Shaka Momodu

Tinubu’s ‘State of the Nation’ Treatise


Shaka Momodu

There is a saying in the land of my fathers that the party is good and enjoyable while it lasts, but the hangover can be a real headache. The honeymoon for the party of change has since run out, we are now in the season of hangover and it is proving to be a debilitating headache.

The former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the political godfather of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Asiwaju of South-west, the “owner” of Lagos and its people, the irrepressible Jagaban of Borgu, the Lion of Bourdillon, the ingenious political strategist of our time, the shrewd and cunning mastermind of strange political alliances, the conqueror of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), “the defender of poor and vulnerable” Nigerians, the progenitor of propaganda in modern-day Nigerian party politics, the one who does not tolerate dissenting groups/views, the advocate of party supremacy when it is convenient, the self-acclaimed democrat but who is everything but democratic, the one who imposes candidates on his party and organisations, is at it again.

A fatally flawed progressive democrat, the “national leader” of this fraudulent contraption called the All Progressives Congress, (APC) makes or mars the political careers of friends and foes at will. Loved and loathed in equal measure, his quest for power and control has put Nigerians in chains of uncertainty and misery instead of bringing the much-desired change that was promised. Tinubu, the one who has elevated propaganda to an art form, is not a happy man. His dream of expanding his political empire to the Sahara Desert is failing woefully. This was not the plan. However, I must give him some credit; he is a very smart politician of no mean measure, well ahead of his peers in reading the political barometer, and who sure knows how to play the populist card in a dog-eat-dog world of politics with its shifting alliances and tendencies.

He recently hit Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Group Managing Director of NNPC with a firebomb. It was a well-timed bomb which exploded in the face of Kachikwu; primed to cause maximum damage to the real intended target and it has achieved just that. By latching on to the lingering fuel scarcity which has grounded businesses, caused tremendous suffering and frustrations around the country to spew his latent grievances arising from the loss of political patronage, Tinubu is indirectly spoiling for a fight for his own political survival.

Yes, many people now spend more hours in fuel lines that stretch as far as the eye can see, than they spend at work or with their families. Sometimes, they even have to sleep at fuel stations just to be able to buy the all-essential petroleum product to be able to move around.

Yes, we are experiencing the worst fuel crisis in recent memory in a supposed era of change. To me, all these are of less concern to Tinubu; it is more about self-preservation. By speaking up, he is offering a token atonement for the deceit he foisted on Nigerians as change and perhaps, hopes for redemption from the traumatised people pointing the finger of suspicion at him. Desperate Tinubu and his fellow power-hungry conspirators had sold guava to Nigerians as apples. Now the barefaced lie they packaged and sold to the public as change is what is unravelling before their very eyes. Just in case he doesn’t know, it is not only the scarcity of petrol that is pauperising Nigerians.

Under the APC-led government, the economy has practically collapsed – industries are shutting down, workers are being laid off in their thousands, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate has fallen for four straight quarters to a record low and is set to fall even further in the first quarter of this year, importation has dropped by over 75 per cent, inflation has galloped to 11.4 per cent, Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) have shrunk by 82 per cent, all because of a lack of fiscal policy direction. To boot, electricity supply has collapsed. In fact, the economy is at a standstill. The exchange rate of the naira to the dollar peaked at a record high of N405 before resting at N325. What about the 2016 budget? It was riddled with corruption, padding and errors. In summary, according to Lai Mohammed, even though he later denied it, the economy has reeled out of Buhari’s control.

The rule of law, one of the pillars of democracy has lost its meaning, arbitrary detention of people without trial is now the order of the day, (even highly respected lawyers/activists and career critics have become dismissive of court orders and even abuse judges for granting bail to suspects). Normally, they would shout to the heavens when such violations occur, but “normal” never seems to apply when abuses are committed by the APC-led government.

Furthermore, impunity is on the rise as the Department of State Security (DSS) has become a Gestapo organisation, invading state government houses of opposition party, arresting and detaining Ekiti State lawmakers as it pleases.

The judiciary is regularly harassed and routinely intimidated by the agents of government. We now hear of opposition to “unmoderated rule of law” by agents of this APC-led government. Some have even called for the suspension of the constitution to give Buhari more powers to do as he wishes without the encumbrances of human rights protection.

But Tinubu’s attack on the minister must be seen for what it truly was: an opportunistic moment that a man of his political pedigree and experience could not just let slip through his fingers. It was not about the love for the people or love of country, otherwise, the dire economic situation that has turned many families into beggars would have drawn his attention. It was about Tinubu’s personal grievances couched in populist rhetoric for maximum impact.

What perfect opportunity was there than Kachikwu’s careless and innocuous statement of not being trained as a magician. Clearly, Kachikwu was not the intended target of such a comprehensive vote of no confidence from one of the leaders of change. The minister’s statement merely provided a cannon fodder and a decoy for Tinubu to attack the government he helped to midwife. Let me remind those who have forgotten that Buhari is actually the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

Tinubu is using the plight and suffering of the people in a very uncanny manner to once again shore up his weakening political machine and possibly to remind those who have sidelined him in case they have forgotten, he can still throw a punch or two. Now, recall that Buhari himself had once told the world that he was not a miracle worker who would suddenly fix all Nigeria’s problems. This was after he and the APC had raised expectations and got elected on the strength of the many bogus promises they made on the campaign stump.

While it is difficult for anyone to defend Kachikwu on the lingering fuel scarcity across the country, it is equally difficult to believe that Kachikwu’s innocuous slip irked Tinubu so much that he wrote such a lengthy treatise to launch such a vitriolic attack on the minister. Nearly every sentence in the 1,140-worded treatise was a punch to the guts – an overkill.

My take here is that Tinubu has already seen the handwriting on the wall that this government is groping around in the dark on how to manage the economy and seems totally clueless on the way forward. And since he cannot admit that openly, he is picking on “soft targets” of the Buhari government to give full vent to his feelings and his much-talked about alienation in the current scheme of things.

In case you have been fooled, Tinubu may be trying to reposition himself for 2019 as the new voice of the voiceless having seen that his experiment of merging ultra-conservatism with a deeply flawed progressivism is failing – in the hope that the people would forget his role in bringing this confused government to be. I don’t know if he would succeed, but given the gullibility of the people, he may well succeed. But I am not about to let him escape blame of the tragedy he brought on Nigerians. He is the father of this disaster. He cannot disown it.

The APC talking points of “if you see the mess that was left behind,” “we met an empty treasury,” or “the last government ran the country aground” have lost their mojo and no longer impress. For those hooked on APC’s talking points, let me remind them that in 1999, the “mess” the military left behind was far worse. They practically raided the treasury before handing over. Every institution of state was in a shambles. Add that to Abacha’s direct stealing from the Central Bank of Nigeria, then you would get the picture.

President Olusegun Obasanjo inherited the “mess” left, cleaned it up and created institutions to prevent a recurrence. He was not wailing and whining like Buhari and his APC are doing now, nor did he throw his hands up in the air in surrender. He governed and set the tone for the economic direction of the country, laying the foundation for a new economic order. “Memories fade, juries can be bought.”

Let no one accuse me of supporting looting. Punish the culprits according to the law. The point here is that this listless “mess” campaign cannot be an excuse for doing nothing or exhibiting lethargic incompetence. What Tinubu said was essentially a strong message to Kachikwu’s boss, perhaps a personal reflection on change and more than that, it appeared to have some elements of deep personal wounds and disappointment with the outcome of the change, of which he was one of the key drivers and architects. Fellow Nigerians, the more they shout change, the more things stay the same or even turn for the worse.

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