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PATRIOTIC SHAME: The Strange Case of Dr. Bosun Tijani By Keem Abdul

Read Time:11 Minute, 3 Second

Where does criticism of one’s country end and destructive calumny begin? 

The case of Dr. Bosun Tijani, who was  nominated to be a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Tinubu Administration some days back, certainly makes it a valid question to ask. And many are  asking that question as we speak. 

For some weeks now, Nigeria’s President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been sending the list of his ministerial nominees (albeit in batches) to the National Assembly for confirmation. While the list is expectedly top-heavy with career politicians (especially those who had worked assiduously toward the victory of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2023 elections), it is however remarkable for the relatively robust number of technocrats and professionals on it. 

While it contains men and women who boast years of experience in both the public and private sectors (and who are mostly in their middle or twilight years – 50s, 60s and 70s, etc.), it also contains a good sprinkling of relatively younger blood as the President seeks to create space for the coming generation of leaders and policy-makers, and diffuse the long-standing criticism of the Nigerian power structure as an ossified gerontocracy whose only connection with the youths of this country is to constantly assure them that they are the ‘leaders of tomorrow’ – a tomorrow that, from all indications, is in no particular hurry to arrive as far as the much-talked-about generational leadership transition in Nigeria is concerned. 

One of the newbies on the ministerial list is Dr. Olatunbosun Tijani. Known to his friends and teeming social media followers as Bosun, the 46-year old digital technology entrepreneur, who hails from Nigeria’s Ogun State, is the co-founder and CEO of Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB), a leading pan-African innovation and technology centre which works at the forefront of accelerating the application of innovation and social capital for a better society. 

Bosun Tijani’s resume and job experience are as formidable and intimidating as they come. An economics graduate from the University of Jos in Nigeria, he also holds a Master of Sciences degree in Information Systems and Management from the Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom, and a PhD in Innovation and Economic Development from the School of Business at the University of Leicester, also in the UK. Widely acknowledged as a pioneer and industry leader in the African technology ecosystem, Tijani is currently an associate researcher at the Wits School of Governance ( with an interest in collaborative projects that help advance theories in innovation systems and governance). In 2019, his conpany,  CcHUB, acquired Kenya’s iHub and launched the CcHUB Design Lab in Kigali, Rwanda. In 2023, he further  expanded CcHUB’s pan-African footprint into Southern Africa by opening CcHUB Namibia, the main tech hub in Windhoek, the Namibian capital. A multiple award winner, he was selected in 2017 by the African Leadership Institute to be part of the prestigious Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship, which recognises exceptional emerging African leaders for their contribution to development on the continent. Tijani was also named as one of the 100 Most Influential People on the African continent by New Africa Magazine. He initiated the widely-received visits to Nigeria of tech giants Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter in 2016 and 2019 respectively, as part of efforts to place Africa on the global technology map. Under his leadership, CcHUB has driven the growth of social innovation and influenced businesses and initiatives in different sectors, such as the environment (via Wecyclers), fiscal transparency (BudgIT), e-commerce (Traclist), Healthcare (LifeBank), education (re-learn), wellness (Truppr), transportation (GoMyWay), civic activity (GoVOTE), as well as online and cybersecurity (SafeOnline), among others.

Outside the tech ecosystem, Tijani’s entrepreneurial instincts are no less acute. He currently sits on the boards of several companies, including Taeillo, an African e-commerce furniture and lifestyle brand and LifeBank, a healthcare platform dedicated to delivering critical medical supplies to hospitals. In 2021, he was a member of a high level expert advisory group focused on advising the European Commission on how to mainstream research and innovation through Africa-Europe Cooperation.

The foregoing credentials clearly present Dr. Bosun Tijani as a professional of the first order, an industry powerhouse of global dimensions, and a thought-leader with the potential to transform whatever space he finds himself in. It is easy to see why he is on the ministerial of a President who has in the past shown a propensity to surround himself with first-rate talent from whatever source it may be found. Looking at Dr. Tijani’s multi-dimensional pedigree, then, one may be forgiven for asking, “What’s not to like?”

Plenty, as it turns out. 

Bosun Tijani is not just active but AVID on Twitter, where he has, over the years, held forth on a wide range of subjects of public interest, topical issues and current as well as emerging trends in politics and society. One of his favorite subjects is the state of the Nigerian nation and the quality of its leadership. Like many Nigerians who lament the fact that the country has historically punched below its weight category as far as globally-accepted human development indices are concerned, Tijani seems to be suffering from a bad case of what the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie has desribed as ‘patriotic shame.’ 

But the manner in which he has chosen to express his angst about his country – and in particular, the language he deploys for that purpose – has left a bad taste in the mouths of many of his readers and online followers. He has described not just the state of affairs in Nigeria, but the very character of the country, in the most caustic possible language. His characterisation of its leaders is with the most extremely abusive tone. Some of his language is unprintable, but suffice it to showcase a sampler of the least unpalatable of his tweets here:

” ‘Nigeria’ is a bloody expensive tag to have against your name. Leave patriotism for a minute – that tag is a bloody waste of energy. A second foreign passport isn’t sufficient to clean the sin.”

Here’s another one’:

” … The sound of that name (Nigeria) earns you more trouble than joy. I don’t pray this experience for my kids. ” 

At the height of the #EndSARS uprising in 2020, he was at his most trenchantly prolific, as, in tweet after tweet, he wondered why any right-thinking youth would still be working for the government of the day – a government which, apparently in his view, was working against the interest of the younger generation he represents. Here’s how he put it: 

“When will all the toothless ‘Yoots’ working at the #ASShole Rock resign their crazy jobs?” 

