We always knew the day would come when former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, would declare his interest in running for president. In a country where politics is about seizing power, his presidential ambition has been especially obsessive. After leaving government in 2007, he has been calculatedly amassing the resources that will land him in Aso Rock. Unfortunately, Nigeria cannot afford a Tinubu presidency. Following the Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s locust years with the impotence that Tinubu’s leadership portends is to doom the country. After eight years of maladministration by Buhari, we cannot waste one more day of our national life on another deadwood.
Nigeria urgently needs a turning point. Everybody—including even some of Tinubu’s close associates—knows that he does not represent the future. Some things should be left where they were buried, and that includes Tinubu’s presidential dreams.
To preempt the spin doctors and churnalists, whose rejoinders will grasp at straw man arguments, please note that the issue at stake is not whether Tinubu has the constitutional right to aspire to any elective office or not. He has the right to contest just as much as we too retain the right to point out that his candidature is unproductive. Contesting puts him on the path to the presidency and we owe it to ourselves to say why he is awful for our democracy. We also know that he has not yet been convicted of any crime, especially criminal self-enrichment. Yet, it takes a high-grade dis-ingenuousness to deny the heavyweight of his moral baggage. How does a man like that become president without society first repudiating the very virtues of ethical vision, accountability, and the moral courage required of those who aspire to lead them?
This is a man whose identity is shrouded in incredulous falsehoods. Everything about his persona is shady, from his parentage to his age and to his educational history. His political career has been defined by an unflinching record of primitive accumulation of wealth and power. That is why, even without an observable source of livelihood, he could boast he was richer than the whole of Osun State. Not only has the destiny of Lagos revolved around him since 1999, but he has also plugged his immediate family members into powerful positions just so he can control governance resources at every level. Such a person in charge of the resources of the entire nation will build a pipeline from the national purse to his private pockets.
When Tinubu’s praise singers adulate him, they tend to base their worship of him on his ability to select meritorious candidates and plant them in key leadership positions. By now, you would have also observed that the echo chambers that promote this trait as praiseworthy are either current beneficiaries of Tinubu’s largesse or those jockeying for crumbs falling off the master’s table. While these lackeys constantly regurgitate these points, it is about the most worthless argument anyone can offer in support of a candidate vying for the crucial office of the presidency. It is only a society where the people have lost perspective of what constitutes excellence that celebrates a man who puts his cronies into positions of authority.
If anything, Tinubu’s judgement on leadership selections is more than enough proof of his lack of managerial acumen. Beyond the self-serving quality of that argument, what else is there to this leadership? We would be better convinced if they highlighted the substantial results of this cadre of leaders he graciously implanted in key places. How well have these “talented tenths” that Tinubu alone knows how to fish out of the Nigerian talent pond performed? In what distinct and discernible ways have the quality of our Nigerian lives been improved because of this sagacity? Merely handing out political appointments to cronies can not—and should not—be all there is to leadership.
Really, how does anyone look at the conditions of existence in Nigeria—especially Lagos State—and insist they have a functional leadership class in place? Perhaps, the better question is what degree of myopia it takes for anyone to look at Lagos State—a hellish mega-slum lacking modern infrastructure—and still conclude that the appointments of its managers were based on any administrative insight. Tinubu’s party, the All Progressives Congress, has been in power since 1999 under various guises. Not only are they unaccountable in their financial dealings, but Lagos is also barely progressing. What exactly have they achieved in all the years of their rulership of that state beyond empty propaganda?
By now, it is almost routine that Lagos would be ranked among the world’s unlivable cities. A concrete jungle and veritable hell on earth, the city is regularly categorised along with war-torn cities and the poverty capitals of the world. So, what is the fuss about Tinubu’s leadership school when its products have not even managed Lagos successfully? What have we gained in the universal basics of housing, health, nourishment, education, and urban infrastructure? How have Lagosians’ lives improved that testifies to the quality of leadership he has produced? The failure of Lagos to live up to its potential should be a thing of shame for the city administrators, not occasions for vain mythification.
Meanwhile, in the similar stretch of time that Lagos entered one man’s pocket, the founding fathers of places like the United Arab Emirates advanced their societies from barren deserts into modern cities. China pulled hundreds of millions out of poverty and Singapore transitioned from a backwater into a modern society. All of these happened but even the basics of urban engineering continue to elude Lagos. So, what is the noise of the magic of Tinubu’s leadership all about when he did not achieve a feat comparable with what his counterparts elsewhere accomplished? Our people have become so blinded by mediocrity that the disaster that passes for Lagos is what they deem administrative success.
Those who believe that Tinubu has a peculiar skill for selecting worthwhile leaders should at least account for his prudence in fostering a crassly incompetent leader like Buhari, not once but twice! Buhari turned out to be a disaster during his first term, but Tinubu promoted him for a second term. Anyone who watched Buhari’s recent interview with Channels Television cannot but conclude that though Buhari still has 17 months to go, Nigeria has already frittered away eight years of national life. We have been plagued with possibly the most incompetent and the most sociopathic leader in national history.
In 2015, Buhari was hardly a promising candidate, but things were not supposed to be this bad. The man did not solve any problem but, in fact, worsened everything with his impotence and sadistic arrogance. We saw the massive disgust that crossed Buhari’s face when his interviewers, Maupe Ogun and Seun Okinbaloye, read out the statistics of his failure to him. He could not refute them beyond saying he was not sure their figures were correct. If he oversaw his own regime, would he not have countered with facts and figures that showed how much he had improved the country? That was a leader Tinubu helped install twice and we are supposed to trust his judgement again? No! Yoruba elders are quite right when they observe that nobody deceives another person into having sexual relations with them more than once. If that deceiver succeeds a second time, it could only be because the victim consented.
After the monumental disaster called Buhari, Nigeria cannot afford another leader whose driving motivation for the presidency is to merely fulfil a lifelong dream. Tinubu has a right to pursue his ambition but not at the expense of poor and long-suffering Nigerians already counting down to the days when Buhari’s nuisance will be escorted out of Aso Rock. The 2023 election should be a turning point. Recruiting another bumbler as president jeopardises that chance. We can all agree that Nigeria deserves better than a candidate without a viable record of administrative success beyond the cheap propaganda retailed in the media and parroted by those who do not listen to their own thoughts before mouthing them.
Under Buhari, Nigeria plunged badly on every index of social progress and national development. Buhari’s atrocious presidency has been an affliction tantamount to divine punishment. We have over-suffered. After Buhari’s presidency, that affliction of leadership must not rise a second time.
– Adelakun is a respected columnist with The Punch