support?
I was more irritated about the manner with which he spoke about certain personalities and the largely unflattering tales he shared about how he had supported them in winning political office than I was about his mini-rant. I didn’t think his “emilokan” statement was unusual: a lot of people believe in turn-by-turn even if they would never admit it but it’s obvious in their actions. If we look deep within and are honest with ourselves, many of us would find traces of “emilokan” in our attitudes and behaviours. Under similar circumstances as Tinubu, many people have and would react in possibly worse manners.
Demanding for a perceived right is not completely bad in itself. Anyone can demand anything, whether that demand would be met is another thing. What fuels the demand and the circumstances under which the demand is made are more important issues to consider than the demand itself. Also, how does this impact the broader society, especially if other people also have expectations about what they believe they are entitled to?
In truth, our society supports this turn-by-turn culture. We are not entirely a meritocratic society and by design or happenstance, the chance of merit trumping favouritism in many situations is quite low. A turn-by-turn culture is bound to encourage self-serving behaviour which may not augur well for the majority. Given the opportunity, the average person will gladly take advantage of established systems, after all, they are simply being “sharp”. Such people are likely to carry on with that entitlement mentality and act in their interests rather than for the greater good.
While it may have its downsides, a turn-by-turn culture can also be a means of ensuring equity and fairness where there is a need to balance out opportunities. For instance, having a quota system that favours disadvantaged groups. Even when turn-by-turn is adopted to ensure equity, it is important to ensure some form of objectivity in implementation.
The implicit approach to a rotational presidency that the major political parties have adopted is also another example of the turn-by-turn culture as it is meant to ensure each section of the country can produce a president. This arrangement has played out in this election cycle and ironically, the major contenders for the presidency have also benefited from some form of emilokan rights.
Tinubu benefited from the party zoning the presidency to the south and believes it is his right to be President because he has been instrumental in the emergence of many candidates within the political landscape. Atiku, who managed to upturn the party’s rotation arrangement as they declined to zone the presidency, also believes it is his turn as he has been waiting in the wings. Even Peter Obi, from the start of the presidential declaration process and irrespective of his assumed potential, received a lot of support because many people believe an Igbo person should be president since none has had the opportunity since 1999.
Away from politics, we also see this emilokan behaviour in the larger society expressed as a form of entitlement. Some people expect to advance in life because of loyalty, longevity, being in the right place at the right time or simply knowing the right people. Whether based on bias or an unstated arrangement, they have seen other people make progress for similar reasons. They have seen people who have received favour and benefited from opportunities that they may ordinarily not have earned. Why would anyone blame them for expecting to also benefit in this manner? Any wonder why many people pray for their time to come? God when? We eagerly anticipate our time of favour even if it comes at a cost to other people. Once we are favoured, we are good. The recent fuel and cash scarcity situations are very good examples.
Many petrol stations increased their prices once the fuel scarcity hit last year. Some sold petrol for as high as thrice the official rate! For the first time in the history of fuel scarcity (as far as I remember), many fuel stations changed the per-litre price on the fuel dispensing terminals, damning all regulatory enforcement bodies. It appears the regulators aren’t bothered anyway, who knows whether they are enjoying their emilokan moment as well? Attendants at heavily patronised fuel stations cashed out by collecting extra money to fill jerry cans and enable impatient people to shunt the queues. Greed and exploitation in play, absolutely atrocious but it is their emilokan moment after all.
POS operators are now enjoying as cash has been scarce due to the poor planning and execution of the Central Bank’s naira redesign and cash swap policy. Operators now charge as much as 20% — 30% of the withdrawal sum when they would previously have charged about 1%. How does it make sense? Yes, some would argue that the laws of demand and supply are involved and such people have gone through a lot to source the cash but even that doesn’t justify this exploitation. It is now their turn and they will enjoy it while it lasts.
Many people have had their emilokan moment and many more are still waiting for theirs. Where society encourages, overtly or covertly, people will either adopt a turn-by-turn and/ or scatter-everything approach. If there are ways for people to profit at the expense of established structures without being held accountable, they will continue to do so. Until we have more effective systems in place which support meritocracy, frustrate nepotism, and penalise rent-seeking behaviour, we will all continue to anticipate our emilokan moment. This is the way I see things today.