Tinubu: From the prism of a dis-interested by-stander
Born into relative obscurity but reportedly raised or nurtured in sublime circumstances, Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s early life is shrouded in myth or mystery. Today, however, he may well qualify as the enfant terrible of Nigeria’s political landscape. His name and presence interchangeably provoke or invoke joy and grief, ecstasy and depression, intoxication and stupefaction. Even as very little is known about his growing up years, Tinubu whose advisedly-controversial circumstances are the delight of gossip circuits, has shown himself to be deep regarding the praxis and infinite possibilities of a life that disregards or defies theoretical or, even, practical limitations to upwardly-mobile projections. To Tinubu, all things are practically possible; all ambitions are achievable.
Since his emergence in the public sphere as the candidate of his party representing the Lagos-West Senatorial district in the general elections of 1992, Tinubu, has left no one in doubt respecting his destined primacy of place in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Smart, sharp, fierce and, some would say, malevolent, Tinubu is the quintessential game player – gamely and gainly. He spares no effort for the achievement of goals. He is also not parsimonious respecting the appropriation or application of material and mental resources to objectives. He is said to be overly generous or magnanimous. Tinubu sizes up his opponent to determine their net or asking price or value so he may rake them in, for them to be turned round to support and canvass their erstwhile adverse position and align with his. Possessed of the uncanny gift of making friends even with those who had publicly differed with him on issues that are fundamental, many of his frontline allies today are persons who had ferociously opposed his alleged vengeful, spiteful up-ism. His accustomed political temper of accommodation and collective effort is curiously matrixed in a personal, idiosyncratic disposition. At once, gregarious or sociable, introverted or reclusive, Tinubu is a combination of many contrasting characteristics even as his persona defies a facile or easy explanation or categorisation.
Tinubu’s decision to run for the governorship position of Lagos State in 1999 may well stand as the most fateful judgment of his post-private sector employment career. Brandishing a progressive mien, he made socio-political reforms [particularly the vexed issue of the salutary political restructuring of Nigeria] the most critical domestic issue of the time. He vented his spleen on “reactionary” elements who wanted or insisted on “business as usual.” But the chicanery or expediency of many of those who campaigned for a re-structured country soon exposed their private purpose. The joys of the victory of the APC in the 2015 presidential poll, itself an opportunity for turning around the misfortune of our political quagmire respecting, for instance, the requirement of the practice of true federalism, have become sour or have been lost on the altar of political gerrymandering or of shibboleth. Even Tinubu as the titular National Leader of the ruling party has lost his voice as he now blows muffled horns regarding that most important issue. There is concern that Tinubu’s hand may have “lost its cunning.” The position as it stands today has a bad moral effect on all those who had expected a turn-around consistent with the avowed pronouncements of the APC leaders regarding a re-structured country. It also has a detrimental impact upon the community of admirers. Many view the APC leaders’ reluctance to match their words with effective action in this regard as unfortunate and have particularly berated the Vice President for hair-splitting political restructuring and economic restructuring describing his convenient or facile distinction as drawing a red herring or as “hiding … behind a legal quibble.”
The complexities and contradictions discernible in Tinubu’s vitality in politics and social life manifest as the embodiment of his self-projection in the APC of which he is the party’s undeniable alter ego. The observable enthusiasm in the APC rank and file notwithstanding, the party reflects the dynamism or vitality that is un-dialectical or that has no basis in theoretical rigour or astute practical implementation. Policies and programmes appear positioned as mere catch-call contrivances presumably to score cheap debating points or to win undeserved votes.
There is wide-spread critique of APC’s professed philosophy, policies and programmes which has raised a dialectical query. This relates to what is generally perceived as the inadequacy of the party’s thought constructs regarding their formulations even at the point of their conception. What, however, not popularly recognised is that the constructs were hastily or opportunistically put together just in time to defeat the rascality of the ravaging years of the PDP. But only intense creativity would have produced a socio-political programme that could reverse the years of locust representing the 16-year misrule of the PDP. The APC programmes can only be expected to be representative of the conceptions, intuitions and capacities of the party’s leadership. And as most of the party’s leaders belong in the same temper and mould as those of the ousted PDP, no departure therefrom in terms of theory or praxis is rationally expected of the APC government. In fact, as some APC leaders were frontline captains of the PDP whose later membership of the APC numerically fortified the latter’s ranks to win the 2015 presidential poll, the two parties are un-arguably two sides of the same coin.
Deep as Tinubu is reputed to be in worldly matters, a critical lack of a profound sense of history is discernible particularly in his quest and eventual “success” to drag the South-West geo-political zone into Nigeria’s “mainstream” dining or food ladling table. The characteristic private purpose of such enterprise dogs an advertised altruistic intention and so is generally held in suspicion. Similar failed attempts in the past lend credence to the feared unworkability of an unequal master-servant relationship. The South- West leadership of the APC had, for instance, hoped to reap bountifully from a Buhari presidency by reason of its monumental contribution to the electoral success of the APC in the 2015 presidential poll. It is now curiously learning how not to allow itself to be used as the cat’s paw for fetching the chestnuts from raging fire.
All or most of the indices of a failed state – depravity, banditry, unimaginable or inexcusable poverty, insecurity, dilapidated or non-existent infrastructure, opportunistic politics and benumbing official or state corruption – are some of the high points of governance in Nigeria which unfortunately are festering or flourishing under the APC presidency. The party leadership is perceived, and so quite correctly, as having played a fundamental role in foisting on us all a sense of helplessness, regarding the ugly manifestations of the ingredients of what good or purposeful governance should not be. Unfortunately, the leaders of government business do not shoot through with a reverence for self-reconstruction or redemption. Their carriage suggests an unwavering bow or obeisance to the dictates of the philosophy of crass opportunism. This devotional attitude is so strong as to prevent a proper engagement by them of the values of fellow-feeling, dis-interestedness, sincerity and purposefulness.
This season of Tinubu’s 65th birthday anniversary celebrations offers yet another opportunity, amidst expected wining, dining and back-slapping, to dialectically interrogate the objective effectiveness of the plans, programmes and policies of the party that professedly came to put an end to cluelessness, dithering and impunity (among others) in our body politic
The current schism in the South-West wing of the party is reminiscent of the crisis that rocked the Action Group in the 1960s. The conflictive positions of President Buhari’s men of South-West extraction and the Tinubu acolytes is similar or is, in fact, on all fours with the fundamental disagreement of the Awoists and the “Federalists” led by Chief Ladoke Akintola. In the two situations, “outsiders” have found a convenient in-road into the politics of the zone and are reaping bountifully from the internecine-feuds. Just as the Western Region was never the same again after the battle of the titans of the time, today’s South-West will be flustered by the sabre rattling of its more ideological “captors” and the rascality of their quislings. The battle is, however, pre-occupied with the enrichment of the actors and the fortification of their hegemony rather than demonstrate a genuine concerted concern for overall societal growth and development.
May the Eegun nla gbehin igbale and live long to learn the inexorable lessons of history.
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