Nigerians should let President Tinubu be as citizens don’t have what it takes to dethrone him, argues Ogbuagu Anikwe

What citizens feel at this point is beyond a sense of déjà vu. It is the sequel to an old movie titled The raid of Nigeria which premiers with each change of government. This movie may be imaginary but its import is unimaginably real. Because of this movie which plays in everyone’s imagination, it is so easy to predict that the controversy over President Bola Tinubu’s certificateless life will blow over quickly. And we shall soon let him be to get on with the job.

This prediction is easy for anyone who has been active in Nigeria’s sociopolitical scene since the turn of this Republic in 1999. The Lion of Bourdillon has mastered the art of riding the identity storm that has dodged his footsteps from the moment he began running for political office. His strategy to escape the identity shadow is also not particularly brilliant; he merely hunkers down and stays out of everyone’s way until emotions die down, and then saunters out to continue as if nothing happened. Despite what many of those crying in the social media may think, this is merely a storm in a teacup for the man.

Let’s do a reality check. Nigerians no longer have what it takes to push a bad ruler out of power. We have two army generals to thank for this: Buhari and Abacha. After Babangida dethroned the high-handed Buhari, he wearied Nigerians with a 7-year dribble run that left everyone scratching their heads. But his sidekick, Sani Abacha, soon stumped in to teach succeeding rulers what it takes to forcibly cling to power. Abacha institutionalized brutality as a governance tool. And we have since been celebrating a harvest of violent deaths with every passing regime, military and civilian. Citizens moved from weariness to the current state of terror promoted by those they put in office.

In a week, we shall celebrate the anniversary of the terrible Abacha-like lesson that Muhammadu Buhari taught us with his 20 October 2020 #endSARS massacre at Lekki Toll Gate. With this sort of unprovoked citizen attack at the back of our minds, how many of those crying in the social media today are prepared to join in a true million-citizen march to Abuja to physically disrupt government business? And how many are prepared to keep at it until the man currently hunkering down in Aso Villa takes to flight?

The State Capture

Here is our reality check. Right now, the civil service, the judiciary, the National Assembly, Tinubu’s ministers and political appointees are carrying on as if everything is well and dandy. In a sense, everything is. Those who have not been appointed are working the social media keyboards or running their mouths on Television to be noticed, even as citizens enter hysterical frenzy over the economic hardship that is giving everyone a knuckle-breaking handshake.

It is a serious situation but one that sadly reminds us of Chinua Achebe’s analogy of the young kite and a mother hen. The kite was forced to return its first quarry because Duck walked off without a word after kite grabbed, snatched and flew away with its duckling. The kites however kept a chick because Mother Hen raised dust when it was snatched from its brood. The social media becomes the Mother Hen as kites – the powermongers – quietly attend to their meal of the chicken they grabbed, snatched and ran away with.

Who blames the succeeding gangs of powermongers? Since the turn of this Republic, politicians have developed a voracious appetite for the national cake. The first three succeeding rulers of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) shared the remaining national assets and left an empty treasury for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015. We pitied Muhamadu Buhari when he arrived but he outdid himself, finding a way around it by going on a borrowing binge. He subsequently hauled in and squandered a staggering combined loans of N77.0 trillion at the time he left office, with very little to show for it.

Did citizens dare to stop him? Understandably, there was also no PDP opposition, not after we watched them gobble up national assets that cost Nigeria over $100 billion to install. Although the first of the three PDP rulers paid off Nigeria’s foreign debts, the last of them immediately returned the country to a debtor nation, leaving behind a loan overhang of N6.17trillion after squandering the proceeds of N51 trillion oil and gas sales during his tenure.

From the Outside Looking In

I was appointed editor of Daily Times in 1999, the same year that Mr. Tinubu was elected Governor of Lagos State. From the outside looking in, two personalities fascinated me. One was the small but mighty Nasiru el Rufa’i appointed to superintend the sharing of national assets, aka privatization. The other was Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the bespoke human rights lawyer waging a self-concept battle to unseat Gov. Bola Tinubu for certificate forgery and acts of perjury.

