Millions of pounds sterling. That’s how much Bola Tinubu, former senator, former governor of Lagos State, former democrat of NADECO fame (I will explain at the end of this column), says he “spent on” Olusegun Mimiko, governor of Ondo State. Note, his preferred currency: pounds, not naira. He did not specify the exact figure but we can assume a minimum of two million pounds. Which, at the rate of N250 to a pound, is about N500 million spent on an “ungrateful” and traitorous “godson.” How much did he spend on all the governors, senators, representatives and assemblymen in the states where his Action Congress is in power or a player in the grand casino game called politics in Nigeria?
Let us assume a conservative one million pounds for each of the other current AC governors and not bother with the cash he doled out for legislators’ races. Simple arithmetic suggests that, all told, Tinubu has spent around N1.8 trillion on governors, excluding himself since all of this began after he became a political godfather; a status he justifies with scripture: “god fatherism is biblical,” he says, which is “why Christians refer to God as their father.” Oh, the man has another flourishing career waiting if ever the ingratitude of political godchildren were to make him quit politics. He could become a Man of God, trade Asiwaju for Daddy Bishop, and continue to talk in millions of pounds. After all, what essential difference between prosperity churches and come-chop parties?
I will not ask the obvious questions: How did Tinubu come about the millions of pounds he claims to have spent on Mimiko? Could Senator Tinubu have boasted of spending millions of naira, never mind pounds, even on his own gubernatorial candidacy? He may have an answer to both questions, more credible than the one he gave in defence of his claim to have earned a certified public accountant’s certificate from Chicago State University. Until then, we are free to speculate, knowing what we know: that high political office creates instant millionaires and billionaires in our country. Perhaps, then, eight years as governor of the richest state in the federation and control of security votes, not to mention other “dividends of democracy,” contributed to his personal election war chest brimming with millions of pounds? Oh, that the man would tell us whence these untold riches!
To be fair, Tinubu sees himself as a holy godfather, though not the less beholden to mammon if he spends millions of pounds for just one governorship race. “I play god-fatherism … for the good of our people,” he says. And what better occasion to declare such selflessness than a campaign rally. Strangely, however, he spoke entirely in the first person, his pronouns only “I,” “me” and “my”: “Mimiko claimed that I did not spend money when he had problems with his mandate … He came to me and begged me to support him, rolling on the ground. … He collected money from me. I spent millions of pounds sterling but he betrayed me. … I play god-fatherism in the South-West for the good of our people. My godfatherism is for progress ... I have brought development to Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos, Edo and Ogun,” and on and on in absolute self-regard. Ever heard of narcissism and egomania writ larger?
But Tinubu’s godfatherism is no self-sacrificing endeavour. His words reveal a rather sinister reason for the astronomical sums he spent to elect a governor only to turn fiercely against him. He had been warned, he says, that Mimiko was “a serial traitor.” So why did he not heed the counsel? Gambler’s greed, hence, again, the very personal tone of the alleged betrayal (“He collected money from me … he betrayed me”)? Obviously, Tinubu is both the party and the people, and the people and the party Tinubu.
Which is why he did not care to disclose the nature of the betrayal to the people he rallied to sweep Mimiko out of the governor’s lodge and to install his hand-picked replacement instead. Makes me long for the brutal honesty of Lamidi Adedibu, the late doyen of godfathers: it is “amala politics,” he said. Translated as unfettered access to the state’s treasury; specifically, a guaranteed portion of the security vote. And preferential treatment in the award of contracts. Above all, blind loyalty. The only way to replenish the staggering sums invested in elections. For no person of sound mind would wager a fortune earned through hard and honest labour on an election unless it was understood as a high-yield venture with guaranteed returns. It is why all hell is let loose when a godson tries to break his fetters; why Adedibu and Chris Mba would unleash fire and brimstone on Oyo and Anambra States. Forget what William Congreve said about scorned women; hell, I say, hath no fury like a Nigerian political godfather scorned!
As it happened, Tinubu, despite playing the strongest hand in this brand of politics — that armed with bags and bags of money — lost his second bid to buy the Ondo State governorship and a political slave. Tinubu, a man given to self-aggrandisement, tried to boost his ego by publicizing his attendance in the United States at the convention of the Democratic Party that took place last month. The lie and ridicule of his claim that President Barack Obama had personally invited him to the event aside, he no doubt heard of the progress Karl Rove and the Republican Party oligarchs are making in their bid to buy the US presidency. I can’t help thinking that this encouraged Tinubu, on his return home, to boast of spending millions of pounds to buy a governorship. Which is why I call him a former democrat. By his own admission, Tinubu is now a plutocrat, the proper name for one who believes in the power of money and not of the people; in government by and for the highest bidder. In the name of the people, Mimiko must prove that he is not “a liar,” or if he really received millions of pounds from Tinubu, say how the price of the Ondo governorship was set and what the great good was that he betrayed.