It was the 33rd president of US, Mr. Harry S. Truman who once said, “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” Nigeria is a nation blessed with many of such courageous and skillful leaders who have toiled day and night; and even at the risk of losing their lives never gave up the task of nation building. But one man who has towered shoulders high above leaders and politicians that have traversed Nigeria’s political firmament.
Like him or hate him, he is the most successful and greatest political leader in Nigeria’s contemporary history. His strategic and calculative thinking, adept political moves and knack for identifying and monitoring future leaders is unrivalled. A man, who in the midst of adversity and uncertainty sees clearly within the mist a vision of a glorious future and with unusual courage and uncommon determination, pursues it to actualisation. This man has impacted positively on the lives of the people across the nation irrespective of ethnicity, religion, geopolitical or social leaning.
It is axiomatic that no Nigerian both living or dead has in the last 20 years dominated the nation’s political space like the former governor of Lagos state, a senator in the aborted Third Republic and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Even President Muhammadu Buhari, who is not given to praising people has since 2015 and at every fora not hesitated to give to Nigerians what is due to them and to Tinubu his worth. He had variously and publicly acknowledged that without the support of Tinubu, his fourth presidential bid in 2015 would not have been a success story. At the last colloquim marking Tinubu’s 67th birthday, PMB described Tinubu as ‘the pillar of democracy’ in Nigeria.
The President recalled some of the sacrifices of the party chieftain to include, standing up against injustice in 1993 when the June 12 elections were annulled, which led to his going on political exile for many years, and a protracted legal battle with the Federal Government when funds for Lagos councils were withheld. “President Buhari affirmed that Asiwaju’s uncompromising posture in the face of injustice and refusal to follow the path of least resistance for personal gains stand him out today as a rare breed and one of the cornerstones of Nigeria’s democracy, especially with his track record of persistence, consistency and effective leadership.
“As the father of modern Lagos State, the President commended the visionary and inclusive leadership style that the Asiwaju provided for the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria for eight years, laying the foundation for a modern and technologically driven city, and ensuring that every successive leader in the state sticks with the master plan of a greater Lagos”.
His mentoring is beyond compare. He is one Nigerian who has shaped the lives of many young men and have given them the needed opportunity to participate effectively in the nation’s political space. The vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo state under Tinubu as governor. The immediate past minister for information and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed served under Jagaban, the ex-minister for works, power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola was Tinubu’s chief of staff and of course, the current executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler also worked with this great Nigerian. What about the immediate past governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode? He worked under Asiwaju. This is just a tip of the iceberg because the list is endless. But one significant thing is that these great Nigerians who were mentored by the Jagaban are from different parts of the country. He is a complete detribalized Nigerian!
The political foundation he has laid for his loyalists has yielded results and is gradually metamorphosing into an empire. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola served as a commissioner under Tinubu in Lagos and rose to become the governor of Osun state for two terms. The present governor of Ekiti state, Kayode Fayemi is a protégée of the Tinubu school of politics. He is doing his second term as governor after a four year spell as minister under the first term of PMB.
For a man who has been into active politics in the last 30 years, Tinubu’s political dexterity came into limelight after the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 election, when he became a founding member and active voice of the pro-democracy group, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). From that time, Tinubu never looked back and has practically become a reference point for leaders both within and outside the country. Beginning from the south west, Asiwaju through hardwork, dedication, resilience, uncanny courage transformed himself into national reckoning and consequently seeing to the enthronement of progressive leadership at the centre. As governor, he was able to combine the virtues of courage, determination, commitment, vision, focus and a strong sense of purpose that drove his emergence as one of the country’s most successful Governors. He won re-election to office as governor in April 2003, while other states in the south-west fell to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This is a man who understands the psychology of an average Nigerian and is able to mobilise the nation’s politics to meet their expectations. Like one of his admirers said, Tinubu “understands the objectives of politics which is that of acquiring political power to satisfy the interest of the majority. His brand of politics therefore captures the true undiluted and sanguine reason for the noble business of politics”. Again, heroes are said to be visionaries and it is the unimaginable quantum of light inherent in them, which they carry and radiate. Tinubu represents these in his talks, actions and body language.
Unlike some of Nigeria’s political leaders, who have sold their souls for a plate of porridge especially in the days the nation’s wealth was being shared like cake at a wedding feast, Tinubu never allowed the pursuit of mundane and filthy lucre to distract him and with unwavering determination. He remained focused on the task of laying a solid foundation four our democracy and building a nation that would stand the test of time. Hence, the APC, which he nurtured became the first political party to effectively dethrone a sitting government in Nigeria. Through his rare courage and foresight, the Jagaban terminated the resolve of the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to turn Nigeria into a one-party State. It is an open secret that he was offered juicy opportunities and carrots were dangled at him to dump his commitment to the people. But the Jagaban of Borgu remained undaunted until he reached his desired destination.
What the likes of charismatic leaders such as the sage Obafemi Awolowo, Senator J.S. Tarka, Dr, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello could not achieve, Tinubu has attained the feat. His years remain a reference for good governance in Nigeria and across the region. He is indeed a study in Nigeria’s contemporary politics.
Hon. Ugwu, a public affairs analysts, writes from Enugu.