By Busuyi Mekusi
The personality credited to a human in social perception is predominantly made up of the emotions that such a person exudes, and the up-marks and failings that, invariably, nudge the person. This explains while people believe that one could look like what s/he has passed through, as it is similarly deconstructively posited that a resilient person would not look like what s/he has gone through in life. Political prisoners like Nelson Mandela, Gani Fawehinmi, Obafemi Awolowo, Wole Soyinka, etc., bear the emblems of incarceration, both in life and at death. I remain committed to the scholarly proposition that a human agency is not just the product of the genes of the parents, but the genetics of the environment. Little wonder, as parenting gets disillusioned by the day across the world, particularly in Nigeria, the ‘kidnapped generation’ continue to recede to socio-politico and religio-cultural bankruptcy.
Given the foregoing, the making of Nigerians by oppressive, unjust, violently brutalising socio-political and economic environments, over the years, has left them hungry, angry and belligerent. As a result, people with advantageous official or privileging loci use such to oppress the victims, created by the social-political and economic bifurcations that drive negatively skewed structures. Policemen use their licensed arms to terrorise helpless road users; soldiers turn military check-points to spaces for banters, and a source for satisfaction by subjecting motorists to pains. Civil servants remain the monsters of underdevelopment, as they get blamed by politicians who configured them as masters of corruption. The masses are more divided than before, as they eat each other’s intestines, the rich having securely kept theirs within raised fences, or in one remote safe place in Europe. It is, however, instructive to note that it is not only poor Nigerians that are hungry and angry, but PBAT. Hunger here means avid desire, while anger expresses displeasure.
The attendance of the 78th session of UNGA in New York, United States of America, by PBAT, being the first of such, was big news to a government that makes a noise about its successes, particularly when the opponents are still committed to diminishing its ‘super stories’ through the courts, locally and globally. The address delivered to the UNGA by PBAT on 18th September, 2023, sounded either like that of a man committed to the principle of ‘pátá- pátá là ń fójú, kùnò-kuno là ń détè, ojú àfóòfótán ìjà lóó ń dá sílè’ (one either goes completely blind or permanently leprous, as a middle-line condition would stir controversies); or that of the personae in the proverbial opinion that ònàn ló jìn, erú ní baba (the subservience of the slave does not negate the possibility of origin).
To understand Tinubu’s hungry, angry speech at UNGA, we need to reinvent the tropes in communication psychology, which focuses on phenomena of human verbal and nonverbal communication. This would be considered against the dynamics of The Art of Tact and Diplomacy. Along the line, we should similarly countenance the seven Cs of effective communication, which are; clarity, conciseness, concreteness, correctness, coherence, completeness, and courteousness.
Tact and Diplomacy has been described as “the ability to assert your ideas or opinions, knowing what to say and how to say it without damaging the relationship by causing offence”. Talking in specific terms, Isaac Newton sees tact as “the art of making a point without making an enemy”, while David Frost avers that diplomacy “is the art of letting somebody else have your way”. At UNGA, during his address, PBAT was, evidently, assertive, persuasive, and polite, but diplomatically brutishly truthful and damningly pungent.
Starting his salutations by referencing Heads of State and Government, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, PBAT acknowledged that he would talk on behalf of Nigeria and Africa. I have always wondered how the socio-cultural divergence among Africans would melt away, when a Chinua Achebe would be made to bear the burden of an African representative, through the stories of the Ibo. The unanimity in supposed homogeneity, amidst heterogeneity, is simply begging the question in identity and citizenship politics. Decrying the fact that old proclamations have failed to release Africa from her troubles, due to lack of good governance, Tinubu wasted no time by blaming the global hegemony for failed promises, unfair treatment and outright exploitation, leaving Africa in the throes of stagnation.
