By Etim Etim
Even before the polls open in next year’s general election, the APC Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is already scoring high in the several unintelligible gaffes and misspeaks he’s been offering Nigerians at campaign grounds and public events. These blunders have become so many and frequent that his campaign managers no longer try to explain them away, and so the voters are at a loss to decipher their meanings. Nigerians have come to accept that the octogenarian is not just being smart with words, as we were told in the early days. Rather, he is actually exhibiting signs of mental impairment.
At a rally yesterday in Abakiliki, Tinubu was addressing his supporters on the failure of past PDP governments to provide electricity to the nation. He said: ‘’They promised you so much…they spent so much…but they failed to realize that high tension wires are superhighways, and they could not even make a down payment on the roasted corn of electricity’’. What concerns electricity with a roasted corn, for Heaven’s sake? Social media has been abuzz with all sorts of comments, but strikingly, I have not seen any official come to his defence or try to clean up the mess, as was the practice in the past. This is not the first time that corn has crept into Tinubu’s lexicon in a rather queer manner. One writer even asked in Nairaland, one of the nation’s popular online news sites, ‘’Why does this man love corn so much?’’ At a campaign event in Lagos last year, Tinubu had announced that if elected President, he would hire 50 million youths into the army and feed them with agbado (corn in Yoruba) and cassava. The laughter and mockery that followed lasted several months. Till today, many still refer to his team as ‘’Agbadoists’’. When a picture of him being feted at the home of one of his big supporters in Kaduna surfaced some months back, one commentator asked if ‘’agbado’’ was in the menu. The ‘’agbado’’ comment was the first major indication that something might be wrong with him, but his supporters were still willing to give him the benefit of doubt. Since then, the problem has got worse to the extent that spin doctors can’t keep up trying to rephrase these embarrassing gaffes.
Just last month or so, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), an association of political and business elites in Northern Nigeria, hosted the major presidential candidates in a town hall. Each candidate fielded questions on a wide variety of issues. When Tinubu was asked his views on how he would address climate change and its many negative impacts, he said, and I’m not joking, that ‘’it is a question of how do you prevent a church rat from eating a poisoned holy communion’’. It is yet one his funniest verbal blunders, and I am still laughing. But many others, especially the clerics, are still livid at such an insensitive and offensive remark. Bishop Emmah Isong, one of the most influential Christian leaders in the South-South area, had issued a statement asking Tinubu to retract his remark and apologize. ‘’The Christian faith holds the sacrament of the holy communion of bread and wine very sacrosanct, highly supernatural, and very eternally significant. Therefore, whatever mistake the APC Presidential candidate had made, that comment is going to affect 60 million of his supporters who take the holy communion every week and month’’, Isong said. But Tinubu has neither recanted nor apologized for his awkward remark.
The reason such a careless comment on a sensitive religious matter did not set the country ablaze is because Christians do not resort to violent revenge and reprisals when they are offended. The Bible specifically asks Christians not to seek revenge, but rather ‘’turn the other cheek’’ if they are slapped. ‘’It is an injunction many have taken advantage of to denigrate the Christian faith because they know that we do not burn houses and clobber people to death when they say such things’’, said a pastor friend of mine.
Another of Tinubu’s meltdowns came two weeks ago when he met with a select group of editors in Lagos. It was a carefully planned media event meant to secure the support of the political press, but instead, the man’s mental challenge was at display, and the journalists were left wondering if this the same person they had covered for years. Trying to emphasize how he would be different from President Buhari, Tinubu said, ‘’We can create wonders, here is a success again, townhall, different from balabu, bluhuhu, balabu!’’. The assembled journalists were shocked and many days after, Nigerians are still talking about it on twitter and other social media platforms. There are many others instances of Tinubu rambling and speaking gibberish in public since he started his campaigns. He once announced at a function in Kaduna that he would like Gov. Nasir el Rufai to serve in his cabinet when he becomes President because ‘’el Rufai has the competence to turn a rotten situation into a worse one’’.
These incoherent and rambling performances are the reasons Tinubu has been shielded from participating in live, one-on-one interviews and events where he would be scrutinized, unlike Peter Obi, Atiku Abubarkar and Rabiu Kwankwaso who have all subjected themselves to such rigorous examinations. It is also another reason candidates seeking high office of the land ought to have their medical conditions duly examined by doctors. In the US, for example, Presidential candidates and presidents themselves, routinely ask their personal physicians to make their medical reports public.
Like me, many people believe that our President ought to have the capacity to deliver his words in a clear, crisp and lucid manner to Nigerians at home and at international platforms. Our leader should possess adequate mental and physical stamina to meet the demands of the office. How would Tinubu, already presenting symptoms of cognitive difficulties, be able to perform the duties of a President, if he is elected?
Etim is a Journalist and a Political Analyst, lives in Abuja