On privatization, public officials colluded with private individuals and companies to grab, snatch and escape with government-owned companies. There are notable examples of their incestuous relationship. The $3.2billion Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), Ikot Abasi (Akwa Ibom State) was sold to Russal, a Russian firm, for $300 million. Nigeria lost 96 percent of what it cost to build the company. Again, the $1.5billion Delta Steel Company was given away to Global Infrastructure for $30million, a mere 2 percent of what it cost to build.

Malam el Rufai, one of those that managed the process, admitted to the incestuous transactions before a Senate ad hoc committee that investigated privatization. He said that Nigeria spent over $100Billion to build the enterprises that were being privatized but received only 0.5% as return on investment. In other words, government-owned enterprises were sold to various individuals with connections for less than one percent of what they were worth.

Predictably, he blamed everyone else but himself for the heist.

Business unusual

At our editorial meetings in Daily Times, we became interested in sales that negatively impacted host communities. One such entity was Benue Cement Company (BCC) Plc Gboko, which el Rufai’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) gave away to the Dangote Group. BCC’s Mbayion host community protested the hurried sale which was done without guarantees for them as landowners. Their protest went beyond the community as two illustrious Tiv sons, then Governor George Akume and former Senate President Iyorcha Ayu, joined forces to attack Aliko Dangote. Akume and Ayu vowed to fight with the last drop of their blood until BPE reversed what they considered an illegal sale. This had all the makings of a good story and we were set to milk it dry when everywhere suddenly went quiet as soon as Dangote took over the company. A cowed Gov Akume hurriedly squelched the spirited efforts of Benue Investment and Property Company Limited (BIPC) which used the courts to contest the sale.

BPE’s sale of BCC was shrouded in mystery. Rather than follow the privatization process of conducting due diligence before advertising the company for sale, due diligence was started after Dangote made a bid! The public was not told whether it was a competitive bid and who were the bidders. Years later when I had already left, The Daily Times itself also suffered similar fate. It was sold for a song to Folio Communications, a buyer that appeared more interested in stripping the company of its assets than sustaining the legacy media enterprise. Daily Times was not only the oldest surviving newspaper but also the only media organisation listed in the Nigerian Stok Exchange at the time.

For journalists and editors, Lagos was a different kettle of fish. Last week on this column, we gave a preview of how the Lion of Bourdillon captured Lagos and the titanic fight put up by late Gani Fawehimi to stop him. But, as happened with Gboko, everywhere went quiet as men of timber and caliber lumbered forth to defend the man who made fake submissions with everything he tendered on oath about his educational qualifications.

Like ObiDents of today, we marveled at how Tinubu was able to escape the hammer. In those days, one suggestion was that he used cash to cause things to happen. Others sugested that it could have been his NADECO credentials that gave him a soft landing in the media and among members of the human rights community. These were at the realms of speculation. What we knew was the “investigation” by Lagos State House of Assembly that cleared Gov. Tinubu of any wrongdoing. In making up their minds to clear him of any wrongdoing, the house relied on the testimonies of two legal luminaries – human rights lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba, and activist law Professor, Itse Sagay.

Let President Tinubu be

The fact, however, is that Tinubu gets away with allegations of forgery and perjury because he understands the Nigerian attitude. His Kite and Mother Hen approach taught him how to win by exercising massive patience to allow citizens exhaust their patience. He knows that, like Mother Hen, we raise dust whenever someone forcibly grabs our inheritance but will sooner return to our duties and concerns. We have nurtured this attitude, bothering on incredible criminal tolerance of state capture, since in 1999 and it has now been fully consolidated.

We invested this attitude not only on President Bola Tinubu but also on Senate President Godswill Akpabio and his predecessor, Ahmad Lawan. We also tolerate what appears to be a compromised judiciary as it re-awards victories to those that voters rejected. The political kites are happy with the social media rumpus because they know that the “noise” is usually short-lived and just that – noise. They know that citizens will shortly continue in silence as policy makers manipulate laws, social norms, and government bureaucracy to favour the powermongers. We watch and do nothing as public service positions, legislative seats, judicial appointments, and management of our security forces are shared to children, wives, concubines, and yes-men of power snatchers.

We as citizens are not prepared to do what it takes to force those who snatched power to let go of it. And because we are not, its about time we quit the Social Media Mother Hen noise and allow the President to get on with the job. Or pray that the impossible happens at the Supreme Court.

The Tinubu Affair

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