For Shaka Momodu, the editor of This Day and a columnist with the newspaper, column writing is about hurling insults, cheap abuse, curses, invectives, peddling gossip, trading in unverified rumor, hypocritical moralistic posturing and wallowing in the gutter of mudslinging. That the Editor of what is supposed to be a leading newspaper in the country can be allowed by his medium to write such vile stuff on its back page filled with bile, vitriol, unhidden malice, outright falsehood and wild generalizations shows how much media practice, just like virtually every aspect of the country’s social life has degenerated badly. Momodu was in his perverse elements in his recent piece titled ‘Buhari’s Legacy and Tinubu’s Albatross’.
Of course, his obsessive hatred for the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is well known. He has written several pieces seeking to savage the character and tarnish the reputation of Tinubu. Unfortunately for him, the more he indulges in his reckless misadventure, the brighter the political prospects of Tinubu continues to shine.
It is Momodu’s view that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has performed so badly that the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not deserve to win the next election and he is certainly entitled to his view. Indeed, left to him, the APC should not even be allowed to field candidates or participate in the next general elections. He asks: “On what basis is the party presenting candidates for various positions in the forthcoming general election? Shouldn’t it rather be apologizing every day for the escalating insecurity in the land?”. This is the columnist as extremist. He avers that those who don’t agree with his political views or stance deserve ‘psychiatric attention’. Yet, is it not a columnist and supposed public intellectual who cannot offer nuanced and objective analyses of public issues, appreciate the complexity of the realities he is discussing and who has a one track mind that is deserving of mental checkup?
The writer excoriates the performance of the Buhari administration unsparingly and he has a right to do so. No one, for instance, will be impressed by the way it has handled the security situation. In the same way, even many APC members have criticized what is widely perceived as the insular character and orientation of the administration especially the regionally skewed nature of its appointment to critical security agencies. Its handling of the economy could most certainly have been more competent and result-oriented.
But Momodu’s unreasoning hatred for Tinubu blinds him to the fact that the APC candidate of the major contenders to succeed Buhari has the best track record that shows his capacity to govern in a different way and tackle these challenges in a result-oriented matter. It is simplistic, naive and narrow-minded to see the 2023 elections as essentially a contest between the political parties. There is little ideological and programmatic distinction between parties in Nigeria. What will count are the experience, knowledge and track record of the next President.
Lagos was a nest of insecurity when Tinubu came to office as governor of the state in 1999. Daylight armed robbery including bank robberies and rampant car snatching was the order of the day. There were ethnic and communal clashes in places like Ajegunle, Mile 12, Mile 2, Mushin and Agege among others. Members of such emergent groups as the Egbesu boys and Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) often clashed in many parts of the state. Through focused and competent leadership, the Tinubu administration restored sanity in Lagos. He can do the same for Nigeria. He is widely acknowledged as having run an inclusive and all- embracing government in the state showing no ethnic or religious bias. He can do the same for Nigeria. Those who are not blinded by prejudice commend him for assembling the best and brightest brains, knowledgeable persons in their specialized areas, who successfully transformed Lagos from a near insolvent and utterly dysfunctional state to fastest modernizing state in Nigeria and one of the most rapidly developing economies in Africa.
For Momodu, Tinubu had absolutely no achievements as governor of Lagos State. The environment is no better than he met it. He constructed no roads or drainages, built no schools, provided no healthcare facilities, did not improve the traffic situation, did not deal with the menace of refuse and destructive floods, the creation of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) is probably a mirage, the restoration of the eroded Bar Beach Shoreline and the ongoing construction of the Eko Atlantic City is an illusion, the ongoing construction of the Blue Line and Red Line mass transit Rail systems is fiction and Lagos has not been transformed since 1999 into the fifth largest economy in Africa. In short, Tinubu’s eight years as governor of Lagos State witnessed zero development. We can best imagine the mental state of a supposed analyst with such a prejudiced and closed mind that he denies the reality before his very eyes of the city in which he lives and works. It is better to leave him in his delusionary world of alternative reality.
A more mature and emotionally balanced columnist would try to elevate public discourse by his analyses and possibly help add value to public policy and the societal good. No, Momodu opts for the easier path of empty sensationalism and superficial reasoning riddled with embarrassing illogic. For instance, no matter the challenges confronting the country under the Buhari administration, will a credible and honest analyst with a modicum of integrity not also admit areas where it has recorded successes? Rather, Momodu writes that “In eight years, Buhari and APC have turned Nigeria upside down, a land flowing with milk and honey, has been turned into a famished land”.
