Tinubu’s Contributions to Democracy in Nigeria By Idowu Ajanaku
“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible. But man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary” – Reinhold Niebuhr
Some call him “The Game Changer”. Others say he is the “Asiwaju of Nigeria’s democracy.” Yet, not a few view him a “Master Strategist,” as a political titan of no mean measure. These are but a few epaulets that adorn the shoulder of the one dogged fighter who, today, stands on a high moral ground to speak on Nigeria’s democratic dispensation – its norms, mores, codes, evolution, development and sustenance. But why, you may ask?
The answer is found in his firm belief and the sacrifice to see to the enthronement of the dictates of a government driven by the wishes of the majority. His type is rare. More like a meteor, he blazes the brilliant trail across the political firmament eliciting varied comments from political observers of diverse dispositions. That depends, of course, on where one stands on each side of the great political divide. His is a bold mission is to straighten the many crooked paths in the wilderness wrought by anti-democratic forces from military dictators with their jack boot mentality to their civilian acolytes.
With the vision to have a people-oriented government in place and leave his immediate community, his state, his country, indeed the world much better than he met it, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Wole Soyinka would admonish, was ready to set forth at dawn with regards to his illustrious but chequered political career.
Born on March 29 1952, his political career took off in 1992, when he was elected to the Nigerian Senate representing the Lagos West constituency. That was during the short-lived Nigeria’s Third Republic. After the results of the 12 June 1993 presidential elections were annulled, Tinubu became a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). The well-coordinated group effectively mobilized a groundswell of public support for the restoration of democracy and the validation of the 12 June election results.
Let it be known that at that material time, he had all the opportunity to sell out as some fare weather friends did to betray our common cause. But Tinubu chose, and wisely too, to stay on the people’s side while the struggle lasted. Had he been a political turn-coat, we would have no moral ground to identify with him, least of all, celebrate him on this auspicious occasion.
With the Sani Abacha regime baring its blood- thirsty fangs he went into exile in 1994 but returned to the country in 1998 after the death of military dictator .Subsequently in the run-up to the 1999 elections, Bola Tinubu was a protégé of Alliance for Democracy (AD) leaders Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Adebanjo.As fate would have it, he won the AD primaries for the Lagos State gubernatorial elections in competition with Funso Williams and Wahab Dosunmu, a former Minister of Works and Housing. He stood for the position of Executive Governor of Lagos State on the AD ticket and was elected in April 1999 .
Notably, it was his undying love for democracy that saw him confront the monstrosity that the military dictatorship had turned his dear nation into. He is one man who sees democracy as an enduring political vehicle to deliver the greatest good to the majority of fellow Nigerians. His claim to the enthronement of democracy therefore, did not start overnight. That is much unlike many self-seeking politicians of our current dispensation. Especially those who wish to reap from where they never sowed, yet view every attempt to right the many wrongs of the past and the present as anti-democratic.
One reason why he can lay credence to being a true-born democrat is his salutary efforts to redefine the concept of party politics in the effervescent terrain called Nigeria. From the Alliance for Democracy (AD) through the Action Congress (AC) to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now, the game changer tagged All Progressives Congress (APC) his rare managerial acumen of men and materials all come to the fore.
Another reason is his exemplary style of governance that made governance more participatory and introduced measures to increase the Internally Generated Revenue. The measures included the Electronic Banking System/Revenue Collection Monitoring Project (EBS/RCM), which enabled the utilization of high level technology to create a robust data base of tax payers, eliminate ghost workers.
Another was the state’s Board of Internal Revenue (BIR); an outfit that used to be a centre of corruption was re-engineered to enhance its revenue collection capacity through greater autonomy, professionalism and motivation the introduction of the electronic Tax Clearance Cards (eTCC), which is a fraud free and convenient method of keeping tax payers records.
There was also a deliberate policy to sensitize the public on the imperative of paying their taxes willingly, voluntarily and promptly as a precondition for the delivery by government of quality infrastructure and social services. In addition was the new Land Use Charge Law promulgated in 2001. It stipulated that once Land Use Charge Demand Notice is levied on a property, Ground Rent, Development Charges and the Neighbourhood Improvement Charge Law will cease to apply. This innovation led to the collection of the sum of over N3.5 billion as Land Use Charge between 2001 and March 2007 and the value of this revenue source keeps rising.
His eight years administration saw to the revitalization of the machinery of state. All these made the desired impact in “qualitative service delivery in diverse sectors including education, health, justice, roads construction and rehabilitation, traffic management and public transportation, agriculture, environmental renewal, rural development, housing, job creation, women empowerment, local government administration and poverty alleviation among others.
In simple terms, Asiwaju has distinguished himself as a visionary politician armed with the 3-C concept of courage, candour and charisma.
Perhaps, it would be more appropriate to underscore his sweeping political machinery to the metaphor of the broom, which incidentally has been adopted for much of the metamorphosis of the aforementioned political parties of the progressives. To start with, he, Tinubu as the governor who took the mantle of Lagos state amidst monumental filth that clogged the drainages and the highways swept it all with the introduction of LAWMA. Other creative organs of government such as LASTMA, KAI, LAMATA that his pragmatic administration established brought sanity and safety in the critical areas of public health, transportation, education and massive infrastructural development. They have been copied by governors from virtually all the six geo-political zones of the country.
Worthy of note also, is that all these took place even in the face of daunting odds. Not the least being the withholding of allocations to local government councils that stretched from months to years, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo held sway at the federal level. In other climes, well-heeled writers, historians and political scientists would be all over him to decipher that unique attribute that has made him a strong brand of a survivor. This raises some fundamentally significant questions.
How did Lagos state weather the storm of months without federal allocation when the internally generated revenue was yet to assume a sustaining level? How did his AD-led political party, more like a David pitched against the behemoth of a Goliath, survive the political onslaught of the PDP rigging machinery that bulldozed its way through the South-West geo-political zone? He became ‘the last man standing’; how did he do it? How did he wrestle back the same zone from the stranglehold of the same PDP in 2007 and went on to strengthen his hold on the vastly resourceful and politically sophisticated zone by 2011? And to cap all the trilogy of the bruising battles won, how did the ACN merge with other progressive parties in the mold of CPC and ANPP, both from the Northern fold, now giving the PDP sleepless nights?
It was the democrat in him saw Tinubu calling for Resource Control, as a Senator against the vociferous voices of those who claim to love the country only when it suits their fancies. Today, that clamour re-echoes with greater verve and frenzy as the National Conference kicks off its deliberations. But would anyone remember who belled the cat? That is the million naira question.
From all these salutary efforts, it would be a disservice to our sense of history to misconstrue Tinubu as a self-serving politician. If he was one, perhaps he would have been contented to cocoon himself with the AD. And he would not have used his political clout to assist incumbent Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state to send the People’s Democratic Party, PDP packing even though it is controlled by the Labour Party, just as he had done in Ekiti and Osun states.
Even when he has been accused of influencing choices for the party, one issue even die-hard critics would not deny, is that he makes the best choices, always. Name them; the award-winning governors of Lagos, Ekiti, Osun, Edo, Oyo and Ogun states do not come to political prominence, every day. Do they? That magic wand of his, to identify the best man for the job should be a source of PHD thesis. Besides, he believes in the words of Abraham Lincoln that: “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
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