Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu @ 69: Let’s Be Blunt, Open, Direct For Once - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Friday, April 2, 2021

Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu @ 69: Let’s Be Blunt, Open, Direct For Once

By Zik Zulu Okafor

So, on Saturday, March 28 , 2021, the social media regaled its readers with one ecstatic news. Even some conventional media embellished it. This one second of a seeming thriller or perhaps a chiller, echoed and reverberated in conversations across the country.

That news , if it must be called news, was a little misstep by APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in Arewa House, Kaduna. Just that was it. And the media went to work, “Tinubu Collapses , Asiwaju saved as he collapsed, Tinubu falls in Arewa lecture, Tinubu saved from collapsing “, different hues and embarrassing captions for a second of stumble.

But this wouldn’t surprise any mind with wily wisdom at this time in our nation. And make no mistake about it , every little negative news about this political titan from now will be given a monstrous interpretation, his voice would be misrepresented and made to rankle while his silence will be given a tinge of cold complicity for anything that is contrary to national interest or tersely put , anything that is against the interest of the present government.

So, I ask, why? Why should an undoubted political tactician be perpetually pitched against a party or government that he was prophetic about its birth, played the enviable protagonist in the political drama that climaxed in its electoral victory and remained steadfast and optimistic about their political prognosis.

But the reason is both simple and palpable even though it confounds reasonableness. And we must be blunt here. It is all about 2023. It is about a perceived Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s presidential ambition even as he hasn’t muted a word as a credence to these accoustics of his touted aspiration.

Three comments on different WhatsApp platforms that sprang from the insidious reports of his stumble unmasked some of the nihilist persons whose views are irreversibly jaundiced. I had told the first commentator he should have watched the video before his screaming post of ” Asiwaju saved from collapsing “.

Having watched it, he returned to scribble what I guessed would be an apology or a hazy recant if only the honourable way to tackle his shame. But I was dead wrong. What I saw staggered me. Hear him, ”All I know is we wouldn’t allow those who have taken everything from our country and added nothing to be president in 2023 ” . Really ? What could have prompted this ? I need not say I was perplexed by this warped assertiveness.

And so I raised the question, what really is this thing that Tinubu has taken from Nigeria ? Still I asked , so this political strategist, a profile in steely courage, this Asiwaju that epitomises longevity in politics Nigeriana, has given nothing to Nigeria ? Really?

For me, it is of optimal importance at this time to begin to interrogate these sloppy tantrums because those doom and gloom merchants who strive daily to disparage, denigrate and denounce a man’s manifest achievements will continue to construct and reconstruct their own truth if unchallenged. Because Asiwaju Tinubu’s story happened before our very eyes, we must not allow them to defraud history. I am not a fan or follower of Tinubu. I had never written a line about him in all my journalism career until this essay. But a worthy journalist must work with a silent code of courage and commitment to truth. And that is the inspiration to this piece.

If you say therefore that Tinubu gave nothing to Nigeria , as mindless as this sounds, let’s go on a little renaissance of our recent history .

The Sani Abacha years and its corrosive assault on our democracy is still very fresh in our memory bank.

The National Democratic Coalition, NADECO , formed at the time to mobilise support for the restoration of MKO Abiola’s June 12 mandate became the fetching symbol of our fierce struggle for freedom, to extricate Nigerians from the fatal grip of General Sani Abacha, the despotic head of state.

Most of the leading figures of NADECO at that time were forced into exile ; most of them to Britain from where they mobilised the international community to mount choking pressure on Abacha.

The military head of state eventually died suddenly in circumstances that not a few alluded to some external influences propelled by NADECO campaign.

It is however important here to state that nearly all the NADECO members in exile and many prominent pro-democracy activists in Nigeria were in agreement that the NADECO struggle would have been extremely difficult, if not near impossible, to sustain without the role of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a founding member of the coalition.