Really? This is incredible. So Nigeria was a veritable Eldorado in the 16 years of PDP’s reign of the locusts; years of waste, wanton corruption and gross governance incompetence. Momodu saw no evil, witnessed no bad governance in that prodigal era and his vitriolic pen was crippled all because he was a contractor-journalist smiling to the bank through illegal patronage in that prodigal era. Of course, the Buhari administration has no such largesse to disburse and we can understand Momodu’s anger. Had the security challenge been effectively and decisively tackled under the Jonathan administration, a period during which Boko Haram had seized control and indeed had planted its flag in large swathes of our territory, would it have deteriorated and metastasized under Buhari? Was Nigeria not already ranked as the poverty capital of the world and one ranking among countries with the highest number of out-of-school-children even during the PDP years?
Why then was the Jonathan administration so roundly defeated in 2015 ending the PDP’s arrogant boast that it would be in power for 60 years and marking the first time that an incumbent government at the centre would be defeated by an opposition party in the country’s history if it was a time when the country was ‘flowing with milk and honey’ according to Momodu? Could it be that Momodu was on vacation in some foreign country at the time? Why did the APC’s campaign on the basis of its change agenda so resonate with the public who wanted change at all costs and desired no more of the uninspiring and venal PDP administration?
Momodu deludes himself that “Fulani were brought in from neighbouring countries – Sierra Leone, Mali, Senegal, Niger and Chad to facilitate victory for the APC in 2015”. It was the vast majority of the Nigerian electorate that voted out the PDP government in 2015. They again voted for a second term for Buhari in 2019 because they did not find the PDP a better option even with all the admitted flaws of the APC government. Even now, Momodu does not give any empirical or logically compelling reason to convince anyone that the PDP or Labour Party offers a better alternative for the country after Buhari next year.
In assessing the Buhari administration’s economic performance, will any serious analyst and thinker that wants to be taken seriously, not take into consideration, for instance, the effects of the unanticipated Coronavirus pandemic which from 2019 dislocated the economies of both poor and rich countries and continues to have negative economic implications or the drastic crash in the price of crude oil, the country’s main revenue earner in the international market towards the end of 2014? The price of crude oil for the most part of the Jonathan administration was at least $140 per barrel. It fell to less than $40 per barrel by the time the APC came to power. Yet, at that period of relative buoyancy, the PDP did not build even one additional refinery to enhance the country’s local oil refining capacity and reduce dependence on imported refined oil products and the attendant humongous oil subsidy payments that constitute a severe drain on the economy.
Would the country not now be benefitting more from the rise in crude oil prices as a result of the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war just as other oil producing countries are doing if the PDP had better utilized its higher oil revenue earnings? Indeed, despite earning significantly more revenue from oil than the succeeding APC administration, the PDP abandoned the construction or completion of much needed critical infrastructure such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Second Niger-Bridge, the Lagos-Badagry-Expressway, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway as well as vital railway projects across the country, which the Buhari administration has been aggressively pursuing.
Again, with far less revenue in seven years than was available to the PDP in 16 years, the APC’s Social Investment Programmes involving mass transfers of funds to vulnerable sections of the populace through the School Feeding Programme, Market-moni, Trader-moni and subventions to the elderly among others is unprecedented in the country’s history and one of the most extensive of such pro-poor interventions in Africa. Yet, Momodu is angry that the administration has had to resort to heavy borrowing to construct infrastructure in the face of dwindling revenues and the gross infrastructure deficit it inherited. Of course, this does not excuse the high rate of crude oil theft that continues to occur under this government.
According to Wikipedia, “Under President Muhammadu Buhari the office has created four programs to address poverty and help increase economic development. The N-Power (Nigeria) program provides young Nigerians with job training and education, as well as a monthly stipend of N30,000 ($83.33). The Conditional Cash Transfer program directly supports the most vulnerable by providing no-strings-attached cash to those in the lowest income group, helping reduce poverty, improve nutrition and self-sustainability, and supporting development through increased consumption. The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP) is a micro-lending investment program targeting entrepreneurs with a focus on young people and women. This program provides no-cost loans to its beneficiaries, helping reduce the start-up costs of business ventures in Nigeria. Finally, the Home Grown School Feeding Program (HGSF) is the one way government is attempting to increase school enrolment by providing meals to school children, particularly those in poor and food-insecure regions. The program works with local farmers and empowers women as cooks, building the community and sustaining economic growth from farm to table”.
