Dr. Reuben Abati made a statement in his Morning Show program on Arise TV on Wednesday Nov. 2, 2022, the profundity of which he may not realize now but which will characterize public perception of his knowledge of the Nigerian political environment. His understanding of the influencing powers of the Nigerian democracy and the capacity of those influences to help win elections will be perceived as wrongheaded and untrue.
He adulated Bola Ahmed Tinubu for not honouring the invitation of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was quite effusive of praise that Tinubu was able to move the movers and shakers of Industry to the launch of his APC manifesto in Abuja on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. He named Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu and some others.
And then he made the statement that gives us an understanding of his political inclinations which shows a clear admiration for Bola Tinubu despite the pretenses to a balanced view of the political parties. We now know that Dr. Reuben Abati is smitten by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his inclination to defy the poor people as represented in organizations, while being enthralled by Tinubu’s power to draw the rich to his side.
Whatever political perceptions he espouses to the public on TV, the fact revealed today is that Abati is awestruck by the presence of the rich and clearly overstates their power and influences in Nigerian politics.
“This is the big money. Any presidential candidate who has the support of these men will win the presidency of Nigeria, no matter how many chamber of Commerce invitations he refuses to honour. Without these men you cannot become president in Nigeria”.
The implications of this statement is deep and profound, especially coming from a broadcaster. The statement can be made the subject of endless analysis but ultimately it is a crass and stupid pronouncement. Abati was scoring the elections even before the facts.
First off is the fact that Bola Tinubu is the candidate of the ruling party in Nigeria, a third world country and we have the knowledge that every business person seated there have their businesses dependent on Government for survival and to thrive.
They are all present in Tinubu’s launch to represent their investment interests, protect their businesses and possibly endear themselves to the next president while protecting themselves from anger of the present one. They are like mannequins on show in a podium, machines with no principles and no political opinions. They do not represent any group or ideological interests. Just mannequins on display.
They are not there because they like Bola Tinubu or his manifesto but to show presence and possibly buy off the next president while protecting their investments from the present governments malice in a vicious third world country. If Reuben Abati doesn’t know this, then all his fancy verbalizations on television have no meaning.
What Abati knows and may not want to admit or acknowledge is that these men are essentially predators who throw baits at all presidential candidates. And once there is a clear indication of a winner they go for the jugular, throwing big money and open support on the projected winning candidate in order to buy future protection.
So these business men are essentially dingo’s who do not take sides until assured of a winner. They hedge their bets. Their businesses have no strong independent foundations and they operate permanently on the grey side of the law. They know their vulnerabilities and are susceptible to blackmail and legal challenge from any government as is happening to Dangote now in Kogi state. Without government patronage and protection, their businesses will unravel and die.
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Where are Moshood Abiola’s businesses today? Abiola was installing presidents in Nigeria, Uganda and some other African countries. Abiola’s “wonderloaf” bread dominated the tables in Liberia during the ECOMOG war but where are those businesses today? They died with Moshood Abiola.
There are many American Technology entrepreneurs who opposed Donald Trump even while he was president. They were sure of protection under American law and sure also of the protection of American democratic institutions. There was the example of Trump’s ban from Twitter. Their businesses do not depend on government to survive or thrive and so they can take sides in the American democratic project without fear of consequences for their business.
But Aliko Dangote particularly must embrace and tango with every government that comes. Without government patronage and protection, the Dangote business will unravel and crumble in two years.
This is why Nigerian businessmen are sissies, enrolled into the service of every government in power. Their presence in any political gathering does not indicate any belief or ideology but their need to roll with whoever is in power. It is a pity that Dr. Abati does not show this understanding of the Nigerian and third world political situation.
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And then the evidence is that traditional institutions, both religion and regional, have influenced Nigerian presidential elections more than all the money bags put together. There were no real moneybags but the overwhelming influence of the British colonists in the first republic elections. Shehu Shagari’s election in 1979 was influenced by Olu Obasanjo and the Fulani oligarchy more than any other factor.
Moshood Abiola wanted to dictate to and influence the 1983 presidential election but was violently shoved aside by Umaru Dikko and the Kaduna Mafia representing the Fulani oligarchy. The 1993 presidential election of Moshood Abiola was the first real election directly popular and brought about by the Nigerian masses across the breath of Nigeria.
After that epochal election, presidential elections have been influenced by the power of the gun (1999), the power of incumbency (2003, 2007, 2011) and the fight back by the Fulani oligarchy in 2015. No Nigerian presidential election has been determined by the business moguls like Dangote, Ovia or Elumelu. Abati should better learn this and inform Tinubu not to be too hopeful of moneybags in the coming election.
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