Friday, December 9, 2022

Rudolf Okonkwo: How I ended up interviewing Bola Tinubu

My imagination soon ran wild.

• November 11, 2022
Bola Tinubu [Credit: BAT]
Bola Tinubu [Credit: BAT]

The day I read that journalist Kadaria Ahmed would interview Bola Tinubu, I felt sorry for her. All day, I wondered what she would do with the recently released US Court-certified copies of documents detailing Bola Tinubu’s drug dealing and money laundering case of 1993, for which he forfeited $460,000 to American authorities.

My alter ego wondered if, on their first meeting, Kadaria would greet Tinubu, shake his tremor-filled hands, and whisper into his ears, “I know what you did in Chicago in the summer of 1993.”

Of course, I knew that was not Kadaria’s style. Not even AriseTV’s Rufai Oseni will pull such a stunt.

The APC’s presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will sit down for an interview with Kadaria Ahmed on November 23rd, 2022. His would be the final of ‘The Candidates’ presidential town hall series, featuring six candidates and their deputies. They are Prince Adewole Adebayo on November 17th, Omoyele Sowore on the 18th, Rabiu Kwankwaso on the 19th, Peter Obi on the 21st, Atiku Abubakar on the 22nd, and Bola Tinubu on the 23rd.

Thinking of what a TV moment that would be, I felt there must be some good reasons the planners scheduled Tinubu’s sit down with Kadaria last.

My imagination soon ran wild.

Tinubu’s team wanted to see how the rest of the candidates were going before determining if he would show up. If Kadaria’s team were incisive and interrogative, they would reconsider. Also, the more time they had, the more time they would prop Bola Tinubu up and have him display the best debate performance of his life. The other reason to have Tinubu last is to see if his team could work their money magic, penetrate the Kadaria’s team, and get an expo. Despite agreeing, if at any point they felt that the price for showing up would be worse than the price for not showing up, they reserve the right to cancel.

Since he would be the last candidate in the series, the preceding candidates must have damaged themselves well enough that his not showing up would be less damaging.

The second option the Tinubu team considered as a way to avoid the possible public embarrassment of sitting for a Kadaria interview would be to stage their interview before that of Kadaria. They could gather one or two friendly journalists and have them throw easy questions to Bola Tinubu and call it a day. Nobody would say that Bola Tinubu did not subject himself to an interview.

These were the two options they were considering until one day, after smoking something, one of Bola Tinubu’s media surrogates came up with a brilliant plan.

“Why not dress up a body double as Bola Tinubu and have a satirist interview him?” he said. He captioned the idea, “Behold! Bola Tinubu’s finest interview.”

When he presented it to the media team, the lawyers amongst them pleaded to give it a long thought. After a day, they returned with an enhanced version of the plan. Instead of hiring a satirist and a body double, the way they hired fake pastors and prophets and retired and fake Afenifere leaders, they should call a satirist in practice. In the call, they will offer the satirist an opportunity to interview the real Bola Tinubu.

“Any of these hungry content creators will jump at it,” he said.

The idea got universal approval from the team. One after the other, they agreed that Bola Tinubu, their principal, would disarm the satirist with his unique humour. While some team members quickly went to convince Bola Tinubu to do the interview, others started the debate on who should be the satirist to be given a chance.

The advanced team that went to Tinubu sold the idea to him quickly. They told him that the genius of the concept was the surprise element. The satirist would get only 24-hour notice to conduct the interview. That way, the satirist would have no time to start consulting people in the media and gathering questions from Tinubu’s enemies.

For those tasked with choosing a satirist, the first name that came to them was Adeola Fayehun. They agreed she was the best in the business. They almost sold her to the team until someone pointed out that she had already interviewed Labor Party’s Peter Obi.

Mere mentioning Peter Obi and Adeola Fayehun in the same sentence soured their mouths. Another one said that she was Yoruba and that having her interview Bola Tinubu would not be favourable. That last point divided the team. Some said they did not care. Those in that camp made it clear that the objective was to have Tinubu seen answering questions from a journalist. Others said the Yoruba – Yoruba as interviewee-interviewer combination would raise perception problems.

“That’s preposterous,” the lawyer balked. “When did we degenerate to this level in Nigeria?”

Someone pointed out to the lawyer that if Peter Obi had picked Dr. Damages to interview him, Nigerians would have accused Peter Obi of surrounding himself with Igbo people all the time, and the interview would have been seen as rigged.

“That is Peter Obi’s problem,” the lawyer yelled. “Asiwaju is a national leader. He has no such low esteem issue.”

There was a long pause as they considered the matter.

“Why don’t we choose Dr. Damages to interview Asiwaju?” one of them said. “That way, we’ll kill two birds with one stone?”

“Did you smoke something new before coming to work today?” someone said to the man who recommended Dr. Damages. “What two birds are you planning to kill?”

They debated the pros and cons. The lawyers argued that the pressure would be on Dr. Damages and not on Asiwaju.

“We have all seen him run his mouth when he talks about Asiwaju, but I can assure you when he comes face to face with Asiwaju, he will shrink like a pussy cat,” one of the lawyers said. “You know how they are.”

For the first time, the team all agreed.

“Who has his phone number?” the lawyer asked.

“I know the person to get it from,” said the one who used to live in the US.

There was a little debate about who should call Dr. Damages.

“Please let me do him the honour,” the one who schooled in the UK said. “He would be surprised to receive a call from me. I blocked his little behind on all my social media contacts. He once interviewed me, asking cheeky and stupid questions. I cannot wait to get back at him.”

And that was how my phone rang at 4.19 a.m.

(To be continued)

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo teaches Post-Colonial African History at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His books include “This American Life Sef” and “Children of a Retired God,” among others.

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