“IF your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
This famous quote by John Quincy Adams, an American statesman, diplomat, Senator, member of the House of Representatives and the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829 aptly describes Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His life is nothing but a portrait in service. The struggle to enthrone democracy in the country has remained his sole preoccupation. Since the early 1990s when he threw his hat in the political ring, he has never looked back. He has suffered abuses, accused, humiliated, but he has refused to be cowed. Not even by the military junta. Today, even his worst opponent cannot ignore him.
“My public life spans over three decades. I have had my share of triumphs. I have felt the sting of setback. Through it all, I have tried to keep faith with the overarching vision I earlier set forth – of a more democratic Nigeria with a robust economy that provides sufficiently for all.
Throughout most of this time span, the strategic focus has been on politics, free enterprise and assuring democracy. I believe the toil and sacrifice has been worthwhile. We have secured democracy in Nigeria. Now, our strategic leadership must focus on realising the second part of that vision – the economic component,” he one declared.
To say the former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has become not just a politician, but a living legend, is a statement of fact.
As one of Nigeria’s most popular political icons and mobilisers, he is an inspiration to a large population of Nigeria- politicians and non-politicians alike. He is loved and dreaded by associates and opponents as a result of his political sagacity and dedication in the service of fatherland.
According to Segun Olulade, a member, Lagos State House of Assembly, “Tinubu’s many sacrifices are unusual. His contributions to political and national development are unequalled in this generation. His legacies for Nigeria’s democracy will take another decade to see their likes. His influence across all industries and strata is not a coincidence.
The growth of his political reign has witnessed ingenuity, hard work, commitment to the masses, love for the country, firm belief in teamwork and exceptional gift ordained by God. He never fought clandestinely.
Issa Aremu, foremost labour leader agreed.
“At a time most Nigerian politicians are insular and killing their fellows to be local gaodfathers and local champions, Tinubu is a national and pan-African politicians attested to by his remarkable outreach in West Africa sub-region in particular and the continent as a whole.
The political career of the man fondly called Jagaban Borgu began in 1992, on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) where he was elected to the Nigerian Senate to represent the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic.
Following the annulment of the results of the June 12 1993 presidential elections, Tinubu became a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which mobilised support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of the election won by MKO Abiola. He went into exile in 1994 and returned to the country in 1998 after the death of General Sani Abacha, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.
In the run-up to the 1999 elections, he emerged the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and won.
During his eight-year period of office, he made large investments in education in the state. He also initiated new road construction, required to meet the needs of the ast-growing population of the state.
Tinubu, alongside a new deputy governor, Femi Pedro, won re-election to office as Governor in April 2003. All other states in the South West fell to the People’s Democratic Party.
He was involved in a struggle with the Federal government over whether Lagos State had the right to create new Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) to meet the needs of its large population. The controversy led to the Federal government seizing funds meant for local councils in the state. Rather than deter him, that action by the President Olusegun Obansanjo-led Federal Government fired him as he revved up his development in the state. His performance, put the former nation’s capital on the road to becoming a mega city.
However, over a decade after leaving office as governor, Tinubu’s political horizon has continued to expand, such that no serious political discuss can be concluded today without a fair mentioning of his name.
In deed, the story of how he led the defunct All Progressives Congress (ACN) from a one state party to victory in at least half a dozen states is too well know.
To cap it all, he spearheaded and midwifed the first political merger in the country, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Selfless life of a leader
By Tunde Rahman
asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a remarkable political composite with so many dimensions such that it is difficult to paint an adequate portrait of all that he is and all he has accomplished. Authors and commentators have said and written much about this inimitable man, dwelling on his life as an activist, intellectual, administrator, politician, strategist, democracy icon, humanist, family man and more.
But I want to attend to just two of the numerous qualities of Asiwaju Tinubu, as a meticulous strategist and a compassionate man. I select these two because this combination rarely enjoys residence in one man.
Usually, a person is one or the other but only infrequently is he both.
I write of these aspects because of the insight I have gained in working with him in the last 6 months. I shall elucidate this with a few examples; but neither ones gleaned from the political turf, nor those usually seen on campaign trails. It is not about how he emerged the last man standing among the AD governors of the South-west who were outfoxed by President Obasanjo in 2003, or how he led the way in moulding the political machinery that unseated an incumbent president.
The examples derive from moments hidden from the cameras and public glare, from those moments when the true character of a man is most revealed.
