Tinubu: A matter of character
By Chris Gyang
The pursuit and exercise of power and influence expose some of man’s basest instincts. But there are times when leadership brings out the nobility in man, even if rarely.
Some men and women can effortlessly kill, cheat, lie and employ all manner of intrigues to gain and hold on to power. For them, all is fair in that game.
But not in a liberal democracy. This is because it is firmly rooted in justice, equity and the will of the majority of citizens. Above all, the people who lead are expected to be of impeccable character. Oftentimes, this is the most difficult, unpalatable, aspect of this form of government.
It insists that those who aspire to be leaders must not harbour dark secrets to the extent that they, just as President Tinubu has done, appeal to a court of law not to disclose their academic records because that would do them irreparable personal harm!
Democracy is the best form of government because it is for the people, by the people and of the people. But, beyond that, there are other salient and fundamental values that undergird its very essence.
One of these has to do with the character of the individuals who govern. Shorn of this ethical imperative, all of democracy’s remarkable benefits amount to naught.
Writing in the STATESMAN JOURNAL (January 10, 2022), Hope Gillette explains that, as part of an individual’s personality, character “represents your ethical, moral, and social attitudes and beliefs.”
The writer adds that some of the components of a person’s character are honesty, loyalty, generosity, positive ambition and integrity and that it is formed through “the conscious and subconscious thought patters that result from learning and interacting with the world around you.”
To put the above in the context of currents events in Nigeria, we offer Festus Adedayo’s character assessment of our president. He opens with these rhetorical questions: “Who is the man who today sits atop the presidency of Nigeria? What is his name? Who are his parents? What was his childhood like? What primary school did he attend? Where did he attend secondary school? Can he be trusted with the destinies of over 200 million Nigerians? Can the rest of the world trust him as the embodiment of Nigeria?” (See SUNDAY TRIBUNE, October 8, 2023).
In his own way, an equally flabbergasted Sonala Olumhense paints a no less unflattering picture. In his weekly column in THE PUNCH newspaper (October 8, 2023), titled ‘A forged presidency?’, he notes: “We have seen senatorial, governorship and presidential candidates stammer and stumble as soon as a flashlight is held to their academic claims.
“But never had we seen a president as a certificate-forger. Sadly, and in full view of the world, Bola Ahmed Tinubu now has.
“…. Two things make Tinubu’s case particularly grim. The first is that it is not the first, or second, or even 10th time the former Governor of Lagos State has been exposed for being less than, or different from, whom he claims to be. It is public knowledge, first in Nigeria but now internationally, that none but he really knows who he is, and that if you accept one claim, it is immediately controverted by another.”
Back on November 13, 2022, Obi Nwakanma had also posed disturbing questions about Tinubu’s alleged involvement in a drug deal in the United States of America. He also began by asking this question: “Was Bola Ahmed Tinubu – the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – a drug lord?”
Then he proceeded: “The story is not new, but it won’t go away…. It is the unsettled ghost of a life and a time of imponderable risks and high ambition. It adds to the complicated and unfinished, even enigmatic, life of Tinubu.”
He revealed how, on October 5, 1999, the late Gani Fawehinmi sought an order of mandamus against the Attorney General and Inspector General of Police for the court to compel them to investigate Tinubu for presenting forged documents that qualified him to run for election. But nothing materialized from that.
And even though those allegations, just like many others against Tinubu, were flimsily explained away, Nwakanma had the foresight to warn:
“The implication of a Bola Tinubu, if he was a former drug baron, contesting for the presidency of Nigeria is far too disturbing for words. If he ever gets elected, he presents a major national security risk, and Nigeria would officially have joined the rank of pariah narco-nations…. This matter must be settled. It is not going to go away.” (See VANGUARD, November 13, 2023).
In a democracy, leaders’ lives should be transparent books open to public scrutiny at all times. It is unlike closed dictatorships where despots thrive on utmost secrecy and the cult of personality.
Democracy stands out not because it is flawless. It towers above other forms of government because it demands that those who bring themselves up to serve must undergo a grueling process of self-examination in order to meet its very high standards.
At face value, character may appear trite, even worthless, in the rank scale of the overall pillars of democracy. Nevertheless, it dictates and sets the terms and standards for leaders – the very drivers of the machinery of state.
Our leadership space may be crowded with questionable characters. But must we descend so low as to also look the other way as a man whose popularity among citizens is fast waning (not forgetting that he was able to get only 37% of the presidential vote) gleefully struts the red carpets of the highest office in the land?
We need not sound the alarm that Nigeria is already the laughing stock of the world. Tinubu crossed the Rubicon a long time ago and the public has little hope in the judiciary to turn things around.
Those who say that Atiku Abubakar’s insistence on unearthing some truths about Tinubu is a personal vendetta do not appear to know what Tinubu really bargained for the day he decided to contest for the presidency. Perhaps they are either deliberately trying to hoodwink Nigerians or are simply being mischievous.
But they should know that if Atiku’s efforts ultimately lead to exposing Tinubu for what he truly is, nay, has always been, majority of Nigerians stand with him.
Without character, the morality that of necessity invigorates those who control the levers of state power would naturally run dry. Consequently, democracy either crashes or, as we have seen elsewhere in recent times, turns into a self-serving autocracy that attracts military adventurists, anxious to cash in on popular discontent.
President Joe Biden, the most powerful leader in the world today, is currently facing impeachment charges in Congress. His predecessor, Trump, one of the most ferocious political figures in the USA at the moment, is being dragged through several courts for crimes he allegedly committed against his country.
You may dismiss both men’s travails as political witch-hunt. But that is the stuff democracy is made of. Individuals who wish to lead or hold public office are required to be above board, both in character and deed, because they are bound to be held up for very close, sometimes quite uncomfortable, public inspection.
Often, that may seem to be unnecessary meddlesomeness, even unbearable cruelty. But that is what makes democracy avoid the moral bankruptcy of other systems.
Who are our heroes in this tortuous journey of democracy? This is the urgent question our youth, who make up the largest chunk of our demographic, and other Nigerians are asking as we stand at this critical crossroads of our fledgling democracy.
To close, it is pertinent to reiterate our arguments with this quotation from the British writer and politician, Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859): “The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.”