PBAT also reminded the audience that even though the theme of the 2023 Assembly must have been conceived to speak to the conditions of others, he pointed out that Africa should be centralised in the thematic focus. Tinubu also traced the formation of the United Nations to the post world war imperatives of rebuilding dilapidated countries, with it becoming the ‘symbol and protector of the aspirations and finest ideals of humankind’. He espoused that apart from the concern of bringing nations out of the rubbles of war, the UN was a pulley to move nations forward, globally, in solidarity and harmony. He, however, observed that several decades after such an attempt to rescue humanity from ruins, Africa has been denied little of the political commitment and devotion of resources that made the rebuild possible.
Highlighting five important points with which he encased his thoughts, Tinubu called for private sector participation that would see Africa as a partner, in their interest. The interest of the West Tinubu emphasised is subtly laced with threat, as if to say that continuously ignoring Africa would have negative reverberating effects on developed countries, as found already in the pressure imposed by forced migrants who are desperately trying to escape from the annihilation in their home countries. Little wonder that the Yoruba hold the opinion that the peace of the tree branch, and that of the next, is central to the peaceful living of the bird.
Tinubu was blunt to lay the blame of negatively-skewed economic structures that impede African development on both internal and external factors. Apart from the IMF and World Bank that some socialists have blamed for the neoliberal emasculation of Nigeria, some global criminal expatriates are behind the violent exploitations of natural resources across Africa. Goldmines, Uranium pots, oil rigs, etc., are sites of criminal activities, with illegal arms and ammunition brought in by foreign mercenaries to get the people to kill each other, in an obvious sustenance of the principle of divide-and-rule. Child soldiers are now best as bandits, while terrorists are kings in conquered spaces. Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and others are nursing back injuries, and some foreign interests with thorns-adorned hands providing a helping hand.
Attempting to canvass for nations to do business with Nigeria, Tinubu outlined the various initiatives he took on assumption of office to emplace a virile platform for business, but was quick to ask, very rhetorically, laced with some sense of indictment, how much of the world was actually ready to do business with Nigeria and Africa, in an equal, mutually beneficial way. Tinubu extended his tact and diplomatic communication to government instability on the continent of Africa, when he decried military coups, and scolded tilted political engineering that thrives and nurtures injustice, describing the former in a conciliatory way as a demand for solutions to perennial problems and apparent lopsidedness, reducing democracy in most African countries to demonstration of craze, in the words of Fela Anikulapo. As monarchy is losing its steams in most African communities, democracy has been translated to bear the candour of heredity, filial ownership and lifelong pendency in the presidency!
Another undiplomatic indictment PBAT achieved in his speech is human commoditisation across Africa, similar to the collaboration that made slave trade possible, with victimhood enhanced by the expenditures of young men and women who traverse the Sahara desert and voyage through the Mediterranean, in search of better life in Europe, with the possibility of some of them ending up as prostitutes or organ losers. Some of these people, Tinubu said, earn a living by sweeping floors and streets of other nations. Should he not be happy about the relevance of the broom, his party symbol? In this case, the West is not only guilty of the exploitation of human vulnerability, but leaders back home who failed in their responsibility of building a better nation, but use commonwealth to service the greed and luxurious lifestyles of few ruling elites.
The catalogue of woes in Africa were at a point diplomatically placed at doorstep of western vampires, as PBAT enthused that people were wondering whether the challenges are products of accident or deliberate design. The President, at a convenient point in the engagement, frontally demanded that; member nations of the United Nations should stop their firms and nationals from the 21st century pillaging of Africa’s riches. The approach and politics of fighting climate change also came under scrutiny, stressing that Africa’s conditions would thrive, with the implied notion that developed nations could not emasculate developing ones in their commitment to industrialise, after the industrial revolution in Europe that has turned African nations to dumping grounds, and sites of ecological devastations.
The conclusion of his speech applauded nature for being kind to Africa, while man has been vicious to her, precipitating hardship. He felt Africa would neither be a patron or appendage; as she will not drop old shackles for new ones; wanted friends and partners for Africa, as she is not a liability but the key to the world’s future. Tinubu was indeed hungry for results, and angry about detractors at UNGA.