Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s emergence as a leader of
his people and a political powerhouse in Nigeria is not
by accident. In Yorubaland, historically, leaders outside
the monarchy are not chosen; they emerge. Those who
are called ‘Akikanju’ are those who have weathered
storms, fought valiantly and emerged victorious. The
Yorubas love their folktales and rally round their heroes.
They defer to the man who shows wisdom, strength and
compassion in the proper measure. In the past 15 years
of our democracy, no man has done this more expertly,
consistently and with diligence than Bola Tinubu.
It is said that dreams come true. However, one must
ask what audacity Tinubu had to dream that one day he
would return home and lead his people after the military
junta under the vicious and manic Abacha hounded him
into exile. No man with his faculties intact would insist
that Nigeria would return to democracy given the
tyranny in the land at the time. However, Tinubu is no
ordinary man. This man was born with the foresight and
restlessness never before seen. His desire for progress
consumes him so much; he is ready to sacrifice
anything to see a dream come true. Unlike most
politicians, his word is his bond. When he says, “I will
do it,” his friends and associates know it is as good as
done. Such is the character that made him the rallying
point of most of the progressives who were exiled in the
Abacha era. They knew in Tinubu, they would find
succor, wisdom and hope. He never failed them.
Upon his return home, after fate made the possibility of
democracy likely, he set out to lead the state he loved
so much. Against the run of play and powerful people
who seemingly had better political structures and
money, he won the ticket to contest the Lagos State
Gubernatorial elections in 1999. This was a time when
most of those with whom he hurdled with back in
London chose to not participate in the democratic
process. They were suspicious of the brand of
democracy that was on offer.
However, Tinubu jumped at the chance. He had a plan.
He was going to be a different governor. He was
determined to teach the other 35 governors and the
president how power could be used for good. The
sinkholes within the ill-concived constitution and the
fragility of the country at the time were not going to
deter him. He had a plan from Day One. And, boy, did
he deliver on it!
First, Tinubu understood he couldn’t get anything done
on his own; hence he went on to secure the loyalty of
everyone around him. A story is told of how he was
tempted to ask his friends to let go of their tickets, just
so he would be allowed a free run at his own election.
Tinubu was said to have told the gathering of elders
that that would be the last thing he would do. He told
them, ‘I would rather let go of my ticket than have
people who sweated for their ticket go because of me.’ I
believe this singular act won him the admiration,
respect and loyalty of those we see around him today.
They know in Tinubu they have a friend and a General
who won’t fail them. They trust him and he trusts
them. Very unlike a lot of politicians I know.
Secondly, after winning the elections, Tinubu quickly
surrounded himself with the most competence group of
men and women he could find. He reached out across
the political divide to get the best hands to work with
him. He even raided the private sector to get seasoned
professionals for the great task of turning around the
fortunes of Lagos. It didn’t matter to him that these
guys probably didn’t like him; it only mattered that they
could do the job. Their tribes, beliefs or political
leanings were on little concern to him; only their
competence and ability. He had in his cabinet the most
outstanding individuals any political leader in the
country had. Even the president would have been
envious. That is how you know a man with a plan.
Thirdly, Tinubu took a firsthand assessment of the
quandaries that had befallen his beloved city. Lagos
was a disaster. It was a city dying from every ailment.
Security was a joke, traffic was a monster, justice was
for hire and the environment was toxic. The civil service
was broken down and thugs ruled the streets. On top of
these, the population was ballooning at an alarming
rate. An ordinary man would have given up and simply
chosen to enjoy the guaranteed largess Abuja was
legally-bound to send in every month. But, again,
Tinubu is no ordinary man. The zest with which he and
his team swung into action is legendary. In less than
four years, the judiciary was almost corruption-free (this
charge was led by the luminary brilliance that is Yemi
Oshibajo), security was vastly improved (even though
the law makes this a federal government responsibility),
the civil service was computerized and recovering
(despite the stiff opposition initially) and traffic
congestion was being tackled (using a blend of human
resources and modern techniques). In fact, Lagos began
the journey to its former glory and started to act as the
true center of commerce it was designed to be. Things
were more organized and efficiency returned. Many of
the steps the Tinubu administration took are now being
copied by the federal government and the other state
governments. Any leader whose impact extends beyond
his immediate surroundings is a success. Tinubu
However, Tinubu’s greatest achievement would be
finding the best man to succeed him and carry on his
blueprint. The ‘usual’ thing would have been for him to
find a man of low esteem and competence who would
be fed instructions from the Tinubu camp. This is what
President Olusegun Obasanjo attempted with Late
President Yar’Adua, which turned out to be a disaster
from which Nigeria is yet to recover.
Tinubu resisted the attempt to pick a ‘Yes-man’ and
went for competence and ability again. He found his
man in Babatunde Fashola and staked his political
future on him. That bet paid off. Fashola is currently
one of the finest administrators this nation has ever
seen and a pride to the Yoruba race and Black people
the world over. His exploits have been praised from
across the Atlantic and he is seen as the major reason
investors are coming in droves to invest in Lagos. They
know it is a sure bet, just as Tinubu knew Fashola was
a sure thing. Tinubu must have the gift of
So, what is next for this visionary called Bola Tinubu?
Recently, he completed the master coup in getting the
biggest opposition forces to merge and adopt a singular
platform. He put his body on the line, traversing the
land and pitching his dream to his would-be
conspirators. It came at a cost; he lost sleep and much
body weight, but the deal was sealed. The news of the
registration of the new party came to him while he was
recuperating from a long over-due knee surgery. He
must have smiled to himself. Not a smile of victory but
a knowing smile, content that his vicarious appetite for
work would get some satisfaction in the task ahead to
save Nigeria from sure doom.
This man’s passion calls for a pause, though. Any man
who gives his all for a good cause when he could be
enjoying his retirement deserves some attention.
Tinubu’s vision has been his guide. His determination
for Nigeria to achieve true federalism is not in doubt.
His belief that only Nigerians can save Nigeria is steady
and sure. Question is: Did any past Nigerian president
have this fire in his belly? Which Nigerian leader carries
the credentials, passion and support that Asiwaju does?
Shouldn’t Tinubu be given the room to transmit the
vision and plans that worked for Lagos to Nigeria?
All the requisite ingredients that make a great leader in
Tinubu. He has the charm, brilliance, competence,
compassion, loyalty and patriotism every president must
have to succeed. He is accepted as a friend home and
abroad. His network of accomplices cut across the
strata of society and regions. He is a chief in Hausa,
Igbo and Yoruba lands. He has been awarded titles in
Europe and America. Chicago State University, his Alma
Mata, consider him a great ambassador and once held a
dinner in his honour.
Only recently, President Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone
said this of him: “Governor Tinubu, we should honour
people like you; you have what it takes for such
leadership. Some of us are fortunate to be associated
with you. We will deepen our relationship with Nigeria.
For somebody like you, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has
demonstrated great leadership quality we are happy to
be associated with you. If we are making any progress
here, it is because of the efforts and contributions
people like you have made.”
What an endorsement of quality leadership! If a
progressive African leader like Koroma attests to the
excellence of Asiwaju Tinubu’s leadership, may be
Nigerians have found the president they truly can trust.
It is time to ask men of true competence to take the
plunge. The best of us should lead the rest of us.
Run, Asiwaju, run!
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s emergence as a leader of