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OPINION: A truant president

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OPINION: Buhari’s presidency at Nigeria’s expense [1]

AWOL! Nigeria’s President, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is away again on a private visit abroad. This is the third such private trip by Tinubu since he was declared on March 1, 2023 as the winner of the February presidential election. Ten months down the line there are still questions of credibility hovering around that controversial election and the disputed results. You will be within your rights if you claim that every dispute over the election was resolved when the Supreme Court [really Cult] affirmed the legitimacy of the Tinubu win in October of 2023. But not quite.

A few days ago, no less a person than the former chairman of the ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission [INEC], Prof. Attahiru Jega called for a revisit of a critical aspect of that election. The meaning of this call is that in spite of the best effortsof the winners of that election and the conniving INEC, the shenanigans perpetrated in the presidential election of last year have refused to disappear. Last week Prof. Jega spoke again perhaps for the umpteenthtime about a critical component of that election-IReV-a technology that was introduced to enhance the credibility of election. IReV which was designed to allow Nigerians to view the results of the electiononline realtime strangely failed to work only for the presidential election. He said on Friday on a national television: “In fact, at one point, l was even calling for a thorough public inquiry about what happened with regards to IReV.

l feel that something has happened, that in spite of the confidence and the very articulate manner the INEC chairman [Mahmood Yakubu] had spoken about the IRev, it then failed. “l believe that some of our reckless politicians may have infiltrated it and truncated it but INEC will take the blame for that”. But l will say to Jega and indeed to Nigerians that taking blame is cheap and insufficient. INEC should take responsibility and then own up to be part of whatever transpired to shutdown the IRev just at the point it was supposed to kick-in in February. And taking responsibility will include going public with what happened, punishing INEC insiders who may have played any part in the electoral fraud, even if it includes its national chairman and national commissioners. A tall order, l hear you say.

It’s possible to conduct a post modem because Tinubu is sitting pretty in the Presidential Villa and the election result cannot be re-litigated. But is the president really sitting pretty in the Villa? Not quite! Last week hehopped into the presidential jet once again for a private visit abroad. That was the third time since he was coronated in March 2023 and inaugurated on May 29th. It must be stated that all the trips abroad that Tinubu made as president-elect were within his rights as a private citizen whether it was for medical tourism to attend to histroubledhealth, to meet with and woo foreign investors as he once claimed or to avoid distractions while he was preparing to pick his team ahead of his accession to power. But not anymore. Since Tinubu was sworn into office he has ceased to be a private citizen. He has become Nigeria’s property and it was by his personal choice. Ahead of the election last year, Tinubu had told Nigerians that becoming their presidenthad been his ‘life-long ambition’. He knew or he should have known as at then that while the presidency comes with power, perks and appurtenances, it also has thorns, thistles, irritations and inconveniences. In some other climes, the regrets include buyer’s remorse. That explains why presidents and prime ministers elect to resign from their offices. That will be the day when it happens in Nigeria.

For many, nay all our political rulers, local government chairmanship, state governorship and the presidency are trophies that cannot be resigned from except by the limitations of tenures. Gen. Sani Abacha died in office as a military ruler. Umaru Yar’Aduawho was terminally ill died in office as a democratically elected President. Recently, Rotimi Akeredolu died holding tight to the governorship seat of Ondo state. He was a senior advocate of Nigeria [SAN]. He was also terminally sick. So voluntarily vacating high political and public office is not in the DNA of a typical Nigerian. AWOL-away without official leave or away without permission is associated with the military.

READ ALSO:OPINION…2024: Looking forward

So it is fitting to describe Tinubu’s absence as AWOL because he is in addition to being President also the Commander-in-Chief [C-i-C] of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Since Tinubu did not give explicit reasons for his latest trip abroad it will be safe to make two assumptions. One is that he had travelled abroad for pleasure while the other plausible reason for his sudden flight, which l will disclose later, is a poorly hidden secret. If Tinubu has gone to France which capital, Paris, is reputed to be the home of hedonists and epicureans, then he must be in a close contest with the former President, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari for the most insensitive president Nigeriahas ever had.

This isasnapshot of the country that Tinubu left behind to catch cruise, as we are wont to say in Nigeria, abroad. Our country is ravaged by the pandemic of kidnappings. One public commentator in a newspaper widely associated with Tinubu described Nigeria asa‘Kidnappers Republic’. Kidnapping for ransom is just one minor part of the prevalent insecurity ravaging the land. Terrorists are all over town maiming and killing, sacking indigenes from their ancestral homes and seizing their lands. They rape daughters and their mothers and decapitate fathers andsons. The reign of terror has been on for the better part of 20 years but arrests of the terrorists, their prosecution, conviction and imprisonment have been lacking. Parts of Plateau state are dripping with blood with Islamists insurgents widely acknowledged to be behind the mayhem. A pastor in Mangu local government area of that state had even publicly accused segments of the armed forces of being accomplices to the crime. Though the Army has denied this allegation but it will not be easy to forget that Nigeria’s former Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma once accused the army heonce led of being complicit in the insecurity afflicting the land and of being partisan in support of Muslims. Danjuma urged citizens, especially non-Muslims, to arm and defend themselves from the sectarian onslaught. He said Christians would be doomed ifthey relied on the army to defend and protect them. Certainly, not a few Christians will forget to remember the Danjuma admonition while listening to the allegations of partisanship against the army by the pastor in Mangu. It may be uncharitable to label Tinubu as the Emperor Nero of Nigeria.

