Delhi, UAE to UNGA: Tinubu’s odyssey, By Reuben Abati 

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Reading Time: 8 mins read

“He is President my friend. Anyone else in his shoes will act in more or less the same manner. If you are placed astride a horse, no matter how modest you are, the moment the horse gallops, you will bounce up and down, your neck will move.” 

“Omo, Tinubu dey bounce. President of Nigeria for hand, ECOWAS Chairman just like that, Paris Summit, AU Summit, G-20, stop-over in UAE, and na so he don dey New York, now now oh, rubbing shoulders with leaders of the world.” 

“He is President. The President of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. I don’t know why you people always think you can envy the President of Nigeria. Once you get into that position, you are practically a monarch. Is it easy? No. It is not. It is a power game.  Even if you were to grab that position, you that I know will run with it. Let me tell you one thing, Tinubu and the people around him, know how to use power.”

“I hear the Presidency is lucrative. Each time you travel, you get fat estacodes, and the President gets the biggest envelope.” 

“Sometimes, I don’t understand you. I look at all the certificates you brandish and I wonder. You think the big deal for a President of Nigeria is estacodes? Who worries about estacodes when you sit and preside over the entire wealth of Nigeria, and you can lift people up or destroy them, create billionaires at will, and turn billionaires into paupers if they do not respect that there is a new Sheriff in town?” 

“Truly, a new Sheriff is in town. See as the man dey enjoy. I no go surprise if the man takes new wife sef to crown everything. But what about the Supreme Court matter? The process of determining the true winner of the 2023 general election is still on. I hear the Chief Justice of the Federation is about to announce a panel of Supreme Court Justices.” 

“The only matter that still exists is this: This is Nigeria. In this place, nobody is going to remove, embarrass, humiliate, or dethrone a sitting President who has spent more than 100 days enjoying Aso Villa AC, the paraphernalia of office, the majesty of being President, shaking hands with world leaders, stumping on grounds that generations in your family never thought possible. You will manage to get to that height, for more than 100 days and counting, and you will open your eyes, your wife or wives are alive, and all your supporters who know that this is a big elephant meat that nobody can eat alone, and all of you will open your eyes and allow other people to take the meat you are already enjoying from your teeth. Please be realistic. This is Nigeria. Na die there we dey so oh.”

“But it was possible in Kenya.” 

“What happened in Kenya? My friend, this is Nigeria. You people have to stop comparing spaghetti with well-cooked jollof rice. Yes, some people have been saying the Nigerian Constitution should be reviewed and amended to ensure that election petitions are resolved before anyone is sworn in at any level. I agree too in principle. That would be a good way of deepening our electoral process. But until then. For now, this is what we have.” 

“I hear say the man don reach New York sef as we dey speak.” 

“Yes. He is President. He is there on your behalf to promote your interests as a citizen and the interests of Nigeria as a country.”

“Me, I just hope this won’t end up like another radio trip.”

“What do you mean radio trip?”

“The President stopped over in UAE, after attending the G-20 Summit in New Delhi, and the Presidency told us he was able to achieve major things including investments in Nigeria by the UAE, lifting of the visa ban on Nigerian travellers and resumption of flights by Emirates and Etihad Airlines without any immediate payment by Nigeria. Nigerians broke out into a break dance. Local travel agencies did Tik Tok. Nigerians living in Dubai jubilated. But you never hear? An official of the UAE has said on CNN that their country never made any such commitments. Even the read-out by the Emirates News Agency did not include the exciting claims by the lying Kings of Nigeria. We were even told that UAE officials were already meeting with Nigerian officials. Omo, Audio!”

“Please. Please. We can be very critical. But we must also understand that diplomacy is not exactly black and white. There are grey areas in-between. You win some. You lose some. Have you forgotten that the same President went to New Delhi for G-20 and came back home with investment pledges of about $14 billion?”

“You don see am?”

