Tinubu Tightens the Noose

President Muhammadu Buhari has finally ceded Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve centre, to the former governor of the state, and the self-proclaimed national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress( APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The message seems to be “do as you wish as long as you get me reelected”. Who says Tinubu, the Jagaban of Borgu, the lion of Bourdillion, the proprietor of Lagos, and the godfather of the president is not winning? He has won several political battles despite experiencing some pushback. He is not gifted at oratory as he pretends to or tries to present himself. As a matter of fact, he is a poor public speaker. At public gatherings, you struggle to make sense of his mostly incoherent mutterings. When he condemns others for one transgression or another against the system, you literally think he is condemning himself for abuse of power, breaking the law, and manipulating and controlling the system with unbecoming impunity.

He labels others corrupt and awards them gold medals for corruption when he is more deserving of them. Humility is not one of his strongest attributes, the opposite is. With all his pompous, insufferable, self-enthralled, clichéd and uninspiring rhetoric, and arrogant claim to piety, the emperor has no clothes. He recently boasted that he was richer than Osun State, his home state. He never told the public how he made his money. His brand of politics is mercantile and he believes in primitive wealth accumulation. Then of course, he knows how to reward his close aides, loyalists and associates who prostrate everyday before him.

With no one willing or capable to challenge him in Lagos, Tinubu is on a free reign, as he continues to win and ride roughshod over Lagosians, nay Nigerians. He has cultivated and made many of his aides rich – a particular one, he picked from a three bedroom flat in Surulere, with an old Mercedez Benz (flat boot) and a Sagem mobile phone – became the occupant of the seat of power at Alausa. He has made so many others, such that some are even ready to die or kill for him. Yes, he is winning and many of us who want an end to his hypocritical reign are writhing in agony and pain with each new win. We can only look on in disbelief and gasp for air at the rise, and rise of Tinubu.

He still runs Lagos from behind the scenes despite the fact that he handed over the reins of power as the elected governor he  hand picked about 12 years ago. He is even more powerful now than when he was as a governor. He appoints and dismisses as he deems fit. Just when you think his star is fading, he bounces back. After he was brought back from the cold last year by the president to lead the APC reconciliation committee, Tinubu has been waxing strong.  He failed miserably in that task because as one of the arrowheads of the crisis, it was expecting too much from him to expect any genuine reconciliation. Tinubu wanted power and that was all that mattered to him, not reconciliation.

From his new position, he was able to force his will on the party, forcing a reversal of the tenure extension the party had earlier granted the party’s national executive and consequently ousted the then National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, with whom he had a running battle and had even accused him publicly of corruption. Not long after getting his wish of getting rid of Oyegun as chairman of the party and installing his preferred candidate, Tinubu successfully denied   Governor Akinwunmi Ambode a second term in office through a very perverse and flawed primary that left much to be desired. Even the appointee of the National Working Committee (NWC) that was supposed to supervise the conduct of the governorship primary in Lagos had earlier urged Lagosians to disregard the results of the primary, because according to him, materials for the election had not even been distributed. He later arm-twisted the leadership of the party into accepting the result of the perverse primary organised by him.

Not long after, he was announced as co-chairman with Buhari of the president’s campaign council. But during the inauguration of the council, Buhari ceded the running of the campaign council to Tinubu on the excuse that he wanted to concentrate on governance. Now, tell me who does that? A man seeking re-election asking another man to campaign for him while he concentrates on governance?  Strange things like these exist only in the APC. Not surprisingly, there was no outrage across the land. These are the new normal and everyone moved on.

Mr Kayode Egbetokun, a former chief security officer to Tinubu when he was the governor of Lagos, was suddenly appointed the Lagos State Commissioner of Police in a sudden reshuffle of the police hierarchy in Lagos, barely 30 days to the election. It was no slur against Egbetokun to say his appointment did not pass the smell test, particularly bearing in mind there was no love lost between Tinubu and the redeployed Commissioner of Police, Mr Imohimi Edgal who refused to handover to Tinubu’s man because of a counter directive to stay. Egbetokun’s ties to Tinubu infuse suspicion on the motivation for his new appointment no matter how meaningless that may be.

Only recently, the Lagos State government announced the appointment of Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola as the state’s new Head of Service (HOS). Guess who he was? Tinubu’s ex-personal assistant. To create way for Tinubu’s boy, the careers of 21 permanent secretaries in the Lagos Civil Service had to be cut short. Apparently, he was not appointed to the office on the strength of his qualifications but on the strength of his cast-iron loyalty to Tinubu. Even if got there on merit, the atmospherics aren’t good. And Tuinubu’s presence at the swearing-in of the guy made plausible deniability of his influence on Muri-Okunola’s emergence less believable.

Such is the power of Tinubu to bulldoze everyone else, to make and unmake anyone in Lagos to satisfy his whims. Some of his supporters even now believe the air we breathe in Lagos is pumped from Bourdillon.

I once asked a local government chairman installed by Tinubu what his next political position would be after his tenure as chairman. He wasted no time telling he didn’t know it was Tinubu who would decide for him.

You see, it is all happening like a slow-motion science fiction, only that it is real. There’s a distinctiveness to Tinubu’s brand of politics: his quest for power is with reckless abandon. With him, there is no better example of the saying that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  This man lacks the swagger that inspires any virtuoso performance. His strut and sartorial style—the outsized cap should ordinarily not command a glance by now. But he is now the overlord who must be obeyed otherwise, your political career will be in ruins.

Emboldened by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s weakness and Buhari’s “I need my second term anyhow”, he has somehow managed to blackmail the president into submission by creating an exaggerated political reach in the entire South-west. And of course we have a desperate president willing to abuse all the institutional safeguards to achieve his reelection, so long as victory is delivered, it doesn’t matter how.

Now, he holds Lagos by the jugular; appropriating everything to himself and holding everyone else to ransom. I have been surprised that some people are eager to be called Tinubu’s boys just on the material largess they benefit from him. Otherwise educated people, with critical minds now prostrate at his feet for crumbs. Listen to them rationalize his excesses and then you begin to realize that education is almost meaningless put beside material gains no matter the manner of acquisition.

A petition written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC since June last year against Alpha Beta, a company he is suspected to own a major stake in, that exposed financial crimes of monumental proportion, ranging from money laundering, tax evasion to gross abuses, has been gathering dust on the EFCC shelf.  Now consider that a petition dated January 9, 2019 against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by ex media aide to Buhari, was investigated with supersonic speed and byJanuary 11th, charges had been filed against Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, without following due process.

Nigerians should judge for themselves if this is not a witch hunt or not. The same goes for the foot-dragging that has gone on for nearly two years now over the prosecution of the former Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, indicted for embezzling funds meant for displaced homeless victims of war.

But both Buhari and Tinubu’s supporters care less about the double standard that has now become the hallmark of the APC rule. They hate corruption when it is committed by others, and embrace it when it is committed by APC members. They were very vociferous about Change in 2015, but now all we hear is a poor defence of failure that goes like this  “since the last government did this and that, APC can do the same.” And they are sure besting every record they once condemned to the thunderous applause of their supporters. Who has bewitched these people such that they cannot differentiate failure from excellence, good from evil? What spell was cast on these people?