December 18, 2022

Bola Tinubu: Comedy in Chatham House

Bola Tinubu: Comedy in Chatham House

By Obi Nwakanma

Years ago, my mother used to say to me, if she wanted to scold me for not living up to my billing: “from the game of darts, you will know the child that would become a debtor.” From one’s action, or endeavor today, you will know what they’ll do, or become tomorrow.

Nigeria is a debtor nation today; a dependency, because she failed to rise up to the dreams of her Nationalist founders. But that statement goes also so far as to describe the politicians canvassing for votes today. 

Their methods signal their vision, and the quality of their leadership of the nation, should they be elected. There is, considering the school of thought that insists that the trouble with Nigeria is squarely, the problem of leadership, something to worry about these people. What they say they would do, and how they would do these things, and why they do these are factors we must all pay attention to. 

Let me therefore use this moment to situate Bola Tinubu’s performance last week in London at what has been dubbed by various members of the Nigerian commentariat as the “Charade of Chatham House.” Mr. Tinubu and his presidential campaign put up a show that would be very hilarious if it were not so serious. 

Three issues lie at the grounds of what can now easily be called the “Comedy in Chatham House,” in which Mr. Tinubu in full Baba Sala mode took farce to new heights. 

One issue is his decision to ignore the invitation by a Consortium of the Nigerian media to appear on Arise TV with other presidential candidates to address Nigerians in a town-hall style, Question and Answer session. It was not even a debate. Just a Q & A. Mr. Tinubu decided that the Nigerian media, and its Nigerian audience were too beneath him to appear before them. 

“I am a Sellable material. They want to use me to make money,” said Tinubu. This was the most ignorant thing I have ever heard a public official seeking a public mandate say, of all things, about the media – the fourth estate of the realm of which he canvases to lead. If the Nigerian people and the Media are beneath him, why Chatham House? Is he campaigning to a British public? What is the business of a decidedly British institution with the pursuit of the sovereign votes of the people of Nigeria? This is pure Colo-mentality which has been at the core of Nigeria’s problem in a generation. 

Those who have emerged to lead Nigeria feel themselves inferior. They are not beholden to Nigerian people but to foreign interests of which they care more about, and to whom they pay obeisance. They are not our leaders. They are mere rent collectors for foreign interests to whom they have pledged Nigeria should they be abetted to ascend power in these ex-colonial outposts.

The results are here with us. Kayode Fayemi, El-Rufai, and Tinubu were among the troglodytes who trucked then candidate Muhammadu Buhari to London to kiss the rings of the British establishment who own the very Colonial Royal Institute of International Affairs with its lodgings in Chatham House. 

The results are here with us. As most Nigerians already know, Nigeria’s current president Muhammadu Buhari has spent a quarter of his time as President of Nigeria in hospitals and medical vacations in London. I have never seen this happen to any other country in the world. 

Even those so called “small countries” that seem inconsequential compared to what Nigerians imagine of themselves have never been so foolish. The status of health and Medical Records of the Head of state of a Sovereign nation is a National Security issue. 

When a foreign, or adversarial power wants to capture a state without firing a shot, or wasting boots on the ground, they work with their agents, mostly compromised citizens of a land to place a “Manchurian Candidate” in the saddle at the realm, and turn him into a robot. The man who owns your stomach, your life, and the future of your well-being is your God and Master. And it is as clear as daylight that Nigerians who elected Buhari are not the ones to whom he listens. He has no fear of Nigerians. He in fact despises Nigeria and Nigerians. 

He has no need for Nigeria or for Nigerians. He does not speak to Nigerians. He has this patronizing attitude to Nigeria and Nigerians. His life and well-being, and even his future does not depend on Nigeria and Nigerians. He does not go to hospitals in Nigeria. He does not talk to the Nigerian Press. His doctor is not Nigerian. He is thus not obligated to Nigeria or Nigerians. 

