By Jideofor Adibe
THE Friday, May 26, 2023 Supreme Court’s dismissal of the appeal by the Peoples Democratic Party seeking the disqualification of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the February 25, 2023 presidential election over alleged double nomination of his Vice-President Senator Kashim Shettima, essentially removed the last hurdle to his inauguration on May 29, 2023.
This means in essence that those who cannot bear the thought of Tinubu and Shettima as President and Vice President respectively will have to find a way of adjusting to the reality that they will be stuck with the duo till August this year (at the earliest) when the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the challenges to the INEC-declared outcome of the election. We are of course assuming that there will be no other unforeseen variable in-between.
Given the numerous controversies that have dogged virtually every aspect ofTinubu’s life over the years, it could be argued that while the Asiwaju of Lagos has his passionate supporters, no leader in the country’s political history, has come to office with so much baggage as he carries. To make matters worse, he rarely directly responds to the allegations against him.
Rather, he sends hordes of trolls and surrogates who sometimes offer contradictory explanations to the accusations and at other times shout down journalists who honestly demand to know the truth about those claims. That he has been able to survive the serial controversies that have dogged his name over the years should be a caution to his opponents that it will be extremely naïve of anyone to underestimate him.
Tinubu not only survived the numerous burning landmines laid on his way during the APC’s presidential primaries to emerge the party’s flag bearer but was also declared the winner of the elections by INEC and eventually inaugurated as President despite doubts in some quarters.
So what are the options for those who cannot bear the thought of Tinubu being their President for sundry reasons? It should be pointed out that Shettima, the Vice President, is also mired in controversies – from the import of his mean mien to alleged links to Boko Haram to being a gaffe machine whenever he gets lost in ‘rhetorical flourishes’ while playing the self-anointed role of a successor to the late Maitama Sule, the Kano-born First Republic politician famed for his oratory. As no reasonable person would recommend violence as an option, it seems there are basically three options available to Tinubu’s ‘refusniks’: The first is to adopt the late ‘Uncle’ Bola Ige’s philosophy of ‘siddon look’ and hope they will sit out his government.
The second option is to hang hope on a possible conjuncture of intervening variables that will truncate his rule such as the Supreme Court sacking the government. The third option is to wax spiritual and seek consolation that he may actually be a tainted vessel that God wants to use to bring positive changes to the country. Afterall, the Holy Bible is replete with examples of God using the scums of the society such as prostitutes or the most undesirables such as Paul (who was a persecutor of the Christians before his conversion) as vessels to do His work.
It is, however, not only from the scriptures that we find God’s mercy equipping those we may regard as undesirables with the tools to do His work. There are also scholars who believe that people regarded as not having the desirable character traits may actually be better equipped for effective leadership. For instance, Rob Asghar, author of the book, Leadership is Hell, in a November 14, 2014 article on Forbes online, titled ‘Why Bad People Make the Best Leaders’ has argued that contrary to what our intuition and leadership gurus tell us, the best leaders often come from those we call ‘bad people’.
He argued that while the “best human beings are collaborative, compassionate, empathetic and free of most defects of character …the best leaders usually are not”. As he put it: “When will we admit it? Effective leaders are less like Santa Claus handing out gifts, less like Mother Teresa blessing sick people, and more like Kobe Bryant coolly sticking a dagger into the heart of an opponent as he drops a three-point buzzer beater to win a tight game.”
Similarly, the influential book, Cradles of Eminence: Childhoods of More Than 700 Famous Men and Women (2020) by Victor Goertzel et al made pretty much the same point. In the book, the authors revealed that the biggest stage leaders had unhappy childhood, which in turn fuels their desire for what Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Computers, would call a desire to “make a dent in the universe”. That unhappiness, the authors noted, also fuels the nasty streak in them which in turn drives their determination to get things done. One of the narratives about Tinubu was that he was so poor that he had to be self-taught during his basic education years.
Just as his critics, Tinubu also has a number of options: One, the struggle to capture his presidency started in earnest even before INEC declared him the winner and various instrumentalities were (and are still being) used by the various contending forces in this struggle: tale bearing, conspiracy theories and playing the ethnic and religious cards. Tinubu has the option of which of the contending forces he wants to align with.
Two, where does Tinubu want to locate himself between his triumphalist supporters (the BATists) and the ‘resistant’ and ‘refusnik’ groups? In his keynote speech at the inaugural lecture on Saturday, May 27, 2023, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, appealed to then incoming President of Nigeria to unite the country irrespective of ethnic, political and religious cleavages that may exist. “The contest is now over and the hard work of building a prosperous and unified Nigeria now begins.
Upon assuming the office of president, you would be wise to transcend from tactical politics of an election and assume your role as Nigeria’s vision bearer.” This may be easier said than done. Despite being inaugurated as President, the contest between the triumphalist BATISTs and a coalition of anti-Tinubu forces will simmer for a while, especially with what many regard as an insult from Shettima who claimed during the inauguration lecture that the election that brought them to power, (whose outcome is being contested in the court), is the “freest and fairest” in the country’s political history.
Three, security is a major challenge. But how can Tinubu fight separatist agitations, especially in the South-East, banditry in the North-West, herdsmen’s terrorism across the country and Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism in the North-East when any solution he throws at any of these problems is likely to oxygenate our traditional fault lines? Four, Shettima has indicated that two of the immediate challenges facing the new government would be removing fuel subsidy and sorting out the prevailing multiple exchange rate regimes.
But how can a government that has come to power with an unprecedented level of legitimacy crisis be able to do so without compounding its problems?
Five, Tinubu said he would vigorously fight corruption but how can he do this when many Nigerians sneer that the phrase ‘fighting corruption’ seems to sound odd on his lips, given the questions about the sources of his wealth and the other controversies in which he is steeped in? Truly the challenges before the Tinubu government are enormous at a time the economy is comatose. And the options available to him are more like the Devil’s alternative: whichever option he embraces, there will be unpalatable consequences – at least in the short run.