By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
I have always wanted to make something out of myself throughout my life. From a low upbringing in the remote part of Western Nigeria, I took a tortuous journey across the country, and the world, that finally brought me to this pinnacle of every man’s ambition as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I am fully aware of how lucky I have been. I am humbled that only 16 men have been able to reach this height since Nigeria’s independence some 63 years ago. So many men and women died while trying.
I want to thank all Nigerians who helped me along the way to get to where I am today. You are the true hero of this accomplishment. You have a special place in my heart. I hope you also get people to support your mission in life the same way you helped mine.
Along a tedious journey like this one, I made some mistakes. Truth be told, I was not a model citizen. I took shortcuts in my youthful exuberance to shine and make my family proud of me. I did some things that I should not have done. I sincerely regret those things that I did, which were unethical and unbecoming of someone who desired to lead others. Leadership is not only about ideas, profits, and getting things done; it is also about morality, integrity, and doing the right things.
I am sure that when you hear my real story, the odds that were stacked against me from birth, you will find in your heart the will to forgive. The devil did not make me do it. If anything, it is the evil in me and in every man, which I failed to suppress, that led me astray. This is not an excuse, but I am only human. Destructive behaviors do not drop from hell. They start like little drops of rain on a solid soul until they gradually erode the resistance one particle at a time.
I have since realised that I used the first part of my life to destroy the last. At every opportunity that I had to come clean, I missed it. That was how I got to where I am today. It was not out of any sense of invincibility. I did not feel that I fooled 220 million people for decades and would keep fooling them even after death. I was simply afraid.
I might have been called the Jagaban, but my thought process was nothing sophisticated. I feared unraveling a careful image I had built over the years. I was not sure that I would be able to recognize myself if I did. It was the wrong path to follow.
In the last few days, I have watched friends and acquaintances come out and defend me. I have watched people who know the truth lie conspicuously and people who are oblivious of the truth rant uncontrollably. The whole specter made me weak, sad, and regretful. I took no pride in seeing myself as the subject of such a caricature. The personal agony that I felt was so debilitating. At one point, I felt so ashamed to look at my grandchildren without a pounding heart that I wondered if they saw their grandfather as a crook.
I did not wish that my ascension as President would unleash a toxic fume on our beloved country. I did not come to destroy what was left of our floundering country. Instead, I came to rebuild. Despite my self-interest, I have always held that the nation’s interest is more important than mine. I would not let this country crumble on my watch. The truth is that I have lost the trust of so many of my compatriots and that of the wider world that I do not see how I can overcome the handicap without wasting time and the merger resources of Nigeria.
After carefully considering the events in the last few days, I can no longer allow the destruction of my beloved country and my legacy to continue. Despite my moral lapses, my conscience will not let me stand by and watch my grandchildren’s tomorrow poisoned. In this current situation, I can no longer effectively perform my job as President. I have, therefore, decided to put the fate of over 220 million citizens of Nigerians above all things else. As a result, I am resigning the position of the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by midnight today.
I hope my resignation will allow Nigeria to heal, open a new page of integrity and truth, and make this day one to remember as the day the nation’s rebirth started. May the new culture that this day will bear be our country’s guiding principles for centuries. Even though I won’t be around to midwife it, may this gesture reflect the renewed hope that I came to bring in the long run.
I intended to hand over the country to my able vice-president, who I was confident would lead the nation to a glorious place. Unfortunately, after consulting my lawyers, I was informed that I had to leave with my Vice-President because my infraction was a pre-election matter. In effect, the country would have a chance for a clean start by conducting a new election. I sincerely think it is the best path to a new beginning. Whatever the cost, let us do it for generations unborn.
If there are people I hurt in my political journey, I apologize. It was a privilege to serve Nigeria, and I wish my beloved country the best.
Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo teaches Post-Colonial African History at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His books include “This American Life Sef” and “Children of a Retired God,” among others. His upcoming book is called “Why I’m Disappointed in Jesus.”