Political economist and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu, reviews ASIWAJU: The BiographyÂ ofÂ BolanleÂ AhmedÂ AdekunleÂ Tinubu, a book written by two PhD holders, MoshoodÂ AdemolaÂ Fayemiwo and Margie Neal-Fayemiwo
Who is Bola AhmedÂ Tinubu, theÂ AsiwajuÂ of Yorubaland and theÂ JagabanÂ ofÂ Borgu, and why does his biography matter? Nigeria has many politicians of varying degrees of consequence, and countless political jobbers that perambulate the corridors of power in any dispensation. But the country hasÂ veryÂ few leaders in any real sense, and Bola AhmedÂ TinubuÂ (henceforth â€œBATâ€ or â€œAsiwajuâ€, not to be confused with â€œASIWAJUâ€, the book title)Â is one of them.Â He is calculating, performanceÂ delivery-focused, decisive, and, at 65, has already achieved a legacy of positive consequence.Â A biography of him therefore matters.
The authors gave three reasons for writing this book:Â first,Â BATâ€™s pivotal role in the alliance of political parties that became the All Progressives Congress (APC) and accomplished the historic feat of defeating an incumbent president at the ballot box and bringing Muhammadu Buhari to power as President of Nigeria on his forth attempt. Second, the book is written to â€œcelebrateâ€Â AsiwajuÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ life as a champion of democracy and, third, becauseÂ AsiwajuÂ is a strong advocate of true federalism.
One important function the book accomplished early on is to shine some light on the exact circumstances ofÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ birthÂ in 1952Â and his family in Lagos. BAT was the product of a liaison between his father AhmedÂ Tinubu, after whom he is named, and MamaÂ AbibatuÂ Mogaji,Â an independentlyÂ wealthy female trader in LagosÂ who felt little need for a husband. AhmedÂ TinubuÂ having passed on just a few years after his sonâ€™s birth, BAT was brought up by his mother, and the tensions of a â€œrascallyâ€ young male child growing up under the care of a single, widowed mother are evident inÂ Asiwajuâ€™sÂ early years.
Stories are often woven around great men, by friend and foe alike. The farther back in time such stories go, the harder it becomes to separate fact from fiction, myth from reality. BAT has been the subject of whispered allegations that he is not, in fact, a native of Lagos and that he was born inÂ IragbijiÂ in todayâ€™s Osun State in South-western Nigeria. These innuendos, aimed at de-legitimising their subject,Â are reminiscent of the â€œbirtherâ€ movementÂ in the United States that for years spread the false story that Barack Obama, Americaâ€™s first black and 44thÂ President whose father was Kenyan and his mother a white American woman, was not born in the continental United States and was therefore not legitimately elected. Obama ultimately produced theÂ certificate of his birth in Hawaii to put paid to these jaundiced rumours. To the bookâ€™s credit, the authors undertook painstaking research in Lagos andÂ IragbajiÂ that sought to debunk the story ofÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ birthplace as anywhere other than Lagos.
AsiwajuÂ wasÂ aÂ â€œlate bloomerâ€Â in the popular parlance.Â After his primary school education in Lagos, during which he was markedly prank-prone, his concerned mother packed him off to the Childrenâ€™s Home School in Ibadan, a school known for its strict discipline and Christian religious orientation (BAT is a Muslim) for his secondary education. Whether this experience contributed to BATâ€™s well-known religious tolerance (his wife,Â Oluremi, is a Christian) is unclear.Â His secondary education was uneventful, and he later studiedÂ at Chicago State UniversityÂ in the United StatesÂ and received a degree in Accounting. Life began looking up forÂ AsiwajuÂ after he landed a job with the global accounting firm Deloitte,Â ToucheÂ andÂ Tomatsu. The late bloomer was becoming a star whose trajectory ultimately led him back home to Nigeria and a coveted jobÂ in Mobil Oil Plc in 1983.
As the military President IbrahimÂ BadamasiÂ Babangidaâ€™sÂ controversial democratic transition unfolded in the early 1990s with an experiment in diarchy, BAT resigned from Mobil and contested and won a seat in the Nigerian Senate on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, one of the two political parties (one, the SDP â€œa little to the leftâ€ and the other, the National Republican Convention, NRC, â€œa little to the rightâ€) created by fiat byÂ Babangida. When IBB ultimately cancelled the presidential elections that Chief M.K.O.Â AbiolaÂ of the SDP won in 1993,Â TinubuÂ became a member of the political opposition to military rule and went into exile in London after narrowly escaping the killer squads ofÂ the military dictatorÂ General Sani Abacha.
It is debatable if his role in the APC victory of 2015 is BolaÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ greatest political legacyÂ when we considerÂ objectivelyÂ the internal crisis that bedeviled the APC after its victory at the ballot box, the governance challenges that have confronted President Buhariâ€™s government, and the widely-held perception thatÂ AsiwajuÂ was shunted aside by other forces within the party even as he gamely maintains a stiff upper lip.Â Is this â€œsuccessâ€ really all that it has been made out to be?
