The Trouble with a Bola Tinubu Presidency
By: Deji Yesufu
Something unrelated to Nigerian politics happened to me two days ago. I discovered that my plumber, who I have been using for the past six years, had been quoting inflated prices on plumbing materials for me. What I would usually do is to ask him to fix something in the house. I will give him the money to purchase the materials to do the job and I will also give him money for his labors. Two days ago, I invited him for a bigger job and I asked him to give me a quotation. I felt the money he quoted was a bit high but he assured me that I could go to the market myself and verify the prices. Usually, I will not do this and I was about to make a transfer to him when it occurred to me to actually do the verification as he had suggested. Lo and behold, the cost of doing the whole work, materials and labor inclusive, was a third of the amount he gave me. Well, you guessed right: he no longer works for me. What is troubling me right now is not what he did, but the fact that this is the first time I am verifying the cost of materials that artisans give me and I suspect that all these years, these people have been deceiving me. It is the culture of corruption ravaging through our land and this is one reason I believe Bola Ahmed Tinubu should not be elected president of Nigeria. If you will hang on a minute, I will make the connection.
In his book, Soldiers of Fortune: A History of Nigeria (1983-1993), Max Siollun explained how the culture of money and corruption became quite endemic in the Nigerian psyche. Like any other society, Nigeria was already battling corruption but it was Ibrahim Babangida that took it to a whole new level. Babangida had come to power in August 1985, having ousted his boss, Muhammadu Buhari, in a bloodless coup. At about this time, there arose a group within the Nigerian army that were called political soldiers. These were soldiers who felt that the business of the army was more relevant within the political sphere. While Babangida led this group, the hunger for power among his own boys meant that just as he had removed someone from power, he was also not safe. To therefore entrench himself in office, Babangida brought forward a culture of “settling the boys”. I remember when, sometimes in 1991, how he purchased brand new Peugeot cars for officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and above. It was during this time that professional contractors began to thrive: all you need to do is to know someone close to Aso Rock and you will be given a contract. You will sublet the contract to someone else, while you simply smile home to the bank with your own share – having done nothing. This is where the whole idea of being “connected” began to thrive and this is where contract inflation, at astronomical percentages, became a culture in Nigeria. And despite a change from military to civilian rule in 1999, the culture of over-inflated contracts in Nigerian businesses has only gotten worse. When the likes of Bola Tinubu came to power as Governor of Lagos State, this was the culture they met on ground and it is not difficult to guess that a lot of people benefited from this seeming government largesse. Most people supporting a Tinubu presidency today do so because they hope that this culture of money will continue with him. This is the first identifiable problem that a Tinubu presidency will bring to Nigeria. And it is not just Tinubu; most politicians in Nigeria operate in this manner.
Another reason why a Tinubu presidency will be extremely problematic is hinged on the over flogged but lingering problem of his health status. When Tinubu’s critics question the state of his health, his supporters tell us to produce any medical report that shows that he is unfit to rule Nigeria. I think the onus is not on us, his critics, to do this but on his supporters to do so. Will Bola Ahmed Tinubu allows for an independent medical institution to examine him and have his medical status published publicly? If this can happen and it is shown that Tinubu has no life threatening disease he is battling; nor does he have a health issue that could hamper his performance in office, he will have my vote – along with those of many other Nigerians. Unfortunately, Tinubu cannot do this. Just as he is unable to grant interviews to the most rigorous interviewers on Nigerian television, Tinubu will be unable to undergo any kind of thorough examination on any subject. You can be sure that just like many Nigerian leaders before him, Bola Tinubu will avoid all the presidential debates scheduled before the elections.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not well: that is the fact that is on ground right now. And Nigerians cannot afford to gamble this time around. We have had sick heads of state before and we know how much it cost this country. There was Sani Abacha – who died in office. Then Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who also died in office. And then we had the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, who at a point was away from the country for so long because of health issues. Apart from the millions of dollars of this country’s money that will be expended on their medical care, productive time is also wasted away. And government in Nigeria is almost always designed in a manner of having the President at the center. When he is not around, government is grounded. This country has suffered too much backwardness and the challenges facing us are way too much for us to begin to again expend resources and time on caring for the President – when in fact we should be caring for a sick country.
One last reason why a Tinubu presidency is not entirely appealing is the kind of individuals that appear to surround his campaign. Bola Tinubu has not washed himself clean of allegation of earning large sums of money while providing accounting services to drug peddlers in his younger days – consider the David Hundeyin report on this subject. It is easy to see how the sums he might have earned from this adventure would have been plunged into the whole process of his being elected Senator in 1990s. He would eventually be elected Governor of Lagos State in 1999 and since then that state has not left his iron grip. There is a reason why some people call him the landlord of Lagos. Subsequent administrations in Lagos have been individuals Bola Tinubu anoints. This has ensured that Tinubu and his cronies have access to all the juicy contracts from the Lagos State government. In the process, there is a cult following that Bola Tinubu commands – which includes motor park touts and their commanders. The first time MC Oluomo came to my recognition was the incidents that led to his stabbing in the neck at a political rally in Lagos State. Oluomo survived that attack and has today become a leading supporter of Tinubu. It is individuals like these Nigerians will be bequeathing the ship of state to if Tinubu is elected President in 2023.
Through the years, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appears to have developed its electioneering processes and the probability of having free and fair elections in Nigeria are increasing with each election. This is giving voters the confidence that their votes will count. This should also encourage the electorate towards voting their conscience and putting people in power in Nigeria who are competent and capable. Tinubu may have proven himself as a competent administrator when he was Governor over twenty years ago. However, with the passage of time, and with nature wearing everyone out, Tinubu is not capable health wise to govern this country. Besides this, his kind of politics will only further entrench the money culture and corruption that is crippling this country. And lastly, the people surrounding him are not the best minds that Nigeria offers.
If we truly desire to see things done differently in this country, we must be ready to effect some uncomfortable changes. For some of us, it might mean changing things as little as untrustworthy artisans. For others it might mean bringing those vying for political office to higher standards of scrutiny. Bola Ahmed Tinubu cannot survive this kind of scrutiny and this is why he would rather allow shades of doubt becloud the matter of his health. The Nigerian voters should be more discerning and thus reject individuals like these at the coming polls.