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Tinubu returns to Lagos in an endless motorcade

But Tinubu returned to Lagos in a very grand style creating another first and with people praying that will not be the order of his government.

By Tunde Akande

Bola Tinubu said ruling Nigeria as its president is his lifelong ambition. There is nothing divine about it though some Christians who follow him have been saying his presidency is from and by God. Tinubu just wanted to be president and he began to prepare for it more than forty years ago when he started to build bridges across the different divides of the nation. Lagos was his starting point where the NADECO struggle threw him up as a politician on the side of the people and democracy. He was so impressive to the elders of Afenifere, the now seriously ailing pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization that those elders asked Funsho Williams to step down for him as governorship candidate for Lagos in the 1999 election as the military handed over power to the civilians.

Despite many barriers set for him by many of his trusted political fellows which included very prominently, Mohammadu Buhari, the immediate past president who he helped to power in 2015, Tinubu called barrier breaker by some of his acolytes broke through all these barriers to emerge as the president in the 2023 elections. Despite his declaration as the winner of the election by the country’s electoral umpire, INEC, Tinubu still continues to face barriers. He is faced with many court cases against his declaration, and some of the reasons for which he’s challenged are as puerile as they can be. But Tinubu continues, creating his own styles and waxing very strong. Is Tinubu moved by the love for the country? He said at the time that though he’s been a kingmaker, he wants to be king because he didn’t want to be “written away with history”. Or is he moved by the allure of power? If the allure of power is his motive, then he will most likely use all perquisites power can confer and will never be able to cut down on the cost of governance as Nigerians are asking him to.

Apart from starting to rule right from the podium where he was inaugurated when with just a snap of the finger, he pronounced an end to the oil subsidy regime that even military rulers regarded untouchable and left untouched. Now Tinubu has created again another style as he returned from London where he had gone on a private visit. Many thought a president’s visit should be public affairs once he accepted to serve the people. But no for Tinubu except that we heard that he visited his predecessor, every other thing he did in London is shrouded in secrecy. What he did is still a subject of speculation. But Tinubu returned to Lagos in a very grand style creating another first and with people praying that will not be the order of his government. Tinubu was met by hordes of high-profile persons obviously from Lagos State, the state that gave leverage to his becoming the president. Nigerians have seen a long motorcade of General Yakubu Gowon, a former military ruler, they have seen the grandiloquent style of Ibrahim Babangida another former military ruler who has the ego of a peacock and almost transmuted himself to life president of Nigeria but for the watchful eyes and determination of the civil society who mounted a very strong opposition. But they recently saw the grand style of Tinubu which is pacesetting. Gowon and Ibrahim Babangida will be envious to see Tinubu’s display as his motorcade wound through the ever busy and congested streets of Lagos to his house in Bourdillon, Ikoyi, where he would slaughter his Eid El Kabir ram for sacrifice to Allah, the God that Tinubu worships. Tinubu is a Muslim. The motorcade included motorcycles and their stylist riders that Lagosians have not seen in recent times because their use was abandoned long ago.

Tinubu’s car was hedged in a motorcade numbering between 100 and 120. Some will swear that it is more than that because the camera of inquisitive amateur cameramen using most likely their Android phones could not fully capture the endless motorcade. I tried also to count but I lost count after I counted eight cars. And that novel introduction of grandiloquence set the social media agog, once again tearing friends apart into anti-Tinubu and pro-Tinubu squads. Because Tinubu had just inflicted serious pain on the populace by his subsidy removal which by the time of writing is speculated to rise to 700 naira per liter, many questioned that opulence at a time the whole country is called to make sacrifice. The economic situation is made worse as the naira exchanged N768 to a dollar fueling speculation that it will rise to N1000 to a dollar before the end of July. If anybody should make a sacrifice, it should be the leaders because they created the problems, people moaned. If there are cabals milking the nation from petroleum deals or from oil theft or cooking books at the Central Bank or the NNPC, you don’t find them among the commoners. A senator goes home monthly with an unconfirmed 31 million naira and there are 109 of them.

The ministers do the same; even if they have not made their salaries public, Nigerians are accustomed to their opulence. The recently elected speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, reportedly hired 33 aides shortly after he assumed office. The immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have left with a 50-million-naira departure benefit for serving for only eight years, eight years that Nigerians want to forget so quickly because it brought them untold suffering. These are the people that should be called to make sacrifices, but rather than the leaders making sacrifices, helpless Nigerians counted about 100 high-class SUVs in the convoy of Tinubu as he returned to Lagos from London. If that shows what the Tinubu administration will do, some of the surprised commentators said sarcastically in the language of the streets: “Nigerians have entered one chance.” “One chance” happens when unwary passengers are tricked to board commercial buses that usually take victims to a place where they are either robbed or killed for rituals. “One chance” is a journey to destruction. Will Tinubu’s administration be one to destruction?

Tinubu’s defenders rose to his defense, citing the example of the motorcade of the American president which usually number about fifty and with high technology deployed to keep the president safe from attack. But they are reminded that no Nigerian president can be said to be in danger as the president of America is. They say that the American president is the most powerful in the world and must be so protected. More so, these fierce critics of Tinubu’s opulence argued that all the revenue of Nigeria for ten years cannot equal the revenue of the poorest state in America in one month. The critics have continued to echo the call for Tinubu to also cut the cost of governance which those who have observed Tinubu at close quarters have said he won’t be able to do. Their reason is that Tinubu is a big government person who is unlikely to subscribe to minimum government with an austere outlook. Tinubu owns a jet and enjoys flying in it and is therefore not likely to cut down on his cost of transportation. Tinubu and his vice president, Kashim Shettima have been seen moving around in the presidential jets. When they travel abroad, the huge cost of maintenance is borne by the state. Late Singapore leader, Lee Kuan Yew mentioned how then he saw how Nigerian leaders of the immediate post-independence era wasted resources on overseas maintenance of aircraft and noticed that Nigeria will not go far. And it never did because a military coup terminated that first government. Critics also say that Tinubu makes friends and draws loyalty through the avenue of monetary gifts or the use of perquisites of office. Therefore, he would not be able to tame the legislators or even the ministers and the various cadres of other high officers that will work with him. Not even the judges will be able to be corralled, more so when they are sitting on cases that will determine whether he continues to sit on the presidency or not. Neither will governors who are not directly under his control listen to him to curb ostentation which has become the style of government in Nigeria. Until then.

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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