BY ABDULHAMID BAKARE
What is N100 million naira worth to you? This amount of money could pay the fees for over 350 students in the Nigerian Law School today. It could pay for the hospital bills for at least 1,000 mothers, ensuring the safe delivery of their babies- In a country with the third highest rate of maternal deaths in the world, this is how I quantify money – in a very utilitarian way. I assume it is because I work for my money, that every naira I spend must produce value – even if it is spent on food that brings me joy, or a cold drink that quenches my thirst – every last naira in my pocket has a use, has a value, not just on what I spend it on, not just what it is worth to me – but its true value. The top 0.5% of Nigerians have a household income of N100,000 or over, that means that 99.5% of households have less than this. And if you’re in the top 0.5% of the population? It will take over 83 years, at N100,000 a month, to afford the APC nomination form.
So now imagine my sheer confusion and horror on June 7 2022, as I watched 7 candidates step down for Bola Ahmed Tinubu – in what he later heralded as a ‘democratic exertion’. If you spend One Hundred Million Naira solely on a nomination form, how much does it cost you to step down? I am sure that Godswill Akpabio, Ibikunle Amosun, and I, do not share the same calculus – I would never dream of it. Perhaps they were bought, or perhaps they know some cost of standing up against the so-called lion of bourdillon. It was obvious watching the choreographed show at Eagle Square that uniting behind Tinubu is further proof of his autocratic nature, it was in no way a democratic exercise. If you read that line and thought, ‘what do you expect’ or that I’m revealing some naivety, please note that in always expecting the worst from Nigeria, all we have learnt is that there seems to be no low in how far this country can fall.
Both those who admire the man and those who detest him will tell you ‘Jagaban does not fight fair’ but now Jagaban is the frontrunner for President, and I find myself in the fight of my life.
Tinubu, in your acceptance speech, which I have read and sat with for a week, you use the word ‘democratic’. Why would the man who has had his hand on the throat of Lagos state and its institutions for over twenty years imply he believes in a democratic process? When Wikileaks sought to embarrass the US and expose their secrets they also exposed you, sir. When you chose Fashola to succeed you in Lagos you spoke behind closed doors not about his capacity to run the state, but of the man as a ‘faithful subordinate’. Yet as Lagosians we know you tried to cut his tenure short when he felt his loyalty to the people of Lagos, who elected him to represent them, preceded his loyalty to you. The requirements for being governor of Lagos – according to you – are loyalty and performance of your self-imposed duties. Who are you sir? I do not mean to engage with you or your supporters on your storied background- your alleged birth name, or birth date, or birth mother or education. I mean who do you think you are?
I Imagine whoever you choose as your running mate in the coming week will have already started the prayer and fasting for their protection to whatever deity they believe in – because history does not lie, and it does repeat itself. Your deputies never fare well. Your first deputy while governor of Lagos, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor- Akerele resigned after your first term in office calling you a ‘dictator’ and ‘mafia don’ who had amassed a *stupendous* amount of wealth. Of course the claims of Mafia Don are a callback to your time under surveillance in America and your court case in relation to the smuggling of heroin and your buying of property with the use of money earned through drug smuggling – but we can come to that later.
Femi Pedro, who served as Senator Bucknor-Akerele’s replacement also came to the most unfortunate fate – impeached at your behest so that he would not receive a dime of state pension owed him. This starvation left Pedro acting disgraceful, after trying to take it to court in 2011 and having his case thrown out, his impeachment was only invalidated after coming to you begging like a homeless pauper. We need not infer this, because the Lagos State House of Assembly members who believed their primary role was to do your bidding came out and said “Pedro has shown much remorse and obedience, let’s pardon him to have his sanity back.” Remorse, Obedience to the master – the defining factor in Lagos politics. Femi Pedro was impeached on the grounds of “insubordination and betrayal of trust and confidence” but you, the man who holds no ‘grievances or grudges’ as you so kindly noted in your acceptance speech, 8 years later, accepted him back into the fold, since then he has continued to follow about dutifully, casting his ballot at Eagle square as an APC delegate, no doubt, voting for the Mafia Don that broke his spine.
Logic dictates how you have strangled Lagos is how you intend to strangle the whole of Nigeria. You want us all to be Femi Pedro, hungry, destitute and in need of you, obedient to you. But I am not a slave, I am a citizen, and so I must speak, lest you kill me and claim I enjoyed it. Have you tell it,our screams in Lagos are songs of praise for the all mighty lion – the lion who has sharpened his claws on our bones and now wishes to devour our children.
It is not your turn Tinubu, it is Nigeria’s turn.
Let us return to the speech – where you promise to build upon the foundations that Buhari has laid – in saner climes that would be viewed as a death threat to the general population. Under Buhari, Nigeria experienced its deepest recession in 25 years, the rising cost of food is untenable, food inflation rose to 18.37% in April and staple foods have now become luxury items. The money I could use to feed my family when Buhari entered power I can hardly use to feed just myself today. The World Bank has noted that Nigeria’s economy under President Muhammadu Buhari was worse than what it used to be 10 years ago, but we don’t need experts to tell us about our lived experience. The economy is in tatters – everyone living outside of the privileged bubble you reside in knows that. Yet you threaten us with a continuation of the status quo. “Emi lo kan”, you say, When will it be Nigeria’s turn?
