A Worthy Matriarch at 60

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Oluremi Tinubu

Mobolaji Sanusi pays tribute to Oluremi Tinubu, a woman of substance

‘Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.’—-Albert Einstein.

We, as human beings, prefer to live. But not all lives are worth celebrating because not all lives qualify to be described as impactful even when accorded an opportunity to make it so. However, it gives joy to state, with all sense of decorum, that on the 21st of September, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (SOT), the adorable wife of my political father and benefactor (omo olodo ide), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Akanbi Tinubu – The Jagaban of Borgu land falls into the category of those who deserve to be celebrated for her attaining an eventfully depth-filled three scores on mother earth. She is a savant in the public service of this country that is playing a momentous complimentary role in Asiwaju’s service to political development of the country and humanity as a whole. On SOT, l have an illuminating experience to share with readers. In my four years, three months in the public service of Lagos State, SOT made an indelible impression on me out of all the people that l was privileged to come across as the immediate past Managing Director/CEO of Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency(LASAA).

In our clime where being close to a man of immense political power, not to talk of being the wife of such a man, carries a lot of awesome privileges, unnecessary hubris and undeniable authority. SOT stands out for her humility, mental acuity, no nonsense disposition, humane outlook and unusual respect for those hovering round her powerful husband seeking one favor or the other or sometime coming around to pay obeisance to the man for past favors received, to curry anticipated assistance, or that daily throngs their residence to reaffirm their continuing loyalty to the man. Viewed from these prisms, one could, with all sincerity of purpose, tell the whole world that SOT is devoid of empty guile that is usually the hallmark of wives/children of powerful political figures. As a senator, she has been a pride to her constituents; as a wife, a devoted better half to her husband, committed mother to her kids, devoted Christian and a study in humility and firmness to the many that crossed her paths including someone like me in my brief encounters with her.

SOT, from personal study, is not fond of throwing her weight unnecessarily around. My first encounter with her was as interesting as it was intriguing. She had wanted a request for someone and she called me directly on my line unlike others in her shoes that would bark orders at you through a third party. I missed her calls, and more intriguing with that call was the fact that l did not have her number on my phone. Not minding my undue ‘insolence’ of not picking her calls, she sent me a text message introducing herself. When l saw the text and her missed calls, l immediately called her and apologized for missing her calls and only called back when l saw her text message. She was on the other end very calm and surprisingly respectful, addressing me with the prefix ‘Mr’ and ending her statements with ‘sir’. To a minion like me in the political compound of her powerful hubby, it is unbelievably commendable. SOT did not end the call with an order but a plea to me to meet the person she’s interceding for and to consider her request if it is not inimical to the interest of the agency. I thanked her and later met the person before getting back to her. This is a sharp contrast from many wives or spoilt brats of powerful men that erroneously believe that underserved respects must be accorded them even when they’re not known to have successfully handled any known business or occupied any noticeable office, other than using their patriarch’s influence to wreak havoc on the system.

SOT does not belong in this category for she’s using her spousal relationship to further elevate the BAT brand, not to diminish it. SOT has character which has to do with how one treats those who have nothing to offer. Another example was during last year’s election when l was still the head of the outdoor regulatory agency, SOT stood out amongst the candidates of all the political parties that contested in the state. It needs no repeat to state that most politicians exhibit lawlessness when it comes to especially the issue of deployments of outdoor advertising materials. The politicians, irrespective of position, education or class have no respect for the law but SOT, with all sincerity and sense of public duty, does not belong to that lawless class. On countless number of occasions, she either called me personally or through Honorable Alawiye King, the then Director General of her campaign office to ask for the position of the law or how best to go before embarking on any political campaign materials deployment. SOT hates being identified with abuse of power or immoral flexing of muscle. I say with all sense of responsibility that she’s one of the very few candidates that paid outdoor advertising practitioners for outdoor exposures, not waiting for freebies, and the only political figure that made my job as a regulator easy, pre and post electioneering seasons.

