The small matter about legitimacy, By Steve Osuji

The Illegitimate President: President Bola Tinubu is troubled by the fact of his illegitimacy. In leadership, legitimacy is everything. You are either legitimate or you are not. If you are illegitimate as our current president is, you are only a pretender to the throne, an impostor. As we say in street parlance, you dey like you no dey!


During the Presidential campaign, Tinubu had in a now infamous video, admonished his supporters that election is not won by being coy. He told them in a viral video that to win, you have to necessarily “smash, grab and run with it.”


In cahoots with the electoral body, INEC, Tinubu did just that on the crucial February 25th Presidential Election day. Midway through voting they pulled down the damn electronic transmission system so that presidential tallies could no longer be uploaded online real-time. This immediately muddied the waters, tainted the system and damaged the legitimacy of the election. A rogue INEC shamefacedly announced rubbish results to a scandalised world and urged the aggrieved to go to court. While INEC got its candidate sworn in as president, the overriding perception out there among Nigerian the populace is that they never voted for Tinubu.


Demons Of Illegitimacy: The matter is still in court, the jury is out but the president can’t function. He is tortured by the dark demons of illegitimacy. This small matter about legitimacy is largely a perception. It’s not quite apparent to the simple-minded. It’s much an intangible, imperceptible factor in leadership but if it’s absent in a leader, such a leader is lame-ducked. He can’t lead with authority and requisite confidence.


Poor Husband Rich Wife: By way of an illustration, it is akin to a very poor fellow who marries a very rich lady. He is perpetually in a state of angst to prove his bona fides as the man of the house even though he denies it. He would try to boss things around, he would issue some orders now and then and he would even raise his voice on occasions to test his mettle. But one day; on the day of reckoning, the rich and affluent would gather and unfurl their plumes in their full pomp and pageantry, our poor hubby may find himself on the stump among the affluent. Unable to function, he may end up too happy to stack chairs and run menial errands. It would dawn on him he had been an impostor; a gate crasher to a party he doesn’t belong in…


Richard Nixon’s Death Wish: The 37th president of the United States of America, Richard Milhous Nixon best illustrates the concept of illegitimacy in leadership. A multifarious rogue politician, in the run up to his second term election as president (June 1972), he had approved the breaking into, and bugging of the headquarters of the Democratic Party, at Watergate, Washington (Watergate scandal), among other misdemeanors. Caught out, he continued to lie and perjure himself and the pristine office of the President of the United States (POTUS).


A series of newspaper exposes and public investigations by the judiciary and parliament convinced American people that Nixon was indeed a liar, a crook, a cheat and everything else in between. Though he won second term in 1972 by a wide margin, fallouts of the Watergate scandal dogged him and made his position untenable. By November 1973, his lawyers advised him to resign; he had lost authority and legitimacy. The office of the POTUS was bleeding. But Nixon wasn’t a man possessed of much honour. He chose to dig in.


He would do anything, including suicide than resign. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their book, The Final Days, reported one such suicidal incident. As the bodies of evidence piled against Nixon, pressures became unbearable and his health suffered, but he chose to embark on a nine-day diplomatic shuttle to the Middle East against his doctors’ better advice.


According to the book, Nixon’s leg was “inflamed and swollen… a blood clot had formed in a vein in the leg.” This could be fatal, say presidential physicians who recommended immediate hospitalization and treatment. The book says the president rejected the advice. “The purpose of this trip is more important than my life.” Nixon had said. He travelled across Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel. He was to also visit Russia the following week culminating in June 24th. It was a remarkable diplomatic outing for a drowning Nixon. He was buoyed by the momentary positive public opinion. But thereafter, things happened even faster against Nixon. By end of July both the US Supreme Court and the House Judiciary Committee had nailed the president to the cross.


Exactly two months after President Nixon’s historic and deathly Middle East and Russia image boosting trips, he was forced to resign on August 10, 1974.


Like Nixon, Like Tinubu: There’s of course, a parallel to be drawn between President Nixon of 40 years ago and President Tinubu of today. It’s about a leader trapped in the throes of illegitimacy. An illegitimate president is a dangerous person. He would throw in everything into the mix to retain power – and that includes his life and the life of the entire nation.


Consider the trajectory of the Tinubu presidency since his inauguration on May 29th. He has been supine seeking the affirmation of the US and the West. For a man denied access to the US and who never got a word of felicitation from the POTUS, he would do anything to win their favour.


And he has done some in quick time. He zapped our so-called fuel subsidy, he floated our naira, all sorts of taxes assail the populace. All these have been the long-term recommendations of the Bretton-Woods people. Next is the LGBTQ conundrum. Don’t be surprised if our vacuous legislature begins to rework our extant laws on homosexuality soon.


General Tinubu Charges Down The Sahel: It has been determined that President Tinubu is leading the proxy war in the Republic of Niger. General Tinubu will command the allied forces of both NATO and ECOWAS. The great democrat-warrior, Africa’s own Winston Churchill is raring to go. He gave one week ultimatum and at its expiration he rallied his ECOWAS stooges to Abuja where communique was prepared by Man Friday Dele Alake before the heads of state arrived. A so-called ECOWAS president read Tinubu’s charge religiously as Alake sat by him and breathed down his neck.


It was a clear and unmistakable command from the commander in chief of the West Africa Frontier Force (read farce) to the chiefs of defence staff of the community. He ordered the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. He sought support of the AU and the UN. He warned member-states of the fire consequences acting up.


On A Mission Impossible: Everything has been said by nigh everyone. There’s nothing left unsaid about Tinubu’s proposed adventure in the sahel. As we have said in the beginning, it’s the story of a drowning man fighting for his life. It’s the story of an illegitimate president fighting for his life, for survival. He thinks a war, no matter how stupid, would keep him in power. Every other thing be damned. But a war in Niger is a mission impossible. Even NATO putting his entire men on ground there can never win it. The people want freedom and food not democracy. The terrain is expansive and treacherous and Tinubu’s domain, Nigeria, which ought to be the stabiliser is prostrate and inchoate.


In the final analysis, there’s a dearth of commonsense all round, on all sides. The only flicker of light is the hope, a very thin hope, that the military junta in Niger might just have enough grains in their heads to genuinely liberate their people… but unfortunately, this never happened before in all of Africa.


Would July 26, 2023 be a watershed for Niger?


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