Tinubu And The Chatham House Melodrama

Tinubu And The Chatham House Melodrama

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

We are now fully in political season in Nigeria. With the countdown to the 2023 presidential election in days now; 77 to be precise, everything is politics. Particularly when it involves the leading candidates of the major parties. One of such situation was what played out in London within the week, at the Chatham House, when the presidential candidate of the ruling party APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was hosted.

Since the conclusion of the primaries, many events that have been happening seemed a replay of 2014. We seem to be re-living that era when the current president was the leading candidate from the opposition then. There was nothing about him or that he did, which was not news. All manners of attacks, criticism were hurled at him. Nothing he did that was right in the eyes of his transducers. But he eventually won, and went ahead to clinch a second term in 2019 still.

Coincidentally, his biggest supporter and promoter in 2015 was Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is now the candidate of the same party. Despite not being on the ballot then, he was not spared in those attacks too. He got his fair share or more than his fair share. I could recall a special documentary that was done about him and aired on the African Independent Television (AIT). It gained so much traction then as it suited the narratives being spun by the then ruling party PDP and their supporters.

AIT eventually paid dearly for it when slammed with a law suit which they could not defend. Their Chairman, Dr. Raymond Aliero Dokpesi, had to plead for settlement out of court. This might have inform their circumspection to some extent in their attacks on Tinubu this time around. Another station has taken up the gauntlet and has been paying for it in smaller ways for airing fake news about him. Well, Tinubu has become a "marketable brand", like he remarked in Chatham House. Every station and media house wants to use him to sell their market.

So, it was not unexpected to see how much interest his attendance of the Chatham House programme has generated. The reviews in the past few days have been crazy. Social media has been awashed with all manners of information, video clips, etc, whether original or manipulated to suit the narratives of his opponents. Commedy skit was even released by our renowned "clownish" senator, as usual. I saw, read and watched more than enough. That was before I actually watched the real programme.

In all the disparaging commentaries, it was painted as if the Tinibu who attended was an invalid, who was incapable of holding any conversation and answering any question posed to him. Of everything that took place there, what trended has been his "strange" approach in answering the questions he was asked. Dino made it pronounced in his skit and Arise Tv, The Morning Show, had done more than enough to accentuate it. I watched them as it was a talking point by the crew, almost daily, since then, understandably so.

This prompted me to go back to watch the full video, which is over 1 hour, on YouTube. I also watched his subsequent BBC full interview. I don't want to be like majority of Nigerians who simply flow with the trend and gullibly believe it, without knowing what truly happened or make attempt to find out. I discovered it was not as bad as it was painted.

In all honesty, what Tinubu did after his speech, when it was time for taking questions was "strange". After he was asked a set of questions, he told the moderator and the audience of the style he would use in responding. He called it "team-ship". He said he will let some of his team members answer some of the questions while he personally answered the rest. Many must have been shocked. I felt awkward about it too. Who does that?

Like one of the last set of questioners asked that as the person who is contesting and who will be responsible for his administration if he gets to office, he should have been the person responding to these questions. This is a valid observation and I could feel the same way. In his defence, Tinubu claimed that as a leader, he believes in assembling formidable team of competent people who are capable of driving his vision. So, he saw nothing out of place in that approach.

Ordinarily, it is easier to simply conclude he was incapable of answering the questions. However, that was not really the case. He actually answered some others personally and it did not look like he could not have answered those he alloted to his team members, given other subsequent engagements where he interacted with the people and addressed related questions. For me, the following BBC interview nailed it and cleared all my doubts as to his thought process and cognitive ability to coordinate his thoughts and communicate them. Age could be telling when the slowness at which he responded, sometimes, is considered. This is understandable.

Let me now x-ray the programme. Chatham House has become a place to be for presidential candidates and political leaders to air their views and sell their programmes to the world. Individuals who are involved and critical to democratic evolutions and governance are regularly invited too. Professor Muhammud Yakubu, the Chairman of INEC is billed to appear in January 17, 2023, to come and tell the world about their preparedness for the all-important 2023 elections.