Momodu attributes Buhari’s victory in the 2015 election which ousted the PDP government to Tinubu and he obviously cannot forgive him for this. According to him, “Nigeria is on a free fall under the leadership of President Buhari of the APC who was brought to power by Tinubu” and “Our country is completely falling apart under a man sold to Nigerians by Tinubu as a Messiah who would build the country of our dreams, but who has proved to be a destructive, incompetent, ethno-religious irredentist, the worst of the worst ever to rise to leadership position in this country”. The writer does not tell us that Tinubu cast a spell on anybody and compelled them to vote for Buhari in 2015 or 2019.
Everybody was tired of the lackluster Jonathan administration and wanted a change. It was calculated that with Buhari’s huge haul votes from the North demonstrated in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections, he could win the 2015 election for the newly formed APC if he had more pan-Nigerian support from the South. If Tinubu was the strategic genius that helped achieve that objective, how is that a crime? In campaigning for the 2015 election, Buhari himself, obviously mindful of public perception of him, told Nigerians that he was a reformed democrat. He campaigned on his anti-corruption credentials as well as his capacity to deal with the country’s security challenges given his professional antecedents as a retired Army General. If his performance is perceived to have fallen short of that promise, how is that Tinubu’s fault? Does Momodu presume that Tinubu has supernatural powers and could have foreseen how Buhari would perform if elected? In any case, those like Momodu who now try to visit the perceived failings of the Buhari administration on Tinubu were the very ones who mocked Tinubu mercilessly when they saw he had been marginalized in the administration and his role in the government minimal after the APC’s victory.
Of course, Momodu inevitably resorted to his trademark ritual of denigrating and hurling all manner of insults on Tinubu. We can only hope that his pathological hatred of the man does not affect his blood pressure and mental health. He regurgitates the old verbiage about certificate forgery not minding that the Chicago State University has severally confirmed that Tinubu graduated from the institution. He alleges that Tinubu was once convicted of drug-syndicate related crimes in the United States without evidence. In a February 14, 2003, letter to the then Inspector General of Police, the late Mr. Tafa Balogun, the US Consulate in Lagos said there was nothing in the records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicating that Tinubu had at any time in the past been arrested or wanted for crime in the US. The letter, signed by the Legal Attache in the Consulate, Micheal H. Bonner, was in respect of an inquiry by the Nigerian police authorities on whether or not Tinubu was eligible to contest for re-election on the platform of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003.
Momodu recklessly accuses Tinubu of massive corruption as governor and amazingly writes that “EFCC and other crime agencies fear him and dare not investigate him”. And this is from an editor of a supposedly credible newspaper. EFCC is an agency controlled by the federal government. Tinubu left office in 2007 and enjoyed no immunity between 2007 and 2015 when the PDP was in power at the centre and in control of the EFCC. At that time Tinubu was easily the leading opposition politician in Nigeria. The former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has publicly stated that Tinubu under him was thoroughly investigated both within and outside Nigeria by the EFCC in collaboration with anti- crime agencies in the US and UK and nothing incriminating was found against him.
Momodu makes the same old hackneyed reference to Alpha Beta Consult and revenue collection in Lagos State again on the basis of gossip, rumors and assumptions without any credible evidence of alleged wrong doing. He says the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) is doing much better than Lagos State in revenue collection while omitting the fact that the FIRS was reformed along the lines of the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) when the former Chairman of the LIRS, Mr Babatunde Fowler, was appointed as Chairman of the FIRS between 2015 and 2019.
Shaka Momodu affects hypocritically to be concerned with character, integrity and public morality. That is far from the truth. His acerbic, unrestrained and unprofessional attacks on Tinubu are motivated by the most selfish interests and base, greedy instincts. The truth is that he was one of those journalists who sold his conscience for a mess of pottage profiting materially from an administration badly plundering the country’s resources and creating the foundation for today’s governance malaise in the country.
We commend to Shaka Momodu the words of President Thoedore Roosevelt in a speech he delivered in Washington, DC, on 14 April, 1906, “In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck-Rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muck-rake in his hand; who offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who could neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor…My plea is, not for immunity to but for the most unsparing exposure of the politician who betrays his trust, of the big businessman who makes or spends his fortune, in illegitimate or corrupt ways. There should be a resolute effort to hunt every such man out of the position he has disgraced. Expose the crime, and hunt down the criminal; but remember that even in the case of crime, if it is attacked in sensational, lurid, and untruthful fashion, the attack may do more damage to the public mind than the crime itself. It is because I feel that there should be no rest in the endless war against the forces of evil that I ask that the war be conducted with sanity as well as with resolution. The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them, to the crown of worthy endeavor”.
Oladele-Peters is a public affairs analyst