By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
We are now at the home-run in our election cycle – as we wrap one of our nation’s most tendentious and hypertensive electioneering processes today, March 9, 2019 with the state elections. In few states (Osun, Ekiti, Kogi, Ondo) where the governors’ seats are not in contention, there may be some respite from the pulsating intensity of political acrobatics playing out across the nation – only just, mind you.
The rest of the country will, once again, stand still as we elect our governors and legislators. The irony of Nigeria’s brand of democracy is that this is the level where we need to invest more attention, clear-eyed emotions and resources to make sure that those who lead us at local and state levels are responsible, capable, stable and tested. This is where the most crimes, the least accountability, the highest forms of corruption, the gravest examples of nepotism, wastage, negligence… you can add to the list…are committed without the slightest reprimand or sanction. Yet, this is where our youth and the so-called intelligentsia will thumb their nostrils, and expend their time and resources on “more important” distractions like international football, happenstances at No.10 Downing Street, the Capitol Hill and the White House!
It will not be surprising if voter apathy is worse than the national election (less than a shameful 30% voted) regardless of the hot-potato divisive politicking playing out in states like: Lagos, Kaduna, Rivers, Ogun, Oyo, Taraba, Plateau, Ondo, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, etc.
So, while we enjoin Nigerians to go out peacefully and vote according to their convictions, let us spend some moment on our ongoing appraisal of the different phases of the 2019 elections.
Asiwaju: Strengthening Democracy Or Deepening Animus
The candid affirmation of APC National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu as regards the viral videos and photos of two bullion vans entering his Bourndilon Road, Ikoyi home on the eve of the presidential election, is on many levels very distressing, worrisome and distasteful.
Several hours before the man popularly called Jagaban uttered his bare-faced confession, many of his supporters on social media had tried to debunk the materials as “fake news”, “desperation of PDP”, “photoshops”, and such excuses.
Tinubu, a former senator and two-term governor, reportedly made the following statements after voting in Alausa, Lagos on Saturday, February 23: “Bullion vans? Are those ballot paper?
“Excuse me, is it my money or government money? I don’t work for government, I am not in an agency of government. Let anybody come out to say I have taken any contract from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last five years.
“They should prove it. I am on my own, and I am committed to my party. So, even if I have money to spend in my premises, what is your headache?
“Excuse me, if I don’t represent any agency of government and I have money to spend… if I like, I give it to the people free of charge. As long as not to buy votes.
“So, who are those watching my house and looking at Bullion vans? They must be mischief makers, they report falsehood, their lies are numerous, and it’s because they are jobless.”
On the face of it, the man, his money and how he chooses to spend it should not cause anyone’s headache…but this man is the co-chairman of the ruling party’s national campaign committee; the party’s undisputed “godfather” in the South West, who was heard on another viral audio recording boasting to stun his party faithful with stupendous cash gratification capable of turning a sedate man into a blubbering fool, so to speak, if the party footmen worked hard to get out the votes in Lagos, especially during the presidential election.
Such “spectacle” may easily excite his followers, and be dismissed by preening acolytes, but this is clearly disturbing, and portends danger for the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria. Yes, a man who has seen it all is entitled to some bragging rights on the way and style he wishes to dole out his cash… Yet, it is impolitic, crass arrogance and pernicious disregard for the psyche of the hardworking ordinary folks to get slapped in the face that their hopes and aspirations to select leaders of their choice can be reduced to the contents of two bullion vans. Any wonder why some miscreants chasing voters away from polling booths, and smashing electoral materials, in Okota, Lagos on February 23, were sketched by his opponents as “Tinubu’s Boys”?
The optics and ungarnished flirtations with pretensions of an Emperor Bokassa type of outlandishness should be reviewed, downsized and banished from our corporate mental archives. Let Jagaban retrieve the high ground, and let others less-endowed play in such disconcerting arena of vain-gloriness.
Premature Stumble of Ajumobi’s Masquerade
The news is stale now: that two-term governor of Oyo State, Abiola Isiaka Ajimobi, lost the Oyo South Senatorial seat to Mohammed Kola-Balogun by a painful margin of 13,503 votes. Ajimobi (of APC) scored 92,217 as against PDP’s Kola-Balogun (105,720).
The gap-toothed jolly governor has rather warmly congratulated the winner, thus revealing a commendable attitude which suggests maturity and statesmanship.
Many critics have admitted that Ajimobi performed fairly well as Oyo’s chief executive in his first tenure. There are however mixed reactions concerning the rating of his second and riotous term as governor of the ‘Pacesetter’ state. To his critics, several nuggets are available which point at a man overcome with the aroma of power and position to the height of indecorous intoxication.
For his intemperate handling of the January, 2017 incident with the students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, he was aptly dubbed “Constituted Authority” – a debilitating toga he appears to wear with remarkable aplomb! Strange.
He woke on another glorious day in August, 2017 and decided to “dash” the paramount ruler of his town, the Olubadan a huge measure of stroke-inducing executive insolence: he commandeered the elevation, installation and legal backbone for 21 High Chiefs and Baales as bearded-crown chiefs – in a city-state hitherto with only one beaded monarch! Though, he is also an Ibadan chief, the profoundly ridiculous effrontery of lacerating the traditional institution that had propped him, and sustained century of peace and unique succession ritual did not trouble the civilian governor!
We may count it as the self-inflicted struggles of a private citizen against a high-handed government, the controversial matter of bulldozing the Fresh FM radio structure of immensely popular songster, Yinka Aiyefele, in August, 2018, thugged at the heartstrings of most Oyo indigenes, and many Nigerians. The peculiarities of Aiyefele’s disability, undoubted talent, entrepreneurial panache and affecting affability combined to highlight the Ajimobi administration as fiendish, rough and soulless.
Then, there are still arguments about his performance in the area of payments of salaries and pensions, a delicate topic in a largely laid-back sprawling state which civil service traditions are tinged with small to mid-scale commercial exertions. While government sources claimed all salaries were paid up till February, going into the elections, critics revealed instances of staggered backlogs of unpaid salaries and pensions!
In addition, Ajimobi’s boastful desire to implant his own successor (Adebayo Adelabu, a technocrat with public finance experience) triggered all sorts of acrimonious political tussles within the ruling party.
Despite once serving as a senator before he claimed the governorship ticket in 2011, the Ibadan man insisted on a return to the Nigerian Senate. Apparently, the people of Oyo State seem to share the same aptitude with the “Internet” – they never forget! The cup of the man who was returned as governor, a rare feat in the state, was too full for the majority of the people to ignore or forgive… And as if to show that the voters were not essentially against his party, APC, the other senatorial candidates won their own elections handily.
I believe Ajimobi’s defeat at the polls enriches our democratic credentials, as it epitomizes that even the big man still wielding the power of life and death (for another three months) can be brought to the grindstone of voter-KO (knockout, a terminal point in boxing).