Not only did he accommodate some of them in his London residence, he practically expended his entire resources to assure the sustenance and triumph of the cause. In other words , Tinubu staked everything he had in the cause of freedom for his country.

He was not a prophet to say he so invested his personal resources because he knew he would eventually become a governor and later metamorphose into one of the leading lights in Nigeria’s political bloc and indeed government.

His investment in the struggle for democracy, without doubt, was sacrificial.

Indeed, history holds the struggle for freedom as one of the highest forms of sacrifice because it guarantees no dividends for the men of iron-cast will that embark on this often hazardous adventure. Tinubu did not only invest his time, incisive mind and strategic thinking, he staked his capital towards the wellness of Nigeria. He is therefore unequivocally one of the spearheads of the Fourth Republic, a clear titanic figure in the gruesome battle to retrieve our democracy and freedom from a deepening gulf.

How then could anyone speak with such irritating impertinence that Tinubu has contributed nothing to Nigeria but has only taken from the country.

While many supported my robust but concise enunciation of Tinubu’s undoubted role in our nation’s political journey on the platform, another commentor dragged in the name of our most revered Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande and the legendary Chief Obafemi Awolowo stating they were the only South-West leaders he recognised. Well it is both his opinion and right.

But I also chose to react and to be open , direct and forthright once more, unshaking in my conviction that truth will always survive the judders of history.

Yes, there is no question that Alhaji Jakande was an incisive thinker and a phenomenal visionary . His innovative spirit and distinction in education, road construction, housing and so on will remain indelible.

He was the first civilian governor of Lagos state and remained the father of all other governors after him. Undoubtedly, he has a special place in the pantheon of men that wrote momentous chapters in the story of Lagos.

As for the sage, Awolowo, his name is synonymous with Western Region, (South-West) and his achievements remain seminal. In the areas of education, agriculture, economy, media and beauraucratic responsiveness, this leader of Action Group, AG and later United Party of Nigeria, UPN, Awo, as he was fondly called, was a pathfinder that accentuated the whole meaning of insightfulness and crystal vision in leadership. I cannot begin to itemise his achievements ; suffice to say his era as Premier of Western Region was a period of racy changes and extraordinary developments and continues to have a songful resonance in today’s South-West states, Edo and Delta state.

However, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu remains different from these political giants. We can speak about Jakande and Lagos . We can enunciate Awo’s political attainments essentially in the South-West, Edo and Delta and that is not to blur his quantum contributions to our struggle for nationhood and eventual attainment of independence.

Tinubu however has without question transcended the South-west to take a hallowed place on the centre stage of Nigeria’s political theatre as a star actor even without a political portfolio. Standing tall as the inspiration and foremost player in the February 2013 historic merger of Nigeria’s three biggest opposition parties, Tinubu changed the story of Nigerian politics almost forever.

The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP plus a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, spurred by the Asiwaju, came together in a stormy wind of change, a political earthquake that shook the soul of Nigeria and swept the ruling party out of Aso Rock, the seat of power and indeed, out of government.

It was unprecedented and this timeless feat has the bold signature of Tinubu. This singular master stroke effectively garbed the Asiwaju in the haute couture of a rare national icon , well beyond the South-West. I may not sound politically correct and I beg for forgiveness but I doubt if any politician from the South-West has so moved a squad of political Nigeria for a revolutionary change like Tinubu did in 2015. We need to be blunt sometimes, even if failing in political correctness.

But in a nation where the culture of research and reading is in a peaking decadence, a political star like Tinubu is seen by many as a money bag ; in loose Nigerian lingo, a money-miss-road, just using corrupt money to joggle and manipulate power.

They peddle these pedestrian stories because they don’t even have a clue where the APC National Leader is coming from. Here was a man who after graduating in Accounting from Chicago State University, worked with some of America’s finest corporates that include Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins and Sells and GTE Services Corporation before returning to Nigeria to work with Mobil Oil where he attained an Executive status.
Tinubu had therefore attained stardom even in his career in the organised private sector before his adventure into politics.

