By Adekunle Ade-Adeleye
While the Supreme Court was finally laying to rest the illusion that Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) won the February 25, 2023 presidential election, novelist Chimamanda Adichie was in far away United States eulogising the LP candidate as the rightful winner of that fateful poll. Her infatuation with Mr Obi is irrepressible. It dates back to months before the election in which he, as the sole Igbo man of substance in the race, incarnated her rage against Nigeria and justified her obsessions. When he was announced as the second runner-up in the race, his loss was too heavy for her dainty heart to take. She lashed out at Nigeria, as is her custom, and vituperated everybody that crossed her path, be it President Bola Tinubu himself or, surprisingly, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
As far as Chimamanda was concerned, there could not have been another winner except the man she idolised and lionised, Mr Obi. In her view, and regardless of what the facts say, including the Nigerian political dynamics which she abhors so much, the PDP candidate could never win. A worse illusion is hard to find. Mr Obi made scant inroad into the core North, and only had a measurable presence in Lagos in the Southwest. Apart from the Southeast which proved insular in the last elections, and which he took by an unalterable and unchallengeable margin, he made only fair or passable showing in the South-South and North Central. He had preyed on Christian fears and harvested the votes of those superstitious about what the All Progressives Congress (APC) same-faith ticket portended. In the end, the Christian vote, which was balkanised in most regions, was insufficient to hurl him into office. But somehow, Mr Obi’s supporters, educated or illiterate, seemed to think he won the poll. Chimamanda was surprisingly and dismayingly numbered among those who hallucinated about that purported electoral victory. Has she read the opinion of Ralph Uwazuruike, the MASSOB leader who skewered Mr Obi as a dreamer who hoped to win a major election by motivational speaking and social media noise rather than by negotiation?
Chimamanda’s latest vituperations against the Tinubu poll victory came during a lecture she delivered at Princeton University’s Africa World lecture series in the United States. There she affronted every rule of logic, and thumbed her nose at the facts of history. She was obsessed with Mr Obi, and that was all that mattered, not logic, not history, nor even common sense. “I want to recognise the presence of a man I deeply respect and a man who I think is a beacon of hope not just for Nigeria but for Africa,” she began grandly, unperturbed by her exaggerations and tragic declension as a novelist and chronicler of human foibles and triumphs. “And he’s the man who many of us know won the election in Nigeria. He’s also an example of that very rare quality in politicians which is genuine humility. I mean there are many other things I’m enraged about…We had an election in February that was deeply flawed, and we have a person who we’ve been told is a winner who did not win the election and this has been shown over and over; there’s evidence for this…”
While it is not clear where she got her risible notion of Mr Obi’s ‘genuine humility’, perhaps from his affected demeanour, two things vitiate her conclusions about the election in which her hero lost badly. Firstly, she admitted she had been enraged for far too long as a result of the political and perhaps cultural dynamics of Nigeria. In other words, her rage beclouded her reasoning. As her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, portrays, her unhappiness with Nigeria is enduring and traumatic. If she does not see a matter concerning Nigeria from that insular prism, she could not see at all. The last presidential poll qualifies for and justifies her rage. Secondly, at the US lecture, she spoke about ‘a person who we’ve been told is a winner who did not win the election and this has been shown over and over; there’s evidence for this’. Chimamanda proceeds from that disingenuous and lying point of being told something to forming ironclad conclusions. Who told her? The media, the courts, just who? And she spoke the horrendous untruth that ‘there’s evidence for this.’ Where on earth is the evidence? How could she lie so brazenly? If as a non-participant in the election she had the evidence, surely Mr Obi must possess tons of it. Yet, Mr Obi could not produce any, not from the polling booths through LP agents, not from BVAS, and indeed not from anywhere. Yes, Mr Obi made wild claims about the election, but he never claimed he won. All he wanted was for the courts to disqualify the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu.
Chimamanda may be a novelist, a talented one at that, but so far she is not anything more than a fictionist. Her talents at conjuring things may be widely recognised; but it will take more skill, time and discipline to develop the capacity to document facts and history. She is of course at liberty to indulge her parochialism on the Southeast which she documents has suffered unbearable hurt from the rest of Nigeria, but she does not have the freedom to lie about issues, colour facts or project hatred and animosity indiscriminately. But perhaps she actually has the evidence to prove that the presidential election was stolen. Why did she withhold the evidence from his idol when he was perambulating around the courts with empty hands and sophistry?
Pestilential Sheikh Gumi on Wike
Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi is used to incendiary comments designed to provoke religious and ethnic conflict, and he has repeatedly got away with murder as it were. It was not surprising that in August he stoked another controversy about the appointment of former Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike as Federal Capital City (FCT) minister. He had described the former governor as a hater of the North, and insinuated that his Christianity weakened his competence to manage Abuja. The cleric was then assailed by many groups in the North, Middle Belt and South-South, while the rest of the country watched in bemusement.
Sheikh Gumi will have none of these, however, preferring to keep the populace ignorant, superstitious and poor. “The Minister of the FCT is a satanic person,” roared Sheikh Gumi; “I said it before when he was appointed and some people were grumbling. He has gone and brought the Israeli Ambassador, that’s what someone sent, and I am yet to watch it. But what is confirmed is he said they will collaborate with the Israelis on Abuja’s security issues. Abuja will now become an extension of Tel Aviv and when they see anyone with a beard like us, they will say it is Bin Laden and we will be killed.” Sheikh Gumi will say worse until he is arrested and prosecuted for hate speech and incitement.