Tribute to a Leader: Bola Ahmed Tinubu- Jagaban Nigeria By Bello Bawa Bwari
“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.’’ —Harry S. Truman
The story of how Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu changed the face of Nigerian politics and led us through the valley of fear and despair created by a self -indulgent ruling party to this place of resurgent hope will be told for a long time to come. It is a story of courage and foresight, the belief that nothing is impossible if you have the will.
Tinubu, who was elected senator for Lagos West Senatorial district in the aborted Third Republic, gained fame after the June 12 1993 elections as a founding member of the trenchant pro-democracy group, National Democratic Coalition ( NADECO). His contribution to the struggle to validate MKO Abiola’s victory finally led to his exile in 1994 where he continued to provide financial and other logistics support, cementing his credentials as a die-hard democrat.
The death of Abacha four years later saw Tinubu’s return to join in the build up for the 1999 elections. He contested the governorship elections in Lagos State and won under the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He had a running battle with the government at the centre but still won a second term, becoming the only AD governor in the Southwest who did not fall to the massive onslaught of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which won the entire south west states. His tenure was full of drama as the Obasanjo regime seized funds meant for local government councils in Lagos as Tinubu went ahead to create 37 local council development areas (LCDAs) in addition to the existing 20 local government areas, against the ruling of the National Assembly.
He increased the state IGR, improved the methodology for collecting revenue, raised taxes and stopped the drain on the state’s resources. Thus was he able to run the 57 LCDAs, without the federal government revenue allocations. In 2006, he led AD to merge with Justice Party (JP) and Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), to form the Action Congress (AC) party. Thus, he was able to prepare well for the 2007 general elections, eventually regaining all the states in the Southwest except Ondo, which was under the Labour Party (LP).
Tinubu’s political dexterity was gradually becoming obvious and the world was beginning to notice that this man was no ordinary politician, but a man of foresight and amazing leadership acumen, as close to Chief Obafemi Awolowo in influence as can be. His controversial choice of his chief of staff to take over from him later proved quite prescient as Babatunde Fashola became a celebrated governor, setting new parameters in leadership.
Unlike other leaders whose influence wane as soon as they lose their political office, Tinubu’s influence seemed to have grown the farther he moves away from Alausa, the Government House of Lagos State. He took firm control over the politics of the south west and led the region to form a solid alliance with the north which has resulted in a remarkable, almost miraculous seizure of power from the arrogant PDP which swore to hold on to power for a hundred years.
To begin with, the Jagaba decided on February 6, 2013, to take his brainchild – the ACN – into a merger with the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Thus, did the All Progressives Congress (APC) come to be, with the broom as their party symbol. He was both the chief financier of the party and the national leader while Muhammadu Buhari became the presidential flag bearer.
The story of how he and others managed to convince the “General”, who had sworn off campaigns, to return to the bully pulpit, will be told another day. Suffice it to say, he managed that feat against great odds. He also managed to convince serving governors of some half a dozen PDP states to leave their party and join the APC making the party a credible challenger against the PDP behemoth. Nonetheless, there were still doubting Thomases who believe nothing can dislodge the PDP.
However, Tinubu went on with his strategy, using the mass media and the social media to great acclaim. He was also helped by the continuous blunders of the PDP and the presidency, but the major coup came with the APC presidential congress where Buhari beat the pack strong contenders to emerge the flag bearer despite telling delegates he has ‘no dollar’ to give them. The combination of Buhari and Jagaba was a frightening one and the PDP itself suddenly began to look like it was beatable after all.
During the campaign period, Tinubu traversed the whole country beside the APC presidential candidate, employing his huge experience at opposition politics and Buhari’s preternatural hold on the teeming masses toff northern Nigeria, to run the most fantastic battle by an opposition against an incumbent in the history of Nigeria. In the end, all the predictions that the alliance would fail, that Buhari is too arrogant to agree to the compromises demanded by politics in Nigeria today, that Tinubu will betray the alliance, came to nought.
I am convinced that without Tinubu’s initiative, strategy and leadership, the PDP would still be in power come May 29, 2015. He is perhaps the single most important factor responsible for the great success of the APC in the last presidential election. His ingenuity of crossing the bridge to extend his hands of friendship to the north in particular may have saved this nation from collapse. His contribution to democracy, to peace and to the unity of this country, is incomparable to that of any Nigerian now living.
The man has risen from being the leader of Lagos State to being the political leader of western Nigeria and now he has become, without doubt, a national leader. He truly deserves all the accolades that have come his way. As much as the leadership of Buhari will be pivotal to the success of the APC administration at the centre, the truth is that a lot will also depend on the political dexterity, innate maturity and tactical savvy of the man who was once the lion of Bourdillon, but is now the Jagaba of Nigeria.
Bello Bawa Bwari writes from Minna, Niger State.