What cannot be contested isÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ transformationalÂ a achievementsÂ as the Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) party, his effectiveness as a leader and political strategist, and the ultimate wisdom he has demonstrated in choosing his political successors as governors of Lagos in the persons ofÂ RajiÂ FasholaÂ (despite the frictions that later developed between the two) andÂ AkinwunmiÂ Ambode.
TinubuÂ as governor of LagosÂ unleashedÂ massive infrastructure development and environmental reforms,Â andÂ createdÂ an efficient, effective revenue base through taxation.Â His political resilience was demonstrated in his ability to bounce back to regional political dominance in the South-west in the 2011 elections, with his Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) party winning a strong majority of the gubernatorial and legislative seats in that region of Nigeria after having lost several states to the national ruling Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2003 elections under theÂ OlusegunÂ Obasanjo presidency.
Asiwajuâ€™sÂ recommendation of the cerebral technocrat-politician YemiÂ Osinbajo, a professor of law, to Buhari as the latterâ€™s running mate in the 2015 elections, is an important contribution to Nigerian leadership. While Vice-Presidents haveÂ limitedÂ powers,Â Osinbajoâ€™ sÂ performance as a stand-in during Buhariâ€™s recent two-month long medical leave was widely acclaimed.Â Clearly, BAT has a talent forÂ spotting and developingÂ leadershipÂ talent.
Which brings us to whetherÂ this political juggernautÂ is, in fact, a national politician or more accurately a dominant regional actor with national influence, much in the tradition of Chief ObafemiÂ Awolowo. Here we must look closely atÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ â€œalliance politicsâ€, a realistic recognition that no part of the country can win political power without the collaboration of at least one other regional block. It is beyond dispute that President Buhari would have remained a regional champion and an unsuccessful presidential contender without the bridge to the South-west thatÂ AsiwajuÂ constructed for him.
But there is a differenceÂ betweenÂ transactional alliance politicsÂ and being, or becoming, a truly national leader with an all-inclusive vision, which is the type of leadership Nigeria needs going forward. As recent events are demonstrating, political â€œvisionsâ€ that in reality are limited to the Hausa-Fulani northern and Yoruba South-westernÂ agendas,Â essentially ignoringÂ the Igbos of the South-east zoneÂ and the minority South-south, are short-sighted and will be self-defeating to national stability and development in the longer term.Â Â PerhapsÂ TinubuÂ needs to return more actively and visibly to what this biography states as his commitment to true federalism, and to the quest for aÂ constitutional restructuring that must birth a new, more equitable order in Nigeria.
â€œASIWAJUâ€ is an important contribution to political biography in Nigeria and Africa. It is broadly well written and well-researched, and holds the readerâ€™s interest well. As an in-depth account of the rise to political power and influence by one of the few truly effective leaders in Nigeriaâ€™s contemporary history, it is an authoritative compendium.
But the bookÂ has important shortcomings. For one, does its subject have no weaknesses or limitations that the biography might have pointed to and analysed as evidence of a moreÂ balancedÂ approach? Perhaps the bookâ€™s stated intention to â€œcelebrateâ€Â AsiwajuÂ provides an explanation, but not a justification. Beyond that, the book appears not to be an officially â€œauthorisedâ€ biography, henceÂ Asiwajuâ€™sÂ personal voice is absent. The authors attempt to make up for this by including a compendium ofÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ speeches at the end of the book, but that cannot replace the authentic, personal voice of the subject, in quotes from interviews, participating directly in the project.Â It is doubtful thatÂ AsiwajuÂ TinubuÂ is blissfully unaware of this work, seeing the foreword by RaufÂ Aregbesola, the Governor of Osun State andÂ Asiwajuâ€™s close political associate, as wellÂ asÂ the tributeÂ in the book byÂ AlhajiÂ KashimÂ Shettima, Governor of Bornu State. But that is the realm of speculation.
â€œASIWAJUâ€ should have more closely analysed the outcomes of the historic 2015 presidential and gubernatorial elections, sinceÂ Tinubuâ€™sÂ role therein is offered as a major reason for thisÂ biography. And a discussion of the subjectâ€™s possible future(s) would have made a fitting end toÂ a political biography. Will theÂ AsiwajuÂ of theÂ YorubasÂ become that of Nigeria? Will he transition from kingmaker to king himself, does he want to, and, can he? Time will tell. Whatever the case, thatÂ BolanleÂ AhmedÂ TinubuÂ has more than made his mark in Nigeriaâ€™s political history is not in question.
Â Book Title: ASIWAJU: The Biography ofÂ BolanleÂ AhmedÂ AdekunleÂ Tinubu
Authors:Â MoshoodÂ AdemolaÂ Fayemiwo, Ph.D. and Margie Neal-Â Fayemiwo, Ph.D.
Publisher: The Jesus Christ Solution Center, DBA, USA in collaboration withÂ Booklocker Publishing Company, Inc., St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Publication Date:Â May 30, 2017