A man of great character and deep convictions, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has evolved, over the years, as a shining phenomenon and a towering figure in the nation’s socio-political landscape.
This is indeed a most critical time in our nation, Nigeria when burning issues of leadership are gaining more recognition given the various problems that we have had to contend with. In the light of the prevailing economic recession, excruciating poverty, mass unemployment, dilapidated infrastructure and poor social service delivery as thrown up by decades of bad leadership and chronic character deficit, Nigerian people are clearly in dire need of true and time-tested leaders with deep intellectual clarity, strong ideological conviction, consuming organizational acumen as well as a knack for national and international solidarity.
At 65, what has continued to endear Asiwaju Tinubu to his teeming political associates, business partners and grassroots admirers is his formidable strength of character, which obviously flows from his clarity of purpose and Spartan determination to bequeath the world around him with enduring legacies of noble exploits. Convictions are deep-held beliefs based on a commitment to one’s purpose. It gives a person a sense of direction as well as a commensurate influence on people and events around him.
The whole essence of having highly influential and inspirational leaders like Asiwaju Tinubu in a Country like ours is to enable them inspire, motivate and empower other people to take action and effect change. In the last three decades that I have had the privilege to relate with him personally as a cotraveller in the murky waters of Nigerian politics, Asiwaju has never stopped to amaze me with his charismatic energy and his profound conviction on the need to positively transform our dear nation before things are allowed to go beyond remedy. And indeed, he has always demonstrated the excellent capacity to translate this lofty dream to reality. Exemplary leaders like Asiwaju Tinubu are rare to come by.
They are often thrown up by national challenges and the global anxieties of their time. Wherever they find themselves and at any epochal event in the course of history, their sterling leadership qualities glow radiantly as their shining traits illuminate the abounding darkness. Needless to say, Tinubu is not of the common breed. He is a resolute fighter, a highly intelligent strategist, extremely diligent grassroots mobilizer and an unrepentant lover of the people.
He is of course the great avatar of our time, the national enigma whose thoughts and actions continue to show the light in our stormy sail to the shores of freedom and progress as a nation and as a people. As a Distinguished Senator in the short-lived Third Republic, Tinubu was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Banking, Appropriation and Currency.
In the twilight of the unlawful annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, where the Nigeri-an people gave their mandate, in a free and fair atmosphere, to Chief M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the election, Asiwaju Tinubu emerged in the Senate as the most articulate voice against the military junta and a rallying point for pro-democracy activists within and outside of Nigeria..
In the protracted struggle for the enthronement of democracy and demilitarization of the nation’s political space, Tinubu, a founding member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), played a most profound role as a financier and strategic bridge among notable local and international pro-democracy formations as the demand for greater networking and campaigns emerged.
As a consistent and unrepentant apostle of the June 12 movement, Tinubu, the great political fighter, was exposed to various forms of molestation, arrests, harassment, threats to life and brutalization in the hands of the ruthless machinery of the General Sanni Abacha regime, before he finally resolved to go into exile and lend a more articulate voice to the struggle in the foreign domain.
As governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Alliance of Democracy (AD), Tinubu made large investments in education, health care delivery, housing schemes, massive road construction, integrated rural development, agricultural production, construction of novel digital centres, the beautification of open spaces and loops across the state, the development of the State work force for greater productivity as well as the promotion of progressive taxation, which steadily augmented the state’s internally generated revenue from its initial N600 million in 1999 to N10 billion in 2007 when he left office as the Chief Executive Officer of the State.
Today, it is worthy of note that the years of Tinubu’s selfless sacrifice and foresightedness as Governor of Lagos State laid the optimum foundation for the enviable pedigree for which Lagos is now known as Africa’ model megacity, a great hub of commercial activities, a preferred investors’ destination, a haven of tourist ecstasies, a melting pot for regional and international diplomacy and, of late, an emerging corridor for commercial oil and solid mineral exploration and production.