But first, let me make a disclosure. I think I was perhaps destined to work with Asiwaju Tinubu. Here’s the reason. In 1991, while covering political activities for the old Daily Times in Abuja, the newspaper’s Political Editor at the time, Mr. Segun Ayobolu (at present Deputy Chairman, Editorial Board of The Nation), tapped me to be a Media Assistant to Asiwaju Tinubu. At that time, he was the Chairman,
Appropriation Committee of the Senate. I was a young reporter with barely two years as a journalist. I did not take the job because I felt I needed more time to grow in the profession. But I refused to let go.
I kept track of Asiwaju Tinubu, particularly his politics. In later years, I would remind him of that offer each time I came around him.
Five years ago, when, as Editor of Thisday, the Saturday Newspaper, I interviewed him in commemoration of his 60th birthday, I jokingly accused my friend, Sunday Dare, the immediate-past Media Adviser to Asiwaju Tinubu, of standing where I ought to be. Dare moved to a higher pedestal in September last year as Executive Commissioner at the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) in Abuja. As fate would have it, I gladly stepped into his shoes, filling a position offered two decades before.
Asiwaju Tinubu is one of the most humane public figures one can find anywhere. One incident last year sticks so vividly to mind as if it happened yesterday. Around mid-day, he sent for one of his aides to send on a mercy mission to a widow in Kaduna. As it turned out, he had never met nor spoken with the distressed woman. It remains a mystery how she got the telephone number. With no means of livelihood, things had been quite difficult for her and her children since losing her husband, she told him. He asked for her location. Immediately after the call, Asiwaju dispatched my colleague to Kaduna to locate the woman, and to assist her should her claim prove true. Help was given and the condition of the woman and children made better. The point to note: Asiwaju Tinubu’s generosity and selflessness are beyond bounds. I later discovered that hers was not such an isolated case. He has done this for countless people and will continue to do so. He has a caring heart and gives without necessarily knowing the beneficiaries or expecting anything in return. This was the first instance I witnessed. Since then, I have seen numerous instances of such compassion, in the short time I have worked at Bourdillon.
The Jagaban Borgu is a consummate political strategist. For him, he leaves little to chance. If you intend to succeed, you must plan for it. He is ever prepared, pays attention to minutest detail and works round the clock with clockwork precision. His custom is to work late into the night in his study reading or engaging in a brainstorming session in order to keep abreast of domestic events and world affairs.
There was an occasion in January that I also recall. It was 3am, a time most people are deep asleep. He had not slept much the previous days, yet he was still much awake and alert. We were working on the final draft of a speech he was to deliver later that day in Abuja. He is always fully involved in writing his speeches. He kept scrutinising and fine-tuning the address until it was just right. Eventually, we were done by 5am. Only then did he allow himself a brief nap. By 8am, he was ready for the trip to Abuja to address students at the National Defence College.
It was no surprise that the speech Asiwaju delivered was an excellent one. His paper teemed with personal experiences and anecdotes and was delivered to the admiration of the course participants. The crucial point is that Asiwaju is by no means the intellectually passive leader who simply takes what their media aides or speech writers give and head for the podium to begin to read something he hasn’t seen before.
Asiwaju’s imprint is always rightly on his speeches because his heart and mind have shaped them word by word, sentence by sentence.
Asiwaju Tinubu is a workaholic. His days are typically packed with meetings and activities, leaving one wondering how he copes. He has the vigour to go through the tough day then awake to do it all over again. His pace and agility is often confounding. He would move from granting audience to one dignitary to another, from one meeting to another and from one brainstorming session to another, and yet another. As he meets the mighty – presidents, diplomats and prominent leaders from far and near – so too does he grant audience to the lowly-placed, solving their problems and attending to their needs, almost always skipping his meals and forgetting to attend to his own needs.
As he marks his birthday with another colloquium on another issue that relates to the country’s wellbeing, I join the many who wish him continued good health, renewed physical and mental power and above all the grace of God for all that lies ahead.
• Rahman is Media Adviser to Asiwaju Tinubu
Kalu, Tinubu: Two of a kind
as humanity profusely commemorates the epochal 65th birthday of enigmatic Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whose existential aplomb is perplexingly intriguing, I underscore the profound and multifarious similarities between him and his fellow political icon, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, a confounding titan, as a way of celebrating the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in an especial tribute to him on his birthday.
