An Evening With Senator (Mrs) Oluremi Tinubu
On Saturday 5 th April 2014, at the Hilton London Metropole Hotel in London, the Association of Nigerian Academics in the UK (ANAUK) led by Councillor Adedamola Aminu, the acting Mayor of the London Borough of Lambeth and a lecturer himself, recognised the achievements of Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, OON, former First Lady of Lagos State, and now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She was recognised by ANAUK as an outstanding Nigerian whose various initiatives has contributed greatly to education, youth development and empowerment in Nigeria.
I am writing at great risk to myself and my reputation, because knowing my people, I might stand accused of “being bought” or induced to write this, or at best, naivety. People will also ask a lot of puerile questions or statements such as the source of her or Tinubu family's money, or her husband's wealth, or using tax-payers' money, blah, blah, blah. I will say, people, figure that out for yourselves. I know who I am and that is what matters to me.
I normally do not attend such events, even when invited, honouring our mostly errant and irresponsible politicians and rulers from Nigeria. In fact, I cannot recollect attending any event featuring any Nigeria politician/leader held in London or even in Nigeria, since 1999. And it is not for want of invitation, because most times, I am always invited. But I always decline, because of my abhorrence for this set of Nigerians who I see as people who do not have any plans for me and my people. I am a cynic and sceptic when it comes to bestowing honour, awards, kudos, and recognition on our politicians for many reasons, the chief of which is: what does such award and recognition transmute to in terms of good governance, development, progress and alleviation of the hardship and poverty of our people?
I was privileged to be a witness at this particular event for Senator (Mrs) Oluremi Tinubu, and also to learn and see first-hand (at a previous outing), and not hear-say of the accomplishment of this most humble of leaders and womanhood, one of our leaders. Also, the pedigree, integrity and credibility of the group that came up with the award convinced me to attend. Most members of ANAUK are known to me personally – Cllr Adedamola Aminu is a brother and also, like myself, and Ibadan man and I hold several of them in the highest esteem and admiration. And as my friends, colleagues and family know of me, I am very economical with giving kudos to our Nigerian politicians. In fact, I don't do it. I rarely find a word of praise, respect or even commendation for our political leaders, simply because of the following reasons.
First I believe that if they are doing something worthy of recognition (not of praise) they are only doing the work/job we employ them and pay them billions to do at the expense of any other development of the country. They wanted the job, they asked to be elected to do it, we trusted them and we elected them (please note that the word 'elect' is used with some reservations here, because mostly we get our rulers by selection, rigging and cheating). So let them do it without any noise or propaganda
Secondly, most of them do not even do what they are elected to do and as such I do not respect them. Of course, anybody who cheats or rig themselves into any elective position is automatically not worthy and is always a thief who went in there to make money and acquire wealth by looting the treasury. It is obtaining money and power under false pretence.
Third, most of them are so arrogant and are liars who embellish their achievement in attempts to fool the people. Their propaganda machines are always in full operation, spewing out lies and deceit and in fact, a lot of them believe in their own lies.
It was not what I read or heard about Senator (Mrs) Tinubu that made me write this; it was not what transpired during the award ceremony and dinner, with encomiums heaped upon her by the many dignitaries, either from Nigeria, living in the UK or even non-Nigerians who were present; it was what happened afterwards between the honourable Senator and my wife, outside the hall, after the event. My wife went up to her, surrounded by her aides, and expressed her delight at hearing such good things about her, and her fears of returning to Nigeria because of the apparent lack of concern by the people ruling us. To my surprise, this humble, well-bred, well-educated lady, a very rare gem member of her political ilk, took time to explain several things to my wife. This convinced me of her sincerity; it convinced me, as my wife said afterwards that she did what she was doing for the people in Nigeria, poor or rich, because it was an innate and inherent trait for her. It is natural for her to do good things for people. She has a good heart, as a wife, a mother, an educationist, a politician and most especially, as a compassionate and benevolent human being, conscious and grateful that God has put her in a position of strength, power, wealth and opportunity to help the less-fortunate and the weak of her people.
I will not try to list all that she has accomplished during both her terms as the First Lady of Lagos State for eight years and now as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as this essay will too long. Suffice it to say, I believe she did all these things, NOT because she has to do them, but because she wanted to do them. In fact, I suspect it was because of this that she begged her husband that she wanted to go into the Senate, and he agreed.
Let me state here that I have never been supportive of her husband as a governor of Lagos State and as the chieftain of his party, APC. Readers who have read most of my articles on Asiwaju Tinubu will know that I have never been kind to him in my criticism of his brand of politics and his acquisitive nature and disposition. In fact, I was very harshly critical of Asiwaju Tinubu prior to the 2011 elections when he appeared to have imposed his wife, now Senator Oluremi Tinubu, on the people of Lagos Central Senatorial District, and I was one of those who made a lot of noise about the then ACN party imposing favourites of Asiwaju Tinubu on the people, especially in Lagos State.
