By Muyiwa Adetiba
There is a Bola Tinubu bashing going on. It came to the fore again this season. Last Good Friday, some people tried to evoke the memory of Christ’s crucifixion in a most unusual way. They replaced the robbers at the sides of Jesus with two very prominent Nigerian politicians.
One of them was Tinubu. The other was Ganduje. The post went viral. From experience, posts don’t go viral because they are necessarily true but because they resonate with people enough to want to repost.
I commented to a friend that although the post was geographically balanced, it was not religiously sensitive. It should have been represented by a Christian and a Muslim. That way, they would be representing the generic faces of political corruption in Nigeria which was the way I thought people should look at it. But it was clear from the slant of comments on the post that people were not that much after a generic representation. They wanted them—especially Tinubu—singled out as the prominent faces of corruption.
About a week or two before then—around his 69th birthday- some posts on Tinubu had also gone out trying to prove—or disprove—his declared age. Many of the posts traced his life story, underlining what they felt were discrepancies or lies in them. Many took him to the cleaners shredding whatever might be his character or integrity. He was the butt of rude, cruel jokes. They lent credence to the fact that the post of Jesus with Tinubu as one of the two robbers was not generic. It was intentional. Ganduje was probably chosen as the other robber because he hosted Tinubu’s birthday. So he was labelled a robber by association.
Tinubu bashing is not new. It was something that used to occur every four or so years. The same issues would be rehashed—his age, his educational qualification, his lineage, his name, his monumental corruption. The only thing that has not been alleged is that he is a clone like some insist the president is. Because the same things are repeated, they become tiresome; because the accusations are seasonal, the motives become questionable.
And because of the underlying hypocrisy in these accusations, there is a tendency to say, ‘he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.’ We are in a country where many of his accusers, especially those in government service, have manipulated their ages in order to prolong their stay in employment. We are in a country where many – from gatemen to ogas at the top – constantly abuse their offices for pecuniary gains.
We are in a country where almost everybody will use the system for personal ends. Yet none of the accusers, especially the politicians among them, is looking at the mirror before casting the stone in his hands. Tinubu has been out of executive office for almost two decades. Time enough to go outside media prosecution to nail him. No matter how powerful he is, he will have his Achilles heel because he is a man and no god. His accusers should find it or move to the next level.
Because we are humans who tend to remember only what is convenient, it is easy to forget what Lagos was before 1999. It is easy to forget the state of the roads that the military left behind. I had cause to go to ‘Isale Eko’ recently after a long time and was impressed by the state of the roads. It is easy to forget the filth in Lagos especially during the rainy season when heaps of corn husks would fill the side roads.
It is easy to forget what the IGR of Lagos was—the same Lagos that now has the fifth largest economy in Africa. And for all his dictatorial faults, none of Tinubu’s successors—from Fashola through Ambode to Sanwo-olu can be described as intellectual lightweights. And Lagos has become one of the better run states for it—this is not to deny the fiscal waste in many of the projects in the state or that the state can do lots better.
Those who accuse Tinubu of teaming up with Buhari who has led the nation to this cliff’s edge conveniently forget he was in opposition and ran the risk of political irrelevance. They also forget the increasing disrespect Jonathan was beginning to show towards the Yoruba nation or the lack of political unity that existed in Yoruba land at the tail end of the Obasanjo years.
They forget the ‘anybody but Jonathan’ campaign in the social media. Besides, his political hold on the Yoruba nation was not handed to him on a platter. It was earned one way or another. It is his to keep or lose.
Having said this, is Tinubu a sinner or a saint? Let us just say he would not tow the same path if he had to relive his life. I believe he was too Machiavellian in his political and personal calculations and the line between expediency and principle became extremely blurred.
Certain noises about his life choices are not going away easily. How someone who was known as an employee before going into politics has become so rich has not been satisfactorily explained. His personal identity—age, qualification, state of origin—has not been satisfactorily explained. All these will be an albatross should he try for the highest office in the land. Besides, his unclear stance on what is seen as the Yoruba cause will affect the allegiance of the Yoruba people towards him.
But whatever his age is, whatever his qualification is and irrespective of the other cloudy areas of his life, one thing is clear; he is a damn good politician. He is one of the best in his era. That he has been relevant for over a quarter of a century in a volatile era cannot be dismissed. He is also a good judge of people—their frailties and strengths. It is this latter quality that I want to draw on today.
Tinubu should identify three or four younger Nigerians and help spotlight them for the presidency. If he gets it right, the nation will be forever grateful that he sacrificed his lifelong ambition for the greater good and the joke of the viral Easter post would be turned on his accusers because sacrifice is essentially the message of Easter. I believe he can help identify candidates given how he brought completely anonymous people into prominence in Lagos State.
Although Tinubu understands Nigeria and could be a better president than most, too many things are jostling to disqualify him for the presidency in 2023. I have mentioned some earlier. His health is another. Tinubu doesn’t look well to say the least and we don’t want another Yar’adua, or a Buhari as president come 2023. The challenges are tough enough without having another president spending half his presidency in foreign hospitals.