FEATURE ARTICLE

Seyi Olu AwofesoFriday, November 24, 2006
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Lagos, Nigeria

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BOLA TINUBU'S HOUSE OF CARDS


am an economist and an accountant", he said, half-truthfully, at a televised debate on Channels television in 1999. ".....and If I am elected governor, I promise I will turn things around, to make Lagos into the Hong Kong of Africa", Bola Tinubu added, whilst assuring the city's 10million plus residents of what he termed a "progressive change".


The populace he was assuring at the time was too traumatized by years of murderous military rule, to think Tinubu's bogus electoral promises through.

Nevertheless, his broken promise; to rapidly modernise Lagos, did not take anything away from his next electoral victory (by over 200,000 votes) in 2003, partly because those who registered and voted on behalf of the 2 million other residents who did not, framed their choice according to the information they could mentally process.

Seven years on, Lagos is more of a dis-orderly mess, smelly, and more chaotic than previously, with slurries running its entire pot-holed streets, like scars of a city betrayed, even though the state government's total revenues exceed its visible expenditure, all of which sorry facts, certainly demur from Hong Kong's.

The governor's pledge to erect a model school (called millennium school) in each of the state's 20 local governments is a broken promise. So also is Bola Tinubu's other campaign promise to begin and complete a fourth mainland bridge. His cumulative electoral promise to provide students with daily meals is broken too, in this serial betrayal of honest politics.

The story of a failing Nigeria thus takes its sharpest relief in the continuing slippage in Lagos state, where robbers, ritualists, street urchins, and lawless bus-drivers, prove far more decisive, than the government, in setting the city's low and now dangerous standard of living.

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"I have no control over the Police", Governor Bola Tinubu had lately said, in apparent self-exoneration, although he gave no instance of dis-obedience of his executive directive by the State's Police Commissioner, which could have put the issue of control in sensible perspective.

Whereas, it is the failure of the Lagos state government to legally intervene, by re-ordering property-relations between residents of the state, rather than the governor's sought-after control of the Police to suppress the effects of unjust property relations, that is pushing up the city's crime rate to an all time high.

The Lagos conspiracy, which is what an un-detected but failing government is, will likely un-ravel before or by December 15, when the Action Congress (AC) should complete its State Congress, to elect (or select?) a governorship candidate. The fault lines are already apparent.

Governor Bola Tinubu, as he himself hinted in The Punch newspaper last Sunday, would shortly endorse one of the ten or so AC aspirants, as a preferred successor, but the effect of such an endorsement, according to the Lagos state deputy governor; Femi Pedro, would be "un-acceptable" and "shall be resisted".

Joining that planned resistance is Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, who played the fall guy for Bola Tinubu in 1999, by openly claiming authorship of Tinubu's signed and filed electoral affidavit (which falsely states that Bola Tinubu has a B.sc in Economics from the University of Chicago).

Joining the resistance also is Mrs. Remi Adikwu-Bakare; Tinubu's former Commissioner, who herself has declared instant rebellion against any candidate that Tinubu endorses.

In effect, Tinubu is up against a firm resistance from his closest quarters; right inside his political party, comprising his sitting deputy, as well as his long-time political associates, all of whose personal ambitions are directly opposed to his plan to effect a governorship succession by proxy, so as to continue to dictate governance, as god-father.

Tinubu's god-father intent is now looking more like a house of cards, than like a plan, but less because of the searing internal resistance within the AC itself, than for the huge external challenges that Bola Tinubu currently faces.

He has set in motion a pro-Abubakar Atiku agenda, which only makes him more vulnerable to a slip up, because there are other key leaders of the AC, in Kano state especially, who are just not disposed to Abubakar Atiku's presidential candidacy of the AC.

An alliance could thus likely sprout from those who would stand up against Tinubu's endorsed candidate in Lagos (as governor), and from amongst the key AC leaders in the north, who are not in favour of Abubakar Atiku.

A fissure of the party along those lines could leave the Lagos AC in shambles, especially if the predicted rebellion in Lagos leads inexorably to the "dissents" returning to their old and still popular party, the Alliance of Democracy (AD), to stand as candidates, against Tinubu's anointed ones in the AC.

What still appears now as internal party problems of the AC would most likely mutate into wider external challenges for Bola Tinubu.

One is the quasi-criminal matter of perjury (for his alleged false swearing in his 1999 electoral affidavit), and the second centres on Tinubu's alleged operation of foreign accounts and businesses, in violation of the Code of Conduct Law, and in potential violation of the Money Laundering Act.

The EFCC has already traced Tinubu's overseas accounts and published its details, with a firm promise of prosecution. There are yet no denials from Bola Tinubu himself.

With such auguries, it is well-nigh impossible for Tinubu to effectively build a durable long-term political plan, as he is attempting to do.

The AC politicians will only likely play along with Bola Tinubu, but only up till the AC primaries, after which those un-favoured are expected to quickly turn coat, as his bitter rivals.

"We must stand firm against dictatorship", Tinubu had said at the end of the Eid-El-Fitr prayers last month. "They keep shouting corruption. Which country has never faced it before. We must not be scared by them. They cannot imprison everybody", he further said.

If he meant that as defiance of Obasanjo and the EFCC, he probably would have had quite a small audience, because Nigeria's political history is consistently supportive of anti-corruption processes, at least, since 1966. If Tinubu however meant his statement as a principle, he must have lost considerable political mileage, because there is no radicalism in opposing anti-corruption agencies.

Not being an eloquent speaker though, it is typically difficult to read a precise meaning into any of Tinubu's several statements. Proper politics is a thought process. It is what Chief Obafemi Awolowo once correctly described as "mental magnitude". It is a world apart from merely thuggish conduct, which relies only on dead conscience.

Tinubu is doubtless principled, at least to the point of taking his opponents on, although in the two instances that he showed courage, he was either safely overseas; in his fight against Abacha, or is accorded constitutional immunity, as in his current bickering with Obasanjo.

When however May 29, 2007 comes, and Tinubu confidently walks into 15 Awolowo Road to challenge Nuhu Ribadu on points of fact, he shall have become the sort of leader that Lagosians and indeed Nigerians must follow, but not if he follows the fugitive path of the now wanted former Governors; Joshua Dariye and Ayo Fayoshe.

Seyi Olu Awofeso is a legal practitioner