In the past, many others have been there. The same Tinubu was there 2011 as a political leader of the opposition. President Buhari was there in 2014 as their candidate, accompanied by Tinubu and others. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was there in 2018. Similar invitations have been extended to three other leading candidates in the 2023 presidential election; Atiku, Obi and Kwakwanso. So, the organisation has become opinion moulder.

Despite the way anti-Tinubu elements painted his approach in Chatham House, those who have known him and have followed him for long won't be so surprised. Myself included. In fact, it is for such tendency of his that a person like me decided to give him a chance as our next president, despite my own initial reservations. Truly, I have not be a supporter of Tinubu and I did not think he will be a candidate for 2023 election, not to talk of becoming the president. At 71 by next year, he is not my ideal president. I wanted a far younger person in their 40's to 50's possibly.

His physical fitness was another concern that I have had. I am not a doctor or his doctor, and I have not seen or read his medical record, so, I cannot say how healthy he is medically. All I want is a healthy president. These have been my reservations. However, like I have always said, the system has been rigged against the populace from the start. We, the people, are constrained to choose from among the candidates which the political parties present to us, whether we like them or not. Tinubu happened to be one of them and that of the ruling party for that matter. There are 17 others too.

Now, from among them, who do I think is good enough, has the best chance of winning and has what it takes to win the election, Tinubu is head and shoulders above them all. When we look at the track records of performance in their past engagements, he is also unrivalled. But, how did he do it? As the governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, he laid the foundation for transformation of Lagos to the mordern city we have now. That can only be done by a visionary person. A deep thinker, with courage to push his vision. He is also an astute manager of men.

As I was saying, I support him because I know for a fact that he will assemble the best team of brilliant, competent and vibrant people. Not only that, after communicating his vision to them in clear terms, he will allow them to do their jobs, providing necessary guides and leadership for them to deliver on set goals. This is the Asiwaju I knew and I believe he is still the same. He has demonstrated a snippet of what we are to see in his government, at Chatham House. Those who don't like that might have to start accepting it and live with it, if he ever wins.

In the history of Nigeria, to be conservative, since 1999, no governor has assembled as formidable team as that of Tinubu when he was the governor of Lagos State. I have challenged many on this. I can't begin to list all his appointees then but it is on record that most of them were very brilliant and they performed very well. They helped concretised his vision for Lagos, which has been called "Lagos State Masterplan". His successors have carried on to implement the plan where he left it after his tenure expired. They were all part and parcel of the plan from the beginning as appointees.

It is a thing of pride too that most of them have gone ahead, since then, to become "giants" in their own rights in Nigeria. They have been promoted from being just commisioners, advisers, assistance and holding one post or another under his administration, to becoming state lawmakers, members of the Federal House of Representatives, Senators, Ministers, Federal appointees, governors and even the vice president. Which political leader in this country can boast of such followership? I am still waiting to find out. This was the way he promoted all of these people and majority of them are highly respected today.

This is what some of us are banking on for him to replicate as the president of Nigeria. We all and Nigeria will be better for it. Those who think he should not have used that strategy at the programme are right in their own way. But, ultimately, everyone will choose his own style. It is left for the electorates to decide who they want to lead them. Not about what some people think. The meat of that programme was nearly lost in the unnecessary rabid attacks on his style.

In his speech, Tinubu addressed cogent issues facing the country at this critical time in our national life. The content was rich and he delivered it effectively well. I know naysayers will say it was written for him but will a Tinubu just went ahead to read a speech he had no input or that does not reflect his visions and aspirations for the country as he seeks to become the president of Nigeria? I doubt that. That's not the Tinubu I am trusting to take on Nigeria's challenges, who used to have intellectual brainstorming sessions with his appointees whenever they were confronted with serious issues and critical decisions had to be made, as the governor and up to date.

