Tinubu and ghosts of fuel scarcity, new naira notes, By Festus Adebayo
In a piece I wrote entitled A O M’erin J’oba At Tinubu’s Colloquium(April 1, 2018) I warned that the man who has now become the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was making a strategic mistake in assuming that Buhari loved him. Or that he would probably want to relinquish power to him. Using a famous folklore rendered as tale told by the moonlight in traditional African Yoruba, but which Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Minister of Works and folklorist/writer, Joseph Odunjo, brought into vivid perspective in his Alawiye Yoruba literature series, I explained how Tinubu, resting his belief on a mistaken belief that Buhari would requite the good done him in making him president, would make a fatal fall.
Using the animal world as a motif, Odunjo told this story which ancient Yoruba belief used to depict gross human deception and how human beings are easily susceptible to and capable of mischief. Represented as a character with power, majesty and acclaim, the mammoth-sized Elephant, the beast, was the untouchable king of the jungle and lord of the manor whose humongous size was a huge bother to other animals in the jungle. Several efforts were made to oust his prowess, to no avail. So, a plot was hatched using his majesty as his destruction. Tortoise, a cunning and serpentine animal, was procured to do the hatchet job. Tortoise resolved that, given Elephant’s size and height, violence would not bring him to his hilt but a seemingly innocuous strategy of deception, praise-singing and bootlicking.
Tortoise then went into the cave of the Almighty Elephant. His message was that, all animals had purposed to make him their King in the jungle. Elephant was to come to the palace adorned in the full regalia of a King. Prior to the day, Tortoise had dug a very deep ditch that could swallow Elephant’s elephantine and mammoth size by the palace. He however decorated it with a beautiful wool carpet worthy of a king’s royal feet, complete with an ornamented chair just at the edge of the royal carpet. Encircling the carpet, all the animals in the town clapped and hailed the new King dressed in flowery royal robe as he walked majestically towards the royal carpet. They cheered the Elephant on, shouting a o m’erin j’oba, eweku ewele. The Elephant, in turn, fascinated by the splendor and cheer, walked majestically to be crowned and fell into the ditch and unto his death.
My conclusion in that piece about the Tinubu-Buhari silent tango was: “The President is thus prepared to play the Tortoise, sing a o m’erin j’oba and fawn Tinubu the Elephant so as to humour his ego. The strategy would be that, by the time it would be too late for Tinubu to make a U-turn, the Hannibal and Chaka the Zulu would lift up his scabbard, draw out his dagger and skewer the flesh of an Elephant who cannot see that he is on a dangerous path.” Is this folklore apt in the description of what is playing out between the duo today?
As they say in legal parlance, the most recent outburst of Tinubu in Abeokuta, Ogun State, last Wednesday has provoked issues for determination. The issues are in the form of rhetoric. You will recall that Tinubu, on a campaign train to the ancient city, had stirred the hornet’s nest when he alleged that the currency re-design policy of the Muhammadu Buhari government and the current fuel scarcity that has literally turned Nigeria into a Dystopian disaster were orchestrated by a veiled God-knows-who, with the aim of ensuring that he didn’t win next month’s presidential election.
To be sure, the allegation of a conspiracy theory was already in the public domain, long before Tinubu made that allegation. With this final Tinubu affirmation of the ploy woven masterfully in high places against him, the headline of this piece should then have been The Columnist As A Seer. In previous installments entitled Emefiele’s Terrorism Mess (December 25, 2022) and Buhari and Emefiele’s Buga Handshake (January 20, 2023) except for the fuel scarcity addition to the conspiracy theory, I submitted that the Naira re-designation policy could be targeted at the APC candidate.
In Abeokuta last week Wednesday, Tinubu mortally bit the bullet again. In his now familiar drawl, delivered in Yoruba, he hit his bare knuckles on the spatula. “If they like, they can change the ink in the naira note, we will shock them, we will win the election; the opposition (the umbrella party) will be defeated… We will take over the government from them; they are traitors that want to wrest the government from us…We will use our PVCs to take over the government from them, if they like, let them say there is no fuel, we will trek there. They are full of mischief, they want to create fuel crisis, they have started creating fuel crisis…Let the price of fuel continue to increase, they are the ones that know where they are hoarding it. They are hoarding naira notes, they are hoarding fuel, we will vote and we will win,” he told a jubilant but rowdy crowd of supporters. He thereafter revved the people up to a revolution.
