Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at 64, is a paradoxical puzzle to his detractors and a centrepiece of brilliance, to those who know where he is coming from, writes Solomon Elusoji
On a bright, sunny day in January 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) took its presidential campaign tour to the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, a key state in that year’s presidential elections. There was the usual mammoth crowd and speeches, but one man was the galvaniser – the national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His admirers call him Jagaban (Leader of warriors).
Tinubu, who had co-spearheaded the coalition of the Action Congress (AC) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to form a bigger party capable of matching the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the polls, was the chief magician that masterminded Nigeria’s most important democratic ‘coups’, till date.
“God in His wisdom placed me in the position to recognise the change that was needed and to help effectuate that change,” Tinubu would later say in 2016. “What was accomplished in 2015 was not a singular effort. It was done through the collective love and labour of millions of Nigerians.”
Born on March 29, 1952 in the city of Lagos, Tinubu attended St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos and Children’s Home School in Ibadan. He went to the United States in 1975, where he studied first at Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, Illinois and then at Chicago State University. While at Chicago, he contested for the President of the Accounting Society in his final year and won. He graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting.
Tinubu went on to work for American companies Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins, and Sells, and GTE Services Corporation, before returning to Nigeria in 1983, where he obtained work with Mobil Oil Nigeria, rising to become an executive of the company.
His Nigerian political career began in 1992, when he was elected to the Nigerian Senate representing the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic, via the now defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), of which he was one of the founding members. After the results of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections were annulled, Tinubu became a founding member of the pro-democracy group- National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which mobilised support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of the June 12 results. After several assaults, harassments and detentions, he was forced to flee the country in 1994 and only returned in 1998 after the death of military dictator Sani Abacha, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.
In the run-up to the 1999 elections, Bola Tinubu was a protégé of Alliance for Democracy (AD) leaders Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Adebanjo. He won the AD primaries for the Lagos State gubernatorial elections in competition with Funsho Williams and Wahab Dosunmu, a former Minister of Works and Housing. In April 1999, he stood for the position of Executive Governor of Lagos State on the AD ticket and was elected.
While in office, he made huge investment on education, rehabilitated roads and constructed new ones, in order to meet the challenges of the fast growing Lagos. He won several awards for himself for his excellent performance as Governor, in a tenure that lasted for eight years (1999- 2007).
On the March 29 this year, Tinubu celebrated his 64th birthday and the national community was agog with high praise for a man who has paid his dues. President Muhammadu Buhari sent him a birthday wish, praising his doggedness, forthrightness, generosity and diligence, in a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
The statement read: “The president assures the national leader that his patriotism and commitment to democracy and good governance, and his generous spirit will always be remembered and appreciated by generations of Nigerians.
“He prays that the Almighty God will grant the Asiwaju long life, good health, wisdom and prosperity as he steadfastly supports efforts to promote the development of Nigeria.”
On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, expressed his birthday wishes to Tinubu, describing him as a formidable political force who has brought changes to the political landscape of Nigeria, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan.
“On this joyous occasion of your birthday, we in the House of Representatives salute you, great leader, for the milestones you have attained in Nigeria,” the statement read. “Your feats are bold and exceptional; from business to governance and politics. As a governor, you made sweeping reforms that till date, your successors are still building on and making Lagos State proud.
“In politics, you have been a formidable force, helping to put together a great political party that won power at the centre in Nigeria. You have proved to be a true hero of democracy, a light that cannot be concealed! As you mark yet another year, my prayer for you is that God will continue to consolidate your efforts and crown them all with success.”
Today, despite all efforts to rubbish Tinubu’s monumental political legacy, he continues to soar, persisting in being a paradoxical puzzle to his detractors and a centrepiece of brilliance, to those who know where he is coming from. Tinubu is simply a political wizard!