“Actually, yes. In fact, last week, as part of the fall-out of the New Delhi, G-20 trip, NNPCL signed a gas supply deal, and a Memorandum of Understanding with Indorama, to promote the development of large-scale gas utilization industries in Nigeria. That’s a deal. A gain of diplomacy.  Professionals don’t expect that diplomacy will yield 100% results always, but you must keep pushing, you must keep defending national interests within the international competitive space.”

“Fine. I hope the President will bring something concrete, positive, and useful back from the United Nations General Assembly. It is his first outing on the biggest stage in the world. One of the newest Presidents who would be given a place at the podium. On the sidelines, he will be coveted by Presidents, personalities and investors. When he returns, we don’t want any audio claims or exaggerations. Nigeria is too big a country to go to UNGA for photo-ops.”

“I am sure New York is not a new place to President Tinubu. Afterall, he is a Chicago guy.  He is not one of those new Presidents who would get carried away by the sight of skyscrapers. May be some of the members of his entourage who may be visiting New York for the first time in their lives.” 

“It is not a holiday visit. I hope they all know UNGA is a lot of work. And in any case, President Tinubu had earlier said he was travelling with a very small delegation.” 

“Have you seen the Presidency publishing a full list of the Presidential delegation to UNGA?” 

“No.”

“Wait then for Sahara Reporters, David Hundeyin, Obidients and the usual anti-Tinubu media crowd to dig out the truth. I have seen names of persons who have been sighted in New York whose presence may well turn Tinubu’s maiden appearance at UNGA into a jamboree.”

“There are serious issues on the table at this UNGA. I would like to see Nigeria talking about serious issues – democracy in Africa, climate adaptation, SDGs, the international economic corridor, geo-politics. Will the President address the UNGA? How many minutes would he have?”  

“Ten minutes max. But don’t worry yourself. These ones don’t have problems writing good speeches. There are more than enough boys at the back-end. Telling people what they want to hear is part of the power game. And this new Sheriff knows that game.” 

“The boys. The boys. Tinubu just made one of his boys CBN Governor-nominee. I have no doubts that Nigeria’s rubber-stamp National Assembly led by Godswill Akpabio will quickly rubber-stamp the nominations, including the four other Deputy Governors who have been named.”

“Yemi Cardoso. I think he is a good pick. A safe pair of hands. He is a commercial banker though, with a background in business management. Conservative. Good pedigree. Worked with Citibank. Became Chairman Citibank. Helped to set up Citizen’s bank. There’s no controversy around him.  I don’t know the four Deputy Governors. They come across like political appointees, and for that reason, I guess altogether, there is no depth in the appointments.” 

“My point. That is my point. The job of the Central Bank is monetary policy. All these Tinubu nominees have no monetary policy, macroeconomics background at a time the CBN has so much to worry about: the CBN Balance Sheet, abuse of ways and means in violation of Section 38 of the CBN Act, intervention loans that have to be cleaned up, inflation, foreign exchange problems and the need to restore confidence in the CBN.” 

“I get your point. But don’t let your point carry you away. What is the big deal about macroeconomics? Textbook knowledge. You people seem to have forgotten that a journalist, Adamu Ciroma was once CBN Governor in this same country. He was also Minister of Finance. Many others who succeeded him were senior bank tellers as they call them who were glorified with the titles of commercial bankers. In fact, I can tell you categorically that a graduate of Islamic Studies once ran the CBN and he did much better than the so-called macroeconomics people. The job only needs common sense.” 

“You don’t run an economy in the kind of state that Nigeria is with roadside common sense. You need knowledge. A strong skills-set.” 

“Sometimes you put people in a position because you trust them. You can then surround such persons with core subject area experts. Tinubu can appoint directors into the CBN who know all the micro and macroeconomics, monetary policy and the abracadabra but he also needs in that institution, a man that he can trust.”

“But why is it that President Tinubu does not seem to trust anybody that has not been his boy or past aide, or someone recommended by a friend, a sycophant, or by a blood relation? He is practically turning the Federal Government of Nigeria into an extension of Lagos.”