My very last official encounter with her was when she sent a letter of request for the placement of some graduate interns in the agency – all expenses paid by her. Despite having sent the agency a formal request, she, in her humble self, followed up with a personal call to me, taking her valuable time to explain, the laudable objective of the initiative to her constituents. Without being immodest to others, even in lesser shoes to that of SOT, they’re known to bark orders at you through an aide rather than ‘descend’ to the level of talking directly with a minion head of an agency. From personal experience, some spoilt brats will usually expect you to accede to their illegal biding because of their false sense of importance, probably working for your removal from office as if that is the end of the world. SOT is not in this misguided class.

From my psychological dissection, as a journalist/lawyer and trained managerial psychologist, l could discern that she was just acting her real, humble, stern and firm self. Again, my encounter with her after leaving LASAA affirmed her humanely humble disposition to be real, despite being highly placed and married to Jagaban. When l left LASAA in December 2019, three months after the expiration of my tenured appointment, l decided to take a deserved rest for three months after serving without going on leave or traveling overseas for that long time. Expectedly for a man like me that carried out my regulatory duties with professional deftness devoid of currying undue favors/popularity from stakeholders/politicians, l had always known that l will be alone once l am out of the agency and so it was. But by March of this year, l resumed at my rented office somewhere in Ikeja from where l run my law firm and general business company. While seated at my new desk one day, my phone rang and the caller was unexpected. SOT was shockingly the person calling me. I was deeply surprised that she could still call me and for goodness sake, what for? When l picked the call, it was truly SOT in her humble but firm self, asking after my wellbeing and what l currently do. I told her that l just resumed in my office that week. I told her about my law firm and general business company and she prayed for me thanking me for my regulatory guidance regarding her outdoor engagements during my tenure as the presiding helmsman of LASAA. I have gone this far to underscore the fact of SOT’s humanity as against the empty haughtiness that is known to be the hallmark of wives and children of powerful men of power, in the corporate and especially the political worlds. Several others that l selflessly assisted, both high and low, close or far friends/relations, have not deemed it necessary to check on me not to talk of finding out whether l am faring well but such is life.

Back to SOT, the matriarch of our political family. She has carved an enduring niche for herself as a noteworthy public figure, not by completely relying on the name of her husband or exploiting her feminine gender as an excuse. She has, through her commitment to public service and humanity in general, become a beacon of hope of how far and better a woman can perform, given the right atmosphere. As a First Lady of Lagos State, she set up the First Era Foundation that came up amongst others with the pioneer Spelling Bees competition and One -Day-Governor for the winner of an academic competition among secondary school students in the state. The two competitions, still retain their importance till date. As a Senator of the Federal Republic, so far, she has deployed her resources, time and energy to truly serve humanity. SOT is always in contact with her constituents through her well organized and attended Town Hall Meeting to render accounts of her stewardship thereby collating cogent feedbacks in the process. SOT is not a benchwarmer in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly as her sponsored bills have serious positive consequences on the polity: Is it her sponsored bill on Social Security for Elderly Citizens; her bill seeking amendment of the Labour Act meant to enhance employment opportunities for women in the country or her sponsored bill to provide Special Economic Assistance to the center of excellence to mitigate the pressure on the state arising from being the former federal capital and the melting point for all ethnic nationalities in the country.

It is on record that she gives yearly scholarship and grants to her constituents running into several millions of naira. Tertiary institutions like Sir Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, The Lagos State University, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education have all benefited from her boisterous influence in the Senate. Some primary and secondary schools in Lagos also got federal attention through SOT’s influence. She is the convener of the annual Musical Youth Fiesta Initiative designed to promote Godly lifestyle amongst our youth. SOT is deservedly a recipient of the national award of the Order of the Niger (OON). SOT’s life is a study in leadership. This is a lesson to other wives/children of powerful figures that, being virtuous, humble, hardworking and being committed to a cause are four of the key ingredients that can turn them to successful brands that SOT has become and not by throwing unnecessary weight of their husbands/parents around to compel undue recognition. The wives, sons and daughters of powerful figures must learn from the model lifestyle and positive approach to public service of SOT as she clocks 60 years on earth. To a pious woman, adoring mother, conscientious wife to Jagaban, a committed public-spirited officer and matriarch of our political family, l say a hearty happy 60th birthday Yeye Asiwaju. Congratulations ma.

Sanusi, immediate past MD/CEO of LASAA, is a lawyer/journalist, and wrote from Lagos