A screenshot of an April 13, 1997 interview Bola Tinubu granted ThisDay with the headline “I Don’t Believe in One Nigeria” trended on social media last week.
In my social media commentary on the headline, I pointed out that, “Nigerian politicians are shamelessly situational ‘patriots.’
They’re irredentists when they’re outside the orbit of power and exaggerated ‘patriots’ when they have access to the public till. A man who didn’t believe in Nigeria when he didn’t have his way now wants to lead it. Ha!”
Tinubu’s defenders said his repudiation of Nigeria was informed by Sani Abacha’s brutal dictatorship, which disillusioned even the most optimistic patriots at the time.
Well, Abacha wasn’t Nigeria. You could—and people actually did—condemn Abacha’s villainy without losing faith in Nigeria. To conflate Abacha and Nigeria was shortsighted.
Olusegun Obasanjo was jailed by Abacha, but I don’t recall him ever saying he no longer believed in Nigeria because of Abacha’s ill-treatment of him.
In fact, it was precisely his unbending faith in Nigeria in spite of what he suffered under Abacha that inspired northern leaders at the time to support his presidential bid in 1999.
Of course, as I’ve always said, there’s nothing inviolable about Nigeria, and one should be ostracised for questioning the desirability of its existence. But it is legitimate to wonder if Tinubu, who wants to be president in 2023, now believes in Nigeria and what has caused him to change his opinion.
The government he is a part of now is, in many ways, worse than Abacha’s.
Abacha’s fascistic excesses are being replicated many folds. Only that he is not at the receiving end this time.
Is he an opportunistic, fair-weather patriot?
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