Tinubu as Mrs. Malaprop’s reincarnation
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
There is an ill-disguised recognition of the embarrassment of the Tinubu campaign obloquies as the APC presidential candidate stumbles from one gaffe to another in a blundering streak. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has bettered the bumbling record of Mrs. Malaprop – the mythic character in Sheridan’s The Rivals who was constantly giving vent to clumsy or embarrassing mistakes. An inappropriateness of speech resulting from the use of one word for another which has a phonetic similarity to it is, in literary studies, referred to as malapropism.
An unintentional mis-use of a word usually with comic effect through confusion with another word that sounds similar but has a different meaning has been the disgusting feature of the Tinubu campaign speeches everywhere his train has stopped. The mechanical routine defence of his presidential campaign spokespersons have put in sharper relief the enormity of the embarrassing blunders made in the full glare of the public. Tinubu himself has, on each occasion, and in characteristic casualness, remorselessly expressed his self-satisfaction at the effectiveness of his campaign delivery style.
The Tinubu campaign appearances have proved themselves a good mirror into the candidate’s soul. They were to provide a good opportunity for gleaning the direction in which Tinubu would take Nigeria if ever he achieves his “life-long ambition” of presiding over the affairs of the country. Many of his ideas, including the one for continuing the legacy of the Buhari regime, have caused jitters even as the people have awaited the expression of his own policy position on key issues such as devaluation of the national currency, a vigorous prosecution of the tepid or selective war on corruption, the oil subsidy debacle, and the unclear or unintelligible operations of the national oil company, NNPC. On the campaign trail, Tinubu has shied away from these issues.
He has instead contented himself with a befuddling malapropic explanation of inanities. His party men and women may delude themselves that they have caused to be published a manifesto addressing the party’s practical answers to all the governance challenges afflicting Nigeria. But each campaign outing is an opportunity to display before the people the discipline, character and integrity of the candidate. A worrisome failure to engage the serious issues of governance has dashed the requirement to retail hope to the people in the face of the palpable gloom on the horizon. The inexplicable fuel supply crisis situation, the unacceptable electricity supply conundrum, the Fulani herdsmen brigandage, etc. are live matters which find their place at the very heart of Nigeria’s specific complex of historical and social engineering. Tinubu ought to address them particularly during this electioneering period.
In a number of light-hearted informal conversations involving Tinubu, he has been found to make jocular, if awry or improper, contributions to our political lexicography. O lu le, for instance, is Tinubu’s somber description of Buhari’s 3-time failed attempts to win the presidency. The bumbling spirit of Mrs. Malaprop came upon Tinubu as he created ballooba, balabloo, bloo blu balaba as synonyms for “hullabaloo” or a noisy clamour. Enamoured of his mother who reportedly taught him the art and science of money-making, money-keeping and “multilipication”, Tinubu paid undying tribute to the memory of his mother. His home school teachers who, in spite of who they are, taught Tinubu English phonology properly even as he received his lessons perversely have become the fall guys. Tinubu exposed their lack of rigour or their doubtful existence. Emi l’okan is Tinubu’s rendition of his fabled sense of entitlement to the coveted office of president. Tinubu’s incomprehensible language in middle of the campaign speechless or his daku daji delivery style have bothered many who fear that the presidency would exact more stress on him or, in fact, crack him. Nigeria, they fear, would be the worse for it. The profile of Tinubu is of a man who is troubled by some inexplicable turmoil. His speech impediments have accentuated the concerns of well-meaning people who do not want a repeat performance of the Yar’Adua short-lived presidency. Tinubu’s gobbledygook in whatever language is troubling. Intriguingly, the streak of unfortunate mis-statements or of pompous inanities is continuing.
In Delta-State, the APC governorship candidate Omo-Agege, is contesting for the governorship position of a non-existent Niger-Delta State even as Tinubu rhetorically elicited an answer to a vague question from the crowd.
The democratic tradition of alternating governments, evolving policies, pragmatic choices, etc. theoretically presents us with some choice with regard to the management of our economic and other affairs. In Nigeria, the giddy structure of political parties, as it has evolved, drives them inexorably into attitudes which render them almost impossible either in office or in opposition to pursue genuine national objectives. Their aid-memoir or constitution is a mish-mash of ill-digested or incoherent ideas. Their commitment, for instance, to private ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, of all enterprises engaged in manufacture, distribution and exchange, etc. is equally impishly shared by all of them, especially the so-called frontline parties. So there is truly no difference in structure, poise and prognosis between the APC and the PDP, for instance.
This fluidity is practically exemplified in the ease and convenience which attend the change of play shirt or party flag as politicians remorselessly announce their decamping from one party to another with unabashed glee or rude pomp. In a mature party system, this feature will be regarded as unhealthy or tacky. Each party ought to be distinctive regarding the shared values of its membership, of its programmes, thrust or direction.
Dogmatism and doctrinaire ideology may appear no longer attractive or realistic political attributes but democracy will continue to mean a change of government from time to time as if oscillating between two sides with opposing philosophies. Ideologies are eminently positioned to drive principles to practical ends. It will therefore, be in the interest of our much-vaunted development trajectory to provide the electorate the opportunity to choose between truly oppositional ideological perspectives.
Whereas healthy inter-party rivalries between or among party caucuses are fitting or proper as they are positioned not only to interrogate and thereby strengthen the party’s internal conflict management mechanism, they are also envisioned to ensure ultimate cohesion in strategy and tactics. Many examples of contests for elective and other positions among same-party members have been needlessly fractious and tended to tear the parties apart. Further, the scenario of carpet-crossing rather than strengthen the democratic portfolio rudely denies the actual locus of political sovereignty. It, in fact, blurs the difference (if any) in the ideology and praxis of the respective parties.
The Nigerian political scene will be further enhanced as robust intellectual and pragmatic engagements take the centre stage in the market place of ideas and as incoherent or clumsy or unintelligible malapropos like balabloo or baalooba or multilipication are reserved for hearty laughs and for acts in the arts theatre.
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affair commentator, wrote vide email@example.com