By Tunde Abatan
[email protected] 08165660217
Since the demise of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo,who for over five decades was the issue in Nigeria politics, there has never been any politician or leader that has galvanized Yoruba political thought and ideology which stood the nation far above others in Nigeria.
It was an ideology sustained by over five decades before the military disrupted the political evolution of the country.
Apart from his matchless social programmes and economic strides; uncommon managerial skills which made him rmanage a thirty- months war economy without borrowing,he remains in the words of the late Biafra warlord, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu,the best President Nigeria never had.
It was either you are for him or against him through his chequered political sojourn in a country where reactionary leaders combined hatred with selfishness to deny him his service that could have redefined Africa’s governance similar to the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.
Today,thirty five years after his demise and with most of his generation if not all either dead or out of the limelight, Awolowos thoughts and ideals remain to be matched in words,deed and action.
Indeed,the befiting epitaph to coined by the late Ojukwu was captured more vividly a year earlier by former military President,Ibrahim Babangida during Awos last birthday two months before his demise in 1987.
“Throughout the changing phases of his five decades in Nigerias politics,Awolowo remains the issue.It is either you are for him or against him”.
Today, to say that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and Senator of the Federal Republic and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress,APC, is becoming an issue in the nations politics is an understatement.
Not because he possess the discipline,acumen and political sagacity of Awo, who laid the foundation for great Western region , but because his tenure as Lagos Governor for eight years has positioned him into playing His role and politics in a way and manner that is affecting and determining shape of things in present day Nigeria is worth mention.
Though, an accountant by training,qualification and occupation but now a politician by vocation ,Tinubu has occupied the centre stage of politics in the South West nay Nigeria.
It is also undeniable that though his pedigree remain a mystery like other statesmen,yet that he scaled the hurdles and challenges of his early life to becoming a factor in Nigerias politics is worth a subject of envy even by friends who could boast of more verifiable and nit controversial background.
What is not in doubt is his academic excellence at Chicago State University in the United States – a feat which earned him a plum job at leading world reknown Accounting firms and lastly Mobil Producing Nigeria from where he dropped his pen to go into politics.
Perhaps,Tinubu could have ended up as the oil conglomerate chief executive had he stayed longer and would have nevertheless be content with enjoying quietly his life in retirement. But then like fate his cultivation of politics has ignited in him a life long ambition to rule Nigeria .
Since he joined politics in 1991 and won elections as a Senator using the platform of Primrose group led by Chief Dapo Sarumi,a former minister,he has virtually turned the table against other politicians in South West and has build a formidable political bridge across the country hard to ignore in today’s Nigeria.
As governor of Lagos state-a position he attained due to his yeoman job in joining forces for the fight against annulment of the June 12 presidential election won by fellow accountant turn politician, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, he has steadily build a formidable bridge of followership.
As governor of Lagos state between 1999-2007 he laid foundations for today’s Mega city.
For a state with a population of Nine million four hundred and ninety two thousand (4,492,000) with a monthly internally generated revenue,IGR, base of Six hundred million naira(N600 million), he succeeded in raising the revenue profile to Six billion monthly through Tax reforms and aggressive revenue drive.
This figure attained in 2007 ,represents a growth rate of 7,400% with a population growth rate of 3.23% during the same period.
Though prior to leaving office in 2007 apart from being the only governor among his then Alliance for Democracy,AD governors in South West who survived the political hurricane of 2003 which swept them out of power,thus becoming ‘the last man standing’,Tinubu through ingenuity,empowered Alpha Beta, a Tax consulting firm linked to him,to manage Lagos revenue collection and growth.
This is seen by many as Tinubus cash cow through which he cornered 5% of the states IGR.
Today,after successfully installing three governors in the three election cycles after him,the state revenue base has jumped to a monthly Forty five billion naira(N45billion) according to statistics by the Joint Tax Board as at December 2021.
This figure however falls shot of projections by the state government headed by Babajide Sanwoolu which predicated it’s 2022 budget on an anticipated revenue of a princely Eighty one billion naira (N81billion).
But then,Lagos population has equally risen to a huge fifteen million people accordibyg to projections of the National Population bureau contrary to Lagos government conservative estimate of twenty million people.
It is indisputable that Tinubus tenure saw creation of agencies of government like the Lagos traffic Management Authority(LASTMA), Lagos Waste Management Authority,LAWMA to manage its waste occasion by increasing population growth which saw Lagos not only as one of the state with fastest growth rate expected to hit twenty five million in few years time.
To cope with the increasing energy needs of a fastest growing state,Tinubu on getting to office in 1999, brought an international private initiative, the Enron Electrical project to the country in year to generate electricity and supply for the growing needs of Lagos.
However, politics of unbridled Unitary style by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who reigned like an emperor without vision, saw to the death of the project and Enron left the country with its barges left to rot.
Today,the country is paying for the lack of vision of the then federal government which political game did not make it see beyond the moment with the daunting challenges of today.
With the Enron affair also came an aborted effort by Tinubu to construct a rail line within the metropolis called the Blue Line from Okokomaiko to Marina .
It was initially conceived and started by first civilian Governor Lateef Jakande in 1981 but stopped by military government of Muhammadu Buhari.
Thanks to the late Umaru Yaradua who gave Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, the technocrat who succeeded Tinubu the green light.
By the time Fashola left in 2007,the metro was 65% completed but for his successor Akinwunmi Ambode who saw no wisdom in it’s completion for obvious unknown personal reasons,the metro would have been running.
Thanks to Babajide Sanwoolu whose government has not only fast track it’s completion but also building a second fast train known as Lagos Red Line between Oyingbo and Agbado,a Lagos suburb to solve the mega city’s transport problem.
