ASIWAJU Bola Ahmed Tinubu has declared that his entire life has been one heck of struggles. In an interesting interview with Yinka Fabowale, the Jagaban chronicles his struggles from childhood and how he found himself in the murky waters of Nigerian politics.
Born in Lagos on March 29, 1952, to the illustrious Tinubu family, he grew among other children in the typical Yoruba compound where struggling for anything and everything, including food, was customary. The exertion required to survive as he climbed life’s ladder toughened the young Tinubu and eventually shaped his character and world view, encapsulated in the philosophy that with determination, resilience and creativity, no obstacle is insurmountable.
With this conviction, Tinubu picked the gauntlet and battled the challenges of his youth with courage. After basic education at St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos and Children’s Home School in Ibadan, Tinubu left Nigeria for the United States of America in 1975, with the zeal to succeed.
Tinubu as a hustler abroad
In the United States, he was a dishwasher, security guard and cab driver through which he paid his fees at the Richard Daley College, Chicago, Illinois and later Chicago State University. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (Accounting and Management) with honours in 1979.
As an undergraduate, young Bola Tinubu was always on the list and was a custodian of the Outstanding Student’s Award, the University Scholar’s Award and a Certificate of Merit in Accounting and Finance. He was also awarded the prestigious Sumna cum laude for scoring 3.54 out of the possible 4.0 Grade Point Average.
Besides this brilliant academic profile, Tinubu contested and won his first political election as the President of the Accounting Society of the institution in his final year.
After he graduated, Tinubu worked for Arthur Anderson, Deloitte and Sells and GTE Services Corporation and when he returned to Nigeria in 1983, he secured employment with Mobil Oil Nigeria as an executive of the company and ultimately retired as the company’s treasurer.
Tinubu’s foray into politics
After he retired, Tinubu ventured into active politics and was elected senator to represent Lagos West Senatorial District at the National Assembly on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1992. In the Senate, he distinguished himself as chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, Appropriation and Currency.
However, the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and inevitably the general elections of that year in the country by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida and the consequent militarization of Nigerian politics, marked the turning point that was to define his character as a fighter, patriot and humanist. He was arrested and detained many times and despite this, he became more popular due to his courageous and scathing criticisms of the lBB military junta.
Jagaban’s link with Radio Kudirat
Subsequently he was forced to flee Nigeria due to incessant harassments and threats to his life. In exile, he joined NADECO to continue the agitation for restoration of democratic rule in the country. He was said to be one of the major financiers of the activities of the group as well as one of the brains behind Radio Kudirat which was deployed by NADECO to galvanize public opinion and mass resistance against Gen. Sani Abacha’s dictatorship, which then held the nation’s jugular with terror and assassination of political figures.
With demise of Abacha and return to civil rule, Tinubu received a heroic welcome to the country and joined the Alliance for Democracy (AD) on which platform he emerged governor of Lagos State at the inception of the 4th Republic in 1999.
The man and his vision
As two-term governor, Tinubu channeled his vision and energy into laying the solid foundation for a stable, progressive, prosperous and modem Lagos State that has become a reference point in the entire federation. Besides massive infrastructural development and urban renewal, with his financial management expertise, he overhauled the Internally Generated Revenue (lGR) machinery of the state which more than eight years after he left office yields a monthly average of N29 billion.
It is a tribute to his leadership acumen that he was able to identify and groom generations of astute professionals, non-politicians and political activists, who now hold strategic positions as ministers, governors and key officials in government agencies at federal and state levels across the federation and making impressive impacts in national development. Among them are the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; two-time governor of Lagos State and incumbent Minister of Power, Housing and Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who served under the Tinubu administration as a commissioner.
Steering the wheel of APC
Today, this National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has become a household name in Nigeria especially, because he has carved a niche for himself in national politics as a great tactician and strategist. Beginning his career with the progressives in the Southwest, he has been able to out-think, out-plan and outsmart his opponents both within the fold and outside. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is bold and gifted with great ideas as well as analytical mind and he’s an adept manager of human and material resources like the late sage and nationalist, ChiefObafemi Awolowo, to whom he has often been compared. He is also equipped with organizational and mobilization skills comparable to the late Bola Ige’s.
Tinubu survival of Obasanjo’s hatchet in 2003
For instance, he was the only Alliance for Democracy governor who survived the desperate onslaught of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to capture the Southwest in the 2003 general elections because he apparently saw through the deceit and refused to let down his guard unlike his counterparts in Ondo, Ogun, Oyo and Osun states who lost their seats having been beguiled into a pact to support the re-election of Obasanjo as Yoruba man.
Political observers note that the fortunes of Lagos State and indeed the Southwest could have been different had PDP succeeded in its desperate bid to hijack the coastal state from Tinubu then.
One of them, Dr. Wunmi Akintide said, “It could have been a total sweep of the Awo political machine and philosophy, but for the staying power of Ahmed Bola Tinubu who parried all the attacks against him by Obasanjo and even some of his erstwhile associates in the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN and Alliance for Democracy (AD).”
Another commentator said, “In more civilized polities around the world, that feat alone was enough to single out Ahmed Tinubu as a leader to be reckoned with in the former AD, which broke into factions after that onslaught. The faction led by Tinubu, however, became the launch pad for the Action Congress, AC, in much the same way the PDM founded by General Musa Yar Adua became the launch pad for the PDP after 1999.”
The Phoenix rises again
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was one of the architects and moving spirits of the AC that emerged as recourse to the decimated AD. Rallying like minds across the country, he transformed this new party into a credible opposition to the PDP in the country.
Some also believe only a politician in the mould of Awolowo or Ige could stand up against the PDP’s intimidation, violence and state power to rig elections as he con-
sistently did. The former Lagos State governor frequently declared” … it would no longer be politics of acquiescence, but fire for fire” should the PDP attempt to rig and this is reminiscent of the eloquent late Bola Ige. Political watchers noted his tenacity could only mean he has a resilient moral fibre and audacity like the aforementioned who were sure of whom their followers were and ready to rescue their people from oppressors.
When Lagos State Government during his tenure asserted its constitutional right by creating 37 Local Council Development Areas, Obasanjo cashed in on the opportunity to punish Tinubu by withholding the state’s statutory federal revenue allocation to that tier of govemment amounting to about 20 billion and even despite a court order against doing so. Despite this, the state survived the daunting financial squeeze that resulted and performed its obligations without falling into PDP’s control. This beamed Tinubu commendation from all.
From a single state, Tinubu’s influence spread across the Southwest region extending his tentacles to Osun State, where Aregbesola, his former commissioner unseated PDP’s Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Ekiti State, where his ally, Dr. Kayode Fayemi assumed governorship in the aftermath of the disputed 2007 elections. He also joined forces with Dr. Olusegun Mimiko to unseat Olusegun Agagu in Ondo
State and he reportedly sponsored the legal representation that won Mimiko’s appeal against Agagu’s purported victory at the polls. By 2011, his political camp had reclaimed Ogun and Oyo, which fell into the hands of the PDP in 2007.
When asked his pattern of Philosphy, Asiwaju has this to say about himself, “I have read about Awolowo in several books, and he is our hero and mentor, but I cannot but be Bola Tinubu. I can only tread the path of Awolowo, without his shoes. I don’t know his size. I can’t step into his shoes, because they are either bigger or smaller and his image and legacy are bigger than I. I can only use and share the vision. He went away with his shoes and his cap but he left a legacy, a vision.”
This excerpt is written by Yinka Fabowale, a former editorial staff of Sun Newspaper.