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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Tinubu and Niger Republic: Why Legitimacy Matters [MUST READ]

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The unfolding drama in the West African nation of Niger Republic has got me thinking – as it should do anyone who cares and gives any hoot about Africa. Niger Republic has exposed many suppressed ugly realities about Africa. One of those sad African realities is that only very few nations of Africa have the leadership they voted and respect. The vast majority of African nations and their peoples are, literally, physically and psychologically occupied peoples living under a heavy siege of organized systemic, institutional, and leadership corruption and criminality.

It is a practical reality that when democracies go to the polls in what is generally, but erroneously, referred to as presidential elections, they elect more than just a president. They elect a leader and commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces. This is a reality that is always but sadly lost on that clique of unpatriotic and corrupt bribetakers who thwart and compromise the people’s mandate and foist upon them a cabal of incompetent deadwoods as presidents. Nigeria is, perhaps, the clearest and latest contemporary example of this tragic reality.

Let me pause and ask: If Mr. Mahmoud Yakubu and Barrister Festus Okoye had known, or had seriously considered, in February that Bola Tinubu would be required in July to command the obedience, the respect, and the loyalty of the young men and women of the Nigerian armed forces in a potential international war situation, would they have rigged the February presidential election for him the way they did? Let me pose that same question more directly and even more bluntly. Would Mahmoud Yakubu and Festus Okoye have rigged the election the way they did if they had known that Bola Tinubu would so soon be calling on young men and women of the Nigerian armed forces to go to war and die at his command in neighbouring Niger Republic?

Would Mahmoud Yakubu and Festus Okoye still have rigged the election the way they did if they had known or had seriously considered that one of the many sad implications of their felonious crime was that two short months after that sham presidential inauguration, young men and women of the Nigerian armed forces and their families would be forced into making a decision as to whether to go fight and die for, and at the command of, a clearly corrupt, rigged, and illegitimate president? Well, seeing how incredibly and brazenly corrupt those two have shown themselves to be, it is possible that Yakubu and Okoye would have still rigged the election. But, perhaps, they would have given it a longer and deeper thought. It is that longer and deeper thought, especially on grave existential matters, that should be the lesson of the crisis of Niger for Nigeria and Nigerians. I propose to revisit the lesson of Niger for Nigeria and Nigerians on a later date. So, for now, let’s switch out of the hypotheticals of counterfactuals.

The sad factual reality is that Mahmoud Yakubu and Festus Okoye rigged Nigeria’s presidential election, but they did not rig out the stubborn reality of commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces. And the reason they did not rig out the reality of commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces – even if they had wanted – is because they could not. You see, a president, even a rigged-in, illegitimate, and insufferable one, can still, effectively, occupy the presidential throne and enjoy the criminal perks of corrupt power. After all, the Nigerian presidency is just a fake permit for grand larceny. So, an illegitimate president can still loot the national economy, because he does not depend on popular respect and loyalty to be an effective thief. Contrarily, the commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces does.

For the few months he has occupied Aso Rock, even as an illegitimate president, Bola Tinubu has run roughshod over the Nigerian people. He has unleashed the worst forms of national pain and suffering on the people. From his thoughtless fuel subsidy removal, his convocation of a motley gang of fraternal buddies, looters, and liars as ministerial nominees, his astronomical hiking of petrol pump prices, to his senseless increase of tuition for federal educational institutions – and everything in between, Bola Tinubu has freely exercised the reins of the Nigerian presidency without any meaningful challenge.

But that is Bola Tinubu, the illegitimate president, who does not need the respect, consent, and loyalty of the Nigerian masses to screw them over. Not remotely so for Bola Tinubu, the illegitimate Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Bola Tinubu, the Commander-in-Chief, needs the respect, the consent, and the loyalty of the young men and women of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to go fight and die in Niger Republic at his command. That loyalty is as dubious as it is suspect. I doubt, very strongly, that it is there. And that should worry us sick.

The first major resistance – and defeat – that Bola Tinubu has suffered as illegitimate president and commander-in-chief is the rejection of his request for authorization by the Nigerian Senate for the deployment of Nigerian troops in beleaguered Niger Republic. But we must be clear on why the Nigerian Senate voted to deny Tinubu the authorization to deploy young Nigerian men and women to go fight and die in Niger. The senators did not vote down Tinubu’s authorization request because they did not believe that Nigeria has any compelling national security interest in Niger Republic.

No, as a matter of fact, Nigeria does have serious and compelling national security interest in dislodging the military junta in her Niger Republic backyard. I suspect that the real reason the senators voted down Tinubu’s authorization request is because they clearly see the handwriting on the wall of illegitimacy. They know that there is serious crisis of troop morale as a logical consequence of leadership illegitimacy. As Tinubu’s allies and acolytes, the majority APC senators must have viewed it as their duty to save Bola Tinubu the humiliation and embarrassment of an open show of troop disloyalty.

So, when a people are electing their president, they must be reminded that they are also electing the commander-in-chief of their nation’s armed forces. When Mahmoud Yakubus and Festus Okoyes of INEC decide to rig presidential elections, they must know that they are not just fabricating an illegitimate president, but that they are also commissioning an illegitimate commander-in-chief who will not be able to command the respect and loyalty of the young men and women of the Nigerian armed forces. They must know that they are committing treasonous felony against Nigeria by commissioning an illegitimate commander-in-chief who will not be able to command the respect and loyalty of the young men and women of the Nigerian armed forces in the face of foreign or domestic attack. They must know that some things matter more than the bribes they take. They must know that legitimacy matters.

Vitus Ozoke is a lawyer, human rights activist, and public commentator based in the United States. He can be reached by email HERE

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. 

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