He has been radically engineered to dismantle Nigeria’s capacity to exert a sovereign will. He has basically aided, either directly by compromise or by inaction, the re-colonization of Nigeria. “State capture” is the contemporary word for colonialism. 

It is when a few mercantile interests, and they may sometimes be non-state actors, work in concert to subvert the sovereign will of a nation, with the objective to extract the highest benefits from the woebegone land, teleguide, and govern them by proxy. 

This is the only thing that can explain the massive level of “oil theft” clearly aided and abetted at the highest levels of a government, whose eyes are more “abroad,” than at home. This is what Mr. Tinubu, using his old APC template is clearly attempting to recreate with his servile obligation to Chatham House and his scurrilous disrespect for the Nigerian Media and the Nigerian people. 

If Tinubu had respect for Nigeria, and for Nigerians, how could he choose Chatham House to outline his Foreign Policy objective? What has Chatham House got to do with Nigeria? It is instructive that the UK Prime Minister, Mr. Rishi Sunak, came out to very clearly and openly say that his Majesty’s government had no interest in who emerges to be president of Nigeria. 

If the APC were smart, or if they were respectful of a Nigerian mandate, what should stop them from using the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) to speak to Tinubu’s Foreign Policy objective, and while at it, entertain the questions of the Nigerian Media and a broad Nigerian audience far from the Mutual Admiration Society which they had assembled in Chatham House? Tinubu’s London fiasco is an example of how Nigeria’s political actors have turned Nigeria, a once serious country on the African continent, into the laughing stock of the continent. No one takes Nigeria seriously anymore. 

She is now seen largely as an inconsequential nation. It is a debtor nation. It is a nation labouring under the fragile image of second-rate men who insult Nigeria by wanting to lead her. I say this because the third question raised by Tinubu’s comedy of errors in Chatham House was about the man’s preparedness and capacity to govern a country already on its knees. 

Mr. Tinubu was of course part of the grand alliance that shaped the compromise made in 2015 that brought in Mr. Buhari – now on track to being the worst President to ever govern Nigeria. There are those who now see a lot of commonalty between Tinubu and Buhari. 

If Buhari has been a disaster, Tinubu will be a catastrophe as president of Nigeria, say many a Nigerian whose skepticism has been reinforced by the Chatham House event. How prepared is a man, Nigerians now ask, who cannot answer simple questions put to him directly by an audience which was, no less, vetted by his own handlers? Yes, he read a prepared speech from a teleprompter and seemed clear enough. 

But there were the red flags, in those places where he stumbled on the pronunciation of easy enough words which nonetheless seemed a little strange and a bit of a mouthful to him. Then came the Questions: and as Fela Kuti would say, “Overtake Come Overtake Overtake.” He could not cut it anymore. He had to farm out the questions to his “team” to answer on his behalf. His excuse was that he wanted to highlight the caliber of talents on his team. That he valued team work. 

But Nigerians increasingly think not. Many Nigerians think that he has been avoiding debates and Meet-the-people events with other presidential aspirants because he has pretty little by way of insight to offer. The man is both empty and inarticulate, his critics say. He is sick and unsteady, some other says. So, who is the real Bola Ahmed Tinubu? Tinubu has largely turned himself into an enigma of sorts. 

Nigerians have questions. But they want answers directly from him, and not from his proxies and bagmen like Dele Alake. Then, take a look at these men whom Tinubu has arrayed around him, and you will, dear reader, not fail to notice that it is his Lagos crowd, largely. There is a shocking provincialism about Tinubu who wishes to govern a multiethnic nation like Nigeria. 

Besides the shock of his inability to answer those questions thrown to him at Chatham House, there was the surprise of really incompetent answers given by his so-called “team” of yes Massas. They were soft questions from a very friendly audience. But even the answers by Tinubu’s “team,” were fluffy and lacked rigour.

It was a comical show. Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not yet become president, and he is already treating Nigerians, and Nigerian institutions with utter disrespect, disdain, and levity. My mother was right. From the game of darts, you will know the child that will grow up to become a debtor.