The issues for determination from this outburst are tripodal. One is the domain that Tinubu always chooses to rouse Nigerian people to militant action and provoke the beast in them, apologies to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Why the choice of Abeokuta? Is it deliberate? Was Tinubu doing this, conscious of the historical signification of Abeokuta or it occurs by mere happenstance?
Second, who exactly were these arrows shot at? Forget the very jejune and I dare say, lacking-creative-acumen press release issued by the Directorate of Media & Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council. In the statement, it hung on the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the arrows shot by Tinubu.
“For the records, Asiwaju Tinubu during APC campaign rally at Abeokuta on Wednesday, in his statement, did not mention, blame or accuse President Muhammadu Buhari for the current challenges in the country… (he) was only adverting government’s attention to the sabotage being carried out by some Fifth columnists in the system, possibly working in cahoots with the PDP…Tinubu is aware of the salutary efforts by President Buhari to end the fuel queues, by chairing a 14-man panel…How does an advisory genuinely made by Asiwaju Tinubu to protect and create goodwill for the government of his party become an attack? It can only be so in the jaundiced view of the PDP,” the office said.
But for the dog-eat-dog mentality and saber-rattling deployed as language of communication and accepted as part and parcel of the political language and temperature of Nigeria, the APC PCC should be scandalized nationally by this barefaced cookery. It is a very tame effort at assuming that the Nigerian is a fool and has a very low reasoning capacity. The reasons are obvious.
Was Atiku Abubakar the “they” who wanted to “change the ink in the naira note”? Is the PDP currently in government, to whom Tinubu swore that “we will take over the government from them”? Is Abubakar the “if they like, let them say there is no fuel…they are full of mischief,” and who “want(s) to create fuel crisis” and “are hoarding naira notes, they are hoarding fuel,” to whom he promised that “we will vote and we will win”?
A few days after the Tinubu outburst, media reports claimed that the man, famously dubbed the Landlord of Lagos, made a nocturnal sneak into Daura, Katsina State home of Buhari, in company with three APC governors, on a “fence-mending” with the president. As at the time of going to press, this alleged sneak had not been denied nor, as usual, attributed to the “handiwork of PDP and Labour Party sympathizer” journalists by the Tinubu Ananias and Saphirra clown in the APC PCC. The question I ask is, what is responsible for this sabbatical that honour has taken from political parties’ communication machinery in Nigeria? Methinks that, rather than make mockery of oneself and the decades that one had put into journalism practice, deep thinking should show journalpreneur wolves in sheep’s clothing currently speaking for politicians that they should not allow reversible politicians tarnish what is left of their perceived honour?
Now, was Tinubu right in assuming that “they” are fighting him? I think he was. I had always argued that, rather than basing his political tomorrow on Buhari, Tinubu should have cleaned up his Yoruba home and won its confidence while using it as a bargain for 2023. He rather believed that it was more expedient to do obeisance for the Cow in the hope that he would honour him with his chunky meat. For instance, in another piece I did which I entitled Tinubu the Ap’ejalodo and His Strange Fish Friend, (September 16, 2018) using an ancient tale told in traditional African pre-colony which helped to tame the greed of pre-and post-colonial Yoruba society, as well as any tendency within it to play God, I argued that, as the Yoruba would say, constant removal of perceived bad woods from the log of woods under a cooking pot would boomerang. It was the time Tinubu was said to have made up his mind to remove Akinwumi Ambode. Now that Buhari is playing God with Tinubu’s presidential aspiration, that piece makes sense now for its Karmic significance, doesn’t it?
Even a fool knows that Buhari does not want Tinubu to succeed him. Second is that there is a mutual disdain between the two which both have clothed in shawls over the years. Buhari has, over the decades, built an impregnable moral universe round himself; a universe whose precinct was delineated by him, membership of which he defines from his narrow conception. Tinubu does not fit that definition. Tinubu is also too agitative, too Alutaic, perhaps in the mould of MKO Abiola; too much of a disrupter of long-established rulership codes, in spite of the contradictions of his being a member of that same ruling caste. Atiku Abubakar is a lesser evil for the president and occupiers of his fiefdom to banter with.
