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Celebrating Tinubu the political titan at 67

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Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. / AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS

If there was any doubt as to his earnestness and political astuteness, he put such doubts to rest in the 1990s when, in a most admirable fashion, his entry into the Lagos political landscape beautified it with a dazzling and colourful fresh paint of politicking.

If any doubted that he means what he says and whether he has the courage of his own convictions, he banished such doubts when, between 1993 and 1999, he led the valiant struggle to dislodge the entrenched Nigerian military from Nigeria’s political space.

If any sneered at the possibility of him going beyond high-sounding political rhetoric to blazing the trail in effective governance, he disappointed such cynics when, as the Governor of Lagos State, he turned around the state’s fortunes, laid the foundations and drew the map that placed Lagos State on the path of excellence, which effort earned him the enduring moniker of ‘the Pathfinder.’

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If any branded him as a man who simply wants a fiefdom in Lagos State or in western Nigeria, such a one ate the humble pie when, in a political masterstroke hitherto unseen in Nigeria, he reached out across gulfs and built bridges over schisms in 2014/2015 to build the most robust, most effective, and most enduring political alliance that dislodged the sixteen-year rule of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), thereby scoring a political and historical first on many fronts.

And if any doubted his staying power, his resilience, and his full mastery of the ethos and nuances of the political space in Nigeria, he forever dispelled such unbelief with his masterful leadership of the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and hundreds of All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates in the 2019 general elections.

Born on March 29, 1952 and thus celebrating his 67th birthday, here’s an ode to a political titan and historical colossus and my tributes to a primus inter pares.Indeed, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu played key roles in Nigerian politics long before he became Governor of Lagos State. He was elected to the Senate from the Lagos West constituency with the highest votes in the country in the short-lived Third Republic. In the Senate he was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance and Appropriations. In that capacity, he initiated a far-reaching probe of the finances of the National Assembly that set him at loggerheads with the legislative bureaucracy and the military regime at the helm of affairs at the time.

Asiwaju was also at the forefront of Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s campaign for presidency in 1993. When the June 12, 1993 election, described as the freest and fairest in the country’s history was annulled, he emerged as one of the fiercest opponents of the annulment. As the arrowhead of the struggle to actualize Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s mandate, the military junta reached out to him severally to jump ship and come over to their side. He was offered juicy appointments and contracts to no avail. He refused to betray his principled commitment to the sanctity of a free and fair election. Exasperated by Tinubu’s intransigence, the military viciously went after him. He was detained. His house was fire bombed. He eventually had to flee the country for his dear life. His wife, now Senator Oluremi Tinubu and her children had to be smuggled out into exile. Tinubu, while in exile remained steadfast in his commitment to the pro-democracy struggle, making great personal and financial sacrifices towards this effort. A pseudo democrat would rather enjoy the transient benefits of economic and political power rather than risk his life fighting for truth and justice but not Tinubu who remained steadfast.

He left Nigeria for the United States of America in 1975 in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece. On his arrival in the U.S. in 1975 and with the support of an ever-adoring mother and with an unflinching zeal to succeed, took on such menial jobs to see himself through school at the Richard Daley College, Chicago, Illinois.He subsequently transferred to the Chicago State University, Illinois, graduating with honours in 1979 and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (Accounting and Management). He was also awarded the prestigious Sumna cum laude for scoring 3.54 out of possible 4.0 GP.

Upon graduation, Bola Tinubu cut his professional teeth at the American-based Arthur Anderson, Deloitte Haskins and Sells (now called Deloitte Haskins and Touche) and GTE Service Corporation.On his return to Nigeria, he joined Mobil Producing Nigeria as a Senior Auditor before he retired as the company’s treasurer.

As a pragmatic, charitable, grassroots’ person, Bola Tinubu saw communal service as a veritable tool for social development. He never hesitated to serve his community, spearheading several financial contributions and fund-raising for community development programmes in Lagos State. He opted fully for public service in exchange for his lucrative job at Mobil. His first foray into active politics was as a founding member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), on which platform he was elected senator in 1992 representing Lagos West Senatorial District.

With the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Nigerian presidential election and the consequent renewed militarization of the Nigerian politics, Tinubu became a founding member of the famous pro-democracy group, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which for several years, engaged the military.

In 1998, Tinubu joined in the National Reconciliation and Development. A year later, he began his two-term public service as Governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has always been a man with a clear vision, and he brought this attribute to bear on his work as Governor of Lagos State.

Since setting Lagos on the irreversible course of development, he has remained engaged in the Nigerian project, identifying talents and building men. He has done well to heed the path admonished by British Nobel laureate, Rudyard Kipling, in the poem, ‘IF” written circa 1895.He is the quintessential visionary dreamer. Yet, dreams are not his master. He thinks but does not make thoughts his aim. He has met, and meets, with triumph and disasters. But he wisely treats those two impostors just the same. His words have been twisted by knavish foes and treacherous friends to make a trap for fools. Watching the things that he gave his life to broken, mangled and trampled, he stoops and builds them up with worn-out tools.

A devoted student of the British Nobel laureate school of stoicism, he readily and regularly makes a heap of all his winnings, risking it on one turn of pitch-and-toss. When he loses, he starts again at the beginning, never breathing a word about his loss. He has trained his heart and nerve and sinew to serve him long after other mortals have lost heart and nerve and mind. He holds on even when there is nothing left “except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”

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Talking with crowds, he keeps his virtue. Walking with kings, he does not lose the common touch. Neither foes nor loving friends can reach his inner sanctum of peace. All men count with him, yet none too much. He fills the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. He is in the mold of Greek goddess, Athena. Personifying wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strategic warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. He is also in the mold of mythological Prometheus: He would go to ends of the world in the service of humanity. He is in the mold of Demeter, the Greek goddess of determination: All who know him know that he will never, never give up on a worthy cause.

He is the man who, in the esteem of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, has “acquired the art of being alive.” For, Ella Wheeler Wilcox rightly noted that, “no difficulty can discourage, no obstacle dismay, no trouble disheartens the man who has acquired the art of being alive. Difficulties are but dares of fate, obstacles but hurdles to try his skill, troubles but bitter tonics to give him strength; and he rises higher and looms greater after each encounter with adversity.”

He is the “Man in the Arena” in Theodore Roosevelt’s speech titled “Citizenship in a Republic” wherein he famously said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
•Oke is former Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions.

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Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
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