It was therefore not surprising that when he joined the Social Democratic Party, SPD in 1992, he came as a member of the respected technocracy in Shehu Musa Yar’dua’s People’s Front.
This grand elite of technical experts, beauraucrats and young business magnates in People’s Front include former President, late Umaru Musa Yar’dua, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Babagana Kingibe, Dapo Sarunmi, Yomi Edu and Rabiu Kwankwaso among others.

These were the youthful, shinning stars of Nigerian politics . And the Asiwaju was in the inner recesses of the core team that escalated the vision, mission and mind of Shehu Musa Yar’dua. But , some cynical voices today speak about him with morbid relish, yet they cannot doubt his genius.

Elected as a Senator representing Lagos West Constituency in the short lived Third Republic, Tinubu left no doubt that he was years and years ahead of many of his colleagues. While many of them had never seen or even touched a computer, the dude from Eko was already proficient on it. His colleagues often surrounded and watched him like a film as he exercised his dexterity on the computer. His grasp of complex financial issues, global political economy and intricate legislative processes made him a man in the eye of time.

The return of democracy in 1999 gave Tinubu the rare opportunity to showcase his vision, exposure, character and courage of conviction as he was elected governor of Lagos state. And that he did. He was different.

While his fellow governors in the usual brick and mortar politics ran to the media counting achievements in terms of the number of roads and housing they commissioned, in terms of the number of tricycles and motorcycles given out and launching of even wheel barrows for youths, Tinubu was silently laying a solid foundation for sustainable development based on a digitised economy, showing clearly he was a leader for tomorrow, an emerging world founded on tech economy.

Yes, he also embarked on massive construction of solid roads , dramatically changed the abysmal state of education in Lagos by returning schools to their original owners and reinvented the transport system, it was however in his transformation of Lagos into digital technocracies that he stood out.
The changes were swift in a state with daunting challenges of investment and maintenance needs. Faced with the task of how to improve the management of public resources, the innovative governor introduced and effectively implemented Electronic Banking System-Revenue and modernization of the Land Registry and Record System, a key element for both proper land management and revenue enhancement. Then he followed with computerised financial management information system, staff surveys and pay parables.

More than any governor, his tax policy and tax laws and general revenue administration reforms drastically changed the internally generated revenue, IGR, of his state because even his thoughts and processes were computerised.

Tinubu, more than many of his colleagues, knew too well that a leader must have a mindset, be able to savvy what to do and be decisive about doing it. The IGR of Lagos state in 1998 for instance, was N5.9million.

This, for him, was acutely low. He understood in lucid terms that if Lagos state must meet its social infrastructure deficit, then it must grow its IGR in possible geometric progression. And pronto he fired Olusola Adekunola and Co , Chartered Accountants , hired by the last military government for revenue collection. Still in his digital mode, the governor brought on board Citibank for Direct Bank Lodgement System Monitoring and Reporting. Citibank was to report revenue generation process of the state, collate, reconcile and prepare reports.

Within just one year, he fired Citibank for not meeting his target. He had no space for sloppiness.

And so Lagos state hired Alpha-Beta Consulting Limited in November 2000 as sole agent to control and monitor the collection of state revenue through designated banks under a new computerised infrastructure known as Electronic Banking System-Revenue Collection and Monitoring. Alpha-Beta changed the IGR story of Lagos. The IGR grew by 25 % in the first year and rose up to 50% in four years. Tinubu had set Lagos on the path that would set it apart economically from any other state in Nigeria and indeed West Africa. Almost 14 years after his tenure, Lagos state continues to build on the robust foundation he laid, his impeccable political strategy and indeed his economic road map.

So, without question, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has nothing else to prove. We should able to tell ourselves some hard truth. And it is that if there are two people in this country today that can mobilise the needed human capital and strategically lead Nigeria to transition into an inspired, forward-looking and economically viable nation, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is certainly, unequivocally, one of them.

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