The third issue for determination is whether Tinubu deliberately spins those nukes or they are mere Freudian slips. Mainly used in psychoanalytic theories, Freudian slips, also called paraptaxis, was authored by Sigmund Freud. It is defined as an error in speech, memory or physical actions which occur due to interference from an unconscious or subdued mind with or an internal train of thoughts. You will recall that, in June, 2022, hours before the APC congress, Tinubu had made similar spark where he literally called Buhari out.
Considered a denigration of Buhari, he narrated how, without him and God, Buhari could not have been president in 2015 after he lule-edthree times in his bid for the presidency and had to weep on national television. Tinubu concluded that it was his turn to take over power. It was a daring speech which many thought was derring-do that would finally collapse his presidential aspiration. Unexpectedly, that speech finally became a deus ex-machina of Tinubu’s aspiration, giving it a huge leap, we were told. From that speech was extracted the most notoriously mentioned phrases in social and political discourses of today – O lule and emi lo kan.
Finally, should Tinubu have been making those off-the-cuff outbursts when he knows that he would eventually crawl on his belly like a coyote to beg Buhari? I don’t think so. Is it an effective strategy to tame Buhari with revelations of his nocturnal political gambles so that he can be railroaded from his preference of a successor? Maybe, but in war, which Tinubu’s current quest for the presidency can be likened to, you don’t half-decapitate your enemy. You slash their necks with deft, brutal precision. If Buhari holds the key to Tinubu transmuting from the Lord of Lagos to Lord of Aso Rock, those revelations should have been guided confidentially like a licked bowl of soup which the Yoruba say does not make a pendulum-like swing and sound in the bowels of an elder. Revealing them publicly and seemingly making mockery of an unforgiving General like Buhari could be a fatal blow to his presidential ambition.
As Nigeria’s judges get set to begin voting, By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu
This week, the opening salvo will be fired to signal the onset of the final round of voting in Nigeria’s electoral marathon. This is not a reference to the state-level ballots that occurred around the country on Saturday, March 18. I refer instead to something far more consequential.
Democracy may be about choices and decisions by citizens in theory. As practiced in Nigeria, however, citizens are mostly spectators. In every election, Nigeria’s judges have the final votes.
Every election cycle in Nigeria has three seasons. The campaign season belongs to the parties, the politicians, and godfathers. This is followed by the voting season, during which the security agencies, thugs, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) hold sway. Thereafter, matters shift to the courts for the dispute resolution season, which belongs to the lawyers (mostly Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs) and judges. All three are separate but interdependent.
Of 1,490 seats contested federally and in the states in 2019 (excluding the CT Area Council ballots), the courts decided 805 (54.02%). This is higher than just over 45% recorded in 2015 and 51% recorded in 2011 but lower than the high of 86.35% from the nadir of 2007. So, by 2019, Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC had bled all the confidence that Attahiru Jega, his predecessor, had built in the electoral process. In 2023, he shamelessly pulverized what was left of it.
With elections to federal offices concluded on 25 February and to state offices on 18 March, election petition season is now formally open. On 22 March, the first landmark will be reached with the expiration of the 21-day deadline for filing petitions arising from the presidential election results announced on 1 March.
Already, every piece of evidence points to the likelihood that this will be no ordinary season. On March 3, 48 hours after the announcement of the results, the Court of Appeal ordered the INEC to grant access to the parties to inspect the materials generated from the presidential elections. Three days later, the order was served on the INEC. Instead of complying, the commission stone-walled.
On March 13, INEC chairman, the execrable Mahmood Yakubu, informed lawyers for the parties who demarched him at the INEC headquarters in Abuja, that he had nothing to hide before quickly reminding them that most of the documents that they wanted were in the states and not at the INEC Headquarters. As with all the acts of infamy to which this INEC chairman has become habituated, he said this with a straight face.
This decentralization of obfuscation is original but unlawful. Under the Constitution and the Electoral Act, Nigeria is one constituency for the presidential election and the INEC Chairman is the only returning officer. The idea that documents used in the election are in the custody of INEC states offices is quite simply nonsensical. It is his place to organize custody in such a manner that the standards of access to them is uniform and predictable. By sending the lawyers on an obstacle course through 36 states and the FCT, Mahmood makes manifest his design to frustrate election dispute resolution.
