Last Thursday the ailing ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate in the forthcoming 2023 presidential poll, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, returned to Nigeria after spending close to two weeks undergoing medical examination and treatment (reportedly) in London. He was welcomed home with pomp and pageantry by APC party faithfuls. Wearing a suit and papa’s cap Tinubu was shown on video online alighting from the jet that brought him back home. For the loquacious Spokesman of the APC presidential campaign council, Minister Festus Keyamo, “the Eagle has landed”, he had tweeted.
Days before his return ‘Jagaban’ had released a tweet accompanied by a video showing him working out on a fitness bike declaring gleefully: “Many have said I have died; others claim I have withdrawn from the presidential campaign. Well… Nope….This is the reality: I am strong, I am healthy and I am ready to serve Nigerians from Day One.” And another tweet followed where he was shown reading an old copy of ‘The Nation’ newspaper.
Tinubu is not a stranger to controversies or travelling outside Nigeria for medical or political reasons. But as campaigns for the 2023 presidential poll were flagged off officially last September 28th Tinubu and his APC party were missing in action. Even the campaign council had not been inaugurated before his departure abroad. Time, though, is on their side as the campaign is billed to last months.
He had missed a couple of events that, ordinarily, should have afforded him the opportunity to sell his programmes and manifesto if he has any. And provide answers to some outstanding questions surrounding his political career.
His controversial running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, acted on his behalf on such occasions. During the NBA event in Lagos some weeks back Asiwaju Tinubu was formally invited to deliver a speech along with the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, NNPP’s Kwankwaso and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi. Atiku and Obi attended but Tinubu was inexplicably absent, sending in Shettima to represent him.
Let us forget the fashion controversy Shettima caused at the event! But that, nonetheless, left his sophisticated fashion sense in serious doubt. In a great nation where fashion is a way of life it was incongruous seeing Shettima appearing like a festish priest or a comedian to the bar and bench event.
And when a national peace accord involving all presidential contenders was signed in Abuja Asiwaju Tinubu was conspicuously absent leaving Shettima to append his signature to the document on his behalf. As he recuperated in London from whatever ailment afflicting him Tinubu still claimed the solidity of his health status dismissing rumours of anything to the contrary.
But when the late President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was suffering from Churg-Strauss syndrome he dutifully hid his incurable medical condition from Nigerians. Even before his emergence as President, one imposed on us executively by the then ‘Babaric’ President, OBJ, Yar’Adua was rumoured to be suffering from a debilitating life-threatening sickness. But Obasanjo ignored it all.
When asked about the soundness of his health the late Katsina-born President had waxed philosophical, arguing that mortality was a natural element every Adam was subjected to. “I can die tomorrow… and I can live for ten or twenty more years… Allah decides it all”, he had said then.
He later died abroad sparking a constitutional crisis which a ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ was invoked by the Senate to resolve. Goodluck Jonathan succeeded his late boss having been empowered by the David Mark-led Senate.
Even the present President, Muhammadu Buhari, whose health profile is still shrouded in mystery had elected London as the luxurious destination for his frequent medical tourism. Aso Rock Clinic has since been abandoned as a “mere consulting clinic” (apology to the late Gen. Sani Abacha) with little drugs or doctors! Yet millions of Naira is annually budgeted for its maintenance!
The issue here is not whether sickness is good or bad or whether falling ill is normal or otherwise. Any mortal is bound to experience ill-health one way or another as life continues and time passes. What is objectionable is the propensity of our politicians to conceal their ailments while justifying their medical junkets abroad. And spending the tax-payers money without accountability.
Asiwaju Tinubu is no longer a young man in his early thirties or forties. His real age is known only to himself! But he is said to be above 70 years. While the Lagos godfather is surrounded with many controversies bordering on his real names, age, accusations of graft and academic qualifications we refuse to dwell on them here. What is paramount in our reckoning remains his ability and capacity to deliver upon being elected as our President in February next year.
Nigeria, given the Buharian presidential pestilence spanning seven years and counting, cannot afford another liability as President. The challenges ahead of us are enormous enough that a safe, sound and capable pair of hands are required to clean up the Augean stable from May 2023.
Declaring arrogantly that the Nigerian presidency was yours for the asking because you had paid your political dues cannot fly. The ’emi-lokan’ (my-turn) mentality must be jettisoned for merit to take its pride of place in our national life.
One does not know the state of mind of Tinubu, one that tells him of fulfilling his ‘life ambition’ of presiding over our national affairs. But the truth is that Asiwaju is being degraded daily by old age and stress of public life spanning decades. He is becoming smaller physically and stunted mentally. When he governed Lagos State for eight eventful years no one accused him of suffering any bout of ill-health. But as his masked age advances so his health declines.
It is not enough for a political office aspirant (not the least a presidential one) to be showing off his gym sessions, bike-riding outings or newspaper perusal online as proof of his soundness of health. A mentally-deranged man can read newspapers, jog on the street, ride a bike or play soccer! He can drink beer when offered one or have sex upon sighting a fellow mad Eve!
If the humongous budget President Buhari spent for his medical voyages abroad was used to build a world-class medical facility in Katsina, Abuja (or even Maradi, his ancestral homeland in Niger Republic) then Nigeria would have been saved the ‘headache’ of enduring the presidential health-related distractions and huge bill. He built a great rail network stretching from the northern part of the country to Maradi, so why not a state-of-the-art hospital?
Charity begins at home? No! Leadership for Buhari and his handlers involves doing charity for the ancestral homeland — making donation of cash and materials. Perhaps, upon his imminent retirement he could elect to ‘run’ to Maradi to escape any charges of economic crimes or fiscal larceny perpetrated by his aides or cabal members. Under his incompetent watch corruption has soared to an uncontrollable level never before seen in the history of graft in our country.
Aso Rock post-Buharism must not be seen as an executive asylum camp or a home for the mentally-retarded or the sick. That breathtaking power edifice ought to be a place where the thorny issues of the day are resolved by a hard-working President and his army of aides and Ministers. It should be a solution mansion and not a relaxation spot for old and tired rulers.
Now that Asiwaju Tinubu is back, ostensibly in sound health, we hope that the official APC campaign will now commence. When the ’emi-lokan’ Champion hits the streets, cities and towns in a gruelling campaign stops we shall find out if indeed he is healthy or not.
For now let us believe that he can withstand the rigours of the nation-wide campaign without suddenly hopping onto another private jet for the French or British capital cities. The Nigerian presidency should not be a do-or-die affair!