Both stalwarts had a humble beginning that lacked any silver spoon instrumentality. They braced the odds and confronted the enormous challenges of conquering their environment and making the best of their grassy backgrounds that have amazingly metamorphosed into billionaire opulence, by British and global standards. Conversely, they are 99 percent self-made!
The humility of both men is inimitable. There are no airs about them except the ones created by their overzealous personal staff who mystify their principals for reasons best known to them without their masters’ knowledge. If you are privileged to share informal relationships with these moguls, you will be amazed by their simplicity and considerate attitudinal disposition to life despite their immeasurable affluence that would have elicited haughtiness among their arrogant peers with similar deep pockets.
Between 1999 and 2007, the two irrepressible men were superlative governors of Abia and Lagos states, respectively. Kalu and Tinubu more than all other governors of their time contributed to the social and political reengineering of Nigeria through various landmark interventions and political activism.
After their glorious tenures, they, singlehanded, anointed two governors each for Abia, Imo and Lagos states. This unprecedented feat led to the emergence of amnesic Theodore Orji (Abia), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo), Babatunde Raji Fashola, and perhaps the most brilliant governor in the current dispensation, Akinwunmi Ambode, whose pre-election acquaintanceship I lost after his election!
Remarkably, too, both Kalu and Tinubu enjoy massive following in their geopolitical spheres of influence so uch that years after leaving office both men are still more popular than all the past and present governors of their states put together! Their famousness transcends regional boundaries as they are household names nationwide in addition to savouring global acclaim on grounds of their leadership credentials and supranational economic and political thresholds. Their philanthropic superfluity is a subject for another day.
Both eminent Nigerians’ statesmanship and bridge-building narratives, among other robust elements, have made them formidable forces in national politics. Whether their detractors and traducers like it or not, there is an indispensability factor in Kalu and Tinubu with regard to our democracy.
While Kalu publishes this soar-away medium and New Telegraph titles, his friend and associate of more than three decades is the sole owner of THE NATION newspapers.
Both like-minds promote two flourishing airlines. First Nation Airline belongs to Asiwaju Tinubu just as Kalu owns Slok Airline, which was inexplicably one of the victims of witch-hunt during the autocratic and vindictive rule of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo- to the gargantuan benefit of The Gambia and Nigeria’s monumental detriment! Equally incidental is the fact that Kalu and Tinubu have the same disenchanting inclination towards the mercurial Ota farmer- for unassailable reasons.
These two multiple title holders from the North and other parts of the country may in the future preside over this country having quintessentially excelled in other departments of life.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Jagaban Borgu and prospective leader of the Yoruba Nation! My candid projection is that 65 more years are ahead of you, by God’s grace!
Overall, Asiwaju Tinubu and Kalu are nature’s masterpieces with copious things common to both strategists. In their embryonic days, there was nothing indicative of their current existential flourish and stupendous popularity.
From Samuel Johnson to Asiwaju Tinubu: “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone.” Egbon, may that never be your portion!
My Oga and Baa Danide Borgu, fondly known as OUK, sends his fraternal greetings and best wishes on your 65th anniversary.
• Wabara ([email protected]/08055001948) is the media adviser to Dr. Orji Kalu.
Celebrating the architect of a new Lagos
during the historic regime of Asiwaju as Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is fondly referred to, as the governor of Lagos State, many people who were familiar with the managerial acumen and political sagacity of the renowned guru of inestimable value were not surprised with the relentless efforts and visionary leadership he put to play in laying and building a solid foundation for the modern Lagos State.
Against all odds, including the seizure of the Federal Government allocation and other intervention funds due to the state, the Jagaban Borgu did not give up on his dream and vision as he looked inwards to raise the bar of internally generated revenue (IGR) to implement his lofty and extraordinary development ideas. Today, Lagosians and non-Lagosians alike can bear me witness that Tinubu is the brain behind today’s modern Lagos.
The impressive achievements of the Jagaban Borgu are obvious when you look at the state of infrastructure in Lagos among others. The ex-governor built roads, constructed and equipped schools and hospitals in all nooks and crannies of the state, ensured timely payment of salaries and pensions to civil servants, serving and retired, attracted private investments and provided an enabling business environment for private businesses to thrive, established many governmental agencies – LASTMA, LAGBUS, KAI – and absorbed people from the streets into these agencies as a way of curbing social vices among other initiatives.
