The national leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, released a statement denying reports that he boasted in a leaked audio tape about stealing public funds. But while trying to defend himself, he ended up supporting vote buying once again, showing that he is an active participant in that malpractice which threatens to tarnish Nigeria’s electoral system.
Backstory: Addressing the leaked tape, featuring the APC leader at a meeting of APC supporters in Lagos on February 14, Tinubu through his Media Officer, Tunde Rahman, claimed on Wednesday that the tapes were mistranslated from Yoruba in a malicious attempt to paint him in poor light.
“The reports claim that I boasted that I stole money. The merchants of this outlandishness used the fact that I was speaking Yoruba at the meeting as the basis for their falsehood. Thus, non-Yoruba speakers are left to accept their translation of my words. Had I spoken in English they would not have a story to sell for my words clearly do not say what they claim I said,” he said.
Vote buyer: Even if we concede that Tinubu didn’t say he was going to Alausa (the seat of executive power in Lagos) to get money, his own translation raises questions about the ethics and legality of his actions.
While defending himself, Tinubu said the issue he discussed in the tape was the “reward system” for loyal party members who were helping to secure votes for the APC at the polls.
“I promised the party faithful, APC supporters and members a reward for their efforts to secure victory in the 2019 elections. I said I will not go to Alausa and I will not steal money nor ask for government funds. Instead, I will recognize the successful efforts of APC members using only my personal funds,” he said.
He explained that it is “common practice” to hand out tokens of gratitude to party members for their work. He said such tokens do not qualify as vote buying because they are to be handed out after the elections.
Bottom Line: Tinubu, a respected leader within his party, is publicly defending vote buying while trying to create a fake distinction between paying before or during elections and paying afterwards. Let’s break this in a way he may understand. Tinubu’s first daughter, Folashade Tinubu Ojo is the Iyaloja of Lagos State and the President General of the Market Men and Women of Nigeria. If someone comes to buy a good from her and pays immediately, and another person buys on credit to pay later, does it mean that only the one who paid before service bought the good? Of course not! Bribing voters with payment before or during elections and bribing them with “tokens of gratitude” after elections are one and the same thing. Surely, the national leader of a party that speaks about fighting corruption must know that.