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A president’s fall and the lessons from history

A nation that runs on the fuel of leadership disappointments must be obliged its few moments of national relief. Not many moments unite Nigerians as…

A nation that runs on the fuel of leadership disappointments must be obliged its few moments of national relief. Not many moments unite Nigerians as when their leaders have a wardrobe or physical malfunction. One such moment revealed itself last week when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu slipped and fell inside a decorated vehicle at the Eagle Square. The President was marking the National Democracy Day Parade.

Trust Tinubu’s sense of humour; he took the first pot shot at himself when he described the fall as a dọbálẹ (prostration) for democracy and that he would not fall the hands of his citizens.

If banter could smoothen the aches of failure; if jokes could lighten the burden of survival, these banters would reduce the unprecedented rise in the prices of tomatoes, pepper and cooking oil. Labour leaders, enjoying their momentary holiday on workers’ money in Geneva, would withdraw their threat to shut down not just the economy but the nation with their proposed strikes over minimum wage.

We must celebrate the little strides we’re making on tolerance and the growth of democracy. Years ago, when Ibrahim Coomassie, then police commissioner of Kwara State slumped from sheer exhaustion at a National Day parade, one of my mentors and news editor, Mr. Ademola Adetula, had to abandon his seat as the police surrounded the Herald headquarters in Ilorin. They wanted to know why a state-sponsored newspaper would unveil a ‘state secret’ to the rest of the world. There were no cell phones or social media to heckle and hound government officials back then. Coomassie did not collapse because of ill-health, from his days in Kano as head of MTD if memory served me right, the chap worked round the clock, not believing in the time-tested advice of taking momentary rests.

When General Sani Abacha appeared at the ECOWAS Secretariat with black lips, only The News practicing guerrilla journalism had the temerity to publish the pictures and to speculate about Abacha’s health status. Tinubu’s slip of tongue – a townhall meeting different from a balablu blu bulaba, immediately took excoriation traction among his political opponents and artistes of the song – Baba wey no well, e dey shout Emi Lokan!  

Time is proving that my mentor and editor Mr. Dan Agbese was right. Years ago, mid-level career editors in the Newswatch stable began to pester the veterans to start grooming successors. As a result, management opened the column space for everyone interested in writing. Yours sincerely immediately took up the challenge and wrote a few satiric pieces. Things got to a head when I took on the late economic minister, Adamu Ciroma. It was a bilious piece, filled with insult and innuendo. It rankled Mr. Agbese who is a protégé of the late New Nigerian editor. Not only did he stall that piece, he withdrew the opening for new columnists. Agbese had nothing against criticism, he rightly accused me of portraying the characteristics of ageism. He told me that old age is a garland preserved for only a few. If the column had limited itself to Obasanjo’s failure in economic policies (called Obasanjonomics), it would have been acceptable to him. It would appear that I took a few pot shots at the elder gentleman and the column was axed.

It was the end of all attempts at imitating the masters of critical prose. It dawned on me that the old high school tactics of the losing team to change the rallying cry from scoring neatly to – if you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg, is not a sportsman’s tactic.

Wakaman’s followers would be the best judges of how far I have imbibed the lessons from Agbese’s axe. The former editor would later honour me with a request to publish my piece on Okrika English in his seminal work on column writing. That piece was a lampoon on former first lady, Patience Jonathan’s wilful massacre of the Queen (now King’s English).

From America, the so-called custodian of democracy, to Cuba and Russia, the heartlands of dictatorship, presidents trip and fall. The oldest being the 1975 fall of President Gerald Ford at the Vienna meet with late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat.

Since that fall, many other American presidents – young and old – have tripped and fell. They include a sprightly Barack Obama and his geriatric successor, Joe Biden, who has tripped and fallen several times but has kept on. Former Vice President Mike Pence has also fallen. Vladimir Putin fell from a skating rink and broke a few organs just like the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. In the later part of his reign, Robert Mugabe was recorded falling. Salva Kiir, the South Sudanese president would have been happier if he tripped and fell; but no, he was caught in an elder’s prostate moment, peeing himself at a public function. Those who failed to parry their cameras from that incident are believed to be cooling their heels in jail.  

We must commend President Tinubu for having the decency to laugh at himself. We all now know what to do for democracy – which is dọbálẹ for it so that it can serve us in this era of a townhall that is different from Balablu Blu Bulaba!

The big question is often asked whether it is professionally right to focus on these foibles instead of on the more important issues of core politics. In journalism, it is often said that it is not news when a fly feasts on an open sore; it becomes newsworthy when the person with the sore swats the insect and gobbles it. One good definition of news is anything out of the ordinary.  

When the leader of any country slips and falls, it becomes a cringeworthy mishap lending itself to critical analysis. Again, kudos to President Tinubu for making light of it, as some of his critics might opine, he makes trite of the critical issues of governance.

Global elections and the Palestinian crisis

Mr. Emmanuel Macron completed the cycle of global electoral calls when he dissolved the French parliament last week. He plunges his country into early parliamentary polls just like his British counterpart, Rishi Sunak. Macron is likely to win the votes for his party with a coalition. Sunak is expected to lose it for the Conservatives in England, ending 14 years for the party. Here in Canada, it would take a miracle and a coalition for the Liberals to retain power next year. The jury is still out for America’s November polls.

None of the outcome of these polls would make sense if the current situation between Palestine and Israel persists. Unfortunately, none of the so-called leaders that would come out of these elections will change the dynamics for hapless Palestinians who are being collectively punished for the alleged crimes of a political party that is fighting for the liberation of the homeland from Israeli occupants.

Looking at the way the government of Benyamin Netanyahu has prosecuted the so-called war on Hamas imbues one with a deja-vu on why slavery lasted over 300 years and the pogrom lasted as long as it did. All it takes for evil to persist is for traditionally good people to say and do nothing. Rather than seek rapprochement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, global superpowers have taken sides and are refusing to shift grounds. It’s a collective shame on humanity.


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