There is a joke in the United States that every citizen of the country has an FBI file. That might have been the dream of the first FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, but he could not accomplish it.
For now, the typical people with FBI files are activists, troublemakers, and those involved in illegal activities. So, people who deal in financial fraud, murder, drug trade, etc., are guaranteed a robust FBI file. Once the U.S. Justice Department has an adversary encounter with you, the FBI opens a file for you. That means Nigeria’s president-elect, Bola Tinubu, has a rich FBI file.
We know that anybody in America can file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI, and the bureau will copy and send the person’s files. It is the law. The FBI can redact some of the papers for security reasons, but the files will arrive in your mailbox in weeks.
If you want to obtain the FBI file of someone else, all you need is to get the person to fill out the FOIA form authorizing the release of their FBI file to you. So, if Bola Tinubu signs this FOIA form, the FBI can release his file to any Nigerian in the United States.
Why is this important? I will explain.
In 2016, media across the globe obtained leaked documents from UK’s most secretive intelligence agency called Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ. The information came from the National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden, via The Intercept. The documents showed that GCQH was spying on African leaders, top people in business, and other highly connected and influential people. The GCHQ was taping their phones, reading their emails, and monitoring their activities to find their vulnerability.
African leaders like Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and his strategic advisers; Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua and his private secretary; Ghana’s President John Kufuor; Sierra Leone’s leader Ernest Koroma; and the presidential palace in Luanda, Angola, were all targeted. Also on the radar of GCHQ were Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu, Kenyan businessman Chris Kirubi, and many others. The intelligence agency collects information used for what NSA describes as “necessary for targeting and exploitation.” It means that if they discover wrongdoing by these African leaders or their associates, they will exploit it to achieve their country’s goal.
The history of the world is littered with cases of countries with incriminating information about leaders of other countries blackmailing them into doing their bidding. People who have studied African post-colonial history say it is the primary reason for our undoing. The more damaging information they have about a leader, the easier it is for them to get what they want from that leader.
When African leaders vote against their self-interest at the UN, check very well someone has been arm-twisted. When a trade deal detrimental to the well-being of Africans is signed and heralded, check very well someone was scared of doing the right thing and have his or her dirty linen let out for the world to see.
Therefore, these intelligence agencies of the world love compromised African leaders at the helm of affairs. They make their jobs easier. The fear of a leak of the content of the top pages of their files will make them sign away the destiny of their unborn generation.
This brings us back to the content of Bola Tinubu’s FBI files.
When David Hundeyin revealed that Bola Tinubu has a Guinean passport, it surprised many Nigerians. Nigerians immediately started disputing whether it was against the law for a president of Nigeria to have dual citizenship. Some argue that Bola Tinubu committed perjury when he lied on INEC form EC9 that he was not a citizen of another country. And yet others surrender to fate, grumbling that there was no way to hold the president-elect to account for lying. The latter group concluded that Bola Tinubu would not return to Nigeria to be questioned and tried before his swearing-in on May 29. And the moment he is sworn in, he would be encased in an impenetrable immunity envelope.
But for the top world intelligence agencies with this information about Bola Tinubu’s Guinean citizenship, it was a sad day to see one of their arsenals for possible targeting and exploiting Bola Tinubu exposed. But they have more where that one came from. And we can guess some of them.
For example, the US Department of State has a record of the day Bola Tinubu first applied for a visa at the U.S. embassy in Lagos in the 1970s. They have the exact name he used and the date of birth. In the forms Bola Tinubu filled out at the US embassy that day they have the list of schools he claimed he attended and his certificates. On arriving in America, the FBI has in their files the places Bola Tinubu lived, the school he attended, and a copy of his first driver’s license.
They know when he got into Chicago State University, what name he used, and what happened to the female Bola Tinubu, who was admitted to the same university when our president-elect claims he was admitted. Unlike Bola Tinubu’s primary and secondary school classmates in Nigeria who disappeared, those who knew Bola Tinubu in Chicago did not disappear from the FBI.
The FBI knew of the day Bola Tinubu’s two youngest daughters, Habibat Oyindamola Tinubu and Zainab Abisola Tinubu, bought houses in New York at ages 25 and 22, with no known jobs or businesses. One was a deluxe condo at 55 Berry Street, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11249. Oyindamola paid $2,150,000 in cash for this one in 2014. The other was a deluxe apartment at 255 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013. Zainab Abisola Tinubu paid $2,400,000 in cash for this one. Their financial transactions that Nigerian media would spend months and months searching for, the FBI has them at their fingertips.
While Nigerian reporters are scratching their heads with each small revelation about Bola Tinubu’s past, the FBI is already adding new information to their trove. For instance, it may take the Nigerian media another ten years to know where Bola Tinubu is now. But the FBI knows what he is doing wherever he is. If Bola Tinubu secretly undergoes a stem cell transplant, the doctor may be an FBI agent.
If he is plotting to cover up another scandal on the horizon, the people working with him in France or UK may be FBI or GCQH informants. Bola Tinubu may have fled Nigeria to avoid the DSS tapping his phone calls. But in France or wherever he is, the FBI, GCQH, and the French DGSE are on hand to ensure they get all the information. At this point, considering how frequently he has been travelling abroad and receiving medical treatments, these intelligence agencies must have mapped out Bola Tinubu’s blood type and his DNA and maybe bottled and sequenced the genotype of his fart.
What is in Bola Tinubu’s FBI file is very important to Nigerians. Foreign intelligence agencies will never release such, for these are their aces in diplomacy, economic and security interests. The contents of these files are the scissors their countries will use to grab our president’s balls. For those who know but do not care and those who care but do not know, in Bola Tinubu’s files may be infractions that will determine whether Bola Tinubu will make or mar Nigeria.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Congratulations to those wondering what is in my FBI file — you just read one of them.
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.
-First published in Peoples Gazette