By Eric Elezuo
Ability in disability, they say, is good while ability in ability is better. But extra ability is the best and recommended, and that is the intimidating quality of a man who many has called blessed, the former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Born Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu on March 29, 1952 in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, Asiwaju as he is fondly called attended St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos and Children’s Home School in Ibadan.
At the age of 23 in 1975, the man whose hindsight is legendary left the shores of Nigeria for the proverbial greener pastures to the United States, where he studied first at Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, Illinois and then at Chicago State University. He graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting.
Being zealous to begin his profession in earnest, he was employed by some American companies to showcase his prowess. Such companies include Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins, & Sells, and GTE Services Corporation. He practically excelled in duties. After returning to Nigeria in 1983, Asiwaju joined Mobil Oil Nigeria, and by a dint of hardwork, dedication goal getting abilities, he rose to become an Executive of the company.
By 1992 when he left the lucrative endeavours of Exxon Mobil to join politics, many thought he was mad. It was even reported that his superior refused to approve his resignation letter, and when he eventually did, he told him, ‘you will come back’. Yes he did, but not as staff of Mobil but first as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and then as the Executive Governor of Lagos State.
His political career began in 1992, on the platform of the Social Democratic Party in the faction of the Peoples Front led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua with the likes of Dapo Sarumi and Yomi Edu when he was elected to the Nigerian Senate representing the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived and truncated Nigerian Third Republic.
After the results of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Elections were annulled, Asiwaju teamed with like minds and founded the pro-democracy group, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which mobilized support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of the June 12 results.
To achieve this objective, he voluntarily went into exile in 1994 from where he fought to a standstill the government of the late dictator, Sani Abacha. He returned to the country in 1998 after the death of Military Dictator Sani Abacha, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.
Many has seen Asiwaju as a political godfather today, but not many knew he had for years been a political godson, even a godservant. In the run-up to the 1999 elections, he was a protégé of Alliance for Democracy (AD) leaders Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Adebanjo. He paid his dues. He won the AD primaries for the Lagos State gubernatorial elections in competition with Funsho Williams and Wahab Dosunmu, a former Minister of Works and Housing. In April 1999, he stood for the position of Executive Governor of Lagos State on the AD ticket and was elected, and there extended his larger than life existence.
When he assumed office in May 1999, it is on record that Bola Ahmed Tinubu promised 10,000 housing units for the poor. During his eight-year period of office, he made large investments in education in the state. He also initiated new road construction, required to meet the needs of the fast-growing population of the state, and created the now popular BRT buses and lanes to ease traffic in Lagos as well as give Lagos the mega city status it has always clamoured to be.
In April 2003, he won re-election to office as Governor with a new deputy governor, Femi Pedro. This was as all other states in the South West fell to the superior political might of Peoples Democratic Party. Asiwaju’s survival in the sweeping political holocaust was legendary, and that set him on the path of being proactive, projecting tomorrow, and working to meet it.
He was involved in a struggle with the Federal government over whether Lagos State had the right to create new local governments to meet the needs of its large population. He went ahead to create 34 new local governments, a controversy which led to the Federal government seizing funds meant for local councils in the state. The local governments were later changed to Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). During the later part of his term in office, he was engaged in continuous clashes with PDP powers such as Adeseye Ogunlewe, a former Lagos State senator who became minister of works, and Bode George, southwest chairman of the PDP.
Relations between Bola Tinubu and deputy governor Femi Pedro became increasingly tense after Pedro declared his intention to run for the gubernatorial elections against Asiwaju’s intentions, who at this time had become a kingmaker. Femi Pedro went ahead to compete to become the AC candidate for governor in the 2007 elections, but withdrew his name on the eve of the party nomination and defected to the Labour Party while still keeping his position as deputy governor. Tinubu’s tenure as Lagos State Governor ended on May 29, 2007 when Babatunde Fashola of the Action Congress took office. Fashola had been Chief of Staff to Bola Tinubu.
It is not unusual that when one is doing well, eyebrows will be raised. In April 2007, after the elections but before the new governor had taken over, the Federal Government brought Asiwaju Bola Tinubu before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for trial over alleged illegal operation of 16 separate foreign accounts. He was found not culpable. Again in January 2009, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission cleared him of charges of conspiracy, money laundering, abuse of office and official corruption in relation to a sale of V-mobile network shares in 2004.
In September 2009, there were reports that the British Metropolitan Police were investigating a transaction in which the Lagos State government made an investment in Econet (now Airtel). Bola Tinubu said the transaction was straightforward and profitable to the state, with no intermediaries involved.
Asiwaju is a man with nine lives, who attempts have allegedly been on his life. In March 2009 there were reports that a plot had been identified to kill him. The Alliance for Democracy called on Inspector General Police, Mike Okiro to conduct a thorough investigation.
Following the victory by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the April 2007 elections, Bola Tinubu was active in negotiations to bring together the fragmented opposition parties into a “mega-party” capable of challenging the PDP in 2011. In July 2009, he called for implementation of electoral reforms spelled out in the Uwais report to ensure that the 2011 elections would be as free and fair as the elections of 1993 had been. In December 2009 Tinubu supported Fashola’s candidature for a second term in office which was adjudged by the public as good.
In 2015, Tinubu and Fashola threw their full weight behind Akinwunmi Ambode, the then gubernatorial candidate of the APC who is today the performing Executive Governor of Lagos.
Tinubu is married to Oluremi Tinubu, the current Senator representing Lagos central. His mother, Abibatu Mogaji died on June 15, 2014 at the age of 96.
In giving back to the society, Asiwaju Tinubu has established industries, and employed thousands of Nigerians. His investments cut across the media, aviation, finance and many more.
His Bourdillon Ikoyi home is home to many individuals who throng there on a daily basis for one directive or assistance or another.
Asides giving employment to thousands of Nigerians, Asiwaju has uncountable unrepentant political godsons including the current governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, who made the confession recently during his speech at the Bola Tinubu ninth colloquium to mark Tinubu’s 65th birthday, and former Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, Comrade Ayodele Adewale, who had said that ‘wherever Asiwaju is, there will I be’.
Tinubu acceptance by his people is showcased wherever he goes, and was very pronounced during the celebration of his 65 years birthday at the Eko Hotels and Suites and The Lagos House, Alausa recently as mammoth crowd of both dignitaries and commoners turned out to say happy birthday sir! The presence of the President, Muhammadu Buhari at this year’s event makes it more memorable
For your greatness, the lives you have affected and your human nature, we at TheBoss say congratulations and Happy Birthday Sir!