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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Emmanuel Onwubiko: Transfiguration of citizen Bola Tinubu

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Like most Abuja residents, I did not vote for him to be President.

Indeed, one of the most fundamental reasons that influenced my choice of vote during the February 25th 2023 presidential poll, was the health factor.

It is said that ‘once beaten, twice shy.’ And going by the health trajectory of the then incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, it was just the best decision for any sane, rational and patriotic voter to weigh the health reports of candidates for the most important political office in Nigeria before casting the February 25th vote.

Writing about the February 25th Presidential Election won’t be analytically rational, if we do not look at the public conversations around the health status of the candidates who were asking Nigerians to vote them into the different public offices early this year.

And so it was that heavy weather was made by most country men and women regarding the health status of the then presidential candidate of the ruling party- All Progressive Congress (APC) named famously as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. This is because, of all the serious contenders, who were about four persons, the then candidate of APC got the largest share of public focus about his health. Also, Tinubu, of all his then rivals, was the one who openly claimed that it was his birthright sort of, to be elected the President after the tenure of his party man-Muhammadu Bujari. Tinubu’s ideology of Emilokan or it’s my turn, in his native Yoruba tongue, therefore made him the censure of all eyes because of curiosity to ascertain what informed his boldness which also included the need to look at his health situation.

So, it is not strange to assert that this citizen Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not new to public life going by his political antecedents as former Senator, former governor of Nigeria’s most complex but vibrant state- Lagos. He, Mr. Tinubu, also has garnered generous media reputation as one of the few Civil society leaders during the infamous General Sani Abacha –Junta. His coslition of democrats truly fought the military dictator using several fronts including the famous National democratic coalition or simply known as NADECO.

Tinubu almost nearly paid with his precious life but for mother luck that enabled him to have escaped into exile in the Western World where he sojourned for brief period whilst still funding the activities of NADECO to sabotage military dictatorship in the homeland-Nigeria, culminating in a self surrender by the khaki boys to return to their traditional turf which is the barracks in 1999.

For some of us who were very young during the treacherous Abacha tyranny, but already politically conscietised enough to enlist in such Pro-democracy bodies such as the Chief Gani Fawehinmi- led National conscience party, campaign for Democracy (CD) amongst others, we saw first-hand that it took a very healthy mind and body, for anyone to coordinate the counter-military Junta movements the way the likes of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and a few others such as Gani Fawehinmi, OlisaA gbakoba, Femi Falana, Shehu Sani, did with a near sense of perfection.

But during the electioneering campaigns that heralded the 2023 Presidential poll, Tinubu was depicted widely as a very sick man who is unworthy of consideration as the next president of the World’s largest black democracy.

Even his political party- the APC failed spectacularly, to change the narratives going by the pictorials and the visuals that emerged from the public campaign functions of the then candidate Tinubu.

However, fast- forward to after the election and then Tinubu was sworn in as President, it is increasingly becoming a mystery why even the then Presidential candidate himself Bola Ahmed Tinubu put up appearances that depicted him as being too sick and weak to become Nigeria’s president.

So, what caused this emerging transfiguration?

The most common definition of the word ‘transfiguration’ say it is a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.”

I call the emerging vibrancy in physicality of the president a transfiguration because even before he was sworn in and in between the presidential campaigns, the candidate and president- elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was in and out of the hospital thrice, although his media minders lied between their tongues to convince Nigerians that it wasn’t so.

Around MARCH 22, 2023 it was reported that the then President-elect Bola Tinubu has been flown abroad on a secret trip overnight that the reporter concluded could complicate the then transition phase in the country, according to two of his associates who related with an online media.

The report indicated that the associates declined to mention which country Mr Tinubu was flown to, but they insisted it was not on medical emergency and he would soon return to the country. They spoke under anonymity because Mr Tinubu’s team was still deliberating a press statement on the matter.

Another online medium was the first to report the news of Mr. Tinubu’s trip with the online outlet citing its sources that said the new Nigerian leader was flown to Europe for medical treatment.

That medium also said Mr Tinubu, who was declared winner of Nigeria’s presidential election after the disputed poll, took ill after months of uninterrupted political activities that peaked towards the end of the year-long campaign.

However, Bayo Onanuga, a spokesman for Mr Tinubu, said in a message to an online medium that his principal travelled abroad to rest and will soon return to the country. “He travelled to rest after the hectic electioneering,” Mr Onanuga said. “Will soon return home.”

Factually, in recent years, Mr Tinubu has made several emergency trips abroad, including in late January 2022 when he was rushed to London while the primary campaign was underway.

Shortly after returning from the London trip, Mr. Tinubu allegedly appeared to urinate on himself while visiting a prominent traditional ruler in the country’s southwest, says an online medium.

In September 2022, Mr Tinubu was again in London, where he reportedly spent several weeks receiving treatments from several doctors. He also strapped a urine bag on himself during the trip.

Despite several indications that Mr Tinubu might not be in good health, including his repeated foreign medical tours, the politician has maintained that he is physically and mentally fit to govern.

