By Ayo Ogunsan
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” —Douglas MacArthur
Born on March 29, 1952, Senator Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu passes for a thorough bred politician cum administrator whose humble background snowballed into that of a kingmaker cum generalissimo, despite all the attendant brouhaha and mudslinging from his megalomaniac contenders who he has continued to be a threat to.
Well, it’s pretty difficult describing and unraveling all the qualities of a heroic kingmaker, a nation-building strategist, a human capital professional and of course a core family man, all rolled into one.
Detribalised and religiously flexible on the altar of freewillism, it appears a Herculean task numbering all the chieftaincy titles of the rock himself, among which include the popular titles of Jagaban of Borgu and the Asiwaju of Lagos.
Asiwaju is that man you can’t just describe in few words. Politically, he is that force that continues to be reckoned with amidst the league of political figures, not just in Nigeria but also Africa and the rest of the world.
The amiable son of the legendary late Iyaloja of Lagos, Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, is a builder of men, who is never power-drunk. Here is a man who has produced great administrators and technocrats who emerged from the Asiwaju School of Political Affairs and Leadership, if I may coin that. The Lion of Bourdillon is that man who, despite his sterling achievements, has remained humble and unassuming.
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Amassing hands-on experience both in the private and public sectors has made him emerged as that distinguished personality whose political acumen rates high in the league of politicians all around. Perhaps it is safe to say that his Accounting degree from Chicago State University may have accounted for why he sees himself accountable to both God and man.
Having emerged as one of the founding members of the pro-democratic movement, National Democratic Coalition, which vehemently fought against the dictatorial tendencies of the military junta, the Jagaban of Borgu, in the wake of the fourth republic, won the 1999 governorship election in Lagos State and got re-elected owing to his unprecedented achievements in office.
While engineering the creation of new Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) aimed at taking governance to the grassroots and also meeting the needs of the teeming Lagos population which was growing geometrically, Jagaban’s political ideologies and principles have enjoyed unfathomable popularity. History books have it that he made giants strides in education, housing, environment, transport, agriculture, infrastructure, while creating a long lasting legacy for emergent governors to build on.
It was Peter Drucker who said that “effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes”.
For a man who has dominated discourses in the Nigerian political sphere for over two decades, nothing else is due unto him than eulogies for his impact.
For a man who wields so much influence, his foot soldiers are spread everywhere, transversing the north to the south, east to west; ranging from governors, legislators, public servants, technocrats and captains of industries. Suffice to say that the generalissimo spreads across the landscape of Africa and beyond.
Having ensured that the opposition party steers clear from taking over the reins of power in Lagos, for over two decades, he has successfully institutionalised viable democrats as successive governors without any interference in their administrations, making him that godfather that can only be envied.
Now, that’s a gut his enemies disgust with so much passion. But you can’t blame Tinubu. He must have taken a cue from John C. Maxwell who is quoted to have said —“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”.
Who is afraid of Tinubu? A man who was born a winner; whose conspirators and contenders posed to bringing him down have continued to fail at the courts. For every time Asiwaju is persecuted, he gets up almost immediately and soars even far higher like an eagle that he is.
Who is afraid of the Lion of Bourdillon? When he roars, the ground quakes, splitting into parts wide enough to swallow the wood insect which gathers its sticks and carries it on its head.
The loving husband of Oluremi Tinubu, a distinguished senator of the Federal Republic, has not stopped being a relevant figure in national discourses. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” so says John Quincy Adams.
Little wonder why the grotesque contest his haters enmeshed themselves to torpedo his ever-sailing ship has always failed them. Jagaban has remained the headache of all haters and never-do-wells who, at the mere snap of his finger, begin to look morosely lachrymose.
Tinubu is a goal-getter, a thinker and a doer who, when he tells you he is going to do something, already has that all figured out and, perhaps, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, halfway done. That subscribes to Warren Bennis’ view that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”.