During his administration in Lagos State, Tinubu did not only reposition the organized private sector as the dynamo of the commanding heights of the Lagos economy, he created an enabling regulatory environment for huge local and foreign investment, with a view to ensuring that Lagosians were not at the mercy of the market forces as the private sector thrived to the delight of all.
Tinubu computerized the land administration regime, introduced a centralised pay roll system for Civil servants in Lagos State, Tinubu revolutionised the justice sector through the computerisation of Court recording system as well as the establishment of the Office of Public Defender (OPD) and the novel Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC).
These policy innovations, among others, soon became benchmarks in the nation’s public sector, to the extent that even the Federal Government and other States in the federation had to understudy and follow the Lagos examples in order to conform to global best practices in public administration.
The most outstanding in the array of his heroic exploits so far is the prominent roles he played in galvanizing the opposition forces in the country together, which eventually culminated in the formation of the All Progressives Congress, preparatory to the 2015 Presidential election. For the first time in the nation’s chequered political history, an opposition party (APC) deposed the ruling party (PDP) at the centre in a democratic election and to the chagrin and admiration of the world.
With due recognition of the noble efforts of other prominent figures who contributed to APC’s electoral victory in the 2015 presidential election, this feat would not have been attained if not for the undying conviction, selflessness, clear vision, political sagacity as well as the resolute leadership of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
At a time when many political gladiators were not too certain that the ‘almighty’ PDP could be dislodged at the centre given the latter’s several years of romance with federal powers and control assess to Government apparatus which it had consistently used to manipulate the electoral process over the years in defiance of the popular wish of Nigerians, Asiwaju, more than anyone, was damn sure that the employment of the right strategies in an atmosphere of unity and clarity of purpose would ultimately lead to a resounding victory.
Today, this has turned out to be a reality and the rest of course is history.Yuri Smartin (1987) argued that the success of a political leader “is determined by the accuracy with which he sizes up any situation either within his country or beyond its borders, by his ability to work out the right strategy and tactics for struggle and by his links with the masses.”
The Nigerian experience over the years have shown that only visionary leaders with great intellectual viguor, profound strategy, strong influence and consuming organizational skills like Asiwaju Tinubu can rescue the Country from the crisis of economic dislocation and political miasma that it is engulfed in.
Nevertheless, they need not occupy a political office, they don’t have to be great Orators; they don’t even have to be the most brilliant scholars or the wealthiest businessmen in their community, but their superior moral influence, social persuasiveness, strength of character and undiluted commitment to the common cause of humanity would stand them out in all fronts, no matter the challenges they have had to contend with.
The Tinubu’s example had brought home the self-evident truth that leadership is all about strong, noble and honourable character and conviction. If you don’t have solid convictions, you don’t deserve to have followers.
If you keep vacillating in order to please people, if you keep sacrificing your belief system in order to be accepted, you are not a leader-you are a compromiser. In the Tinubu’s school of politics, leadership is far different from manipulating people. It is about inspiring them.
Leadership is not about controlling others, it is about serving them. To Asiwaju Tinubu, leadership is not about gaining power over people, it is about empowering them. Of course, it was this positive outlook and stoic philosophical principle that informed his political ideology, affiliation and actions over the years. To this extent, every conscious effort to severe his influence on the people by his detractors had consistently proved abortive.
All of us may not agree with his uncompromising nature and indomitable spirit, his commitment to true federalism, good governance and democratic reconstruction. However, we cannot afford to ignore his moral superiority over the forces of retrogression as well as his profound influence on the forces of progress in Nigeria and the world at large.
On this occasion of his 65th Birthday Anniversary, I and my political associates delightfully join the rest of the world to celebrate Asiwaju; our mentor, our benefactor, our teacher, our leader and, above all, our father of many years, to wish him More Rewarding, Victorious, Fruitful and Prosperous years on earth. Igba Odun, Odun Kan ni o.
•Hon. Bamidele, Member of the 7th House of Representatives, served in the Lagos State Government between 2000 and 2011 as Special Adviser to the Governor; Hon. Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development; and Hon. Commissioner for Information and Strategy.