All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is 69 today. A colloquium will be held today in Kano to mark the ceremony. Deputy Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the struggles, battles and exploits of the consummate politician, master strategist and statesman, who has remained relevant in national life, 14 years after vacating office as governor of Lagos State.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, financial surgeon, astute administrator, pro-democracy activist, Third Republic senator, former Lagos State governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, has indisputably become the main issue in Nigeria’s politics.
Fourteen years after leaving the corridors of power as governor, he has remained relevant in national life. As he celebrates his 69th birthday today, the eminent politician is again on the front burner.
The colloquium being held in his honour today is a yearly event that had become a powerful tool of political mobilisation, offering the country a veritable opportunity always reflect on the journey so far and make realistic projections for the future.
The theme of this year’s discourse is: ‘Our common bond, our commonwealth: The imperative of national cohesion for growth and prosperity.’ It underscores the people-oriented ideas, struggles, battles and exploits of the progressive arrowhead, statesman and citizen of the world. It is the 12th edition.
Tinubu, politically, is a subject of envy. Many politicians want to be like him because he wields enormous influence. Others who cannot match his pedigree have turned themselves into detractors. But, the road to stardom is not paved with roses. How many of them can afford to go through the same furnace?
His great struggles and exploits underscored the triumph of a dynamic, focused and resilient actor, who has trekked the thorny path to prominence.
A great debater, the political leader has always honed his skills of negotiation, consultation, persuasion, and reconciliation. How committed, sagacious, strategic and courageous are his foes?
Never has he at any time claimed to have a monopoly of knowledge. He is always willing to bow to superior arguments. That is why he usually surrounds himself with egg heads from diverse fields. But, he will never condone intellectual laziness and a line of action devoid of masterful logic.
What idea does the Asiwaju of Lagos represent? Tinubuism encapsulates the time-tested philosophy of service premised on the evergreen Awoist theme of “Freedom for All, Life More Abundant.’ It is driven by the permanent and non-negotiable devotion to the creed of progressive welfarism in a united federal Nigeria.
The idea may also chart the way forward for a polity still struggling to resolve the multiple crises of nation-building, conflicts of political participation, an illusion of hope for gainful employment, contradictions in education, insatiable quest for social welfare, integrated rural development, and thirst for the restoration of sanctity of the ballot box.
The former governor is a man of many parts, although his political profile has now dwarfed his rich resume as boardroom guru, strategic economic planner and socialite. Anything he touches turns to gold. In private life and governance, his impact is usually felt.
A great attribute of the colourful politician is his ability to discover and mobilise talents for development. Among the leaders that have been raised by Tinubu are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), former Lagos State Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed, former Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola, one-time Finance Commissioner Wale Edun, Babatunde Fowler of Federal Inland Revenue Service, and Opeyemi Bamidele, a senator.
Also, Tinubu has successfully raised a crop of disciples and result-driven successors, Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode and Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who have built on the unprecedented, steady and consistent progress in the Centre of Excellence, the foundation of which he laid as the first Fourth Republic Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007.
In its tribute to Tinubu, Lagos State APC noted that as the arrowhead of the progressive forces, he successfully mobilised other credible leaders to break the jinx and spearheaded the historic struggle that heralded the enthronement of a progressive government at the centre.
It is an understatement. The defining moment was 2015 presidential election. It is to the credit of Tinubu that the Southwest agreed to participate in mainstream politics, leading to a strategic partnership that produced Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as president.
When the history of the merger or fusion of progressive parties are written, many chapters will be devoted to the contributions of the eminent politician fondly called the ‘Lion of Bourdilion.’ His courage, sagacity, foresight, tolerance, forbearance and risk-taking are legendary, making the progressive bloc to accept him as the master thinker and strategist, whose mobilisation prowess and organisational ability heralded the miracle of political change in 2015, continuity and consolidation in 2019.
Without dispute, Tinubu is still critical to future political permutations. Between now and 2023, he will be on the front burner. Politically, his hands are full as the silent reconciliator in the ruling party. He is not in government, but his intervention in national affairs will continue to clear the pathway to resolution of critical issues.
In the post-Bola Ige era, Tinubu has remained the political colossus with a large following. It is because he has been building people to bid for power. Across the six regions, he is perceived as a bridge-builder, rallying point and national asset; always bubbling with innovation, energy, zeal, enthusiasm and optimism.
He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He only embraced hard work, converting the vicissitudes of life into a challenge. He also understands, not only the language of politics, which, is a great deal of struggle, competition and antagonism, but also the logic of power, which in his consistent view, is not served a la carte.