Baba Seyi is definitely not like any tongue-wagging personality who talks more but acts less. Ahmed is not given to too much words and when he does speak, his words are accompanied with powers that effortlessly, and by default setting, get into the space of national discourse.
When he chooses to talk, the nation listens; when he decides to keep quite, it becomes a deafening silence piercing through the eardrums of even the deaf.
I mean, it could only take a man rich in wit and wisdom to champion the course of merging fragments of opposition parties to form a mega party today called the All Progressives Congress (APC), thereby producing a Buhari-led administration at the centre; halting the 16-year rule of the PDP in a rather epoch-making electioneering process.
Who dares to threaten the existence of the Jagaban? Let the person be bold enough to chew blades.
Who is antagonising the audacity of the Lion of Bourdillon? Let the fellow first visit the den of lions and come out unhurt.
Who is trying to pull down Asiwaju? Let the individual first whisper and get heard across the globe.
His political enemies have had to kiss the dust, while resorting to copycatism which has only led many to being sacrificed on the altar of scapegoatism. He has had to, on a couple of occasions, beat political mediocres and ignoramuses to their games.
If, as a pundit, you think you can predict the moves of Jagaban, you lie. The master strategist beats you to your game, having displayed he is in possession of the joker, the master card of the mathematical 54 playing cards.
Even when he is yet to declare his intention to run for the presidency, Asiwaju, who has not occupied any political office since 2007, is still being dreaded as the man to give any contender a run for his money in the 2023 presidential election. But Baba Seyi, with all prudence, plays his cards close to his chest, lest he is spied by some political amateurs.
Worthy of note is the fact that perhaps a winning strategy for Asiwaju is his zest for human capacity building. He seems to have a special interest in encouraging his subjects to leadership positions, especially the younger generation which he continues to bolster.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr — “A genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder for consensus.”
In one of his interactions with the press, Asiwaju, a true nationalist and democrat per excellence, was quoted to have lent his voice to the need for electoral reforms and fiscal federalism. In his exact words, “I am a strong advocate for more electoral reforms to further improve transparency, integrity and fairness of our elections. Reforming electoral laws to strengthen the legal basis for the use of card readers and improvement in identification and biometrics technologies are some of the areas to which attention should be focused in this regard.”
“I am a progressive and a social democrat. That is to say that I believe government should serve the people not the other way around and I support policies that promote the economic, social and environmental health and wellbeing of the ordinary men and women of this country.
“I am also a strong believer and advocate of political and fiscal federalism. I would like to see reforms introduced to rebalance the legislative authority of the states in comparison with the federal government in order to increase states’ autonomy in line with accepted principles of federalism.”
Like the biblical Judas Iscariot, his betrayers, backstabbers, mischief makers and traducers are there as his footstool, but the unrivaled Jagaban remains a colossus whose light has continued to shine, illuminating political darkness.
Across the length and breath of the country, political juggernauts and gladiators are not yet vying for any elective position until they have sought the blessings of the Jagaban. You are probably not contesting if Asiwaju is not in the know. That largely talks about influence.
Belly-aching as a result of the preponderance of his goodwill garnered all over, naysayers hate this audacity of hope. But, here is the thing , according to Paul Newman — “If you don’t have enemies, you don’t have character.”
The trailblazer and pacesetter of modern-day progressive movement learns from his enemies. If you are close to Tinubu, he tells you there is always something to learn from enemies. Anyways, Aristophanes has said: “The wise learn many things from their enemies.”
Methinks that March 29 remains a red-lettered day for many of us who value the acumen and sophistry of the Jagaban of Borgu. Blessed be that day this star appeared on planet earth!
To me, personally, I must not fail to say that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a father, a leader and a mentor. What more do I say? Okay, in the constraint of exactitude for words, I want to say he is loved, cherished and wished a long life in sound health and prosperity.
Permit me to wish you a happy birthday accompanied with 69 hearty cheers, sir!
Dr Ayo Ogunsan is the Chairman of Executive Group and Board Member, Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF).