Friday, 11 July 2014

The 'problem' with Tinubu

Following Fayemi’s defeat in Ekiti, there has been much discussion in the media about the role of Tinubu in the nation’s politics. The general view seems to be that his growing unpopularity in Yorubaland didn’t help. One leading commentator even claimed that he actually cost him the election, but that seems doubtful. If nothing else, the people themselves were clear enough on why they voted for Fayose. The more urgent question would seem to be why they elected a man who stands accused of murder, and who also happens to be answering corruption charges – of their own money.
I am no lover of APC. Indeed, I find it disturbing that anyone should consider them an alternative to PDP, not least because of Tinubu himself, whose well-documented greed and nepotism are the very definition of Nigerian politics. Moreover, his own assessment, post-Ekiti, that Fayose triumphed because his election was rigged by a ‘subterranean process’ in which ‘elections have become a perverse form of modern coronation’ sits uneasily with a man who positioned his wife in the senate, his son-in-law in the house and his daughter in the market, along with assorted local government chairmen in his self-declared fiefdom, having once boasted that when the ‘lion of Bourdillon sleeps’ so does the rest of the city-state he once disastrously governed.
It was telling that Tinubu was careful to avoid any mention of Fayose’s expired Thai rice, leaving it instead to his protégé, the Lagos State governor, to explain its purport in the pages of the newspapers. This was unusual in itself given that Fashola is not noted for discoursing at length on weighty political matters in the public arena. But it was also an unedifying performance from a man whose own second term was a foregone conclusion on account of his ‘solid achievements’, a la Okonkwo. It was also difficult to remember that he was a lawyer – and a SAN to boot - when reading it.
‘Ekiti State: My Take-Away’ begins by referring to ‘some of our most seasonal [sic], informed and respected columnists’ who, just the week before the election, unanimously noted ‘that the incumbent had served his people well’ and therefore deserved at least a close run. That being so, it was inconceivable that Fayemi should have lost by such a wide margin, which these same columnists, writing after the event, then erroneously sought to blame on ‘money and inducements…that swayed the electorate’, and the fact that ‘the incumbent was elitist and disconnected [because] he spoke too much English’. To Fashola, this was clearly absurd. In the first place, Fayemi had been running a social welfare scheme for the elderly and the disadvantaged for three years; and, in any case, Ekiti was a land of the professors - all of whom, presumably, speak impeccable English.
Having thus marshaled his ‘arguments’, Fashola found it ‘illogical’ that so many should have ‘so overwhelmingly’ abandoned ‘an incumbent that was a respected family man, a devout Catholic, gentleman and urbane representative, even in his own ward,’ which was difficult to follow, especially in Nigeria where the private lives of politicians – however depraved - are never a factor in their electability. Curiously, he stopped well short of actually accusing PDP of rigging, which was where his argument was otherwise headed. But one can see his problem. Despite the heavy presence of PDP stalwarts from Abuja, complete with truckloads of soldiers; and despite the barefaced harassment of APC supporters (including three governors), all 28 local and foreign observers were unanimous in agreeing that the exercise was free and fair, at least according to our ‘Third World’ standards. It would sit ill with a ‘progressive’ to deny the will of the people, which, as he himself concedes, ‘is their prerogative, I cannot question it’.

So where does that leave him? In a quandary, it seems:

It may well be that the party of the governor elect may be right in their assessment of what the people of Ekiti and by extension Nigerians want, this would make any inquiry appropriate because it may compel a change of strategy for many political parties. It should make governance a lot easier if they were right. Do nothing, put money together, share it a few weeks to election, strut to Government House, and why should you bother about agriculture, electricity, housing, security, healthcare and more?

When someone resorts to so many qualifiers – ‘It may well be’, ‘the governor elect may be right’, ‘it may compel a change’ – then we may assume ‘woolly thinking’ is afoot. To put it plainly, what he is really asking is whether the great mass of Nigerians – rural, poor, semi-literate – are not to be trusted to vote for the ‘right’ candidate, which is to say the candidate who bothers about ‘agriculture, housing, security’ against those who dole out expired rice at the opportune moment.
It is true that Fashola is one governor who has indeed built infrastructures but then Lagos is not rural, poor and/or semi-literate. Unfortunately, it is also true that what Fashola sneeringly calls ‘infrastructure of the stomach’ is very much Tinubu’s style, which is one reason why he needs to amass as much money as he is reputed to have done. What I have called the ‘problem’ with our lion is in fact the problem with Nigeria, which the politicians know well enough, and why they continue to keep the masses in poverty.
No doubt all this will be debated – is being debated – as we gird our loins (or our stomachs) for the showdown next year. Meanwhile, we are now being assailed with photographs of another suspected murderer stopping to eat corn at a roadside somewhere in Osun State, where PDP hopes to repeat Ekiti next month. That he happens to be wearing a wristwatch worth N3 million (according to one newspaper report) was obviously lost on him, being no more a man of the people than Fayose himself – or Fayemi for that matter – just a cynical politician who understands his people well enough.

©Adewale Maja-Pearce

A slightly different version of this first appeared in Hallmark newspaper, 8 July 2014
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers. The House My Father Built, a memoir, will be
published later this year.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:

1 comment:

  1. The 'problem' with Ekiti 'kete' selection is the use of the military to harass and curtail movement of opposition. It may replay in Osun, but Lagos? Hachetman Obanikoro? Hmmn! By the way, an early 1970's official directory of top LASG officials indicates that LASG owns a lot of buildings in Ikoyi especially Bodi as call it. Hmmn... I wonder! Please note that many a lion but that of Jah most high! Awar!!! Second Bass Jare!