Nigeria’s electioneering history may yet define the ongoing season as the most remarkable yet. Similar processes in our more distant past, did not generate as much jives and jabs, as we’ve witnessed in the course of the ongoing campaigns. I have alluded in an earlier article, to the comic content which the present politicking has thrown up thus far. The verbal ingenuity of Bola Tinubu, presidential frontiersman of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), for the presidency, has most probably been the phenomenal discovery of the season. Tinubu was premiere governor of Lagos State this fourth republic, we will recall. His outings have continued to produce hit after hit of comedy, music and soundbites, which could conveniently challenge for Grammys, Oscars, even platinum awards, on the global stage.
For a nation in grievous pain, angst and despondency, Tinubu’s talent for on-stage theatrics has suddenly blossomed as he strides through the twilight of his life. They will indeed engage the inquisitions of upcoming scholars of variants and variations of campaign communication. His *balablu blublu bulaba* invention l, featured as an examination question for second year students of mass communications at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, just last month. The young scholars were asked to “justify the social judgment theory using one popular misspeak by the presidential candidate of the APC.” That slur we are informed, spotlighted possible dementia for this aspirant for Nigeria’s topmost job. Tinubu’s proclivity and prolificity, have spawned fresh strands of scholarship and elucidation which will enrich a wide range of academic discourse, moving forward.
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One of Tinubu’s more recent verbal stutters was in Katsina, home state of Muhammadu Buhari whose job he intends to take over. Addressing a rally, Tinubu assured the womenfolk that his “government will take care of the wives of widows!” Wow!! This novel scenario presupposes that women who, for various reasons have lost their spouses, were themselves, wedded to women in the first place, a rather curious suggestion. Yet, the last time I checked, same sex liaisons and marriages remain outlawed in Nigeria.
Tinubu’s propensity to the committal of verbal somersaults and reverse logic, knows no bounds. It is indeed a misnomer, a rare and remote exception to the rule if he doesn’t simulate a verbal earth tremor on any particular occasion. Unfortunately, we all seem to have forgotten that the pattern didn’t begin today. As far back as the 11th edition of the “Bola Tinubu Colloquium” in 2019, he had propounded a rather queer theorem, that he would as president, “reduce the purchasing power of the people and slow down the economy!” This was supposed to be the panacea propounded by a whizkid, for rejigging the nation’s economy, by a man who has been virtually deified by his non-questioning adherents.
One genuinely emphatises with Tinubu over the self-inflicted rigour of a tedious campaign calendar, straddling the vast span of our country. We are gradually grazing the crescendo of an interesting electioneering. It is a choice that he has made. One hopes his minders, managers and marketers help him stick to his expertly advised regimen of rest, recreation and rejuvenation. One hopes they avail him recordings of his outings, so he can watch his performances and draw lessons for the next public appearance.
The last time I witnessed any such seriousness to governance processes and issues, was during the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar regime. Atiku today is the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), the major opposition party. Those good old days in the presidential villa, officials who assumed that the easy going charismatic Atiku was easier meat than the better known Obasanjo, were thoroughly mistaken. Atiku had been through the mills and grills of political education, as an ardent follower and deputy to Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who founded the Peoples Democratic Movement, (PDM). The PDM constituted the core component of the latter day PDP, on whose back Obasanjo rode to the presidency in 1999. He was previously attuned and accustomed to late night meetings and horse-trading which typify our specie of politicking.
*For his age, Atiku is more rugged than you may assume. He sat through tasking, maybe tormenting sessions of reviews and previews, in between state visits and official tours, locally and internationally, when he was Vice President. He had his ever-present pen and notepad, as he followed proceedings with studious attention, observing discussions beneath his thin-rimmed glasses. He took copious notes in his beautiful cursive handwriting, listening to contributions and sharing his own perspectives. Governance indeed is serious business.* Breakfast next morning was beyond the allure of the tantalising buffet. It was also an opportunity to skim through the itinerary of the new day. The underlying ethos for Atiku: The new day should be an improvement over the preceding day.
The presidential campaigns seem to have almost totally dwarfed electioneering for other offices down the hierarchies of political representation. Expectedly so because of the importance and centrality of the position to the leadership, direction and fortunes of the country. Away from the soapbox and its sundry dramas, however, there seems to be an important item we just might be glossing over, if not forgetting. And we are just days to the election. Eighteen contestants are on the ballot for the presidency. In public discourse, however, there is a tendency to narrow down the number to five or four, depending on the parameters of assessment. There is yet a scaling down to the two topmost and most likely parties to produce Nigeria’s next president, and by extension the two individuals who may ultimately be adorned with the coveted diadem. The lattermost school puts it to us that one of Atiku and Tinubu will be Nigeria’s next leader.
As part of electioneering cycle engagements with public office seekers, townhall meetings and similar interactive programmes have been put together by different organisations and agencies. Presidential candidates have participated in real-time interviews and debates, broadcast on live television. Atiku; Peter Obi, candidate of the Labour Party, (LP); Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, (NNPP) and little known Adewole Adebayo of the Social Democratic Party, (SDP), have participated in several such events. Participants have used these platforms to sell their candidatures to the broad-spectrum of the Nigerian electorate. The figures of this critical mass of Nigerians, has been put at over 93 million, by the nation’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
Curiously, Tinubu has not participated in any single such event since the flag-off of electioneering. An attempt by *Arise Television* and *Thisday* newspapers to get him to feature in a live interview or debate late last year, degenerated into name-calling, brickbats and a grand fiasco. The Presidential Campaign Council, (PCC) of the APC, brawled publicly with the organisers of the interview and townhall series. In the discharge of their public enlightenment and education functions, *Arise Television and Thisday* newspapers desired that Tinubu as an aspiring president, answer to contentious aspects of his curriculum vitae.
The effervescent question surrounding Tinubu’s alleged indictment in 1993 by a US court on allegations of drug entanglements culminating in the forfeiture via a plea bargain, of the sum of $460, 000, would most probably feature in such an engagement. His suspect medical folio which had thrown up embarrassing public situations and spectres over time, would also most predictably come under the microscope. There will be questions about his chequered academic credentials which have been serially and severally panel-beaten, its jagged edges jutting out around and about. Tinubu’s understandably edgy minders smelt danger. Their instinctively waffling Principal could as well cave in while on the hot-seat of such a session, before the global audience.
So, Tinubu has been effectively “hoarded” away thus far, from live interface with Nigerian media organisations, with barely two weeks to the general elections. Nigerians have been willfully denied the opportunity to grill the man who seeks to rule over the affairs of a country which drapes itself in the tapestries of the “giant of Africa” and the “most populous black country in the world,” respectively. As though suffering mass hypnosis, we are collectively allowing Tinubu sneak away to the Saturday February 25, 2023 epic electoral contest, without squeezing him as much as possible.
We must collectively shake off that tranquilliser which has numbed our consciousness and sensibilities these past few months. We must demand, even within the constrained lead up to the election, a live interview with the man who desires to rule over our affairs. If it is Tinubu’s turn to be president flowing from his famous *emi lo’kan* declaration ahead of the coming primary of the APC in June last year, there is now a fitting postscript. It is our turn as the Nigerians he hopes to lead, *a wa lokan,* to put this man of a million aliases, including *Olowo Eko,* through a last minute peppered inquisition grill. *Olowo Eko* by the way translates as “the rich man of Lagos.” Not again will any presidential candidate tiptoe into Aso Rock, behind our collective backs.
Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to Atiku Abubakar, GCON, Presidential Candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP).