Thursday, March 29, 2018, carpets were rolled out, glasses clinked and encomiums poured in in celebration of one of Nigeria’s pre-eminent personalities, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban Borgu. It is not for nothing that President Muhammadu Buhari’s two-day visit to Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence coincided with Tinubu’s birthday for it is an established fact that but for the most unlikeliest of partnerships, the All Progressives Congress’ Presidency today would have been an Olympian dream.
It is a fact that the Leader of Warriors have come far and well; facing some of the most audacious battles of life. In almost all, he has prevailed and seems poised to continue do so. A grandmaster of strategy, Tinubu is faced, perhaps, with one of the trickiest of tasks that is akin to Prometheus stealing fire from heaven to give to humans, as a reconciliator of aggrieved forces in his party, the APC. I will return to this shortly.
Besides the fact of being saddled with the reconciliation effort, his keen awareness of the burden the APC faces is a testament that Asiwaju has not lost touch with reality.
Speaking at the colloquium on his 66th birthday, he acknowledged: “We have to put our heads together, believing in ourselves that we are going to do it. We can give our people the best through the competent hands that we have…Life is not without challenges.
We have faced challenges in the last three years. We came in with a lot of hope and enthusiasm as APC leaders. We gave our people hope; we believed in Nigeria and in ourselves, thinking we can change Nigeria for good and we are still going to do it. Life is nothing without challenges. Our logo is broom bound together. This symbolizes a united Nigeria against terrorism, corruption and revival of the economy.”
It is gratifying to hear him admit that there is huge challenge of governance that needs to be addressed when others play the Ostrich. One of the hallmarks of leadership is taking responsibility. To, therefore, listen to the National Leader of the APC admit that it is not yet Uhuru is a sign of hope and that things can, and indeed, will be better.
While one cannot deny the mastery of Tinubu’s politics, it is his humanism that has failed to capture the imagination of many. And this is a surprise in itself. But for whispers and low tones, his philanthropic gestures seem hardly noticed even when it is a well-documented fact that Asiwaju through the Bola Tinubu Foundation (BTF) has empowered thousands with scholarships, paid medical bills of the indigent and provided succour at festive periods for the underprivileged.
After all, what is the purpose of greatness if not service? Martin Luther King Jr. aptly stated it when he said; “Everyone has the power for greatness – not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”
Yes, through the years, the one some of his admirers refer to as BAT, has served our country without let right through the struggle against military dictatorship; to the creation of development area councils for Lagos and the seizing of allocation to Lagos state by the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency, one would agree that this warrior has stayed long in battle.
Now that he has another tricky endeavour to ensure that the APC stays as one bundle of broom to continue the task of sweeping away the malfeasances that has clogged our nation’s development efforts through the years, can Asiwaju be honest with himself and say he needs to reconcile those within his political family that he has become estrange with? Would it not make sense that the Chief Conciliator of the APC lead the way by making peace with his ‘prodigal’ sons to start with; Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola SAN, APC National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, amongst others. It is an irony of sorts that a man grounded in the theatrics of power and its pitfalls has simply ignored bringing back into the fold those who had dealt less-than-honestly with him. History shows that when leaders fail to make peace with their once minnows who are growing up the power echelon, it is recipe for erosion of the political foundation. It was a blow that BAT ignored the presence of Fashola, his successor, at the birthday talk-shop.
One other matter is that as time with its vagaries creeps in, the demand to slow down and think of the next Generalissimo becomes inevitable. Has Asiwaju already decided on the natural heir to his political dynasty? Is he still searching? It is easy for some people to dismiss this thinking. But for a man that has decidedly changed not just the face of South West but Nigerian politics not since the imposing Chief Obafemi Awolowo, there is the need to situate the issue.
Ordinarily, one would concede that it is the one he himself referred to as ‘my co-conspirator’ the very cerebral Vice President Yemi Osinabjo, that is the heir apparent and rightly so owing that in perking order, he now towers above all others. But in the power game there are no guarantees until one is the husbandman of power. A look at the Nigerian political space confirms my fears. There is no leader in Nigeria that has carefully groomed those to manage their political kingdom. Even those that have managed to groom any have shown stark lack of judgement of character that they become outsiders in their forte.
To therefore avoid the fate political systems that failed to institutionalize mechanisms for leadership transition and cement his legacy, it is not too early for Asiwaju to show that he is the master of the fate of his political dynasty by naming a successor.
In all, as we celebrate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, nothing is more fitting than the words of Enoch Powell who in 1968 in his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech remarked, “The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.”
Our country stands at a delicate moment in history, as I join others in wishing you, happy birthday, there is the urgency that you will bring to bear your experience, exposure and art of governance to liaise with those with the mandate to positively prevent evil.