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Monday, 29 May 2023 09:05

[OPINION] President Tinubu and early signs of 'absentia' presidency - Jude Eze

"Apostrophe" is a literary device that describes a piece of dialogue addressed to inanimate objects, or someone who is absent, whereas "Aside" is brief comment by a character in a drama addressing the audience, unheard by other characters.

This is the second time I am using these literary devices pedagogically to paint an imagery of fault lines in Nigeria's leadership, that had characterized our political chemistry since All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari came into office.

The first was in April 02, 2021 when President Buhari was in London for his (usual) routine medical checkup and the aid to former President Goodluck Jonathan — Reno Omokri mobilized Nigerians across Europe on a protest march against Buhari's unabating foreign medical tourism. He tried to make hashtag: #HarassBuharioutofLondon trend across social media spaces.

While they were raising banners and singing anti-Buhari lyricized dirge outside the premises of Abuja House in London, the president was cooling off inside the exquisite suites of the lodge, thickly isolated from the noise of the outside world. And so, it is either Reno and his followers were addressing him in absentia (apostrophe) or talking to us the viewers (aside).

For eight years, Buhari maintained loud silence over the pulse of Nigerians. He was media-phobic, and even when he was drafted by public pressure to speak, he would disgust the people into wishing they never conscripted him to address them.

In this platform, six months ago, in the build-up to February 25 presidential election, we mused on how the presidential ambition of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is nothing short of 2015 Deja Vu of Buhari. We drew a painstaking comparison between 2015 Buhari and 2023 Tinubu.

I wrote: "Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu's candidature for the presidency of Nigeria, under APC has cut in every inch, the image of 2015 Muhammad Buhari. Both were apparently frail in health. Both were "mediaphobic" and are distanced from everyday Nigerians. The little difference is that Buhari began his solitary life after taking office. In Tinubu's case, he has already started media apathy prior to election."

Then some critics argued that I was making a hypothetic comparative guess on him. Few respondents who slid into my inbox insisted that I was preempting him unduly. But now, after the event of May 27, when the country organized an elaborate Transition Lecture spending huge amount from taxpayers' money to invite former President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya to give keynote address, and the central component of the audience — Tinubu the President-Elect was missing, it can be confirmed that I was not wrong.

Kenyatta did justice to the topic of the lecture which was “Deepening Democracy for Development and Integration,”

He shed light on the detrimental effects of divisive narratives on democracy and development in Africa, and emphasized that these narratives sow the seeds of intolerance, ethnicity, and disunity.

He narrated the experience in Kenya on the profound impact of divisive narratives on the progress of democracy and development, urging the incoming administration to embrace alternative approaches. But there no Tinubu to take the advisory.

"Divisive narratives often contribute to political polarization, further exacerbating existing divisions within society. When citizens become entrenched in opposing ideological camps, the prospect of constructive dialogue and compromise diminishes. Such polarization not only hinders democratic progress but also fosters an environment prone to political instability," the former Kenyan president explained. 

Yet it was to the ears of Kashim Shettima the Vice President-Elect that it entered. Our, then incoming number 1 citizen was missing in action.

Mr Kenyatta’s lecture emphasized the need for the incoming administration to embrace new ways of doing things by discarding divisive narratives and promoting inclusive dialogue. 

It was an impressive lecture session with the Kenyan orator. But it was also a sad apostrophe as the principal addressee was conspicuously absent.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, His Lordship, Rt. Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah were among the host of speakers who made great remarks on the way forward for the country in the incoming administration.

But Tinubu was missing in the whole circumference of the circle!

The main character in the drama of presidential transition went AWOL. But no one seemed bothered. It has set a bad precedence already ahead of the next four years. If "gerontocracy" is government by the elderly then "infirmocracy" should the suitable word for government by the sickly. It means in Tinubu we may have "geronto-infirmocracy." Two bad combination for a sickly nation like Nigeria.

The rumour that his absence at the all-important lecture was occasioned by an impromptu medical trip to France was the least of excuses Nigerians expected to hear, three days to swearing-in. Even if the rumor had tissues of falsehood around it, it sailed wild because Tinubu's movements and activities are always shrouded in secrecy. A veil of mystery surrounds his trips, as a media-phobic public servant.

Now that he's sworn-in amidst barrage of legal tussles challenging the legitimacy of his emergence, let us (with optimism) watch and see how his term unfolds, praying that the early signs of "Buhari-ProMax" which he had exhibited so far, will be extinguished as he mounted the saddle, while the Tribunals tarry.


May daylight spare us!


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