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Tinubu: Potential president with baggages

By Pius Isiekwene
20 October 2022   |   3:34 am
No one can ignore or write off Bola Ahmed Tinubu - BAT for short. As a presidential candidate for the 2023 elections, he towers above most, if not all, the other candidates on many indices.

Tinubu. Photo/facebook/govkaduna

No one can ignore or write off Bola Ahmed Tinubu – BAT for short. As a presidential candidate for the 2023 elections, he towers above most, if not all, the other candidates on many indices. As a two-term governor of Nigeria’s most populous and most economically viable state, his experience in governance is indisputable. He was a key actor in the efforts of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to oust prolonged military dictatorship. As a member of the opposition during the unbroken 16-year rule of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), he was quite consistent. He waited patiently till the alliance of the “progressives” gave birth to the All Progressives Congress (APC) which brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2015. His role in Buhari’s emergence was so critical that the taciturn and ascetic soldier-turned politician could not ignore BAT’s “Emi-lokan” declaration leading up to the primaries that produced him as presidential candidate in July 2022.

Ordinarily, BAT could have been the candidate to beat, the presidency his for the asking. But his baggages – some heavy, others not so heavy – have made the 2023 presidential elections highly competitive and too close to call. His chances of outright win on the first ballot are significantly diminished by the huge personal and party corporate burdens associated with his candidacy.

Firstly, the not-so-heavy baggages. One of the baggages that have dogged BAT’s candidacy is the controversy about his parentage, place of origin, education and early adulthood before his United States sojourn. Even his sojourn in the US was not without recurring questions about his education there, career and source of wealth considered disproportional to the highest position he attained there as a junior-middle level accountant. His Nigerianess is however not in doubt and for a man who was voted State Governor twice and Senator once, this identity crisis is a non issue in 2022, less than six months before the elections.

The other baggage has to do with his enormous wealth which, according to his opponents, cannot be easily explained. Not even his ardent supporters have been able to satisfactorily explain BAT’s alleged possession of prime lands and properties in Lagos, exclusive high-fee contracts, fleet of exotic cars, private jet and diverse investments. But on this score, Tinubu is not alone. The acquisitive inclination of Nigerians is only in degrees and there is a little bit of this BATist tendency in most Nigerians, particularly those privileged to hold public offices. As Chinweizu, the erudite author of The West and the Rest of Us, wrote about politicians selectively detained by General Buhari in the January/February 1984 South Magazine edition, “corruption was limited, not by virtue, but lack of opportunity.” Also, when questioned about allegations of amassing wealth, erstwhile Senate President Chuba Okadigbo, retorted: “What should I amass – poverty?”

But BAT has heavier baggages that should worry him and his campaign managers. By far his heaviest baggages have to do with his personal health, Buhari’s woeful performance, and the choice of Senator Kashim Ibrahim Shettima as running mate.

As the adage goes, one may fool some of the people some of the time but never all of the people all of the time. Most Nigerians cannot be fooled about BAT’s state of health. Contrary to his handlers’ claims, many Nigerians saw him struggling to hold the party flag after his victory at the primaries. His frequent overseas trips and inability to attend high profile functions such as the Lawyers’ and Accountants’ Conferences as well as the signing of the Peace Accord point to a failing health. Most Nigerians, including this writer, wish the Asiwaju good health but at the moment, he is not in good enough health to do the work of Nigeria’s president. Nigeria cannot afford a sick president after Buhari who spent many months in hospital at the tax payers’ expense.

Some of BAT’s personal burdens could have been overlooked if the Buhari-led APC government had performed well in the last 90 months. But the government’s performance has been woeful on all fronts. The unemployment, security and economic situations it promised to fix since 2015 have gone from bad to worse. Bandits are having a free reign in many parts of the country while the rates of unemployment, foreign exchange and inflation remain scary with little hope of reversing the trend before May 2023. With rising local and foreign debts, close to 90 per cent of the deficit 2022 and proposed 2023 budgets is committed to debt servicing. The fight against corruption has only received a lip service since 2015. By self admission, Tinubu was instrumental to the emergence of Buhari, and cannot distance himself from the woes and pains of Nigerians in the last 90 months.

Tinubu’s choice of Shettima may be likened to a self-inflicted fatal injury. Not just because he is a Moslem. His comportment and utterances have been quite un-presidential and his body language reeks of disdain and distrust for non-Moslems and Southerners. His wait-till-I-get-in disposition is worrisome. Shettima cannot be extricated from the circumstances that led to the abduction of the predominantly Christian Chibok school girls, some of whom remain unaccounted for eight years after. Some of them have been forcefully converted to Islam and turned into wives or sex slaves. Shettima was the Governor of Bornu State at the time and reportedly derided the directive of the Federal Government to relocate the students based on security intelligence of imminent attack on schools.

Politics is not mathematics but given Asiwaju’s personal and party corporate baggages, the odds, as they stand now, do not tilt in his favour for an outright win in a free and fair election. His campaign managers would have to work much harder to prove that the baggages do not matter in the kind of keen contest that the 2023 election is turning out to be.

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