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• Tinubu
For more than a week, Lagos State, virtually stood still for the former Lagos state governor and National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Bola Ahmed Tinubu as he celebrated his 60th birthday. RAZAQ BAMIDELE, who monitored some of the major birthday events writes.

On the surface, the events packaged by various social, cultural and political associations appeared strictly ceremonial to mark three decades of the former Senator and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu. But political observers, social commentators and events analysts, who saw beyond the surface vowed that the events were more political than social or cultural. To them, Tinubu used the opportunity to test his political relevance and popularity within the political contenext of Nigeria, nay, Africa and even the whole world.

To say the least, the man described as the 'dogged fighter for democracy and advocate of the rule of law' by the former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku succeeded in doing just that, as he virtually pulled, political heavyweights across the continent of Africa to Lagos. So amazing and interesting was the way, even his die-hard political opponents could not help but shower encomiums on him.

Opening the floodgate of accolades and encomiums on Tinubu was no other person than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who saluted him at 60. The President in a message presented on his behalf to Tinubu by Senator Ben Obi, Special Adviser Inter-Party Affairs, said an eventful and fulfilling life like that of the former governor calls for great thanksgiving to God. While thanking God for the life of the celebrant, Jonathan prayed God to guide, strengthen and prosper him in the years ahead.? The letter reads: 'Dear Asiwaju, happy birthday.

On behalf of my family, government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I write to congratulate you on the occasion of your 60 birthday anniversary. Given the symbolism of attainment of landmark age of 60 years especially in a life such as yours that has been exceptionally eventful and fulfilling, there is great cause for thanksgiving to the Almighty God. I join your family and numerous friends and associates in thanking God for your life and praying that he continues to guide, strengthen and prosper you in the many more years of accomplishment ahead of you. Please accept my warm regards.'

The Vice President, Namadi Sambo was not also left out as he also sent in a congratulatory message delivered on his behalf by Mallam Abba Dabo, a special adviser to the Vice President. Sambo wrote: 'Asiwaju Tinubu deserves to be celebrated for many reasons. The first is his enormous and sacrificial contributions to the struggle to free Nigeria from decades of military rule. If he had not become the Governor of Lagos State, history would still have recorded him as one of the heroes of the democratic struggle in Nigeria.

He, of course, became a Governor and quickly imposed himself in our consciousness as a progressive-minded and modernizing leader. His passion for the enthronement of democracy and true federalism did not diminish. Indeed, the governorship gave him a greater impetus to continue to struggle for a political system and governments that are accountable to the people and serve their interest. We salute Tinubu for being a beacon of democracy. We must also celebrate him for laying the foundation of sound public administration and infrastructural for thinking of the best interest of Lagos in selecting his successor. Permit me to say that Governor Fashola, who is clearly one of our best governors, is a reflection of the greatness of the Asiwaju ; only the deep can call to the deep. Only people of great quality recognize great quality.

We must also appreciate Asiwaju's role in growing democracy by conscientiously and methodically building the Action Congress of Nigeria. Although I belong to the other side of the political divide, the great PDP that is a colossus and has been trouncing all other parties, I cannot but acknowledge that the ACN has become one of the most formidable actors in Nigeria's democratic theatre. It offers Nigerians a credible alternative and helps to keep authoritarianism at bay.'

The Ghanian Vice President, John Daramani Mahama also sent in a message where he commended Tinubu for 'total dedication and service to humanity.' He doffed his hat for the man he said was champion of the cause of good governance. 'Your willingness to put your intellectual ingenuity to your country by coming up with measures to strengthening its financial base is a patriotic duty worth emulation,' the Ghanian Vice President submitted.

While the Senate President, David Mark describe Tinubu as an Awolowo incarnate because of his political sagacity, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal also saw him as a man, whose 'entry into Nigeria political arena was like the famous but still amazing and intriguing 'Unidentified Falling Object (UFO), defiling scientific explanation.'

Two of 'Tinubu's boys,' Joe Igbokwe and Kehinde Bamigbetan, who described Tinubu as 'Our own Kohinoor, an India expression that means Jewel of mankind, wondered 'where some of us would have been, including the current governor, Fashola, without him.'