Livy Uzoukwu, the SAN leading the legal team for Labour Party’s Peter Obi, credits INEC’s stone-walling with forcing them to reduce the scope of their inspection of materials from 36 states to just nine. Even then, by March 16, they had granted the lawyers access to only two states.
In Nigeria, every election petition is heard by a panel of three, five, or seven judges. If they all don’t agree, the judges will decide by majority vote. To win, a party must have the votes of two judges out of three (first instance); three justices out of five (appeal), or four justices out of seven (Supreme Court). Where there is such disagreement, there will be dissents.
The heightened role of judges in elections is essentially a feature of the presidential system of government. In Nigeria, Kayode Eso handed down the first notable dissent in this field in the Supreme Court decision in Obafemi Awolowo’s challenge to the victory of Shehu Shagari in the 1979 presidential election. Six of the seven Justices, led by Chief Justice Atanda Fatayi-Williams, ruled that the elections were in “substantial compliance” with the law, but Eso, the junior Justice on the panel, filed a memorable dissent.
Sometimes, the decisions of the courts inexplicably diverge. Following elections in September 1983, Nigeria’s Supreme Court heard two cases arising respectively from the governorship elections in Anambra and Ondo States. The issues were broadly the same: the then ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was credibly accused of rigging the elections in both states, enabling the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) to announce NPN candidates as winners when they lost. In Anambra, the citizens mostly went back to their businesses.
In Ondo State, the citizens decided to make the state ungovernable by burning everything in sight. On December 30, 1983, the Supreme Court upheld the Anambra governorship election by a majority of six to one but invalidated the Ondo Governorship result by the same margin. Hours later, on the night of the same day, soldiers sacked the government. By the time the court issued its reasons on January 6, 1984, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was already one week old as a military ruler.
It is not only in Nigeria that election courts can announce incomprehensible outcomes. In 2006, Uganda’s Supreme Court considered a petition by the opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, against incumbent President, Yoweri Museveni. In its decision, the Court concluded that “there was non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, Presidential Elections Act and the Electoral Commission Act, in the conduct of the 2006 Presidential Elections”; that there was “disenfranchisement of voters by deleting their names from the voters register or denying them the right to vote” and that “the principle of free and fair elections was compromised by bribery and intimidation or violence in some areas of the country.” Nevertheless, Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki led three other judges in a majority of four to uphold the outcome in favour of Museveni.
Sometimes, the decisions in election petitions are dodgy. When it decided the election petition against the outcome of the December 2012 presidential election filed by then-opposition candidate, Nana Akuffo-Addo, on August 29, 2013, Ghana’s Supreme Court announced a majority of six against three in favour of upholding the declaration of President Mahama as the winner. Economist, George Ayittey, wrote that the announced decision was “bungled. There was an inexplicable 4-hour delay in announcing the verdict, fueling speculation that something fishy was going on behind the scenes. Then Justice Atuguba announced a six–three verdict dismissing the petition. A day later, the verdict was changed to 5-4.” In a study of the judgment published in 2014 under the title ‘The Burdens of Democracy in Africa: How Courts Sustain Presidential Elections’, late Nigerian lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, showed that five of the nine justices who sat on that election petition in fact ordered a partial or total rerun of the election. In effect, rather than the announced majority of six–three in favour of President Mahama, the verdict was in fact five-four against him.
More recently, miracles have occurred. In August 2017, Kenya’s Chief Justice, David Maraga, led the Supreme Court to strike down a presidential election in Africa for the first time. In May 2020, Malawi’s Supreme Court did the same. In Nigeria four months earlier, the Supreme Court on January 13, 2020, declared Hope Uzodinma governor of Imo state despite his having been returned fourth in the election.
What Nigeria’s Supreme Court does in 2023 will matter. Like the major parties, all actors in Nigeria’s election petition process have learnt to build “structures”. For the parties, their structures are in the infrastructure of election rigging, or what former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, once famously called the criminal network of “five gods and the godfather”, including the highest levels of INEC, the security services, thugs, and the judiciary. For INEC, it is in the ruling party and the power network of incumbency at the federal and state levels. For the judiciary, it is in the same mutual benefit network of incumbency in the various branches of government at various levels.
