AS a Nigerian, I would be extremely concerned and embarrassed if Bola Tinubu became Nigeria’s next president. As a Yoruba, I would be deeply disappointed and ashamed. Why? Well, as a Nigerian, I would be concerned and embarrassed because a Tinubu presidency would devastate Nigeria internally and demean it externally.
As a Yoruba, I would be disappointed and ashamed because Tinubu’s politics and behaviour are antithetical to the values Yorubas claim define them; the core values of integrity, character and honesty, encapsulated in the honour-signalling Yoruba word: Omoluabi! First, for Nigeria, a Tinubu presidency would destroy the fabric of presidential politics.
It would legitimise a self-serving behaviour where someone entrusted with public office amasses inexplicable wealth and uses the stupendous wealth to manoeuvre his way to Nigeria’s presidency. If that were to happen, the presidency of Nigeria would be for sale, going to the highest bidder. No one has ever become Nigeria’s president that way!
To be clear, this is not about wealth, but its sources. MKO Abiola nearly became Nigeria’s first billionaire president. But everyone knew he was a government contractor and an international businessman. He never held public office, not state governor, not local government chairman! Similarly, if Aliko Dangote were to run for president, no one would question the sources of his wealth: we see them everywhere. He has held no public office! But how, for God’s sake, did Tinubu, governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007, become, in his words, “richer than Osun State”, owning private jets?
The Financial Times recently wrote about “his shifting versions of where his money came from”. In one version, Tinubu said he became a multi-billionaire through real estate. It stretches credulity. Yet, he faces strong allegations of state capture, of large-scale transfer of public resources for private interests. Tinubu’s reflex response is: “Prove it”! But that won’t suffice in sane climes. Elsewhere, someone so stinking wealthy, with no known legitimate source of his wealth, especially being in public life, cannot glide insouciantly to a nation’s leadership without absolute openness about the source of his wealth.
This matters because unexplained and inexplicable wealth distorts politics and undermines democracy; deep pockets determine the outcome of presidential primaries and can influence the result of presidential elections. That’s one reason a Tinubu victory would be disastrous for Nigeria; it would license, reward, and perpetuate morally bankrupt politics.
Of course, there’s also the documented case of Tinubu’s drug-related past. In the early 1990s, he forfeited $460,000 to US authorities after they concluded that certain funds in his bank accounts were “proceeds of narcotic trafficking and money laundering”. Such a person would never dream of becoming president of a country with the right value system. Truth is: a Tinubu presidency would make Nigeria a laughingstock globally, accentuated by Tinubu’s unpresidential carriage and gait and his crude manner of speaking, particularly his habitual gaffes. At home, his Muslim-Muslim ticket would further erode internal cohesion, while his proposed statist policies and fiscal activism would destroy Nigeria’s economy.
Yet, Nigerians may elect him as the next president next week, which would vindicate the French philosopher Joseph de Maistre, who said: “Every country gets the government it deserves.” As someone also said, a rescue mission cannot succeed if people aren’t entirely sure they want to be saved. However, I believe Nigerians can choose to save Nigeria and themselves by rejecting Tinubu at the polls on February 25. Which brings me to the Yorubas. In a recent column, I wrote that two sections of Nigeria could make Tinubu the next president: the South-West, which might vote massively for him, and the North, which might give him enough votes to win the race.
However, in that column, I appealed to the North’s sense of patriotism, urging them not to foist Tinubu on Nigeria. Here, I appeal to the Yoruba’s sense of honour, their omoluabi ethos! The Yorubas pride themselves on the values of integrity, character and honesty. Perversely, however, they also have a saying that undermines those values. They say that omoeni ki sedibebere, ka fi ilekesiidiomoelomiran; meaning, roughly, that however ugly one’s child’s bottom is, one won’t put beads in the bottom of another person’s child. Well, true, literally.
But applied to politics, the saying absurdly means that even if someone from your tribe is an embezzler, a drug baron or infirm you would choose him as governor or president over a better candidate from another tribe or ethnicity. Sadly, that’s how some Yorubas view Tinubu’s candidacy in the presidential election: he’s a Yoruba, so, we’ll vote for him! Of course, Tinubu opportunistically whips up the ethnic sentiments. Recently, while campaigning in Ado-Ekiti, he told the crowd: “This election is not about me because I’m not looking for what to eat.”
Really? So, despite the “lifelong ambition”, despite the emilokan sense of entitlement, he’s not in the race for himself but for Yorubas who are “looking for what to eat”? How insulting to supposedly well-educated people! Well, he went on. “This election is yours. You will use it to liberate yourselves,” he said, adding: “They want to turn us into slaves. We are not slaves.” How can Tinubu say anyone wants to turn Yorubas into slaves when they’ve produced president for eight years and vice-president for nearly eight years since 1999? What about Igbos who have produced none?
Ironically, if anyone is enslaving the Yoruba, it’s Tinubu himself. Chief Obafemi Awolowo liberated the Yoruba through education, Tinubu is enslaving them, at least those in Lagos, through feudalism. He’s the “owner” of Lagos, the feudal lord, and everyone else, from the governor down to councillors are serfs, who must carry out his wishes. Feudalism is a social system alien to the Yoruba, but Tinubu feudalises Lagos, using his inexplicable wealth and political power to subjugate the people. Tinubu violates Yoruba moral code and introduces an alien system, feudalism, into the race. Yet, a Tinubu presidency would be such a disaster that it would do even more harm to the Yoruba race. Thus, it would be sad and shameful if Yorubas enabled it. Yoruba ronu!
Olu Fasan is a Visiting Fellow & Guest Teacher, London School of Economics
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