Bola Ahmed Tinubu is – of the 18 candidates in the February 25, 2023, presidential election – the least deserving of the exalted office. His candidacy is, to be charitable, an affront to decent political sensibilities on all sides of the world. Yet, he appears to trend in the media more than all other aspiring tenants of Aso Rock. Why?
*Iloegbunam The answer lies at the heart of this article. Tinubu, for all the baggage that makes him unworthy of leadership, is proficient at media manipulation. That, and the absence of discrimination among the enlightened that should lead the masses, explains why dilettantism has commandeered Nigeria’s political theatre. As a corollary, subterfuge and euphemism are in ascent.
Many things forever stood established. Bola Ahmed Tinubu happens NOT to be the real name of the APC presidential candidate. The guy claimed to have attended a primary school that never existed. Files from the secondary school he mentioned as his alma mater hold records neither of his admission nor his studentship. Deloitte in the United States, the accounting firm he posted as his former employer, discountenanced the claim. His year of birth, which he put at 1952, is the subject of impassioned contestation. He was the bloke that gave two fingers to the proponents of religious sensitivity in national politics.
Nowhere else in the world, certainly not in traditional African society, would a man burdened by this crushed backbone of consolidated negatives dare to seek elective office. But Tinubu, the BAT, has had the nerve and the sense of entitlement to announce and reiterate that the Nigerian presidency was his inalienable right. Astonishingly, a multitude of voices is hectoring agreement.
The stench of fart presages the taste of excrement. When Tinubu orchestrated through mass communication a national swindle that began in 2014, most Nigerians were not attuned to the insidious poison of social media manipulation. For this, Muhammadu Buhari was sold as the only Nigerian capable of extricating the country from the depths of political mire. Professors swooned at the spectacular advertising. Professionals, trade unionists, journalists, students, traders, and, indeed, all comers caught the bug.
Alas, the much-vaunted messiah turned out duplicitous. Months away from vacating Aso Rock, the would-be redeemer has in capital letters written MERETRICIOUS as his middle name. He is the General unable to tame the fire of insurgency. He is the antiseptically clean leader under whose watch corruption attained the zenith of impunity. He is the exemplar of nepotism as the finest attribute of nationalism. Yet, he does not have bad press. Despite the gross human rights abuses of his presidency, like the massacring of 300 Shiites in Zaria on December 12, 2015, he is currently entertaining court revellers with his impatient swansong of retiring to Daura. After a remorseless record of nation-wrecking that includes the devastation of the national economy – the national debt overhang is at a staggering N44 trillion while petrol now sells above N300 a litre, up from N87 when he showed up – Buhari has warned that his “legacy” deserves continuation through a Tinubu presidency!
Bat knew that to subjugate a people, its media must be emasculated. This is how he played it. From the depths of his opulence, he set up a TV station, a national newspaper, a couple of radio stations, and a division of “Internet Consultants”. Additionally, he besieged “independent” media operators and persuaded many of them to see “reason”. Thus, if a reasoned argument is published, demanding that Buhari should condemn, punish, and reverse the tide of his ethnic Fulani people terrorising all six geopolitical zones of the country, 2000 Internet Consultants would rise in opposition.
With this media shroud, Buhari was shielded from being accountable to the people. He never saw a good enough reason for routine engagement with Nigerians. Since assuming office in 2015, only once did he host the monthly presidential Meet The Press programme fashioned and sustained by his predecessors! He burnt up 200 days receiving treatment in British hospitals, without considering it the right of his subjects to know what ailed him and the amount of their money tossed into his medical bills.
Every December 17, which is Buhari’s birthday, Tinubu unleashes a tribute, eulogising the man’s incomparability. Last year, he said the following on him: “Through your careful leadership and measured governance of our great nation, your administration has achieved many things for which we can rightfully be proud.” He failed to mention even one of the spellbinding achievements. But, as sure as the snail carries its shell, his Internet Consultants swamped the country with a thousand voices, disseminating the flagrant encomiums. Still, that is not even where the problem “makpus”! To get it, Nigerians must return to April 10, 1985. On that day, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s military junta executed Bernard Ogedengbe (29), Lawal Ojuolape (30), and Bartholomew Owoh (26), for hard drugs offences. The trio faced the firing squad for offences committed before Buhari seized power on December 31, 1983, and which carried penalties no more severe than fines and short-term imprisonments. But they got shot at the stakes on account of the retroactive strength of Buhari’s Decree 20.
