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The Tinubu Phenomenon in Nigeria’s Political Firmament

By Sam Kargbo

I was already a veteran resident of Lagos in 1999 when Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu became the Governor of Lagos State. One thing I did not fail to notice was the team he set up to push forward his vision for the state. I had an opportunity to meet him in 2005 in the company of Distinguished Senator Muhammad Adamu Aliero. He was magnetic and enthusiastic in rolling out his vision for Lagos State. He listed the obstacles and challenges before him, but he expressed absolute determination to succeed and push through them. One of the statements he made that has stuck with me up to this moment was his vow to turn Lagos into a rich state. According to him, Lagos and Nigeria had no cause to be poor. To him, a city like Lagos with such a vibrant youth population cannot be poor. He was defiant and evidently not distracted by the policies of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo against Lagos State. I left with an impression of a man who was fanatical about the development of Lagos State. I saw in him a personality that was out to impact Lagos with a compelling vision.

In January 2006, I wrote about “that average-sized man with the heart of a lion and the deeds of Samson called Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is playing the yeoman’s job of selling modernity to good old Lagos and setting it firmly on the path of global glory and esteem.” I concluded my article with the following prediction:
From what Tinubu is doing with Lagos it is certain that he is a good manager, user, protector and projector of power. He exemplifies the generation of politicians that realize that Nigeria has a lot of catching up to do. He is himself a political dividend impacting the polity with a dynamic and revolutionary vision. Tinubu (I am told) believes in and works with knowledgeable experts who are themselves anxious to secure a space in tomorrow’s politics. I am also told that he empowers these young women and men adequately and that it is the combined output of his team that is making the wonders in Lagos. If the Tinubu metaphor survives 2007 and stays around with us for a handful of years, Lagos and indeed hardworking Lagosians would board the global train of sustained development and growth. It is because of this that I wish Tinubu and his team of technocrats a prosperous and revitalized 2006.

Expectedly, I got many knocks for that audacious “Season’s Toast for Bola Tinubu”. However, the prize I got from it was that immediately thereafter, Bola Tinubu was christened the Lion of Bourdillon. When I returned to that toast in 2016, with “Another Toast”, I took the liberty to state as follows:
Publishing that eulogy at that time took more than courage and bravery. The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which had overrun the other states in the Southwest and diminished the hope of ascendancy of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the region, was breathing over Lagos. To many, it was only a matter of time for Lagos to fall and surrender to the federal might. To worsen matters for Tinubu, he was executing policies that jolted the elite and the middle class in the state. He was embarking on an aggressive internal revenue generation drive involving multiple forms of taxation. Many of my friends believed that that article was too brazen and against the grain and groundswell of emotions and opinions at the time and would hurt me one way or the other.

However, I foresaw in Tinubu a functional hero with a better tomorrow. To me, anybody that lived or had visited Lagos before Tinubu’s tenure would realize the progressive modernization of Lagos as a result of hard and well-reasoned work. It (was) an indication that all is not lost and that very soon the privileged young men adorning the political cloaks of the nation would realize that the destiny of the most populous black nation in the world is in their hands and, therefore, must brace up to face history with pride and dignity.

You cannot, therefore, imagine how proud and gratified I am today. Ten years after that toast, Tinubu stands out as one of the greatest politicians and leaders of his generation. Many have gone to the extent of declaring him the greatest living politician in Nigeria. I am tempted to agree with them.

Tinubu is phenomenal. Through deliberate and well thought out policies and sustained hard work, he was able to put Lagos State on the path of sustainable development and growth. His choice of lieutenants and aides defines him as developmental-minded and merit-driven. He works with men and women of quality capable of adding value to his political profile. Unlike his contemporaries who worked with servants and surrounded themselves with praise singers, Tinubu has always been a leader of winning teams. Because of his ability to turn around the lives of young men and women, he can be likened to a lion who leads 1000 sheep to defeat 1000 lions led by a sheep.

For emphasis, the direct beneficiaries of Tinubu’s benevolence include the following men and women (on the list of politicians and technocrats published by Jumi Rhodes in ₦airaland Forum on 24th November 2015): Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (Nigeria’s Vice-President, was Tinubu’s Commissioner for Justice); Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN (Minister of Power, Works & Housing, was Tinubu’s Chief of Staff); Dr Babatunde Fowler (Former Lagos Tax Chief, now Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS); Mr Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos State Governor); Engr. Rauf Aregbesola (Osun State Governor; Ex-Lagos Commissioner for Works); Alhaji Lai Muhammed (Minister of Information, was Chief of Staff – Governor’s Office – during Tinubu’s 1st term); Mr Dele Alake (One-time Special Adviser, Information & Strategy, for Tinubu); Dr Muiz Banire, SAN (Ex-Lagos Commissioner, Special Duties); Dr Kayode Fayemi (Minister of Solid Minerals; Former Ekiti State Governor); Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun State Governor); Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora; Senator Ganiu Solomon; Senator Solomon Adeola (former House of Representatives member, now Senator); Senator Gbenga Ashafa; Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (House of Representatives member); Mrs Kemi Nelson; Senator Babajide Omoworare; Mr Ade Ipaye and Mr Wale Edun.

The galaxy of stars who got their groove from Tinubu is unending, including my University of Benin classmate and friend Hon. Bamidele Opeyemi, through whom Fayemi got into the Tinubu kingdom; and others like Mr Ben Akabueze; Joe Igbokwe; Mr Sasore; Femi Pedro and Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.

It is a no-brainer for one to state that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a visionary leader. He has demonstrated all the textbook – and known – characteristics of a visionary leader. He is innovative, imaginative, forward thinking, inspirational, goal-oriented, persistent, resolute, organised, courageous, daring, audacious, responsible, collaborative and open-minded.

One only needs to make a review of the political life of Bola Ahmed Tinubu to understand what philosophers and psychologists mean when they say that a visionary leader is a natural pivoter who holds unto the big picture but remains flexible in how to get there. Tinubu’s flexible mind helps him to effectively navigate challenges. He always thinks out-of-the-box to turn setbacks into success. He is a big dreamer and creative team player.

Before I sign off, I will urge you to assess the political ethic he has reintroduced into the mainstream politics of this country. When last did you experience this swell of aspirants visiting and soliciting support from political stakeholders before party primaries? When was the last time you witnessed these robust and engaging preprimary campaigns?

What is the difficulty in acknowledging the benefits of having a seasoned politician in the presidential race? Can you imagine the rhythms and blues of the campaigns that we will have with a Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the ballot? I can’t wait.

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