Bola Ahmed Tinubu at 65
His real name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His name is often prefixed with Asiwaju and suffixed with Jagaban. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu holds the traditional titles of the Asiwaju of Lagos and the Jagaban of the Borgu Kingdom in Niger State. The name Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Jagaban evokes wealth, power and majesty, even though he is not a traditional ruler. Jagaban, in particular, evokes a kind of uncommon smartness, astuteness, wisdom and intelligence.
Since his calling in modern Nigeria is mainly in politics, Jagaban, whenever it is called, evokes a rare breed in political engineering. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Jagaban is a political engineer. His political engineering prowess is matchless in the history of Nigeria’s political experience. His distinctiveness is in his ability to achieve any set political objective no matter the obstacles or hurdles. He succeeds where others fail.
Whereas, the founding fathers of Nigeria did exceptionally well in establishing Nigeria as an independent entity, they failed to curb the inherent ethnic and religious sentiments that defined the country. Nigeria of that era was more of disparate tribes that find it difficult to forge a common objective despite the One Nigeria mantra.
It is this state of unholy affairs that the political wizardry of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Jagaban, exploited to engineer political machinery that seeks to annihilate the tribal leanings. The magic of the All Progressives Congress (APC) victory in the 2015 general elections underscored, to a large extent, the Jagaban’s vision. The force that engineered the political movement that gave victory to the APC, a creation of Tinubu, has no comparison in Nigeria.
The June 12, 1993 election was the only similarity that could be compared to 2015 but the two were different. The 1993 election was organised under a quasi military dispensation, while the 2015 election was organised under a democratic setting with a formidable political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in firm grip of power.
While Nigerians were fed up with the military in 1993, with a number of pro-democracy groups in dogged fight against the military, the bread and butter that flowed under the PDP government made most Nigerians not to be in a hurry to discard the party. Cutting the iron bars was a formidable task that the Jagaban accomplished to the amazement of even his opponents.
Born on March 29, 1952 in Lagos to a comparatively prosperous family, his mother Abibatu Mogaji was a business magnet and President General, Association of Nigerian Market Women and Men. Young Bola attended St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya in Lagos and the Children’s Home School in Ibadan. At age 23, precisely in 1975, when Bola, now a young man was bubbling with energy and enthusiasm, he travelled to the United States where he studied at Richard J. Daley College in Chicago and Chicago State University. He graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
Thereafter, Bola Ahmed Tinubu worked with a number of multinational companies including Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins & Sells and GTE Services Corporation. When he returned to Nigeria in 1983, he joined Mobil Oil Nigeria and rose to become an executive in the company.
Having cut his teeth in astute management of financial resources, he ventured into politics in 1992 and joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. He was elected into the Nigerian Senate, representing Lagos West Constituency. Unfortunately, that Third Republic was aborted after Ibrahim Babangida annulled the results of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections that were won by M.K.O. Abiola.
Rather than fizzle out as a result of the unfortunate turn of events, Tinubu, from that moment, began to morph into what today has become a political powerhouse. He joined other forces to found the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) whose aim was to restore democracy by upholding and recognising the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
By joining the campaign against the military under the military dictator Gen. Sani Abacha, Tinubu, among others, put his life on line. In line with Bob Marley’s dictum that he who fights and runs away will live to fight again, Tinubu, in 1994, went into self exile only to return in 1998 after the death of Abacha, which paved the way for civilian rule.
Coasting under the protégé of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) led by prominent Yoruba leaders like Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Banjo, Tinubu won the AD gubernatorial primaries for Lagos State against Funsho Williams and Wahab Dosunmu and was elected the Executive Governor of Lagos State in the hotly contested election of April 29, 1999.
On mounting the leadership of Lagos State as Governor, Tinubu came with a rare transformational spirit that has never been seen in Lagos since it was created in 1967 in the wake of the Nigerian civil war. Colonial Lagos served as capital of Nigeria from 1861 before the British declared it the capital of Nigeria in 1914 at amalgamation, a status it occupied until 1991 when the capital was moved to Abuja, FCT, but there was nothing to write home about Lagos. The city remained one of the worst in the world.
Prior to Tinubu’s assumption of office on May 29, 1999, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), published a survey it carried out in 127 cities around the world to assess livability, in which Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub and Centre of Excellence, was rated the fifth worst city to live in the world.
The damming ranking was not surprising as the decay in the city was glaring. The level of disorder in Lagos was appalling. The city’s dysfunctionality manifested in stress, restiveness, aggression and all sorts of abnormal behaviour. Mountains of refuse were common features in strategic places. Corpses and disused tyres and garbage littered the streets. Everywhere was a market. Simply put, Lagos could serve as excellent study in disorder and anarchy.
That was the raw situation when Tinubu took the mantle of leadership to change Lagos. After assembling a team of dedicated men and women in his cabinet, he set out to draw a new plan for Lagos, now classified as a mega-city.
Tinubu’s innovation and doggedness, continued under his able successors, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode has paid off. Whatever Lagos is today is a result of Tinubu’s foresight.
A family man with only one wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the titan, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is, undoubtedly, the architect of modern Lagos. I pray for more grace in his fruitful life.