WATCHING ASIWAJU TINUBU FROM A DISTANCE
Former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who marked his 60th birthday recently, is one politician that has remained focused in his political career despite the difficult political terrain he found himself. When most of the governors of the South-West's Alliance for Democracy (AD) party were routed out of office by former president Olusegun Obasanjo's political machine, Senator Tinubu was the last man standing. He stood like the Rock of Gibraltar against the Owu chief's political hurricane of 'do or die' political praxis.
From AD, Tinubu overnight metamorphosed to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and damned the consequences. And from one state in its kitty (Lagos), the ACN has almost cornered all the South-West states. The only exception is Ondo State, where another political heavy weight, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko (Iroko), is holding fort as Tinubu did in Lagos before chasing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) away from the zone that hitherto belongs to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo's political disciples, which Tinubu is an eminent member by all standards. In fact, Tinubu has come to reenact what Awo did in the heydays of regional politics. It is obvious that Tinubu is the new Awo irrespective of whatever different view anybody can hold.
He is the only person who matched PDP word for word and took over from them, through the courts, what they have allegedly stolen from the Awo political dynasty. Tinubu taught the PDP a big lesson on how not to operate in a strange political terrain. I shall return to this theme shortly. From 1999 till 2007 when Tinubu finished his second term as the governor of Lagos State, Tinubu had fascinated me with his brand of politics and some of his populist programmes to no end. His making a pupil that won the annual SpellingBee contest in the state to act as a ceremonial governor of the state for one day is a good lesson in political engineering, mentoring and instilling hope and confidence in our young ones.
The symbolic gesture with all its material benefits and prestige is a way of inspiring the young and encouraging them to dream big dreams and have love and patriotic feelings for the fatherland. It adds also to their intellectual development. All you need to be a ceremonial governor of Lagos State is for you to come top on the SpellingBee competition organized annually by the state. You don't have to be an indigene of the state. The only requirement is that you must be in school in the state and at the required level for the competition.
An Igbo pupil has won the competition and ruled Lagos for a day. Similarly, children from other tribes other than Yoruba have won it and are allowed to govern the state just for a day. This policy is still on even though its originator has left office some years back. That is government as a continuum at work. Let other states emulate the Lagos example. Another Tinubu's attribute that attracts my fancy is appointing non-indigenes to serve in his cabinet. By so doing, Tinubu has attracted to himself and the state the best in human resources and this policy which his able successor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, is sustaining is good for a fractured polity like ours. I wish that other governors in Nigeria should copy these policies aimed at uniting the various people that make up Nigeria instead of reinforcing divisive tendencies.
Tinubu ensured that all ethnic nationalities in the country resident in Lagos are carried along in his policies and live in peace and harmony. And where there is tension in the state, Tinubu ensures that the issue is settled amicably. The third thing that endeared Tinubu to me is his ability to stand by his conviction. He dared the federal government when he created 37 local government areas that later became Local Council Development Areas, thus bringing council areas in Lagos to 57. Tinubu created these units because of the low number of councils that Lagos had compared to Kano State which it shares same population.
While Kano had 44 councils Lagos had only 20. As soon as Tinubu raised Lagos council to 57, Obasanjo acting on his own whims unilaterally seized money accruable to the 20 constitutionally-recognized councils in Lagos. Tinubu did not bulge but moved ahead as if nothing happened. He managed the state well without federal subvention to the councils for the period the case lasted. He challenged the action in court until the Supreme Court ruled in his favour. That case is still a reference point in our judicial system today.
Tinubu laid the foundation that saw to the environmental and road infrastructural renewal that opened up certain rural areas of the state through good network of roads, a project his successor in office has carried on excellently. As a politician, Tinubu is aware of the need to mentor followers and those that will succeed him and even carry on even in his absence. This is where he beat most of his contemporaries. Tinubu is a good manager of men and resources.
He knows how to recruit the best people and talents for any project he embarks upon. He had also succeeded in all whether politics or business. Tinubu is an astute manager. Tinubu knows how to make people follow him and even be ready to fight and die for his cause. By doing so, Tinubu's fight becomes the people's fight. That is what makes a good leader. It is not surprising that Tinubu has ardent followers.
To me Tinubu is a detribalized Nigerian. That is why his party is growing and branching out of its South-West orbit. The party made an in-road in Anambra State during the last general polls. There is hope that if ACN can cure itself of the big disease that afflicts the PDP, which is lack of internal democracy, there is no doubt that it will go places in 2015. That is one area that Tinubu is yet to work on.
Lack of internal democracy is bad in any party. Another malaise that ACN should watch is intolerant of opposition. In as much as the party is working hard to capture all the South-West states, so also are other parties working hard to either retain those already captured or venture to capture more. Politics is a game; it must be played according to the rules. There will be no differing standards. ACN under Tinubu should allow other politicians with differing views be. That is the beauty of democracy. If rigging and other unwholesome practices common in our nascent democracy are bad in PDP, they should also be bad in ACN or any other party. What is Tinubu's greatest legacy as a politician? If I may answer this question, I think that his mentoring ability and management of men and resources stand him out among the crowd. When some of his erstwhile colleagues were busy with mundane things, Tinubu was busy searching for a credible successor.
The inability of some governors to have a successor has remained their undoing and that of the states. Even some of those that chose their successor ended up choosing the wrong ones or those that betrayed their cause. This theme will be well discussed in another article. But the Asiwaju himself has his personal view on this worth quoting in great detail. According to him, 'My greatest legacy is Governor Babatunde Fashola. I identified and endorsed him. That was when my corporate background as a recruiter and talent seeker for Deloitte came to play…No matter how much steel and metal you put together, the greatest achievement and legacy is the ability to develop other leaders who can succeed you, otherwise your legacy will be in shambles.'
How many politicians can say this of their successor? Not many. Some will even gloat over what they did and did not do in office. But, not Tinubu. He did not claim all the credits. He allowed others have major part of it. He allowed his successor take the shine. That is the hallmark of a good leader. Tinubu represents a good servant-leader who is conscious of the moral burden of power and the need for a moderating influence hence he shopped for a good replacement. Let all our leaders emulate Tinubu in including the human element in their development paradigms. This is wishing the modern Awo many more years of fruitful political engagement.