I have seen and observed a lot of politicians in Nigeria, from presidents to governors, federal and state legislators to local government chairmen, both inside and outside Nigeria and come to know that when Nigerians (and as a matter of fact, Africans) get to positions of power, they dispense with humility. They become arrogant, they think they are mini-gods, and some of them actually behave like gods. Even the sycophants and lackeys (called special assistants or advisers) that buzz around them often assume false airs of importance. At this event, there were several other senators, members of the House of Representatives and minor local government political officers, and the body language politics of most of them reeks of what I described above.
Not so Senator Oluremi Tinubu! Her body language was that humility, down-to-earth and a consciousness of the fact that it was only the Grace of God that got her where she is today. She was humility-personified. She is the sort of ruler/politician that Nigeria so much craves, in terms of focus, vision, hard-work, sincerity, integrity and hope for the people. I have taken a very different view of this lady whom I had never met and whose my previous perception has always been negative, mainly because of the reputation of her husband.
Her book “The Journey of Grace – My Faith Walk” is another conviction to me. I read the small book when I got home, and I was wondering to myself why I never researched this woman all these years before I virtually condemned her. The book was full of Christian virtues – another surprise, knowing that her husband is a Moslem. I am sure she is living up to, and practicing what she was preaching.
There were several highlights of the events, but one which I must mention was the testimony given by Ezenagu Alexander, a University of Cambridge post-graduate Law Student, and a beneficiary of Senator Oluremi Tinubu's contribution to education in Nigeria. This young man, an Igbo, mentioned the fact that he is not Yoruba, but this did not debar him, and many other non-Yoruba from Lagos State in enjoying the benefits of Senator Tinubu's charity and vision.
Another worthy highlight was when one of the speakers, Dr Chris Imafidon, a UK-based educational consultant to governments and institutions in Europe, in his tribute, averred that it is an insult to call Mrs Tinubu, a politician, knowing our politicians in Nigeria, but that he regards hers as a mother, philanthropist and educationist.
In her acceptance speech, the Senator from Lagos Central confirmed that ANAUK had not asked her or solicited for any money to organise any event for her or to give her any award, but in recognising their efforts and genuineness, she announced the creation of a Hardship Fund (the establishment of the fund is an extension of the work she is doing in Nigeria through her New Era Foundation, which provides opportunities for disadvantaged children) in aid of Nigerian students struggling in the UK to cope with school fees and accommodation expenses, and has already made an initial contribution of US$20,000.00, and she urged all other Senators, House of Rep members and Lagos House of Assembly members to contribute to the fund. This was widely applauded by the guests.
Now, some might ask me or say, oh well, she's just doing with the money she earns as a Senator, what she is supposed to spend the money on – constituency projects. Yes, indeed, I asked myself that too. She never claimed to be a millionaire, as one would have assumed, being in government as first lady of Lagos State for eight years. In a video clip, she told us that when she was the first lady, she had gone to a previous first lady, the wife of former Military Governor of Lagos State, Mobolaji Johnson, to ask her for advice in what to do as first lady, and also as an attempt to introduce continuity in government (something that doesn't happen in Nigeria). It was the advice and ideas she received that she used during her eight years as First Lady, establishing the Annual Spelling Bee competition, Annual One-day Governor, Junior Chef Competition, building classroom and science blocks, etc.
The point here is if she's spending the money she earns for constituency projects, and we don't want to call it philanthropy (and I am not sure of this) or the proceeds of the ill-gotten wealth of her husband, then she is spending it well and appropriately and at least returning some of it back to the society, even if as a result of some conscience, unlike many of her colleagues who just convert such funds to their personal use or spend it buying and distributing bags of rice, beans, and Indomie or bicycles and televisions to villagers and women in the name of empowerment. Apart from this, she has, through legislative oversights, helped secure funding for many other projects. And note here, she's not spending her husband's money.
The bottom line is: Senator Oluremi Tinubu is not just doing her job but she's doing it well, with a lot of sincerity, focus and approbation. If only fifty percent of our legislators and other politicians are like her, I guess the country will not be in such a muddle as we are now.
I salute the Cllr Adedamola Aminu, acting Mayor of Lambeth Borough and current ANAUK President; Dr Bisi Adewole, Vice President; Ms Dolapo Ajakaiye, Social Secretary; Mr Toyin Coker, General Secretary and other members of the Association of Nigerian Academics in the UK – ANAUK for discovering a rare diamond and beacon of hope in the quagmire of self-service, greed, mediocrity and corruption that has become the lot of Nigerian political leaders.
It is unlikely that I will meet this woman again, but I just want to urge her to keep doing the good she's doing. There is still a lot more to be done for our people. She cannot do it alone, so she has to influence her colleagues in politics and governance. We need more of her. And such politicians will be recognised and go down in our minds and books as those who did their utmost best.
Let the Truth be told always.