To cap it all, after his indelible footprints as governor, Asiwaju Tinubu being a good manager of people and other resources, saw the need to ensure a succession plan so as to sustain the trend of development in the state. Based on this premise and having discovered the talent of Babatunde Fashola who he gave the opportunity of serving as his Chief of Staff Fashola’s talents, anointed and ensured victory for him at the 2007 governorship poll.
Being a key member of the State Executive Council during Asiwaju’s regime, Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) knew the roadmap his erstwhile boss had set and he did follow suit. The trend continued during Fashola’s regime (2007-2015) as he sustained the feat of his predecessor by completing ongoing projects while executing new ones.
During Fashola’s regime, he never shied away from going back to the master strategist – Asiwaju Tinubu – for guidance, counsel and support. The healthy relationship between Tinubu and Fashola helped the state in many folds as there was no political tension whatsoever. In short, Fashola’s regime was also a huge success like that of his predecessor.
In the build up to the 2015 general elections, the alleged differences between Tinubu and Fashola, occasioned by the choice of the party’s flag bearer for the governorship poll, became pronounced as Asiwaju Tinubu anointed Akinwunmi Ambode, while Fashola was rooting for his preferred choice. Eventually, Asiwaju Tinubu’s choice won the party’s ticket and ultimately became the Governor of Lagos State. After the polls and against all political bickering among the gladiators, trust Lagosians, no dull moment, the power brokers displayed a high level of maturity in their relationships and as such maintained self respect for each other. This action soon proved rumour mongers wrong that all was not well between Asiwaju Tinubu, Minister Fashola and Governor Ambode.
I must say that the current administration of Ambode has not deviated from the ideals of Asiwaju Tinubu as the governor continues to implement policies and execute projects with positive impacts on the society.
The truth must be told that Asiwaju Tinubu is not just a leader because he enjoys a cult-like political followership, but also for finding the right men to run the affairs of the state after his stint as governor (1999-2007).
Big daddy (as one of my friends- Kabiru fondly calls him), being an advocate of sustainable development, knew the imperative of handing over the state to like-minds that share the same ideology with him and hence the rationale behind passing the baton of leadership to Fashola and ultimately to Ambode.
One lesson other Nigerian leaders should learn from Asiwaju Tinubu is searching for the best brains regardless of political, religious and tribal sentiments to lead the people. If Asiwaju had reasoned like most other Nigerian politicians, he would have handed over power to an empty brain for selfish reasons – not wanting others to shine or in the name of overbearing loyalty. Asiwaju Tinubu, a well-known dogged fighter of democracy, has demonstrated his love for the masses by throwing his weight behind individuals who will not betray the thrust of the people, while applying their intellectual expertise in leadership positions.
It is a known fact that if you are opportune to pass through Asiwaju’s political school, you will be armed with these qualities: selflessness, political maturity, doggedness, generosity and loyalty. The above tenets underscore the maturity displayed by two members (Minister Fashola and Governor Ambode) of Asiwjau Tinubu’s political family during the former’s visit to the latter in Lagos a few days ago. Shortly before the minister’s visit, there were celebrated and hyped media reports that all was not well between the duo of Fashola and Ambode, especially due to the outcry of Ambode on the alleged frustration of his efforts on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway by Fashola.
During the visit, the minister commended the new Lagos State chief executive for his outstanding performance thus far. This patriotism displayed by these notable politicians is remarkable and as such this again has proved rumour mongers wrong that all is not well among the trio of Asiwaju Tinubu, Fashola and Ambode. I must also state that the action of these notable figures will be beneficial to Lagosians and non-Lagosians alike who are the ultimate beneficiaries government projects as both parties – the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government – will work hand in hand to improve the lots of the people through infrastructural regeneration – construction and re-construction of federal roads in Lagos metropolis and environs.
I decided to write this piece in commemoration of Asiwaju’s Tinubu’s 65th birthday because the former Governor of Lagos State is not only an astute politician but also a human resource consultant as evidenced in his handing over the mantle of leadership to ex-governor Fashola and ultimately Governor Ambode. The list is endless for Asiwaju’s expertise in human deployment, including the new Federal Inland Revenue Service boss, Babatunde Fowler – who has been implementing aggressive policies to boost federal revenue. Take it or leave it, the Jagaban Borgu remains a shining light in politics beyond the shores of Nigeria.
While wishing the Chancellor of my state-owned tertiary institution – Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State – many more fulfilling years ahead in the service of mankind, I would like other leaders to emulate the impeccable qualities of Asiwaju Tinubu in their pursuits in life.
• Prince Kunle Oyewumi lives in Lagos.