‘Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men, and men are great only if they are determined to be so’ – Charles de Gaulle
There is a thought-provoking puzzle that many politicians currently in and out of power across the country have found a hard row to hoe. That conundrum is Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu – the Jagaban of Borgu land, Asiwaju of Lagos and former governor of Lagos State. On Tuesday, March 29, the enigma will clock 64; yet, he is still waxing stronger within the nation’s political firmament as an astute political strategist and unfaltering torchbearer of progressive politics. Without any deliberate attempt, this man with large appetite for politics is impulsively etching his name indelibly on the sands of time.
Without sounding conceited, it would not be out-of-place to state today that he remains the most-sought-after politician and perhaps, one of the few most significant of the progressive hue in modern-day Nigeria. The reality, even amongst those that hate to love Tinubu, against the dictate of their conscience, is that he has become a veritable political brand that can be ignored at one’s peril in the political landscape of the nation. At a point in the history of this country, the late sage, Pa Obafemi Awolowo, was the issue. Even after the great man’s death 29 years ago, most politicians in the south-western part of the country still use his name to deceive the electorate during electioneering periods. Momentarily, Bashorun MKO Abiola appeared on the political horizon, but was cut short by the feudal military oligarchy that denied him his electoral mandate by sending him into an early grave.
Most politicians in our present day deploy the Tinubu political brand name to win grassroots support during elections.
Since the passage of Awo and, perhaps Abiola, one doubts if there is any Nigerian that has taken the political emancipation of his people from the yoke of democratic tyranny seriously as much as Tinubu has been doing. The political ignoramuses might deride him; the grovelers of centrist conservative elements are used to impugning his character, but that is the man still standing like the rock of Gibraltar. Asiwaju has the power of political liberation; he is imbued with a rare economic skill, being a shrewd accountant with vast international experience. This man of unquantifiable knack for philanthropy has this uncanny nerve for discovering a talent, which was reflected in the membership quality of his mostly well-endowed cabinet team that he assembled during his eight-year rein as governor of Lagos State.
The man turns 64 on Tuesday, but many people prefer to criticise him, out of sheer envy of his result oriented political track record; others do simply because they could not rival his steadfast commitment to finding solutions to political and other challenges facing the country. Tinubu thinks Nigeria, dreams Nigeria; he lives Nigeria and sleeps Nigeria. From the North, East, West and South, people call him at random to seek his help or input on intractable political quagmire. These men and women are not necessarily members of the political elite class; this is because the former governor is also at home with the downtrodden whose interests form the thrust of his concern for a better country.
Some, out of steep spite of his large-heart and enormous goodwill, will query his source of wealth: And simply because the man is doing what they cannot ever do or are not privileged to do since they are not in a position to do it, they harbour the ache in their bellies. Some see him as being immoderate. But Benjamin Disraeli had an answer for the Tinubu-phobia when he said: ‘Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.’ There are empirical examples of Nigerians, irrespective of tribes and especially among the Yoruba, the man’s cradle, that have benefited immensely from his political and monetary largesse. But sadly, these same people still hypocritically relish speaking ill of him. Surprisingly, Tinubu relishes welcoming such backstabbers back to his fold. Most of us see this as a weakness but he sees that to be one sacrifice of greatness that he must pay. One can only hope that this inclination of taking back backstabbers would not turn to be his undoing later in life.
Whoever doubts Asiwaju’s progressive credentials needs to embark on historical excursion. At a time that the Yoruba states of Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Osun and Ekiti were falling to the gangsterism of dethroned People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003 and 2007, it was only Asiwaju’s Lagos that stood to absorb the heat of conservatism before eventually launching, single-handedly, the worthwhile battle that liberated the former western region but Ondo, from the grips of rampaging agents of feudal politics. The giant progressive strides that the nation is witnessing today are a consequence of Asiwaju’s political acuity. This gives credence to Walt Whitman’s statement: ‘Produce great men, the rest follows.’ Progressivism is indeed taking firm root in the country today because of the great political mind possessed by Asiwaju. Indeed, Charles de Gaulle was right by saying: ‘Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men and men are great only if they are determined to be so.’
Tinubu is indeed and always politically determined to succeed. And it is this uncommon determination to be great and to politically liberate the masses from the yoke of reactionary politics that compelled him to take with zeal, progressive politics, since year 2014’s merger of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with other opposition parties – far beyond the west and to all parts of the country. This gave birth to All Progressives Congress (APC) that today controls the seat of power in Abuja. The move at that time generated spite, covetousness as much as cynicism from those who always see impossibility rather than possibility in Tinubu’s laudable political initiatives.
The difference between Tinubu and the rest in the political arena is that he sees possibility where others predict doom. His often-talked-about political superiority complex does not mean haughtiness, although it might appear to be so in the eyes of the mischievous among politicians who want to see it so. Tinubu feels a higher esteem over the obstacles he desires to surmount and he is blessed with the rare courage of overcoming them, with enough energy reserved for any eventuality.
The positive roles of Tinubu in the successful political merger of the opposition parties; the outcome of the 2015 general elections in favour of then opposition and the fact that a precedent has been set that makes it impossible for a ruling party, especially at the centre, to take others for granted in the political space have become a burden of envy in the minds of most politicians that see Tinubu as a threat. Rejection of Tinubu’s political ingenuity is nothing but a deliberate creation of avoidable amphitheatre of perfidious hypocrisy.
Despite the sleaze of political mudslinging by mostly beneficiaries of his political large-heartedness, Tinubu’s democratic scorecard remains very glittering and unassailable. The current firm control of the centre by erstwhile opposition, hitherto considered as impossible, and the invaluable role played by the Jagaban of Borgu land in bringing it to fruition merely confirmed him as the definitive contemporary political leader of the progressives in the country.
Like Awolowo during his lifetime, Tinubu has, in contemporary Nigerian politics, become a thorn in the flesh of conservative/progressive politicians with lesser candour. This unjustifiable kvetching syndrome by some of the current political elite class against Tinubu has become a catalyst that gives him more inspiration to surpass his present enviable feat. But for a politician like Tinubu, it would most likely have been impossible for Nigerians to have the golden opportunity of looking back and saying today: We are free at long last from the shackles of democratic feudal that see power at the centre as their birth right! This writer wholeheartedly wishes Asiwaju, the husband of adorable Senator Oluremi Tinubu, plenteous happy returns of his day in sound health and continuing political relevance. Happy birthday to you sir. And as the Yoruba would pray: Igba Odun, Odun kan!
–– Sanusi is MD/CEO of LASAA