Wrongs are often forgiven, but contempt never is.” – Lord Chesterfield

Already, the developments in Edo is being framed as another David-Goliath affair – an overbearing godfather and a godson determined to stand his ground. An oversimplification of a complicated matter.

Of course, the ‘omnipotent’ Jagaban has to again carry the can. He is panned for being a godfather and ironically criticised for not asserting his influence in a particular direction. Edo is not Lagos, they say, yet the Edo man goes with an entourage of other Chiefs to visit Lagos, when the boat already had almost sunk. No talk of the antecedence of the Edo man and his relationship with Lagos that probably predates that he has with his estranged godfather. No talk of how some of the first shots were fired on the floor of the State Assembly with the controversial election of the Speaker.

But we really can’t directly engage with this issue. No matter how dispassionate the swing is, emotion and partisanship will not let the facts swim to the top and settle in peace. Many cannot make sense of analysis for what it is. But then, there are some lessons to take on-board for the student of politics and power.

Politics, as Harold Lasswell tells us, is a jostle for power. It is about who gets what and everything else about that process. To be successful in politics requires a careful mix of soft and hard power. The player must be careful and smart in the use of both resources. He must realise that neither is sufficient by itself, or on its own accord. What is need is smart power, a smart deployment of each at the right time, a studied mix of both, each deployed at the right dosage, at the right time.

The trickiest bit is that there is no universal recipe or recommended dosage for the mix. It has to be customised for use, deployed with care and constantly rejigged before further deployments. It is like the special package that Mamalawo is marketing. What works for Oshiomole might not work for Obaseki. It is a special package. To each his own.

As an underdog, the greatest weapon at your disposal is the soft power. You are seen as one who is being bullied and that generates a groundswell of sympathy which increases the soft power quotient. But that soft power must be carefully managed to ensure it is not eroded. That myth of persecution has to be sustained in the minds of the people.

With deft management of that soft power, it is possible to overcome hard power, even with its array of arms and ammunition. A good story can outgun the most potent hard weapon.

The underdog must be wary of using hard power. If he must, it has to be tactically deployed that it is difficult to trace it to him.
He must be remember that hard power is the forte of the opposition. Seeking to overcome the master with the same weapons at which he is less endowed and less experienced is not wise.

The godfather is already perceived as a bully, who is using his hard power to oppress the underdog he cannot be seen to be playing from the same playbook. By taking on an armour when or where you should be reciting poetry, you inadvertently the tables on yourself. You become the aggressor in the minds of the people. You erode your soft power.

Once you overplay your hard power, you lose empathy and sympathy of the base who naturally root for the underdog. They see through you and you begin to lose the support which ought to be the bulwark against the opposition. You lose at both ends, you become more vulnerable and dispensable.

You not only erode your soft power by an unwise use of hard power, whatever hard power you might have loses its potency with indiscriminate use. Its efficacy is questioned and its ability to extract compliance becomes diminished. With simultaneous hard disempowerment and soft disempowerment, there is really nothing to fall back on.

Beyond the need to strike the right balance between hard and soft power, every player must remember, as Robert Greene advises, ” in the realm of power, everything must be judged by its cost, and everything has a price.” He cautions that one must be mindful of who one offends.

The Obaseki case is an intriguing one. He is playing the game with a veteran in the art of mixing soft and hard power. He rode on the back of soft power to dislodge hard power. Has the student sufficiently learnt the game? Nothing in the way he has played the game in the last few years puts him forward as a good student. Nothing shows the Apprentice as one capable of beating the Master in this game. Of course, there are always other intervening variable. Obaseki sure needs a special package to overcome in Edo. But time is the ultimate master.

By Simbo Olorunfemi