With the manner in which the current electioneering campaign season is unravelling, it may yet be the most interesting, most suspenseful and most revealing, of the nation’s fourth republic. My mind goes back to the popular, dancefloor funk tune, popular in my generation, “Sixty thrills a minute.”
It was produced by the New York-based music group which goes by the name *Mystic Merlin,* over four decades ago. The very title of the song suggests that every second of the 60 which make up a minute, throws up novelties. It speaks to the infinite possibilities, realisable within the blink of an eye. This exactly is what the ongoing campaigns are throwing up in parts. You switch on your television set or follow real-time coverage of campaigns on social media, never sure what to expect. The general elections scheduled for later this February and early March, will produce new leaders and representatives for Nigerians, from the bottom, to the top of the representational political pyramid. And every single day of the ongoing exercise throws up brand new scenarios.
Campaign gears such as customised shirts, vests, caps, bowler hats, wristbands, broches, even footwear, have collectively added colour and pizzaz to electioneering across the country. The carnivalesque air, the boisterous ambience, the music, singing, gyrations, characteristic of road shows and campaign grounds, have remained constants across the national landscape. Popular rule, which is in its third decade in Nigeria, is probably here to stay despite its multiple imperfections, after all. Nigeria will not be going in the direction of Burkina Faso, Guinea or Mali, its neighbours on the west coast of the African continent, anytime soon, going by the convictions and reassurances of the military. Democratic governance in the countries we alluded to above, have been torpedoed by military adventurists in recent years, arresting the evolution of popular rule.
Expectedly, the campaigns have thrown up a kaleidoscope of high dramas and novelties. While these continue to be rib-crackers on one hand, they are, on the other, sober exposes on our seriousness as a people and a country in today’s global community. In the south west of the country, indigenous Yoruba musical instruments like the *gangan,* *omele* and *bata,* regularly echo that famous campaign chant: *Ipade di ojo ibo/Ipade di ojo ibo/B’awa le ju wa lo/B’eyin le ju wa lo/Ipade di ojo ibo.* In English, this means “We shall meet on election day/If you have more followers than we do/Or we have more supporters than you do/The election day will be the decider.”
The Hausa/Fulani, the Igbo, and other sociocultural strands of the Nigerian behemoth, also have campaign chants and choruses, peculiar to their environments. Elsewhere, I have remarked about the enchanting musicality and compelling dance essence of Tiv songs and poetry, including political compositions. They are usually accompanied by *gida,* *kwen,* *gbande,* among other indigenous instruments. Dino Melaye, campaign moderator of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), has been a multitasking raconteur, singer, bandleader and performing artist on the campaign wagon. He never misses any opportunity to take digs at opponents of his party and its presidential flagbearer, Atiku Abubakar. Such has been the entertainment component of the current political season.
Instructively, the presidential campaign endeavours of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), singularly, seem to have thrown up more preposterous foibles, comic substance and theatrics, than all the other parties put together. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, also known by a variety of aliases, including *Asiwaju,* *Jagaban,* *Olowo Eko,* *City Boy* and *National Leader,* Emeritus governor of Lagos State, is the presidential candidate of the APC. Alone, he has generated much more comic content, may tragicomic substance, than all the other parties put together. He has unwittingly gifted Nigeria’s burgeoning film industry, better known as *Nolloywood,* such an abundance of sumptuous meat which will sustain the sector for seasons to come. Skit makers are savouring the prospects already.
Keen political enthusiasts are indeed keeping tabs on Tinubu’s various gaffes and goofs. The other day, I dabbled into a YouTube documentary of 20, yes twenty most recent and indefensible Tinubu verbal *faux pas* on the campaign train. This is just as a rostrum has been invented for him on campaign dais to help him maintain some physical stability and balance. Please observe the unease of the APC leaders, usually his running mate, Kashim Shettima; the national chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu; the host governor and similar leaders of the party, whenever Tinubu grabs the microphone. There is that discernible edginess that Tinubu might just drop another uncoordinated gibberish, another headless missile. This is even as party leaders almost ever serve as his prompters, whispering into his ears and slipping *aide memoires* to him, to guide his thread of thought.
Tinubu has graduated from his days of “a church rat eating a poisoned holy communion.” He has gravitated from his struggles with the pronunciation of very simple words like “umbrella” and “technological.” In Akwa Ibom State the other day, Nigerians watched with consternation as Tinubu described his PDP opponent as the “former Senate President” who he produced. Tinubu’s words: “They don’t have mandate. What they have is ice cream. It melt quick. They are yeye people. Atiku when we made am Senate President, abba…” Tinubu at the same outing, profiled Udom Emmanuel, governor of the state, as “that boy who used to stay in my boy’s quarters in Lagos.”
Curiously, Tinubu in some of his outings, has turned the revolver to his own chest, literally, by throwing his own party and the platform of his presidential quest, under the rail lines. In Abeokuta, Tinubu took a swipe at the Buhari government, for attempting to sabotage his election, by its currency change policy. He equally tackled the Buhari government for the lingering fuel crisis in the country. He retorted to chanting: *A ma dibo, a ma wole,* which means “we will vote and we will win.” Tinubu continued along the lines of poking his hands into the eyes of his party during his rally in Cross River State, by describing the Buhari-led government as a band of economic neophytes. According to him, the outgoing government so badly mismanaged the economy, that the currency exchange rate spiralled from N200 to the USD in 2015, to nearly N800 to the USD, in 2023.
More and more, it is obvious that Tinubu’s handlers neither like him, nor have any considerations for this country. They cannot harbour any affections for him and allow him continue to subject himself to the kind of repeated embarrassment we have watched with our hearts in our mouths on his do-or-die presidential aspiration. Each time I watch Tinubu’s performance on the campaign stage, remembrances of *Klint da Drunk,* the popular comedian whose real name is Afamefuna Klint Igwemba, come flooding through my heart. Have we noticed the human pillar mounted directly behind in his recent appearances, to prevent him from tripping? That tells us how bad Tinubu’s situation is.
From the bit Nigerians have seen of Tinubu on the campaign routes, he does not represent the potential successor to a Buhari who has roundly and holistically unmade this country, by the way. His carriage and lexicon are too globally unpresidential for Nigerians to take a chance with installing him president. Whatever residual goodwill he would have garnered in places have been willfully frittered by his regular verbal indiscretions like someone under a spell, the type Yoruba people describe as *edi,* which alludes to someone cursed to commit blunders. Imagine Tinubu threatening to send reptiles to invade the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge in Lagos with reptiles, and subsequently appropriating it! This validates the voracious acquisitiveness of a man who has allegedly taken over several choice land assets of his home state across the country, and made them his personal estate. *MC Oluomo,* Tinubu’s famous Lagos-based mentee, will probably do better than his principal, in comportment and rendition.
Tinubu’s presumably multilegged and worrying medical status report, indeed, is further cause for national trepidation. There are suspicions among others, that he may be manifesting progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the brain, beyond what might be expected from a normal ageing process. This situation impairs memory, attention, judgement and language. There are also suggestions that he is afflicted by “delirium tremens,” a delusion, the tendency for hallucination, a wandering of the mind, culminating in repeated blunderings and errors. Tinubu’s promoters know a lot more about his situation but keep egging him on clearly, because of what they stand to benefit from his reportedly infinite war-chest. Their dream is to constitute a cabal around him if he ever wins, so they can run Nigeria from their cellphones and state-owned jets. Shettima as presumed vice president will be busied with reading newspapers and blaring sirens about town. Tinubu’s family if they love him, must step in and rescue him from his sworn agenda for self-destruction, in their collective and enlightened interests.
Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, GCON.