You will notice that the speech given by All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu at Chatham House, London earlier in the week has been drowned out by criticism following his outsourcing of the question and answer section to his cronies. That is not without reasons. It falls into our position here, some time ago, on the need for standard bearers to step up and speak directly to Nigerians about their agenda for the nation and how they intend to address it.
Our observation then was that presidential candidates shoulder the burden of promoting themselves and their political organizations. In other words, they are the faces of their parties, their poster boys. That’s why being the standard-bearer for a political party is such a big deal, a contest for serious minds. It demands a lot. To paraphrase Gerald R. Ford (38th President of the USA), the presidency is not a prize to be won, but a duty to be fulfilled.
It is the hardest job in the world, says the American essayist John Dickerson in his article on the White House. According to Dickerson, when the national fabric tears apart, the president will manage a needle and thread, or at least reach for the unit’s sewing kit. He will then be able to appreciate the advice of Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, that “if he can’t stand the heat, he gets out of the kitchen.” He indicates that if one cannot cope with the pressure of a certain position, he should leave it in the hands of someone else who can.
Chatham House gave Tinubu the opportunity to sell itself and its programs to the international community. It gave him the opportunity to address lingering questions about his health, his past, his academic achievements and his true identity, topics that his opponents have taken to serially taunting him with. Those windows don’t appear often, and when they do appear, they grab them with both hands. But Tinubu did not. Rather he crouched down and directed the questions at his puppet.
The London episode was not the first time Tinubu had fled critical interrogation. She has done it in solidarity in the country, dodging television debates and public assemblies with other contestants. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, every time he evades such meetings, he ends up displaying little knowledge and demands of the position for which he is running.
A presidential candidate is like a glass house in a market place that everyone likes to see its contents. You are seconds away from power. If he is elected president, he becomes the repository of the nation’s sovereignty. In boxing, he’s the one in the ring. Others are spectators who, at most, are limited to the sides of the ring. Supporters of a candidate deserve to know who they choose and what they are capable of. Therefore, there is no hiding place for him.
By evading questions put to him at Chatham House and delegating them to surrogates, Tinubu has unwittingly confessed to his lack of ability and preparation for the presidency. What he has done is nothing more than a mockery of leadership aspiration. With that bad start, he has simply shown that he is only interested in satisfying his ego of being president without preparing for the corresponding responsibilities. How, for example, would a female party leader be the one to explain to Nigerians and the international community the candidate’s health agenda, if elected?
Any Nigerian not sufficiently horrified by Tinubu’s charade at Chatham House is to be pitied. Even the people who are with him, the governors, the ex-governors who fawned and clapped while he jeered, they mean badly for the country. The APC standard bearer needs to clarify his thoughts and intentions for Nigeria. He has to explain if he intends to exercise a communal presidency without precise obligations to the electorate or govern as an executive president with defined duties and privileges. That assumption of entitlement that he announced earlier in his absurd mantra “Emi l’okan” (it’s my turn), must give way to addressing the real task ahead. The Nigerian presidency is not a retirement home.
I’m not among those who gloat over Tinubu’s perceived weaknesses. We are human and we are prone to occasional health problems. History has a good record of leaders providing powerful rule for their people despite their physical challenges. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the US, who won a record four presidential elections, was paralyzed in the legs by polio, but was able to lift his country out of the great depression of the time to the leading power in the world events of the 20th century. century. His sweeping reforms in finance, communications, labor, and the economy, summed up in his New Deal, served as a platform for the United States to announce its world leadership.
A very recent experience of the paraplegic president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, who governed in a wheelchair and gave the country a sense of direction, clearly demonstrated that physical disability cannot be an obstacle to governability. The work is more brain than fighting. But when degeneracy slopes toward overt cognitive decline, as Tinubu constantly manifests, to the point of not being fully in charge of his immediate environment, men and women of good conscience should take note and intervene before more is caused. damage to politics.
Nigeria has had the misfortune of being mismanaged by presidents who were mentally and physically unfit for office. There are still chances to ensure that we do not fall into the same pit in 2023.
It is not enough to say that the people decide. In a normal scenario, that’s how it should be, more like in the current contest, where there are options in other political parties. After all, it is not for nothing that they say that power belongs to the people. But beyond this ideal of optimism, there is the reality of the singular absurdity of our environment that is underscored by the abuse of the so-called ownership factor, a euphemism for the manipulation of votes by the incumbent or the ruling party. There are already indicators to that effect in the statements and body language of key APC members. This seems to be what Tinubu’s handlers rely on. It also reports the concern expressed by many about Tinubu’s blunders at Chatham House.