He highlighted how important Nigeria is to the global community, given its position as the most populous country in Africa and 7th in the world, with the highest concentration of black people on earth. The world does not and cannot joke with it, hence, the interest in how we fare and our democratic processes. The effort of the present administration to pursue improvements in the conduct of elections by INEC was mentioned, with the increasing deployment of technology like BVAS, electronic transmission of results, and so on.

He talked about the interdependence of domestic developments and national security. How it is important to strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and her neighbours in economic developments and fighting insecurities, which have distrupted farming, causing hardship and food inflation. He stated the need to recalibrate domestic policy, to drive growth and promote employment, as captured in their manifesto christened "Renewed Hope '23".

He highlighted the efforts of the present government in agriculture by providing loans and other incentives to farmers, and promised to build on them by attracting investments into the sector. Technology-driven farming and investment in agricultural value chain. Improvement in commodity transportation by providing better access roads to rural and farming communities, rail, storage infrastructures and commodity boards, are part of his plans.

Energy supply management. Power system improvement through enabling environment and addressing all the legal encumbrances limiting expansions. Effective management of monetary and fiscal policies, these will drive economic growth projected at rate greater than 7% per annum. The commulation of all these are projected to create jobs and reduce unemployment, and consequently, poverty.

During the controversial question and answer session, he took on some salient issues like his identity, age, education, etc, and laid them to rest. His transducers are not expected to accept or be satisfied. 

Some of his team members include Dele Alake, Nasir El-Rufai, Wale Edun, Bella Edu and Femi Gbajabiamila, each brilliantly answered the questions "alloted" to them by Tinubu, to the (dis)satisfaction of his opponents. Did these guys know they would be called upon to take on such responsibilities, impromtu? I doubt that. Did they measure up to the task? Yes. These were random questions from the audience which could not have been known ahead. Yet, in the spirit of "team-ship", having been well involved in his vision and formulation of his manifesto, they were able to respond, just as he would have personally done. That's team work and leadership at play.

Increase in the security personnel, motivation through better welfare, deployment of technology, increase in provision of arms and ammunition, decentralisation of the policing architecture to have federal, state and community police, blocking proliferation of small arms, are some of the ways the insecurities will be addressed by a Tinubu administration. Increase access to quality education will also help. The educational sector will be overhauled, build more schools to accommodate millions of out-of-school children, employ more qualified teachers, give improved welfare, training, and teaching facilities with the aid of technology.

Health sector will be rejigged. Free healthcare for children. Improvement in wages of health workers to reduce or prevent braindrain. Easy access to healthcare through functional Primary Health Care centres and uplifting the hospitals. Introduce mandatory health insurance schemes for the citizens. Oil theft will be tackled with technology that is being deployed to track all operations in the sector and reorientation of security personnel deployed to guard the pipelines.

He restated his belief in youths and young people by showcasing Governor Babatunde Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. He is young, leading and transforming the state, the 5th largest economy in Africa. He reiterated the importance of diaspora voting but felt the electoral body has not developed enough capacity to undertake such at this time, given its greater complexities of mail-in votes and their security.

If all I have just discussed transpired at the Chatham House programme, with their critical nature and importance in addressing our problems as a country, is it not a great disservice or outright unpatriotism on the part of some journalists and media houses to focus and devote their time and energies on inanitities, by talking about Tinubu's "team-ship" strategy, rather than dissecting what he said and educating the citizens about them, as a way of guiding the people in making more informed choice as they vote in 2023 presidential election? It's disappointing and disheartening. Have we lost responsible journalism that is recognised as the the fourth estate of the realm in a democracy? That is so unfortunate.

I hope Nigerians will always make efforts to find out the truth about happenings concerning who they want to vote as their next president, rather than follow the crowd, which can often be misled by junk journalism and partisan, prejudiced or paid journalists. We can only hope for the best person, who will move Nigeria forward on the right path for the benefit of all of us, not just some, to win in 2023.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

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December 10, 2022.

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