By Ochereome Nnanna
Old age is a big irony. Nobody actually wants to die (under normal circumstances). But because people have discovered that death is inevitable, they have settled for option “B”: they don’t want to “die young”. Old age is called the “age of wisdom” because it is a time when all the knowledge and experiences of life are supposedly brought to bear on one’s thoughts and actions.
But it is not always like that. Old age is often associated with the loss of cognitive power and memory (dementia). It is not unusual to hear people call an elderly person an “old fool”. Old age is a disease. As you pray to live to old age, also pray for the resources to treat your gerontocratic malaises.
I count myself privileged to be here. After all, “many have gone”. With that bit of ponderation, let us proceed to the main topic. Senator Amuda Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos who is often called the non-existent title of “the national leader” of the All Progressives Congress, APC, made a number of politically-strategic moves over the past weekend. It is midterm in our political calendar. Tinubu has cranked the engine of his political train towards 2023 into life, capitalising on his 69th birthday.
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He donated N50 million to the victims of a recent fire outbreak in Katsina. His ever-vigilant critics quickly remembered that several fires and blasts have recently taken place in his Lagos dormain, wreaking great havoc in lives and property. Tinubu never said a word of condolence, let alone offered monetary gift to the victims, they say. These noisemakers should shut up.
After all: “It is my money. What is your problem how I spend it?” Tinubu also accepted the invitation to chair this year’s Arewa House Lecture. When he got there, all eyes were on the man who wants to succeed Muhammadu Buhari as president in 2023. Then the great “fall” came. But some reports described it as a mere “stumble”. Whatever it was, it gave his keen observers more to talk about.
It is one stumble that will be remembered for a long time, for better or worse. If Tinubu eventually becomes Nigeria’s president, it will be said that he stumbled, got up and soldiered on to victory. If he does not, people will say that it was a bad omen and a forewarning which he refused to heed. Tinubu made a third political overture to the North.
For the first time ever, he held his annual colloquium in Kano. He justified his action, according to him, “to prove that Yoruba and Fulani are one”. Ah-aaah! This requires further explanation sir. I thought Kano was a Hausa city? Forget that the paramount royal institution belongs to Fulani. I am not sure if the Hausa will be flattered by that comment. It seems that in these Buhari times, Fulani is being steadily separated from the old “HausaFulani” binary identity which, many believe, was coined for the benefit of the political hegemony of the Fulani.
As for the “oneness” of the Yoruba and Fulani, I see a metaphorical message there. It is simply a reminder that Buhari was made the presidential candidate of the APC in Lagos, with the resources of Lagos and the votes of the South West. Tinubu is coming to Kano, the most populated state in the North, to ask for a return of that favour.
As far as that issue is concerned, the taste of the pudding will be in the eating when the real game starts. It will be a miracle of seismic proportions in Nigerian politics if that favour is ever returned, I tell you! It will be totally ahistorical. The topic of this article is about 50 million soldiers, I have not forgotten. I did not believe my ears when I heard it as a breaking news. But it has turned that it was not even a reported speech.
The great Jagban as his admirers call him, actually said it in a prepared speech: “We are underpoliced and we are competing with armed robbers to recruit from the youths who are unemployed. Recruit 50 million youths into the army and take away from their recruitment source”. Really? We don’t even have up to 50 million people in the armed forces of the entire world. China, with a population of 1.4 billion only has 2,185,000 in their armed services, the world’s largest military force.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies, IISS, reports that in 2009, there were 20.5 million soldiers, 49.8 million reservists and seven million paramilitary personnel in the world. I am sure this picture has not changed much. Does it make sense that 50 million soldiers should serve a population of 200 million? These are the words of a possible future president of Nigeria!
Tinubu was not done yet with selling us ideas that made us look at one another with astonishment. He said: “Anybody who can hold a gun, who can handle a gun, who can cock and shoot is technically competent to repair a tractor in the farm” Really!? If Tinubu truly believes in this and the above statement, I think it is time for him to fire all his speech writers and technical assistants and recuse himself from the presidential race 2023.
These will surely haunt him! Unfortunately for him, these are direct live quotes, and there are no escape routes. And that was the biggest stumble of all! Apart from other issues, people will now ask whether Tinubu, the great strategist and fisher of competent men (and women), has lost out to old age.
EDITOR’S NOTE Asiwaju Tinubu has since clarified that he did not canvass for recruitment of 50 million youths into the army, but five million youths in all aspects of nationbuilding, ranging from infrastructural development to agricultural modernization