Time For Sanity: Another Perspective On Tinubu’s Inclusion In Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People Of 2023

Agenda for Mr President

Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema

History deals with facts, not opinions or what we would have loved to be the facts. I took the pains to read the citation or profile bio written by Astha Rajvanshi, the TIME magazine staff writer for Tinubu’s inclusion in the ‘leaders’ category of the 100 most influential people for this year determined by the journal. There was no falsehood in it. Anyone who has knowledge of the struggle that restored democracy to Nigeria on 29 May 1999 knows that Tinubu’s heroic role cannot be denied. He put his life on the line, and if not for divine providence, Abacha’s men would have given him the treatment the likes of Pa Alfred Rewane got. Unfortunately, the insignificance of history in our educational system and the current political drama blinds many Nigerians, especially those who were not born in those days of military rule, to the truth. Perhaps they can begin their education by reading ‘Nigeria’s Soldiers of Fortune: The Abacha and Obasanjo Years’ by the respected historian, Max Siollun.

Tinubu’s influence since 1999 in Nigeria’s political evolution is a fact. You may not like it, but it is there and he remains a big factor in our politics.

Be that as it may, the presidential elections in which he, Atiku and Peter Obi emerged front runners, leaves a sore taste in the mouth. All parties claim victory, and vitriol has taken over national discourse since February 25. But does it justify the massive barrage of attacks on Astha by aggrieved Nigerians, especially supporters of Peter Obi?  Some of the trash sent to the lady makes me wonder. Small wonder she has locked her Twitter account, yet the ‘Obidients’ have not relented, putting out stuff that I will not repeat here for decency’s sake. I guess it is time to say it the way it is.

First, to clear the air. I have always opposed Tinubu’s presidential bid and I am unconvinced that he won the February 25 elections. Let the courts decide since the matter is now a subject for judicial decision. I also recognize and admire Peter Obi’s emergence as the Third Force we need. Having lived in Anambra when he was governor and seen how he legally wrestled his mandate from the political Establishment, I was impressed by his galvanizing the youths who have been disappointed by the misfits our democracy has thrown up as leaders. It is a fact that the ‘Obidients’ movement is an idea whose time has come.

But that does not justify being wrongheaded.  Did Astha pen falsehood? No. Then TIME magazine, as influential as it is, does not determine the political processes of sovereign states like Nigeria. And just in case you do not know, this its 100 most influential people project has been around for close to twenty years. Way back, when I was still an undergraduate over twenty years ago (yes, I am that old), the magazine even looked at people who influenced the ending 20th century as the world welcomed the 21st century. The likes of Hitler, Pol Pot and Osama Bin Laden made the cut. These are not the flavour of the month for millions of people, but they did not go ballistic on TIME and their writers.

I fear that Nigerians are repeating history. Back in 2011 and 2015 we so lionized the incumbent president that most of us were ready to gag the mouths of anyone with contrary views, tear them apart and rubbish their reputations. Sorry to say, that is not democracy. More like Trumpism.  Is there cogent proof that Astha followed unwholesome practices in writing what she did or that TIME was compromised? What facts have the ‘Obidients’ brought forward to counter that article? As a writer I condemn any unreasonable gag of freedom of expression and that is what is happening here. It will not put Peter Obi, my candidate, in good light before the free world. If you must speak out against any bid by the BAT camp to censure Chimamanda Adichie for her letter to Biden on the elections then you must stand against assaulting a journalist whose only crime was doing her job as she saw fit. It was not even a critique of Obi. For those who care to, you may look up Astha’s article titled ‘ The Controversy Surrounding Nigeria’s Presidential Election Explained,’ published on March 1 and available on time.com.

Finally, as long as Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians, every Nigerian will retain the right to interpret her political processes and evolution as he or she deems fit subject to the democratic laws of the country. Neither the Obidients nor the BATS nor the Atikulateds or any other group has sole ownership of this beautiful piece of estate called Nigeria.


Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema is a historian, teacher and author. He lives in Lagos. Email: henrykd2009@yahoo.com




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