In the field of education,it is to Tinubus credit that at least twenty millennium schools were built in various parts of Lagos state to complement the Free education programme he truly ran while in office.
The millennium school structure was to serve as model for schools in the state.
Most of them were built in the premises of existing schools in the state. Both indigenes and non indigenes are beneficiaries of the education policy.
His successor,Fashola equiped ten secondary schools in different parts of the state with solar system to aid work in the science laboratories while he also built ten Child and Maternal Care Unit in ten hospitals in the state to complement the health programme.
With the improvement in remunerations of judges and staff in the judiciary during his tenure, Tinubus Lagos has best remuneration for high court judges in the country.
Tinubu also fought a good fight against Obasanjo and won at the Supreme court a restructuring battle which legalised the creation of thirty seven Local council development authority,LCDA, after a titanic legal battle led by then state Attorney General,Professor Yemi Osinbajo,now the vice President.
True to type,President Obasanjo refused to release the allocation of local governments in the state he held for eighteen months even after the Supreme Court judgement.
It was his successor,Yaradua who later did.
The vision in Tinubu also saw his building of the AD from a regional party first to Action Congress of Nigeria,ACN and now a behemoth in All People’s Congress,APC which eventually dislodged the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP after sixteen years in power.
It is incontestable that today,Tinubu has in his fold politicians from many parts of the country through who he built bridges which birthed the APC; a corterie of the intellectually savy, competent technocrats and sound managers.
It is undeniable that most of his team from Lagos today has ended up in different positions at the federal level.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo,Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola,Ben Akabueze and others complemented Tinubus ability to identify and use talents.
Complement with this,Tinubu also courted the flotsam and jetsam of the society and the lowly as exemplified in the commanding influence in the National Union of Road Transport Workers,NURTW- easily seen as his political ‘military wing ‘, doing dirty jobs at election period and using instrument of mass mobilisation among the artisans and the poor.
Today,with his political influence,opposition against Tinubu is more from the Southern part of the country especially from the South West from where the plot against Awos political carrier also evolved and gained root, to prevent him from achieving his ambition.
This is in spite of vitriolic attacks from minions in South East who saw in Tinubu an obstacle they saw in Awo- for his civil war policies that led to Biafras defeat, from allowing a South east man of Igbo attraction from becoming President next year.
The level of attack on Tinubu from the SE is much more than that of Atiku Abubakar,who in 2019 fielded Obi as his running mate
Tinubu is detested for making Yoruba rally round Buhari against former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Chief Olabode George,a chieftain of the opposition PDP, boasted several times he would go on exile if Tinubu becomes the President of the country.
He initially said he would contest for Presidency should Tinubu emerge his parties candidate.
Ironically,not much has come of his boasting since Tinubu became the flag bearer of APC.
George’s opposition is not far from Obasanjos who is subtly rooting for Peter Obi of Igbo extraction.
As the late Premier of Western region Ladoke Akintola along with others mobilise the region against Awolowo which landed the later in prison and acting in collaboration with others from the North prevented him from emerging in 1979 and 1983, so is the opposition to Tinubu more prominent in SW and SE .
It will be recalled that to further Yoruba sons opposition to Awo, few weeks to the 1979 Presidential election, Obasanjo,then head of state,declared to a bemused country not to expect the best candidate to win the Presidential election.
True to his projection,the late Richard Osuolale Akinjide,(SAN),a former member of the defunct National Council of Nigeria Citizens,NCNC ,who later joined forces with Akintolas Nigeria National Democratic Party,NNDP, spunned the controversial 12 2/3 theory on which the then Federal Electoral Commission,FEDECO declared the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari,candidate of the then National Party of Nigeria,NPN,as winner of the election.
Awo as expected fought to the Supreme Court which later upheld Shagaris election with a minority judgement by the late erudite jurist,Justice Kayode Eso and Udo Udoma which described the election as inconclusive .
Fourteen years later, Obasanjo it was who went to South Africa to declare that Moshood Abiola, his fellow Egba man who won a landslide victory during the June 12 election,was not the Messiah Nigeria needed.
Today,Obasanjo is again leading the pack of those surreptitiously working behind the scene to undermine Tinubus Presidential bid by backing Obi, the only aspirant of Igbo extraction.
Ironically, no other politician in the Yoruba SW has the clout,capacity and followership to outwit Tinubu though Afenifere,the once influential mainstream political group in the region has mounted opposition against him.
Not many of the crowd left with the fledgling group led by Ayo Adebanjo,an octogenarian ,has won any election in their over six decades in politics in the region.
To them Tinubu is not a representative of what Yoruba stands for.
If the Lagos former governor has fought the FG and defeated it twenty one times in court up to Supreme court level over creation of local government and leading a fight for creation of state police,what roadmap for restructuring could be better than these exploits one may ask?.
For Tinubu,he seems to have up his game and seriously courting the North West which with it’s twenty four million registered voters has the highest voting population in the country.
The region is followed by SW where supporters to Tinubus ‘Emi lokan’ are growing by the day not minding opposition to him by the few but powerful political elite.
It is ironical that at each junction of the countrys history for a Yoruba with clear headed ideas,capacity to rule Nigeria props up,a willing Yoruba is always arround the corner to join forces with outsiders to undermine their own.
Will providence allow Tinubu who in spite of his failings not unusual of human beings, ready to use his talents,ideas and innovations used in laying a foundation for better Lagos .
This virtue also enabled him by sheer sagacity to enthrone brilliant and competent successors who have made Lagos the number one state in the country,extend same to Nigeria.
With ability to discover talent in far and remote places, Tinubu may be the one to identify such who abound in all parts of Nigeria to change the countrys course of history from being ruled by incompetent hands who got jobs on nepostic and tribal grounds thereby reversing the nations march to progress this last decades.
Time will Tell!