Election petitions have become a preoccupation of judges in Nigeria and around Africa and a defining process in public perception of the courts. In the past, they provided moments of high forensic and judicial drama. Increasingly, however, they have become performative rituals for sanctifying electoral burglary and celebrating judicial capture. The beneficiaries are the burglars and the judges. The best the victims can often expect to receive is a timorous Pontius Pilate mistaken as a valiant judge. In 2023, Nigeria’s judges can sculpt a different narrative.
A lawyer and a teacher, Odinkalu can be reached at email@example.com
Samia-Opposition détente is a yaw-yaw far better than war-war, By Jenerali Ulimwengu
Of the bold moves that have been undertaken in recent months to effect some détente in the political situation in Tanzania, this is probably the most daring. That the main opposition party would have the cheek to invite President Suluhu Hassan to officiate at its political rally, and that she would accept was, until it happened, unthinkable.
Now that it has happened it has raised a number of questions without answers, simply because of its novelty, given our recent history in all matters political. What is the game plan? people are asking. Who is pulling a fast one on whom? Who is the card and who is the dunce? What is the strategic aim of all this, and what is each party expecting as the outcome of the game?
All we mortals know is that the chairman of Chadema — probably the biggest opposition party in the country —announced out of the blue that he had invited President Samia, who is also chair of the ruling party CCM, to be the guest of honour at a Chadema symposium on March 8, commemorating International Women’s Day.
That was clearly unprecedented, and when it was confirmed that Samia had indeed accepted the invite, it was clear that we had moved away from the times when these two political formations were mortal enemies. The very thought that they would open the doors to each other’s activities was mutually anathema. At least that is how casual observers viewed the political chasm between these organisations.
It has been the political culture in the country that opposition political parties have been registered but not openly allowed to operate, only being tolerated as an unnecessary evil that has been foisted on the country by circumstances “beyond our control.” The ruling party has had that stance all the time since former Chief Justice Francis Nyalali produced a report that was adopted by all the structures of the political system, leading to multiparty politics.
The multiparty system limped, huffed and panted under successive regimes headed by Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete, all of them presidents who paid lip service to the new dispensation but did everything to kill it. They were all too hypocritical to say openly what they wanted.
With the arrival of John Pombe Magufuli at the helm, and after being made chair of CCM, a new order was born —one of zero tolerance to opposition. His stance was clear for all to see: The opposition had to be killed, and he did his damnedest to make that a reality. By 2020, he had achieved that, only he died.
Undoing the system
Samia, as Magufuli’s successor, has had other ideas, and she has been meticulously undoing the system that the dead president had crafted, which wanted the single-party rule reinstated and his personal rule extended forever.
That is why he did not allow his own party cadres, who could have won without vote stealing; he replaced them with candidates who had polled far fewer votes in the preliminaries, and then stole the ballots at a strategic level, where his security operatives replaced the returning officers, election observers and even voters, wholesale.
We started hearing people saying they were going to “force him” to change the constitution to “allow him” to rule without end when, in fact, it was he who was making himself president for life. His henchmen/women were busy with all manner of stratagems, including killing or disappearing people who he wanted dead, stashing away slush funds for his project, and preparing a compliant base of sycophants who would never challenge him.
In those circumstances, when Magufuli died, Samia found herself with no real support from her own party, and the first steps she took included bringing together all elements of goodwill, notwithstanding political affiliation.
Help the country move on
It is not too crazy to think Samia and Freeman could have come to understand that the political conditions of the country require them to come closer together with a view to helping the country to move forward.
March 8 comes across as the ideal moment to break the ice, because the advancement of women’s issues is something there can be little disagreement over. For that reason, I think the choice of the occasion and the date was superb.
That did not stop tongues wagging on both sides of the spectrum. On the opposition side, it might appear that Chadema is selling out, while on the side of CCM, Mama is too eager to appease the very people who want her job and CCM’s comfort zone just to please their sworn “enemies.”
During the meeting, it was refreshing to hear the two main protagonists exchanging good-natured barbs in political conversations, emphasising competition without enmity. Freeman did not miss the opportunity to reiterate his party’s basic demands on political reforms, and Samia stressing the importance of the collaboration shown by the two parties to become a norm, because, she said, there were people who did not want conversations such as this one to take place.
This ice-breaking mode serves as a safety valve that will allow the nation to breathe, and should be encouraged. As they say, yaw-yaw is better than war-war.
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