He admitted at a point that he might lack physical strength but said his mental capacity would be sufficient to pilot the nation’s affairs.

The online medium correctly stated that Mr Tinubu inherited Nigeria’s over 200 million people from Muhammadu Buhari, the former President who made regular trips to London to treat undisclosed ailments. At several points in his eight-year tenure,

Mr Buhari spent several months on a single trip to London. He has never publicly acknowledged the nature of his illness and how much of state resources he used.

Bola Tinubu as then President-elect dismissed Nigerian media reports of ill health, his campaign saying he had travelled abroad to rest and plan his transition programme after a “very exhaustive” presidential election campaign.

Tinubu’s health, says Reuters, is being closely watched in a country where a former president died in office after a long illness and then incumbent MuhammaduBuhari routinely travels abroad for medical checks and in early 2017 spent three months on medical leave in Britain for an unspecified ailment.

Reuters correctly stated that the 70-year-old former governor of commercial hub Lagos had appeared frail during some campaign appearances, his speech often slow and slurred, but he repeatedly brushed aside concerns about his health.

“After a very exhaustive campaign and election season, president-elect, Asíwájú Bola Tinubu, has travelled abroad to rest and plan his transition programme ahead of May 29, 2023 inauguration,” campaign spokesperson Tunde Rahman said in a statement.

Tunde Rahman, a former Abuja based media manager did not say where Tinubu had travelled to but said he would be back soon.

However, observing President Bola Ahmed Tinubu from a distance and watching the optics being dished out to us in the media, together with over one dozen foreign trips by Tinubu including his planned long distance journey to the USA to attend the UN General Assembly and to honour a personal invitation to meet the President of the USA Joe Biden, he too, a sick old man, it is important to state that indeed President Tinubu has undergone a transfiguration that may be a bit difficult to offer cogent and evidence -based assessment.

A media think tank wrote a chronicle of Tinubu’s foreign trips. It wrote that history was made on May 29, 2023, when Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in as Nigeria’s president after the disputed February 2023 general elections.

It also stated that this post being cited is specifically designed to track the foreign trips of Bola Tinubu from the day he became Nigeria’s president till the expiration of his tenure.

Foreign Trips After Winning Election:

June 20, 2023: Just like Muhammadu Buhari who embarked on more than 100 foreign trips from 2015 to May 2023, a lot of Nigerians predict that Tinubu may toe the path of his predecessor in terms of foreign trips.

The former federal lawmaker, ex-governor of Lagos, and a political kingmaker, now a “king” had embarked on some foreign trips some days after he was declared the winner of the February elections.

According to statements by his media aide, his foreign trips were designed to woo foreign investors into the new government that would be headed by him.

He had been to London, Saudi Arabia, Paris, and Europe before his swearing-in. His pre-swearing-in trips were not under Nigeria’s bill, so says the media think tank which provided no verifiable evidence since the then President-elect actually flew to France using the publicly funded Air Force 1 Presidential jet.

Chronologically, here are the Presidential foreign trips embarked upon by Tinubu:

June 20, 2023:

Tinubu’s first official presidential foreign trip was to Paris, France on Tuesday, June 20, 2023 for a 2-day summit.

Purpose: For Paris Summit for the New Global Financial Pact.

ost: President Emmanuel Macron of France, will be held at Palais Brongniart, from June 22-23, 2023.

The Special Adviser, Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake, said Nigeria’s president would “participate, review, and sign a New Global Financial Pact that places vulnerable countries on the priority list for support and investment, following the devastating impact of climate change, energy crisis, and after effect of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

June 24, 2023

On Saturday, June 24, 2023, Tinubu was in London for a private. The Nigerian leader was initially scheduled to fly from Paris, France, to Nigeria “but proceed to London, United Kingdom, for a short private visit,” his Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake, said.

And on Tuesday, June 27, Tinubu returned to Lagos, Nigeria, for the Eid-el-Kabir festivities. His supporters were at the presidential wing of the MurtalaMuhammed International Airport, Lagos to welcome him back ‘home’.

Also, Tinubu travelled several whistle stops to Nigeria’s neighbouring nations to attend either inauguration of a new President somewhere in West Africa or ECOWAS meetings, especially since the Army took over power in Niger Republic.

Also, it will be deceptive to state that all the denials made by his aides during the campaign that he is well and healthy, are Factually accurate, because from available evidence in the public domain, the then Presidential candidate and President-elect, presented a picture of a very sick, tired, old man.

Then to put that existential conclusion side by side with his appearances and realities since after he got inaugurated as President, it is clear that Nigeria has a healthy, strong, mentally and physically vibrant President, for now. Lord, may I be right!

So, why then, was Tinubu looking sick during his campaign and now looking robustly healthy and fit enough to travel to even long distance countries like the USA that even this writer who is just about clocking 50 years, is scared of flying to?

To conclude, I must say that, whether I voted for him or not, is not the issue. But my joy is that Nigeria for now, as at today that I’m typing this piece, is not a laughing stock as a nation with a very sick old and tired President.

I do wish that this physical transfiguration, will not wane and is not a smokescreen.

*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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