June 5, 2023

Tinubu’s inaugural address

drug use


AN inaugural address plays three salient roles: It enables leaders to clearly articulate their visions. It provides an inkling as to the direction of governments. And it inspires and rouses the people, who in turn embrace the leader’s goals. To attain the aforementioned sublime roles, an inaugural address must be couched in elegant and riveting prose. It must be invested with memorable sound bites. And it must be eloquently delivered.

Three inaugural addresses are thought to be distinguished by these features. They are: Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address of 1865; Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s of 1933; and John F. Kennedy’s of 1961.

A careful reading of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s inaugural address betrays one prominent fact: It was beautifully written. But because the president lacks the oratorical skills to give a robust effect to the speech, it came across as incoherent. Either he did not partake in the writing of the speech or he did not rehearse it ahead of the inauguration.

If the speech was incoherently delivered, it made some assumptions that were, at best, spurious or outlandish. It also proceeded to issue certain pieces of information that were not in sync with reality. The President claimed, in the inaugural address, that the election that returned him was of “better quality” than any other since the advent of the Fourth Republic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from the fact that this was a tale best told to the marines, on account of its absurdity, it was not in his place, as a beneficiary, to make such a wild determination. In fact, not a few Nigerians view his return in that election as a heist.

Beside this, the subtle innuendos and show of sympathy for former President Muhammad Buhari were unnecessary in an address that seeks to inspire us and acquaint us with his vision. His reference to the granite-hearted President Buhari as “honest”, “patriotic”, and “who has done his best for the nation you love” is grating. Besides, it flies in the face of the trauma and devastation that his eight-year misrule has visited on Nigerians.

If anything, his predecessor was subversive of the national ideal. He was nepotistic and treasonous in equal measure: A man who brought his country to ruin and visited on its people untold privation while he and his relatives cornered for themselves the nation’s wealth cannot be characterised as “honest”. Neither should a man who prefers to provide infrastructure and other appurtenances to other countries at the expense of his own. Nor can we suggest that a man who deliberately opened up his country to the onslaught of marauders, while he watched with glee, be said to be “patriotic”. These characterisations are offensive in the extreme. They tend to suggest the deification of a man who presided over the wanton pauperisation and genocide of his people.

The President’s profession to “serve with prejudice towards none but compassion towards all” is both a play on Lincoln’s address, aforementioned (“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives as the right,…”) and a clear dig at former President Muhammadu Buhari’s infamous claim in his 2015 inaugural address that “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. As it has panned out, he (former President Buhari) played it to the hilt. Not only did he run the most corrupt and nepotistic government in our history, he was also the most marble-hearted.

Apart from laying out what his vision was, the President proceeded to itemise a number of policy issues, perhaps to underline the fact that he was hitting the ground running from the first day in office. And even though the removal of fuel subsidies was one of his campaign refrains, its peremptory removal, with presidential fiat, to boot, in the course of the inaugural address, goes against the very grain of the solemn pledge of the President in the same address.

He had said: “We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate. We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own”. Pray, who did the President consult before declaring expansively that “the oil subsidy is gone!”?

It is very instructive—indeed, revealing—that barely a few hours after this declaration, it triggered panic buying of gasoline by vehicle owners. Uncertain of the situation, some gasoline owners either hoarded the commodity or closed shop to await how things would manifest themselves. In issuing this declaration, has the President averted himself from the implications in terms of the cost of living?

This quixotic declaration, appears to give us an unsavory foretaste of the Tinubu presidency. Instead of demonstrating forethought and consulting stakeholders as he had claimed he would, we are most likely going to see policy somersaults or policies being decided on the fly or at whim.

Even more whimsical and hubristic is the concluding part of the inaugural address. Permit me to quote it: “With full confidence in our ability, I declare that these things are within our proximate reach because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and I am the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

The above declaration speaks volumes. First, it gives the impression of someone who is narcissistic and full of himself. Not even the narcissist-in-chief, Donald Trump, is capable of this obvious haughtiness. This declaration suggests that the President is assuming the place of a deity or supreme being who declares by fiat and it comes into being. Thirdly, it could be inebriation, which has power. Abraham Lincoln himself once observed that: “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. Henry Kissinger, who had always been fascinated with power, often characterised it as “the ultimate aphrodisiac”. Could this declaration be a manifestation of this tendency?

Tinubu’s inaugural address, though elegantly couched, was replete with contradictions and needless innuendos. The philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, once said: “Greatness is the ability to transform paradox into platitude”. The President’s inaugural address transformed what ought to be a platitude into a paradox.

Dazang, a former director at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, wrote from Abuja