An argument in support of the loathsome measure is that it underlined Buhari’s visceral antiparty to hard drug peddling. This raises a fundamental question: How come Buhari, whose junta amputated the tenets of natural justice to end three young lives, is today championing the electoral cause of a man unquestionably tainted by the scandal of hard drug offences? It is a matter of public record that, in 1992, Tinubu was indicted in the United States for laundering funds straight out of heroin deals. While earning $2,400 a month, he banked within a short space of time several millions in various accounts in the Chicago metropolis. Smart guy, he plea-bargained and forfeited $460,000 to American authorities. Should that prevent a careful leader of a measured government of multiple achievements from showing indignation at the impropriety?
There is a health issue. But to begin with the moral one. If a journalist weighed down by years of rent arrears suddenly finds that a stupendously rich politician has gifted him a tastefully furnished mansion, would that be justification for that member of the Fourth Estate of the Realm to mount the rooftops screaming that a politician sick unto death is the best candidate to assume leadership of a country sick unto death? On this health question, Buhari and Tinubu are passengers in different jalopies. Before he became President, Buhari’s fragile health was not common knowledge. In Tinubu’s case, the world knows that he groans under a welter of serious health challenges. He is a champion of medical tourism. His limbs quake uncontrollably. Speaking, his sentences, even in their sparseness, are laced with gaffes and incoherence. He fields no questions. He never speaks off the cuff. He does not engage in debates, not even with other presidential candidates.
Tinubu recently materialised at London’s Chatham House. But when questions designed to shed light on his presidential ambition surfaced, he farmed them out to fawning aides, making phalanxes of his army of Internet Consultants to go haywire with the tongue-in-cheek explanation that the expediency was a high point of teamwork. He goes to meetings; he falls promptly into fitful slumber. He gets off a sitting position and the wetness of his agbada points to incontinence. When he takes a few steps, he stumbles. Standing, powerful arms hold him on all sides to prevent his crumbling. Yet the platoons, companies, battalions, and brigades of his media division shout with a cacophony of voices that the man is the epitome of excellent health, the best man to lead Nigeria to Eldorado.
This man is, on the contrary, a cleverly packaged calamity. Those responsible for this lethal packaging are mostly in their greying 50s, 60s, and 70s. They are the dubious flank that has vowed that the country’s young will not drink water and put down the cup. Why do they not care about those whose lives are ahead of them – adolescent Nigerians and others in their 20s, 30s, and 40s? Why are they corralling the under-50s into a thorn-strewn line of wasted generations? Why should filthy lucre and the allure of ephemeral appointments convert otherwise sensible fellows into senior advocates of necromancy? Why should a nation’s fate be sacrificed on the covetous altar of the highest bidder?
Dig this: Without direct political levers, Bat has for years held a broad swathe of the nation’s media in thrall. As president, he will move with incisive professional skill to pocket the country’s social media. All NTA stations in Abuja and the 36 states of the Federation would be added to his media stranglehold, together with all Federal radio stations in Abuja and the 36 states of the Federation. To these absolutes add the command and control of the disciplined forces and the country would plummet to the uncontrollable and extra-constitutional morass of an Imperial Presidency.
When this happens, ground pepper would be decreed as the cure for conjunctivitis. A million Internet Consultants would shout down those bold enough to oppose the atrocious prescription. Scorpions would be served for breakfast following which voices of dissent would be throttled. They would serve adders and vipers for launch and there would no longer be voices protesting the systematic liquidation of an age. Dinner would come like bats with bared teeth tearing flesh and sucking blood. In the nightmarish scenario, Internet Consultants would tell and remind Nigerians that a visionary leadership had been instituted. One good thing, though, is that when this downpour comes, it will not drench only one man’s house. Even Internet Consultants would be deluged.
Now, how does one avert the leviathan? Nigerian youths have proffered the answer by clamouring for a new deal. They realise that the campaigns are all but over. But they must be disturbed by the stridency with which the unsuitable have claimed victory in a yet to be conducted election. The youths know that a free, fair, and credible presidential ballot is the only route to Nigeria’s salvation. The tremendous thing about them is their rejection of the old order that includes PDP’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar. The youths are sick and tired of the interminable strikes by university teachers. They are fed up to the hairline with the incessant bloodbaths in places of worship, in villages, in townships, on farmlands. Their acclamation for a new era rebukes a bedraggled leadership coterie of insensate hoodlums that is suffering from a crippling paralysis of the will to take remedial actions against vicious and incessant terrorist attacks that have rendered Nigeria about the most dangerous territory on earth.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), people under 50 years constitute 75.4 percent of registered voters. Tomorrow belongs to this powerful demographic. It should stand between elections and practiced riggers. INEC should enhance this group’s resolve by writing into its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) a programme that automatically invalidates any voter thumbprint thrown up more than once in an election. Any brilliant 200 Level computer science major will write the programme in hours. The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has been using a similar App for decades, readily detecting any human face applying for more than one driver’s licence.
*Chuks Iloegbunam is veteran journalist, essayist and author of several books. He could be reached with email@example.com