Despite Covid-19, Tinubu’s birthday loading
Eight years ago, when his friends and associates came together to reflect on the sterling qualities that define Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s leadership style, little did they know that they were merely scooping a cup full from a deep reserve. Ever since the legendary Jagaban Borgu has continued to manifest new vistas and display prodigious exploits on the national political landscape.
Most observers have looked back on Tinubu’s trajectory and came out with the verdict that the man’s ingenuity, like good wine, continues to get better with each passing day. Come Sunday, March 29, 2020, Asiwaju, who has been a senator and governor, would turn 68, two years short of the unique threescore and ten grand age beacon.
But despite not being a landmark, expectations and preparations for Tinubu’s 68th birthday anniversary, which falls within a period of international panic and social distress, are defying the pervading anxieties of the noxious virus. Although the annual colloquium that usually heralds the yearly event has been deferred in keeping with the dictates of social distancing enunciated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of the containment measures, friends, allies and relations are getting set to celebrate their hero in a unique way.
This year’s Tinubu colloquium would be celebrated in a virtual form, thereby throwing up the rich variety of styles and strategies that define the man’s leadership resume. Did Tinubu’s greatness manifest after his stint as Lagos State governor or was the innate leadership potential nurtured during his days as an accountant in the multinational oil firm, Mobil?
However the Tinubu persona is contemplated, you are most likely to see a man, whose democracy of ideas propels towards the excellent and futuristic. Is Tinubu a strategic thinker? A lot of commentators insist that birthing the Lagos Mega City development masterplan stands out as the best representation of Asiwaju’s strategic foresight.
But that is as far as infrastructure and physical development could go. Because, from his days in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), and fight for true federal structure in the country, Tinubu has shown his keen insight in politics and statecraft.
Like Joseph Addison, Tinubu tends to believe that “a day, an hour of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity in bondage.” That philosophical frame has been the driving force of his liberation politics and progressive socialism.
Prior to that prolonged struggle for the revalidation of Chief Moshood Abiola’s mandate from June 12, 1993, presidential election, Tinubu was in the engine room of the political machinery known as PRIMROSE (People Resolved Irrevocably to Maximise the Resources of the State for Excellence) group, which became the epicenter of progressive politics in Lagos State, nay Southwest, Nigeria, in the last three decades.
One thing that has helped to sustain the prosperity of Tinubu’s ideas is his eye for excellence with which he recruits future leaders. Leadership grooming has been found as the forte of great leaders and statesmen.
If Tinubu is an enigma, what many fail to recognise is how he has over the years blended a crop of new leaders that have turned out to become change-agents and drivers in both Lagos State, Nigeria and the world at large. He has allowed his charisma to infect many young people, thereby enhancing the fructification of his ideas in politics and the professions.
His astuteness in political engineering came to the fore during the Ibrahim Babangida transition to civil rule when in a strategic move to pave the way for the eventual emergence of Abiola as the presidential standard-bearer of Social Democratic Party (SDP), he brought to bear his oratorical and persuasive powers as he mobilized national support for the emergence of Prof. Iyorchia Ayu as the President of Senate.
Though the third republic floundered and collapsed under General Sani Abacha’s insurrection, Tinubu had grown in political stature and intellectual vigour, such that seven years later when Nigeria regained the path of constitutional democracy, he was to veer into the executive arm of government.
Contesting and winning the 1999 gubernatorial election in Lagos State marked the new beginning for Tinubu on a journey that would eventually lead him to national reckoning and acclaim in leadership terms. While on the saddle as the state chief executive, Tinubu grappled with the challenges of setting up a sustainable developmental paradigm for the state as well as deflecting the antics of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by a former head of state that brooks no opposition.
There were two major defining features of that interregnum. One was Tinubu’s emergence as the only surviving governor from the platform of Alliance of Democracy (AD), which produced the entire governors of the Southwest geopolitical zone. The other was the expertise he displayed in raising the state’s internally generated revenue to withstand the induced fiscal straightjacket imposed on the state government as punishment for creating an additional 37 Local Government Council Development Centres.
Strengthened by that epic political battle, Asiwaju earned his stripes as the Jagaban Borgu and went ahead to do exploits, winning one strategic engagement after another. Through his foresight, three states in the Southwest were recovered into the progressive fold, including Ekiti, Ondo and Osun.
It was with the benefit of his enlarged progressive territory that Tinubu began to weave the political network that catapulted him to the centre-stage of national politics. Reading the political handwriting on the nation’s polity, four years after he left office as governor, Tinubu must have sensed that the time was not quite right for an all-out power tussle for the centre. He demurred in the 2011 presidential election, only to come back with full force in 2015 to demolish the conservative political forces at the centre, wreaking the first defeat of an incumbent in a national election in the history of a third world country.
The scars of that battle were defined and accentuated by the huge sacrifice the Jagaban made in the ensuing four years when he was left at the periphery of the government he helped to provide an essential strategic roadmap for mandate delivery. It was a measure of his large-heartedness and goodwill towards all that Tinubu went ahead, against all odds, to throw his huge weight behind the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for a repeat performance in an electoral victory at the presidential level in 2019.
That Tinubu has continued to play the loyal friend and political ally to some of those who had at various times trounced his sterling contributions to their political ascendancy shows the essential quality that defines his magnetic leadership style.
Like the rays of the sun, the warmth of Asiwaju Tinubu’s ideas permeates even trade and professional unions. Whether it is the elitist Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), the rambunctious Academic staff Union of Universities (ASUU) or the taciturn Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), even the indefatigable National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) or the fire-spitting National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Tinubu’s contributions to social networking could be seen.
So having become an expert in social engineering and architect of a better society, it has become impossible to have an Asiwaju anniversary pass without consequence. As he reigns in the hearts of his supporters and allies, March 29 of every year has become a period of massive celebration of the Tinubu effervescence, the success story of a man among men.
No less a leader than the President-General, Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, captured the vital ingredients that have combined to make Tinubu an indispensable leader.
On the occasion of Tinubu’s 60th anniversary, the Sultan stated: “I have found in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu an affable, humane and sincere personality, who is forthright in his views and deeply committed to the lofty ideals that he believes in. He accords respect to each and everyone, amity and partnership across the variegated landscape of our collective existence.”
Against the background of that candid summation of Tinubu as a man of the people, it could, therefore, be understood why despite the cold devastation of Coronavirus (COVID-19), all who have come across Tinubu would not allow March 29 pass without singing the praise of their leader at different corners as they thank God for the life of Asiwaju of our time.