It is good that President Buhari has not spoken in direct reply to Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu’s Abeokuta outpouring last Thursday. To that extent, the president has a unique opportunity to go beyond the typicality that every infraction is by someone who knows the difference between what is right and what is wrong and chose to do the wrong. That opportunity exists in him over-ruling all existing mediation of that outpouring in favour of a statement from him that closes needless elite bickering.
This is not so as to avert trouble for the party and/or for the country arising from what Ashiwaju said. No speech in itself has that property because the speech and what people make of the speech are two different things. Since Thursday, story tellers have taken over the speech. One set could read a hint of trouble ahead for the party in the speech. Another set gave it back to him by saying the nation is bigger than any individual. Yet another set emphasised what they see as a disrespectful outing against the president. Ashiwaju himself has offered a sort of a re-interpretation of himself. And we are still talking of one and the same speech at Abeokuta.
The multiple meaning of what Ashiwaju said proves the specificity of meaning and the impossibility of a fixed or universal meaning for anything. It is also not a question of any of these different interpretations being right or wrong. Rather, it is that any one of them can become the dominant meaning of the speech. Whichever one that does so then becomes a frame of reference for action in favour or against Ashiwaju. This is the sense in which words are credited with creating reality, depending on its iteration. To that extent, it is not what Tinubu said in itself that is the problem but how what he said is variously interpreted and which interpretation becomes consensual as to become a framework for action.
If the speech does not in itself bear any outcomes outside its mediation, why then does the president need to transcend typicality? The argument for transcending typicality is the imperative for a discursive intervention from the highest level of power that undermines this culture of concentrating energy on the most unproductive quarrels among the elite, making the Nigerian elite a liability for the majority.