WHENEVER it rains in Nigeria it usually pours. But for the pains that our ruling political elite inflicted on citizens, there is hardly any dull moment in this country. Breaking news, most of it bad, has in recent weeks been chasing one after the other off the headlines.
This season there had been the publication by the National Bureau of Statistics [NBS] that about three quarters of Nigerians or 133 million people are trapped in multi-dimensional poverty; the Nigerian Army alleging that it was under intense pressure to subvert the will of Nigerians during the consequential general elections in February and March of 2023; a chieftain of the ruling [or ruining party] the All Progressive Congress [APC] was stripped naked in public and beaten blue and black somewhere in Nasarawa state; the national publicity secretary of the Labor Party was sacked and the Ogun State executive committee of the party disbanded ostensibly for engineering the suspension and the embarrassment of the director-general of the presidential campaign council.
It was also the season that the residential campaign council of the APC published what it described as a subsisting United States of America entry visa for its presidential candidate to head off rumors that the man who has been associated with a drug trafficking ring in Chicago for many decades ago has been denied visa. But instead of the publication squelching the rumour, it stirred another controversy about the candidate’s actual birth date. Then came the chatter from Chatham House in London where the same candidate, whose quest for the presidency of Nigeria has been dogged by serial controversies, was invited and attended what was supposed to be an interactive session with a mixed audience of journalists, experts and ordinary folks.
Virtually everything about Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC had been mired in controversy. So, that his appearance at Chatham House kicked off a storm was no surprise. The surprise would have been if it did not. The state of origin of Tinubu is unknown, but not really. Officially his real parents are unknown, but not quite. The primary and secondary schools he ‘attended’ are known, and the same time unknown. His gender allegedly changed at a time in his young adulthood from female to male.
The names he bears appear today to have evolved over time. in his past, some other names including Amoda had reportedly been part of his identity. His work profile is also challenged. He was reported to have worked with ExxonMobil at a time no company bearing that name existed in Nigeria. He also claimed affiliation with global auditing firm Delloite but the company has since distanced itself from him.
Tinubu once told an interviewer that he received a golden handshake of almost one million United States dollars in the early 1990s for an outstanding audit job he did in the Middle East or so for his then American employers. Those in the know said that was IMPOSSIBLE for a rookie auditor to be paid that much in that decade. They said that even a senior auditor who was a partner in a reputable firm couldn’t have been paid that much in the 1990s. His claim about this humongous payout was part of his bid to justify the source of his mind boggling wealth which has repeatedly been derided as wealth without enterprise and criminal proceed from the capture of Lagos since, and after, his days of governing the state. in the wake of the campaign to be elected President of Nigeria in 2023, the story of Tinubu’s source of wealth has changed. Now his surrogates claim that his wealth was from his deft play in the stock market abroad especially in the US as well as his investments in real estate.
Given that all of Tinubu’s being is governed by crooked stories, it was no surprise that his appearance recently at Chatham House and the performance of allocating questions which were asked of him were once more dogged by controversies. But it would appear that we are missing the import of Tinubu’s Chatham House charade. The shame and global ridicule was not on Tinubu. It was on Nigeria. And the rapid slippery slope to the bottom started in 2014 and accelerated in 2015 with the access to the presidency by an infirm, barely educated and certainly ill-equipped Maj.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. We, Nigerians, assented to the devaluation of the office of the President of Nigeria at that point. When a few persons raised concerns about his state of health, they were dismissed as not being his doctor and accused of playing God. At the end we were saddled with an absentee President who has spent more than 200 days abroad on medical tourism in seven years. The same is playing out with Tinubu today. He is infirm with alleged cognitive issues and possibly Parkinson’s challenge. But Buhari got away with infirmity at a high cost to Nigeria, so why not Tinubu.
The trouble with the Presidency of Nigeria is nothing personal to Buhari or Tinubu or even other presidential candidates including Peter Obi of the Labor Party, Sowore, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso or the 13 other odd candidates. The problem is rooted in structure and law. The only clear and unambiguous requirement to aspire to be president of Nigeria is the stipulated minimum age. The educational qualification is the amorphous constitutional entry that an aspirant must be educated up to secondary school level. You qualify even if you dropped out of secondary school or equivalent institution in Class One. There’s no mandate to declare your health status. Elsewhere in government or the private sector, a prospective employee is required to present photocopies of educational certificates and certification of medical fitness. Some companies even independently approach issuing institutions to authenticate such certificates. Buhari presented excuses in lieu of certificates in 2015 and got away with it. His supporters claimed that he attained the rank of an Army General and that that should suffice. Tinubu has followed the same route.
Is the possession of certificates a pointer that a potential president will do well in office? Not necessarily. But if education and certification are not necessary to appraise applicants to an office, governments and corporations would not demand them as a basis for recruitment. The same for state of health of prospects to positions. It’s no use asking our senators, representatives and state assembly members to alter the 1999 Constitution to raise the bar. The majority of lawmakers at all levels are prime beneficiaries of the lax laws. The potential cure for this disease and other diseases affecting the country is a dialogue among nations in Nigeria on how to make the country just, fair and equitable for the majority of their peoples. Any other thing would amount to attempting to move forward in reverse gear. And we have been doing so since 1966 to our collective pain and hurt.