BY CHARLES EJIRO
ALHAJI Bola Ahmed Tinubu has, in the past 12 months or so, been playing poseur. He has been carrying on like some messiah, a man imbued with the definitive political alternative for a better Nigeria. His fortunes rose in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), following Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s counter defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Tinubu is today touted as the principal financier of the ACN, even by those who know that the man’s aggregated legitimate earnings as the Governor of Lagos State for eight years cannot shoulder such a burden. But we must leave the matter of corruption and malfeasance well alone for the time being.
Asiwaju Tinubu has during the past month been making utterances which suggest that he and his political party represent a viable option for a better Nigeria. There are things people in authority or people who are looked up to might not allow their emotions and temperaments to lead them into mouthing.
Tinubu mustered the temerity to call the President of Nigeria a drunkard, a sinking fisherman. This was how Tinubu put it: “I think the President is wrong because that is an insult to our parents. It is a speech from a drunk sailor fisherman whose boat is about to capsize. That is an insult to our parents; you don’t come to this land, seek our votes and then insult our parents that they raised rascals”. What, you may wonder, did the Nigerian President say to merit the verbal diarrhea? This was what the President said at a campaign rally in Ibadan: “In 2007, I came here with former President Yar’Adua to beg for your votes and you gave us your support. We owe you for that. In December 2010, I returned to beg for your delegates’ votes at the congress and you voted for me massively. We are here again to solicit for the support of the entire people of the state.
I must tell you that the South-West is a very important zone in the country. It is becoming the most cosmopolitan zone in the country. About 50 per cent of the people in Lagos alone are not from the South-West. In Ogun State, about 25 per cent of the citizens are not from the South-West. This is not to talk about Oyo and other states. Anything that happens here affects the entire nation and so, the region must be taken seriously. I can assure you that we will take back Lagos, Ekiti and Osun; we will control the entire South-West. Lagos is important to us and I am happy that we have presented our flag to a capable candidate, [Dr Ade] Dosunmu. The entire South-West is too important, too sophisticated and too educated to be in the hands of rascals”.
Only someone less discerning will twist what the President said to mean that he was abusing the Yoruba. There are a number of things that Tinubu needs to remember. Foremost is that it was not the President of Nigeria that was accused of forging a degree certificate of the Chicago State University and used same as the qualification to contest elections. President Goodluck Jonathan has also not been investigated for illegally operating 16 foreign bank accounts while serving as a state governor.
As a matter of fact President Jonathan recently stated thus on his Face Book page: “The proverb goes that where a man’s treasures are there his heart also will be. All my children, every last one of them school in Nigeria and of course my wife and I are fully on the ground. Some might describe other treasures a man has as his real estate property. And again every property I have in life is in Nigeria. Some might consider money as another treasure and again all my accounts every last one of them is domiciled in Nigeria”.
It was not the Nigerian Commander-in-Chief that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as boss of the EFCC, described as a serial plunderer of state resources a few years ago. Tinubu was clearly trying to score cheap political points by claiming that his progenitors had been abused by the President. Had Ribadu abused Tinubu’s ancestry when he called the man corrupt?
Talk may be cheap in Nigeria. But this cannot mean that pretenders to leadership should not weigh their words. In 1973, a group of 10 politicians led by Chief Christian C. Onoh published an advertorial which called on Mr. Ukpabi Asika, the Administrator of the East Central State, to resign. What all the politicians had in common, according to their signed advertorial, was that they previously held political positions.
In responding, Asika called them “has-beens…ex-this, ex-that, ex-everything else”. And borrowing from Spiro T. Agnew, a former Vice-President of the United States, he referred to them as “nattering nabobs of negativism”. Out came Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who had a grudge against Asika, to fight for Onoh and company. After stating that there was nothing wrong in being an “ex”, Zik rubbed it in by pointing out that Asika was the son of an ex-postmaster, an ex-doctoral student of the University of California, Los Angeles, and an ex-Political Science lecturer at the University of Ibadan, a man unworthy to employ the language of a guttersnipe!
To compare what Asika said to earn Zik’s umbrage to Tinubu’s drivel underscores the nadir into which Nigerian national politics has sunk. Ukpabi Asika was of course a cultured man and an intellectual of no mean repute. It is, indeed, disheartening that crudity and vulgarity have overtaken refined verbal combat in political discourse.
But the disconsolate must be comforted by the antecedents of the one who presumed to talk at the Nigerian President.
It should be remembered that it was not only Tinubu that was accused of certificate forgery at the dawn of the Fourth Republic. He was in the same capsizing boat with Salisu Buhari who coveted a Masters degree of the Toronto University he had not earned and who was consequently forced to resign his Speakership of the Federal House of Representatives. Salisu Buhari has since been wallowing in political limbo. Tinubu survived by the skin of his teeth. But was it because his guilt was not proven beyond every iota of doubt? Was his survival not down to the fact that gubernatorial resources put both the Lagos legislature of that era and the Media in his pocket? Had Tinubu taken the Salisu Buhari highway to political irrelevance, he would not be around today to beguile, bamboozle, fox and hoodwink this country’s unwary electorate.
Tinubu now owns his own media houses and his own reporters, columnists and media analysts aplenty – as though they are commodities on sale at N1 for a bag. These motley collection of dysfunctional characters are in flourish at the moment, amplifying Tinubu’s incessant verbiage, his every belch, and generally describing the man and his cohorts as progressives. In truth Tinubu et all are no more than dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries. The recent ACN primaries showed them up for the unrepentant hypocrites that they are. Without any primaries Tinubu’s wife and his cronies won tickets to contest senatorial and other elections. Ex-Governor Bafarawa and others who presumed to vie for the presidential ticket of the “progressive” party were remorselessly whipped away while Ribadu coasted home as the presidential candidate of a party whose owner he had previously described as a kleptocratic vulture.
When discerning minds pointed out that the ACN’s primaries had put them forward as no option for Nigeria, Chief Bisi Akande, the largely ceremonial chairman of the party who, at 70, should behave and act as an elder statesman, rose to defend the indefensible. He raised eyebrows by declaring that democracy had no place in the internal arrangements of the ACN, it being the prerogative of the owners to run the party by dictation.
“Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another political party”, said Akande. How can any rational being posit autocracy, crudity, nepotism and venality as the recipes for Nigeria’s salvation? Without justification, Bola Tinubu called the President of Nigeria a liar, a drunkard and a traitor. Whoever speaks in this vein is generally considered to be coarse, crude, rude, uncouth, uncivilized, bad-mannered, ill-mannered, foul-mouthed, vulgar, and impolite.
If Tinubu doesn’t realize that his outburst against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a tad treasonous, somebody should point it out to him? Besides, cannot someone look in Tinubu’s unflattering visage and unleash this admonition: “Mind your language!”?
Mr. Onome is a Lagos-based political historian.