Bamigbetan wrote: 'He is the greatest logistician of our time. Revolutionary process creation and management is Asiwaju's key skill. Its global and holistic application with determination and courage is a key factor of success. Whether politics, public finance or the arts, his intellectual disposition is unarguably unorthodox, pragmatic and radical. He is a restless spirit whose habitat is built with blocks of creative and productive tension.'

Political policies
The event took a serious dimension during the colloquium organized by Tinubu's political 'boys' where the former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku deviated from the encomiums series to dabble into matters of national interests.

In his remarks as the Chairman of the occasion, he said that for unity and peace to be guaranteed in Nigeria, a national conference to discuss the restructuring of the country's current architectural design was imperative. He stated that to ensure peace, unity and progress in the country 'there must be major restructure of the current    architecture of a government to reflect true federalism.' While emphasizing that Nigeria progressed well in the 60s under regional arrangement, the renowned diplomat was of strong conviction that onlya regional arrangement where power would be devolved to the regions against a unitary system would assist the country to grow.

He called for scrapping of the 36 states arrangement and at most, make them administrative zones, stressing that 'a conference of genuine representatives of the ethnic nationalities should be convened to improve on the 1999 constitution to reflect true federalism.'Anyouku however rejected the word 'sovereign' in the conference reminding that there were already elected people in goverment in whom he said sovereignty resided. While disabusing the mind of the national conference antagonists that the exercise could not break up the country, Anyaouku asserted that the benefits in the conference that would be subjected to a referendum would not encourage anybody to think of disintegration.

He thereafter seized the opportunity to also shower encomium on the celebrant-Tinubu, whom he described as a 'true champion of democracy and good governance,' adding that 'he has a space in the plagues of heroes of democracy.' According to him, Tinubu is an 'effective advocate and committed activist for the return of democracy to Nigeria and restitution of MKO Abiola's mandate,' adding that 'Tinubu is among the few that speak truth to power,' concluding that 'he has an assured place in the pantheon of heros who laboured for return of democracy in Nigeria.'

Expectedly, the opposition did not allow the events to go unchallenged as they alleged that a total sum of N2bn was contributed by the South West governors from the tax payers money for the event. The South West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), under the leadership of the former governor of Ekiti state, Mr. Segun Oni cried foul over the funding of the event just as it called for probe to ascertain the source of the finance expended during the birthday bash.

But the birthday Committee and friends of former governor of Lagos State, denied the allegation, that the state and local government councils have been mandated to contribute an amount totalling N1 billion to fund the 60th birthday celebration. Addressing a press conference in Lagos, the Committee Chairman, Sir Pius Akinyelure said 'the allegation is a blackmail,' just as he maintained that 'most of the programmes that have been outlined by the planning committee are not programmes that can gulp huge amount of money.' Speaking further, Akinyelure said 'I don't know where such story emanated from and I think it is only a figment of someone's imagination. We are not taking money from any local government chairman as it is being claimed by the online news report. Tinubu has done well in the corporate world and we feel we should celebrate him while he is still alive and noon the way forward for the country.

Political agenda
The cat that clearly appeared as the main agenda of the weeklong celebration of the birthday was let out of the bag by the elders of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), during a special luncheon at the prestigious Goldengate Restaurant in Lagos, where they urged Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to go beyond local politics and aspire for President of this country. This seemed to be the consensus of the elders present at a special luncheon to celebrate his 60th birthday. Speaking on behalf of other elders, Oba Olatunji Hamzat said 'going by the political antecedents, the country needs someone like Tinubu as president.'

According to him, until Nigeria has someone like Tinubu as President in Nigeria 'the country will continue to be in the mess we are in at present. 'Hamzat regretted that 'those at the helm of affairs currently cannot do it,' saying 'hence our clamour for achievers like Tinubu to be in the saddle.' He therefore assured Tinubu that 'any political war you wage, if you look back, you will see us behind you,' promising him to, for ever remain his loyal disciples. He expressed gratitude to God that 'the seed he (Tinubu) planted has germinated and bearing fruits,' asserting that 'we are all beneficiaries of the seed.'

The royal father enthused that 'your case will not be like the case of 'the best president we never had,' as you will be the best President Nigeria ever had.' While responding, Tinubu, who described the day as the happiest in his life, attributed his successes and achievements to the party leaders and elders.