Niger Republic

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

“Let me demonstrate here one of those philosophies, doctrines that I believe firmly in – teamship – unbreakable team. To demonstrate that, I will choose the first question and assign to Dele Alake and the second question assign to Nasir el-Rufai and the third question assign to Ben Ayade.”

THOSE were the words of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2023 elections, at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London known as Chatham House on Monday, December 5. In the spirit of Tinubu’s teamship, questions posed to him directly following a paper he presented at the think-tank were farmed out by fiat to surrogates.

Reactions, expectedly, were fast and furious. While well-meaning Nigerians termed, correctly, his “teamship” doctrine an abdication, the APC spin doctors went on overdrive. Alake, former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Director of Strategic Communications of the APC presidential campaign council, said delegating questions to team members is one of Tinubu’s innovations.

“Don’t forget that one of his main solid strengths has been identifying talents… Anybody who has his head properly screwed on his head would know that Asiwaju is the primus inter pares in team building; that is what he sought to display.”

Dr. Josef Onoh, the South-East spokesman of the Tinubu Presidential Campaign Council, said by assigning questions to subordinates, Tinubu simply employed creative license to empower his team. But the APC spin doctors are being economical with the truth. By outsourcing questions which were posed to him directly, Tinubu was only being too clever by half. That was the height of disingenuousness.

In an executive presidency, the buck stops on the president’s table, which is the very point made by one-time U.S. president, Harry S. Truman, who had a sign on his desk with ‘The buck stops here’ inscribed on it. So, even in the unlikely event that Tinubu is elected president, he has to engage with Nigerians. But he is not the president.

He is only seeking to be hired by Nigerians to do the job. Electioneering is tantamount to going for a job interview, which is why campaigns are conducted to have a free and open discussion about who is a better representative and in turn, which party will make a better government. No one goes for a job interview and assigns questions posed to him to ascertain his suitability to surrogates. Nigerians are seeking for a president. 

Tinubu happens to be one of the 18 people who applied for the job. To enable them make an informed choice on February 25, 2023, Nigerians are asking the applicants relevant questions. It is simply fraudulent for any of the candidates to draft people who have not applied for the job to answer questions on his behalf.

So, Tinubu’s teamship doctrine is a scam. Assembling a competent team when you are elected president to help you run the government is a different ball game from farming out questions meant to help the electorate make up their minds on your suitability for the job to surrogates.

But most importantly, the biggest controversy that has dogged Tinubu’s application is his perceived cognitive impairment which has become more pronounced on the hustings. The verbal miscues, parapraxis and slip-ups, indicative of memory lapses, are embarrassing.

And they are more pronounced when he is engaged in extensive interaction with the public, which explains why he has refused to engage in any interviews or debates where questions that will task his cognitive abilities will be posed.

And that, exactly, is what the Tinubu teamship doctrine is about – an artful scheme to shield him from interrogation. But Nigerians must not allow the APC presidential candidate to dictate the terms of the 2023 polls by letting the promoters of his candidacy to forcefully ram down our throats ad-hominem arguments that defy logic.

How can anyone claim as they are doing that it is preposterous for Nigerians to know about the man who has applied to be their president? How can Nigerians go to the polls next year with Tinubu as a candidate without resolving the issue of his educational qualifications?

Tinubu, who had made the claim of loss of certificates in his filings with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in 1999 when he ran for the governorship of Lagos State, however stated then that he attended St Paul Children’s Home School, Ibadan, from 1958 to 1964; and Government College, Ibadan, GCI, from 1965 to 1968; and then proceeded to Richard Daley College, Chicago, Illinois, USA, from 1969 to 1971, before completing his studies at the Chicago State University in 1979.

Those claims were contested in court. The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who accused Tinubu of forging his school certificates, sought an order from the court compelling the police to investigate him. The court ruled that because Tinubu enjoyed immunity at the time, only the Lagos State House of Assembly could investigate him. 

The Assembly subsequently investigated him and within a week, he was cleared of all wrongdoing. But not satisfied, the incumbent Minister of State for Labour and Employment, who is now the spokesman for the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Mr. Festus Keyamo, in 1999, sued the Lagos State House of Assembly for clearing Tinubu of allegations of certificate forgery and perjury.

In the case with suit number ID/639M/99, Keyamo, who was then a protégé of Fawehinmi, dragged all the 41 members of the House before Justice C.O. Segun of the Lagos State High Court, arguing that the court should determine that only the Chief Judge could investigate Tinubu for certificate forgery.

To sidestep that controversy, when Tinubu decided to run for the presidency, he left the spaces for primary and secondary education blank in the INEC forms. And guess what! Keyamo in a volte-face, is now claiming that Tinubu is one of the great men who read and passed his examinations from home.

Tinubu’s minions think that the issues of character and credibility do not matter. But they are dead wrong. Nigerians deserve to know who their president is. Again, in his eight-minute interview with BBC Africa’s Peter Okwoche after the Chatham House farce, Tinubu doubled down on his architect of modern Lagos claim. 

Asked why Nigerians should expect anything different from him, he quipped: “Because I am different. I am Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I have governed Lagos. I built a modern state that could be a country on its own. I have led an administration that is so prudent from N600 million internally generated revenue to N5 billion a month.

That is a record. Nobody else can brag about that. “I have treated and tamed the Atlantic Ocean surge in Nigeria that would have perished many people in Lagos. The infrastructural renewal of Lagos is excellent. I have continuity in Lagos. 

Buhari has done his best. I can’t run away from him being my friend, my leader in the party. I will not.” Two things need to be said here. The 2023 election is a referendum on the eight-year stewardship of the Buhari-led APC government and Tinubu cannot shy away from that fact. Second, while no one can deny that Tinubu contributed his quota to the development of Lagos State, it is fraudulent to bestow him with the architect of modern Lagos insignia.

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