Tinubu’s incisive wit and strategic thinking have always paid off in moments of grave challenges. Although the Federal Government waged war against him as governor, he survived the hurdles. While the political earthquake swept across the Southwest in 2003, Tinubu became was the lone survivor.
If Tinubu had slept on guard in 2003, Nigeria would have become a one-party state under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But, he resisted the intimidation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and converted his weak position as an opposition figure to a position of strength. From Lagos, he launched the battle to reclaim the Southwest
Tinubu can also be counted among the consistent democrats and progressive leaders who have never jumped ship. Having placed his hand on the plough, he has not looked back.
In the Third Republic, he took the politics of Lagos West District by storm. He became a man to watch when he won the highest votes as a senator in 1991 on the platform of the c Social Democratic Party (SDP), defeating Mrs. Kemi Nelson of the banned National Republican Convention (NRC), who is now his close associate. The bulk of the votes came from the Alimoso sub-zone, which has since been referred to as the ‘Tinubu country.’
Tinubu shone like a star in the Upper Chamber. He was not a bench warmer. In fact, he stepped down for Dr. Iyorcha Ayu to become Senate President. But, his senatorial career was not insulated from vicissitudes. The all-civilian National Assembly had a military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, to contend it.
The transition programme failed as designed by the Evil Genius. Tinubu’s career as a federal legislator was aborted by the Abacha regime, which sacked the elected leadership.
He returned to the drawing board to strategise for the future. He joined the pro-democracy movement, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), to fight for democracy. By the time civil rule was restored, the symbol of the struggle, Chief Moshood Abiola, had died mysteriously in detention.
Tinubu was elected governor on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD)in 1999. As governor, he presided over an administration that was a model between 1999 and 2007. The Tinubu years in the Centre of Excellence were remarkable for progress.
To observers, Tinubu became a key player in national politics, following his success at state and regional levels. For him, charity should begin at home. He had a 24-year development plan for the transformation of Lagos State.
As governor, he jerked up the internally generated revenue from the N600,000 monthly to billions of naira. Today, Lagos can boast of over N33 billion monthly IGR. The implication is that the state can survive without federal allocation.
Also, Tinubu fought the infrastructural battle in the city-state. He constructed roads, built hospitals and schools, created opportunities for employment and re-energised the transport sector. He initiated the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. The judiciary reforms he introduced were legendary. Tinubu pioneered the payment of NECO and WAEC fees for students.
The former governor also created additional 37 local councils, based on popular demand. When the allocations to the councils were seized by the Federal Government, his team of experts embarked a creative financial engineering that made the councils survive the federal onslaught.
As governor, Tinubu contributed to the debate on the national question as an apostle of true federalism and restructuring. He was also an electoral reforms curator. To him, the sanctity of the ballot box is critical to the survival of democracy.
Tinubu handed over to Fashola (SAN) in 2007. After the expiration of his two terms of eight-year I 2015, the lawyer-turned politician handed over to Akinwunmi Ambode, an accountant. On May 29, Ambode passed the baton to Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Tinubu and other compatriot floated the Action Congress (AC) in 2007. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) reclaimed the Southwest, although the battle shifted from the ballot box to the court.
However, 2015 was the turning point. Tinubu’s gospel of strength in unity was the magic. Reflecting on the 2015 calculations, one of his associates said he re-invented the theory of the slaughter’s slab to suit the collective aspiration of the opposition.
In Tinubu’s view, there will be no going back for the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), led by Buhari, and Prince Tony Momoh, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), led by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the ACN, led by Chief Bisi Akande and a section of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), led by Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, if they agreed to merge together into a single party.
The merger, he explained, would lead to the permanent withdrawal of their certificates by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Tinubu, the acknowledged party financier, provided selfless leadership and the quantum of resources for the novel project.
He urged his colleagues to take the risk and be optimistic about the future. The struggle heralded President Buhari’s success at the poll and the abortion of PDP’s dream of ruling for the next 60 years.
In politics and private life, Tinubu is reputed for philanthropy. His abode is a Mecca of sorts. He is a cheerful giver, benefactor, godfather and defender of the oppressed.
Tinubu holds honorary titles from many towns across the country. He is the Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom, Aare of Ile-Oluji and Aare Ago of Egbaland.
But, there are many aspects of his life that may not be known, until he opens up in his autobiography. When the autobiography is written, it will inspire future generations.
Many stakeholders believe that Tinubu still has a lot to contribute to national greatness. Eyes are on him as Nigerians gaze at 2023.