1:59 PM August 18, 2022

Tinubu’s candidacy and pending discomforting questions

The Bola Ahmed Tinubu presidential candidacy presents a dilemma that will tell a lot about the character of Nigerians. It will also reveal whether this is a country for which democracy is suited or should stick to a blend of autocracy and monarchy. We will return to this line in a bit.

On Tuesday, Director-General of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Political Support Group, Hon. Jubril Abdulmumin, was a guest on Arise TV’s Morning Show. The former member of the House of Representatives, articulate as ever, exuded confidence in his candidate’s invincibility. He tackled every question with buoyant fluidity until one of the anchors, Rufai Oseni, asked a question that rattled the D-G.

The question: “How did your candidate make his staggering wealth? Secondly, there have been discrepancies about his age. Let me ask you, how old is he?”

This was the point where the good man from Kano opened his own flank, showing his ill-preparedness for his undertaken job. He rambled around the question and refused to answer it. When Oseni persisted, Abdulmumin described the question as fit for the trash bin and unworthy of an answer. He promised that if the interviewer repeated the question one million times, he would receive the same level of baulking. When former presidential spokesman, Dr Ruben Abati, an anchor on the programme, tried to intervene, Abdulmumin expressed the expectation that when an interviewee chooses not to answer a question, the journalist should move on to something else. At that point, Abati derisively retorted: “You now teach journalism,” a remark that captures the guest’s condescending remarks!

But more than the attempt to teach a journalist how to do his job is the arrogance of these men, who sell themselves to Nigerians as democrats. Two of the basic assumptions of democracy are the need for the people to ask questions of their leaders—whether prospective or incumbent—and the obligations for transparency from such leaders. It defies the imagination to see how people who claim to be progressive democrats’ question and even oppose these fundamental requirements.

Apart from his reaction, Abdulmumin himself showed contempt for transparency and accountability when the question of how to reconcile his current campaign for Tinubu’s candidacy with his existing office as Executive Director of a federal agency was posed by Abati. The former lawmaker dismissed this as an irrelevant question since his appointment was by the All Progressives Congress government and he is still working with an APC aspirant! So, you wonder: are these people so confused about governance that they cannot compartmentalise between national assignments and the shenanigans in their parties? While your ruling party can offer you appointments to any agency of government that it likes, the moment you take that office, you become a servant of the Nigerian people, not your party! Therefore, it is immoral to take on the campaign of a political aspirant when governance is supposed to be a priority. It is, in fact, a form of corruption which Nigerian politicians would laugh off as a non-issue.

You then want to ask yourself if these politicians are ignorant of the incumbent demands of their offices or if they do not think they owe the people this duty of service. Given the flagrant disposition of people like the former House of Reps’ member, one is persuaded to conclude that many Nigerian politicians do not just think that they owe the people an explanation for their choices.

One would imagine, for instance, that the DG of the Tinubu Support Group would understand that presenting on the Arise TV Morning Show for an interview was an avenue to talk to Nigerians about the person who wants their mandate. How do you trivialise a question that is not likely to go away? But even his principal’s disposition when confronted with the question of the bullion van allegedly parked around his premises on an election day in 2019 was equally dismissive!

Hear Tinubu, “I don’t work for the government. I am not in an agency of the government and let anybody come out to say I have taken any contract from the government of President [Muhammadu] Buhari and the APC in the last five years. If I don’t represent any agency of government and I have money to spend, if I like, I give it to the people free of charge as long as it is not to buy votes.” But you are a politician, influential in the ruling party and justifiably believed to be the determinant of who becomes who in Lagos and other South-West states since 2007! Most importantly, you planned to be president, so you owe every Nigerian an explanation.

Although Tinubu’s supporters would see the above as a good response, it is not what one would expect of anyone who would one day ask Nigerians to vote him in as president unless he already assumes that the people have no option than to accept him.

There is a thin positive line in his clarification that the money was not meant for vote-buying. However, a politician who rolls a bullion van into his compound on the eve of an election must consider perception and its potent influence on how people look at reality? If an Aliko Dangote did this, it probably would have passed without notice (suffice to say that we have never heard anything of sorts about the richest man in Africa). If you want to lead a people, you must prepare to be stripped bare for an intensive analysis of what you have done, what you can do and what qualifies you to do it. There cannot be any two ways to do it.

One is, however, persuaded that Tinubu, Abdulmumin and other politicians in the progressive class are aware of this. Was public perception not the instrument they deployed to lethal effects in the 2015 elections? People say Tinubu has not been convicted of corruption and that is true. However, has there been any of Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar, Goodluck Jonathan, and so many other Nigerians on whom corruption tags have indelibly stuck by virtue of what Tinubu and other “progressive” politicians told us? Some of them still get the blame for Nigeria’s current situation, just for what was said about them, and the perception Nigerians have formed. So, what makes Tinubu and co suddenly indifferent to the power of perception? How do they imagine not being judged on the same parameters as others? What is the foundation for such hypocrisy?

The only thing that comes to mind is that these politicians have concluded that they have Nigerians by their short hairs. From the air of superiority around most of our politicians, especially those who lay claim to progressive credentials, they believe they have done so much good to the people that they now have them under the thumb. And this is enough to get their votes, regardless of what they do, say or do not! As a result, the people should not contemplate some questions, and some of the statements and conduct of these political lords should not be queried.

This point takes us back to whether Nigerians want democracy and the most critical error the people must avoid in the 2023 elections. Getting star-struck and sleeping on citizens’ rights to interrogate their past, present, and future would be an eternally regrettable error. Such surrender is not fit or expected in a democracy.

Nigerians must not make the mistake of thinking that any politician is too good for their query. Former French leader, Charles De Gaulle, once declared as follows: “I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians.” Nigerians must realise that regardless of how attractive the credentials of a politician may seem, power is such a delicate instrument for which there must be checks and balances. Democracy places the ultimate responsibility for the destiny of nations on the citizenry and it starts with the ability to understand the people they are voting for. Failure to live up to this responsibility and haranguing others, who have the presence of mind to query the postulations and pontifications of aspirants, is a national disserve, which posterity will hold against anyone caught in this web. Nigerians cannot continue to be passive accomplices or even victims of the country’s trouble.

And for Abdulmumin and others, who plan to speak for candidates in the coming months, they must be prepared for the heat that is sure to hit their kitchens. Their candidates will have so many questions to answer. Many of those questions would be discomforting, even mischievous, but it is a duty they owe Nigerians for the high office they seek. Anyone who is not ready for that should kindly stay put in their private businesses.

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