The Emperor of the defunct Roman Empire was reputed to be fiddling with his musical instruments while the Empire burned. But how do we explain that the President went away without any reasons at a time the national currency was in a free-fall; unemployment was running haywire; inflation was decimating the incomes of the few who have anything that could be described as jobs; when companies are dying and multinational firms are voting with their feet. Nigerians are generally disillusioned, despondent and angry. Mental health has become an issue of concern with the Psychiatric hospital in Yaba, Lagos recently reporting a spike in their patients. Some regime apologists claim that the regime’s policy choices will be ultimately for the good of Nigerians. l do not see it. For all l care the removal of the so-called subsidy on petrol in May was wrong-headed.

The starting point for the President should have been tackling the massive corruption and industrial scale theftsin both the crude oil and imported petroleum products sectors. As we write it is still business as usual in the serial thefts of our crude oil. The brazenferryingof imported petroleum productsacross borders has barely abetted. We still live in a country where shipping documents are forged claiming to import millions of metric tones of petrol into Nigeria. The cartel gets millions of United States of America dollars for bringing in zero, yes zero, litres of the product. Last week a former member of the House of Representatives, Faruk Lawan’s conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court, for offences related to the massive fraud in the imported petroleum products sector.And attempted bribery. Then we had, still actually have, the fraud of four moribund refineries. If these areas were focused on and addressed, Nigerians will probably not be visited with the ongoing Rehoboam treatment.

Now to the poorly hidden second probably reason for Tinubu’s flight to France-medical tourism. Buhari’s destination of choice was London where he once spent 103consecutivedays for treatment and recuperation. Years after we still do not know how much that trip cost Nigerians. The memorable thing about Buhari’s London medical tourisms was that they were spiced with visits by the Archbishop of Canterbury which were choreographed to portray the image of a President who was not a rabid Islamist. If Tinubu travelled to France for health reasons, there are other heads of state to be recommended to him and his handlers. Being President does not make him super human nor immune from ill-health. Coincidentally, two events happened about the time Tinubu travelled to France ostensibly for medical reasons. One, the Buckingham Palace issued a statement that King Charles 111 would be checking into a hospital for a procedure on enlarged prostate. Within hours the relevant British agency was inundated with inquiries about prostrate. The King who is the head of The Firm didn’t need to inform his subjects about his health issue. But he did.

Nearer home here in Africa, a head of of state about the same time Tinubu left for France told his people that he was sick and would be seeking treatment abroad. Though Tinubu did not say he was going abroad for health reasons but the template from the Namibian Presidency is recommended to Nigerian rulers. “President @hagegeingob to Undergo a Seven Day Specialized Medical Treatment in the United States of America” read the headline. Then the text in part read: “Consistent with his commitment to transparency and accountability in effective governance, President Hage G. Geingob informed the Namibian people on 19 January 2024 about cancerous cells that had been detected by his medical team following biopsy exams. The President also communicated that he would commence immediate medical treatment following advice from the medical team. “An unintended, but welcome consequence of the transparency with which the President communicated about the cancerous cells has been the outpouring of prayers, well-wishes, including offers of medical support from Namibians, friends, leading specialist physicians and scientists from across the globe. In that vein, the President has accepted the medical offer by leading scientists and medical professionals in Los Angeles, California to undergo novel therapy for the cancerous cells in the United States of America. The travel, medical and accommodation expenses of the President will not be incurred by the [Namibian] Government”. The detailed statement went on to disclose that 95% for the treatment will be done in Namibia; the medical technology with requisite skills will subsequently be transferred to Namibia for the use of other citizens who may have the need; that during the “President’s short medical leave of absence from 25 January 2024 to 2 February 2024, the Vice President… H.E Nangolo Mbumba shall be the Acting President. President Geingob will depart this evening, Wednesday 24 January 2024 and shall return on 2 February 2024”. This was Namibia not the United Kingdom nor the United States nor any of the so-called advanced democracies so nobody should accuse us of comparing apples with oranges. Nigeria has been in intensive care unit. It needs to be nursed back to life.

But for eight a sick country was compelled to nurse a sick Buhari back to life. Can it afford to do the same for Tinubu?

AUTHOR: UGO ONUOHA


Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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