At least 10million children are out of school, and ASUU strikes leave the youth of our country floundering, in the dark, striving to survive inspite of the willfull incompetence and wickedness of the men in power. Yet, your speech ignored this and spoke about the Zamfara Gold deposits- promising youths ‘jobs’. Surely, it mustn’t be the one controlled by the black market and the Nigerian military? Perhaps in your free time you have discovered another one.
Nigeria’s technology sector has grown in spite of the government’s involvement and not because of it. At every stage, the government has positioned themselves as roadblocks to the success of innovative, hardworking, and intelligent youths. When Tinubu speaks of building on Buhari’s foundations- does he mean the practice of freezing the accounts of Nigerian fintechs and harassing their executives into exile? A US report from foreign owned businesses in 2003 claimed that Private investors were not ‘bullish’ on Lagos because ‘many claim that they have been requested to contribute to the governor in order to have projects move forward’ the governor of course, being Tinubu – this was twenty years ago, and you’re asking for the keys to the whole country after mismanaging the golden egg for nearly thirty years.
I see how you and your ilk are preparing to syphon off the hard work of young Nigerians. Instead of proposing to build the infrastructure, security and economic stability required to facilitate growth in these areas. How many pockets must your hands enter before you are satisfied? The thought of Alpha Beta on a national level is cause for worry. It is no secret in the Fintech and finance community that but for the stranglehold of Tinubu and the monopoly of Alpha beta on the purse strings of Lagos state, (since the beginning of the fourth republic!) fintechs would have greatly increased our revenue generation. The monopoly of Alpha beta and the greed of one man has denied the average Lagosian of improved healthcare or a better intermodal transport system. Somehow during the EndSARS protests, the only court to burn to the ground in Lagos – the court in Igbosere- was the Courthouse that Housed the Alpha-Beta Complaint against Tinubu. Still, when young people were shot at the Lekki Tollgate, Tinubu said “Those who suffered casualty during the gunshots need to answer some questions” and called his current lapdog – the 56year old governor of lagos Babajide Sanwo-Olu- a “youth”. This asinine thinking, that a man who has spent over half a century on this earth is a youth- is probably the same line of thinking that has convinced the geriatric Tinubu he is fit for office.
Yet Tinubu calls himself enlightened – Does Tinubu appear to anyone as a rational, modern, and well-informed candidate ? Can a man in his 70s who views a 56yr old man old enough to be someone’s grandfather as a youth, offer us a modern outlook which centres our current realities? Tinubu who stood on stage and told us his solution to insecurity in the country was to recruit 50 million youths into the Nigerian Army, and feed them cassava and corn. The worst part for me watching that is that the sycophants around him clapped wildly as a response to that statement and smiled. No one thought to say, that it was a stupid idea? An idea a 15 yr old in secondary school would not submit in his politics exam is the idea a presidential candidate is offering in all seriousness as a solution to our problems!
What is most frightening about Tinubu’s statements are that although his public remarks display infantile thinking by the man, his prepared statements reveal that the team is filled with dimwitted sycophants. That is why the governor of Lagos has left Lagos on autopilot and turned himself into the shekere in a travelling band – singing the gospel of Tinubu from one place to another. It seems for the governor of Lagos, a whole state governor, loyalty to the Mafia Don is more important than integrity or carrying out his job. We are in such a stranglehold that Sanwo-Olu is not even bothered with his own campaign for governor. Sanwo, nigbawo ni e ti ri eko gbeyin?
Not only does Tinubu wish to turn Nigeria’s presidential office into a retirement home for geriatric men – he wants us to fund his palliative care. In his acceptance speech Tinubu speaks of the future, yet his mind, body, and style of rule are firmly rooted in the past. According to Tinubu, it is his ‘turn’ to rule, the office of president is something he believes he is entitled to. According to Tinubu it is not time for progress, it is not time for growth, it is not time for security, it is not time for a working economy, it is not time to stem the fleeing of young nigerians, it is not time for us to emerge from these dark ages, it is simply Tinubu’s time to be president.
Tinubu wishes to continue this culture of state sponsored terror and state sponsored hardship Nigerians have been experiencing. In 2003, his final year as governor, he forced through a pension law that, among other things, provides him with a house in Lagos and Abuja, six cars to be replaced every three years and new furniture every two years, as well as a cook, steward, gardener, and other household help, all to be paid for by Lagos State. Yet it is estimated that over 12 million households in Lagos state pay more than 50 per cent of their yearly income on housing. Has it not passed the point where we say enough is enough?
The budget size of Lagos State is larger than the budget of many countries in Africa – yet what do we have to show for it – dilapidated and congested road system; massive flooding, decaying infrastructure, insecurity, and our own ‘Royal Family’. His daughter is the Iya-Oloja of Lagos, His son controls the billboards in the state (including the billboard that was shut off before the shooting began on October 20, 2020), His Wife is a senator for the state – yet to my astonishment Tinubu spoke of anti-corruption as he accepted his nomination to be the APC Flagbearer (and literally could not hold up the flag).
Even if one could argue that Tinubu is not corrupt, not incompetent, not autocratic, not an emperor, not vindictive, even if you could convince yourself of these things – he is still a geriatric regressive entitled old man with no plan for the country. The stakes are too high and the waters in this country are too turbulent for us to hand our future to someone without a steady hand. Now is not the time to gamble with our lives, as the world economy experiences stagnation and we hear warnings of a world recession looming. We cannot allow a man who is neither mentaly or physically fit for the task at hand to lead us.
Nigerians please, it is OUR time.
Abdulhamid Bakare write from Abuja
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