How? He promised to run an inclusive government. Wike is from Rivers and the opposition. Festus Keyamo is Delta. And so on.” 

“I know what I am talking about. I am talking about strategic positions and optics. Look at the management of the economy as proposed. The CBN-Governor nominee is Yemi Cardoso who once worked with Tinubu as Commissioner for Budget and Planning in Lagos. Dele Alake, Tinubu’s former Commissioner for Information in Lagos is Minister of Solid Minerals. Former Governor of Osun State, Tinubu’s blood relation, Gboyega Oyetola, is Minister for Marine and Blue Economy. The Chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) is Zacchaeus Adedeji, another Tinubu acolyte, and Tope Fasua, another member of the same clan, is Special Adviser of the economy. Wale Edun is Minister of Finance. Every person in charge of a money-making economic posting is a Yoruba man, directly connected with Tinubu. Haba!” 

“It is called Emilokan. It is my turn. It is our turn. Bishop Matthew Kukah long ago called it “the my-own-ni-zation of power”. He predicted the present and the future and this has come to pass. Other Presidents have done more or less the same thing. When a President gets to power, he pushes advantages to his own people. This is why we are not yet a nation. You cannot blame Tinubu. He is simply following what he inherited from Buhari.” 

“President Jonathan did not behave like that. President Obasanjo did not act like that. Maybe it is an APC standard.” 

“It is even good you mentioned President Buhari. His handlers did everything possible to disprove the claim that he Katsina-nised and Northernised Nigeria”.

“But he did. Even some sycophantic Ministers took strategic government infrastructure to Daura, Katsina thinking that would promote their selfish, political ambitions.”

“Do you know what I find intriguing in this matter?’ 

“I am with you.” 

“Can you believe our friend, Garba Shehu recently published a piece in which he was talking about President Buhari, 100 days after leaving office?”    

“No. What is that? And what is Mallam Shehu saying? I have never heard of any former President crowing about 100 days after leaving office. Garba Shehu was probably talking about the former President’s cattle farm and the problem in Niger.” 

“No. He says 100 days after leaving office, Buhari is still the superstar.”

“Some of these Presidents don’t know when to move on. Completely insensitive. That is the problem. I think people must realize that there cannot be two Presidents in this country at the same time. The President is Bola Tinubu. Not anyone else. When you are out, you are out. Even Baba Obasanjo is still acting President all over.” 

“What has OBJ done? I don’t get your drift. He left office in 2007.” 

“He went to an event in Iseyin, Oyo state, he was ordering traditional rulers around.  Stand up, Sit down, he was acting like a Regimental Sergeant Major. He was a guest at the event oh, just like the monarchs. What gives him the right to think he can order people around. Kings for that matter. He is lucky one of them didn’t pack enough spine and balls to disobey him.”

“My brother, traditional rulers lost their space long ago.  The conflict between tradition and modernity has turned monarchs into cultural relics in Nigeria. The colonial masters abused them. They sent them into exile. They defied their authority. Post-colonial Nigerian leaders treat them like employees. Were you not in this country when Nyesom Wike tongue-lashed a traditional ruler and described his crown as an Uthman dan Fodio cap? Were you not here to witness the dethronement of monarchs by Governors in the North. Obasanjo was giving a lecture on protocol.”

“But I hear he has been ordered by the Oluwo of Iwo to apologise. One of his own wives has promptly apologized on his behalf and her two children.” 

“Please stop. Oluwo to Obasanjo?  And which wife? Have you not seen the story saying the wife is an impostor according to Obasanjo himself?”

“There are no fake wives, please. Every wife mans a gate. I disagree. Two children oh.”  

“Talking about wives, I feel for Wunmi, the late musician, 27-year-old, Mohbad’s wife. Nobody is sparing a thought for her and her five-months-old son who has now become fatherless.”

“Mohbad. Bad story. I just hope Nigerian artistes will learn the relevant lessons from the tragedy about relationship with labels, copyright issues, family, friends, depression and the challenges of stardom.”

“Sad.”

“Sad”.

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