On more than one occasion, he has also taken pot-shots at the personal character and motivations of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, accusing him on one occasion of feeding his teeming supporters with a ‘rubbish narrative with his ‘serving power a la carte’ wisdom,” and advising said supporters to “Go and invest your time and money into your business if you want to propagate such a rubbish narrative.”

Like the skeletons in the proverbial cupboard being given an unwanted airing, these and other tweets were the main subjects of discussion during a rather rowdy Senate screening, as one Senator after another asked Tijani to clarify his uncomplimentary opinions about Nigeria (opinions which, by the way, the ministerial nominee has since deleted from his Twitter page following his nomination). In particular, Sen. Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo North Senatorial District) took Tijani to task over the ‘bloody waste of energy‘ comment and wanted to know if the nominee still held such a toxic opinion of the country of his birth. Would he have deleted those offensive tweets had he NOT been named as a prospective Minister of the Federal Republic? If he no longer holds the view that Nigeria was a province of Hell, at what point did he receive that Road-to-Damascus epiphany? 

In response, not just to the lawmakers’ questions, but also to the storm of public approbation both online and in the terrestrial media (especially from people who regard those comments as an unpatriotic de-marketing exercise bordering on treason, and therefore unacceptable in one who is being positioned to serve the same country he has carpeted in such horrendous terms), Dr. Tijani has offered a rather simplistic mea culpa (or what Americans would call an apologetic non-apology): “I tweeted in anger.” 

This anger, he explained, comes from a place of passion about the country and its current state of development. He went on to say that the offending tweet in question was triggered by a frustrating ordeal he had endured at the Chinese Embassy. 

But along with the storm of condemnation have come expressions of support – especially from stakeholders in the digital technology sector, who are envisaging that, because of his background, Tijani would be a logical shoo-in for the role of Minister of Communications and Digital Economy. These ones see Tijani’s nomination as a welcome development and a breath of fresh air for that burgeoning sector at it looks set to revolutionise the workings of the Nigerian economy and define the lives and livelihoods of millions of Nigerians well into the future. Dr  Tijani’s nomination, they say, offers him an opportunity to be THE bridge many Nigerians want to see between the tech world and governance, and that his firsthand experience with the challenges can lead to tangible solutions. 

But of course, there are also those who question whether, in the face of such an egregious display of lack of judgment on Tijani’s part, the mere possession of outstanding talent is enough. Should a personality who is prone to wearing his emotions on his sleeves be entrusted with the high position of a Minister – and in charge (at least prospectively at this point) of such a sensitive ministry to boot? What happened to character? Or does being a tech whiz somehow exonerate one from the character requirement? 

One stakeholder, who made his views known online, thinks not.  “Talent is a gift, but character is a choice,” he writes, “and in matters of leadership, talent is never enough” On Tijani’s moral suitability or otherwise for the job he’s been nominated for, this stakeholder thinks he falls far short, from the character benchmark. “Your attitude to your country must ALWAYS determine your altitude in its service.” Tijani, he concluded, does not deserve even a janitorial position in Aso Rock (or ASShole Rock, as the nominee himself so colourfully describes the seat of Nigerian government). 

Now that the Senators have, at the end of their grilling, asked Dr. Tijani to ‘take a bow and go’, now that he is about to become one of the ‘Yoots’ (toothless or otherwise, it remains to be seen) and a prospective ‘ASShole Rocker’ (in the words of yet another of his critics), perhaps all the foregoing is nothing but an academic exercise. 

There are, however, lessons to be learned from this episode – the most obvious one being this, especially if you’re one of the Bosun Tijanis of this world: Beware of what you post on social media! Don’t post anything you may have to delete in a hurry tomorrow! 

But there’s also a deeper, underlying lesson to be derived here – and no one puts it better than one Opemipo Adeniyi, who posted thus in response to the furore: 

It is natural for some of us to feel betrayed or hurt (by Tijani’s deleted tweets) given our passionate nature and our love for Nigeria. But let’s pause and reflect: How often have we ourselves spoken out of frustration and anger? Our nation’s journey has been filled with both highs and lows, and it’s been challenging for many. Dr. Tijani’s past sentiments, though sharp, came from a place of wanting better for Nigeria. Let’s remember that transformation often comes from those who have once critiqued the system. If we are to move forward as a nation, it’s vital that we embrace all our citizens, with all their pasts, and believe in the potential for change. However, this is also a moment of reflection for all of us. Our words have power and can shape our futures. It is essential to voice our opinions responsibly and constructively. Today’s angry criticism might just be tomorrow’s hurdle.” 

Perhaps all that is left, now that all has been said and done, is to wish Dr. Olatunbosun Tijani well as he prepares to navigate a world he has described in such morbid, indeed apocalyptic terms, and hope that he has learned his lesson – not least from the incredible magnanimity of a President who has given him this chance to prove his undoubted mettle in the service of his fatherland – whereas the more human response on the part of Tinubu and his minders would have been to shun him as far as participation in this administration (in any capacity whatsoever) is concerned. 

Nigeria is bedeviled by a multitude of challenges. But, as Tijani has just found out, our political space is not just a theatre of ‘rubbish narratives.‘ It is also a place where great and unexpected magnanimity can be found – as President Tinubu has just demonstrated. 

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