By Okey Ndibe
With each passing day, Bola Ahmed Tinubu reveals himself as an exemplar of all that’s wrong with Nigeria.
It’s incontestable that Tinubu has fudged or plain forged key nodes of his bio. The least of it is that the very name he goes by is apparently not the one given him at birth. That there is a dispute over his age seems now of relatively minor significance—especially considering his implication in much grander scandals.
One of Tinubu’s profounder falsehoods pertains to his education. On the stump, he boasted about his academic brilliance. Yet, his so-called educational experience appears more a projection of his imagination than a real thing. It’s no wonder that he’s made it up as he went.
In his first run for the governorship seat in Lagos, he had claimed that he attended the globally reputed University of Chicago. Only when the industrious human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, unmasked the lie did Tinubu change the record. Blaming an associate for the erroneous claim, Tinubu said he studied at Chicago State University (CSU). Now, compared with the University of Chicago, CSU is a forgettable institution.
Even so, Tinubu’s attempt at correcting one lie appears to have propelled him into the mire of another lie.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, one of Tinubu’s rivals in last February’s presidential election, has mounted a legal effort in a US court to compel Chicago State University to furnish him with Tinubu’s ostensible academic record. If the court accedes to Atiku’s petition, the haul of document is bound to rattle Tinubu’s house of cards.
Indeed, a Bola Tinubu graduated from CSU. But the university’s records indicate that this graduate was a female. We know this to be the case because the university had released the information last year in compliance with a subpoena by Nigerian lawyer Michael Enahoro-Ebah. David Hundeyin, arguably Nigeria’s most enterprising investigative journalist, has written compendiously about this scandal.
Tinubu has led a fascinating life, but one is not aware that the current resident of Aso Rock ever identified as a woman. So, how is he going to explain away this mystery that the only CSU graduate with the same name was registered as a woman?
Unless Tinubu comes up with a convincing explanation—a tough task, to say the least—we are left with the surmise that the man had little or no post-secondary schooling. And that he’s invented some of the most important details of his life.
Tinubu faces an even pricklier adversity. Within days, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will commence the phased release of a dossier on the man who presides over Nigeria. The FBI and its sister law enforcement agencies settled a freedom of information lawsuit by agreeing to provide more than 70,000 pages of their files on Tinubu.
Don’t let anybody fool you: FBI agents do not expend time and energy drafting entries to support the cause of their subject’s canonization. No, they’re in the business of writing up about crimes, criminals, and suspected criminals.
It’s astonishing that Tinubu’s activities inspired American law enforcement to produce such a gargantuan tome. However steely his nerves, Tinubu is bound to lose sleep over this one. Who knows what gems lie buried in the files. Oh yes, he may get Nigeria’s media to ignore the story, but the irrepressible Hundeyin (and some online news sites) will not relent until the most devastating disclosures go viral.
Tinubu launched a bid for the presidency of Nigeria by declaring it was his turn. He then ordered his foot soldiers to go out and “grab” power. There’s no question he meant grab in its most literal, brazen manner. The presidential polls turned into a grab-it-and-run affair.
Tinubu’s self-arrogated prerogative to run Nigeria is playing out disastrously. I don’t mean merely in his statecraft. For me, the greater malaise lies in the humiliation of a country led by a certified forger, a serial liar, a person of interest to the world’s toughest law enforcement organization—the FBI.
I’m mystified that some Nigerians appear inured to the embarrassment of Tinubu’s strange history. They defend the man’s lies about his education and lend credence to his absurd rationalization that the forfeiture of close to half a million dollars in narcotics funds did not implicate him in criminality.
There’s a paradox here. I doubt that any of Tinubu’s apologists would hire somebody as a gate man if the man lied about his age or education—forget his criminal record. No, they would find such a dissembler unfit to man their gates. But when it comes to stewardship of two hundred million lives, why, we must recruit the grandest liar for the task.
And then we wonder why our country is so misshapen.