By Chris Paul Otaigbe
It may have been over 12 days now when the Lion of Bourdilon would have roared in joy for the 68th time. But lo and behold, his voice was shrilled by the more powerful, virtually invincible virus of death. The events that would happened in a non-COVID -19 atmosphere and the discourse that would have taken center stage
The day, the whole of the Southwest would have erupted in one spirit to celebrate their own Asiwaju when he became a year older, was March 29, 2020. This day which would have been his anniversary, was a Sunday and it was a day Bola Ahmed Tinubu turned 68 years old. A fitting day to celebrate with family, friends, fans, foes inclusive and well-wishers as has become the tradition for the Jagaban of Borgu since he became a big name in Nigerian politics.
It was a day he would have looked onto his usually cordial and supportive gathering for his annual colloquium in celebration of his birthday, feeling the enthusiasm that has always animated these celebrative moments.
Over the last six years, such a gathering has gained the status of being a source for policy inspiration, brainstorming and evaluation among others. Last year’s edition had in attendance President Mohammadu Buhari, as the Chairman of the occasion and naturally, anyone who was anything in Nigeria’s politics and on the economic stratosphere. He could not help but feel that the nation was on the right track.
Unfortunately, it was a day when the dreadful Coronanvirus virus pandemic had taken over the world and was already in Nigeria crawling, with a crab speed into the life of the country. Nigeria had become a COVID -19 nation.
Lagos was already leading the rest of the States in the number of confirmed cases and its governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu, Tinubu’s anointed political son, had established himself as the leading light in the processes of dispelling the COVID -19 darkness.
As at March 29, Coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, in Hubei province, China in 2019 had spread to other parts of the world, killing at least 30,000 persons and affecting over 300,000 people.
Italy was still battling the virus with over 12,000 deaths, accounting for the world’s highest number of deaths, as the United States of America recorded over 120,000 confirmed cases.
It was the day TB Joshua proclaimed the vindication of his prophesy that Coronavirus will reach an end just because Russia discovered a cure. What he did not recognize or acknowledge was the fact that even Nigeria’s own Prof. Maurice Iwu had made similar claim which Nigerian government acknowledged and global powers ignored. He had found the cure five clear years earlier. Unfortunately, despite the partial prophetic victory, COVID -19 continued its killing and contagious spree across communities, countries, and the world at large.
On Tinubu’s 68th birthday, the economy was in no mood for celebration at all even though corona, the deadly virus was smiling to its morgue bank with body-counts that was now advancing in quantum leaps. In Nigeria, the virus had begun its hit on some of the highest in the society such as the chief of staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari.
It was the day Nigeria recorded eight new COVID-19 cases, totaling 89 at the time. Samuel Ortom had ordered his deputy to undergo test. El-Rufai of Kaduna, who tested positive for coronavirus had placed a ban on movement in the State which was violated by four bridegrooms, whose arrest was effected immediately, in Zaria.
While, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, was one of the few friends who looked beyond the corona crisis to felicitate with the Jagaban, just when he was wishing Tinubu a happy birthday, his next-door neighbor, in Akure, Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, was having a major crisis. An explosion had occurred and the State Assembly was promising to provide relief packages for victims of the bomb blast that rocked the State capital within that period.
On Tinubu’s 68th birthday, Benue recorded its first COVID-19 case and takes proactive steps to curtail its spread. While Nigeria confirmed eight new cases of coronavirus, to make a total of 89.
It was the day Hope Uzodinma ordered total lockdown of Imo State and Ogun closed its borders over COVID – 19.
It was a day when, in response to the clamor by Nigerians for him to talk to them on development regarding the coronavirus crisis, President Muhammadu Buhari imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in three areas in Nigeria namely Lagos, Abuja and Ogun States.
Meanwhile, the death toll on Spain, on this day, was hitting the 5,600 mark, US, UK and France were still roaming within the 3,000 range of cases. Of course, those countries among others have, tragically, witnessed exponential increase in the number of confirmed cases and deaths such that panic for the pandemic has generated morbid fear across neighborhoods and communities globally.
Economies are collapsing just as jobs are being lost in hundreds of thousands and millions globally and Nigeria is being badly hit with a decline in demand for her oil. To further compound her economic crisis, the price of crude oil crashed below the 2020 budget benchmark.
In recognition of the level of financial crunch that was about to hit the country, Tinubu chose his 68th birthday to advise government to announce tax reduction and suspend VAT for this period as part of the extraordinary measures he believed CBN should be prepared to enact.
However, this was not how Tinubu looked forward to celebrating his next birthday after the highly successful edition in 2019. He had believed the 2020 celebration of his 68th would be out of this world and perhaps use it to push his position on his rumored bid for the 2023 Presidency, via the usual colloquium among others.
His birthday was in March and as at March 29, 2019, the world never knew one month to the end of that year would be the last it would experience relative peace and normalcy as we knew it then.
As if seeing into the immediate future, Asiwaju used the occasion of his 67th year celebration colloquium to warn of an impending economic meltdown when he said nations now face fundamental political and economic questions that cast doubt on the social utility and viability of the economic model under which they have travelled for the past 50 years. “The global economy faces stiff headwinds. Factors not of our making now cast the world economy towards low growth. Consumer spending is slipping. Aggregate private debt has attained historic levels. America and China are in a trade tug-of-war. Brexit looms imminent. Whatever form Brexit takes, economic dislocation will emerge from the political confusion now underway. Even without Brexit, the EU itself has entered a rough patch. The Eurozone may already be in recession.
Stock markets experience wild swings that speak to an underlying weakness and pessimism about the immediate future. Forecasters are predicting a global recession within the next 12-18 months. I render these observations not to frighten anyone but because they ring true. Wisdom requires that we accept reality instead of obscuring it under the cloak of wishful thinking. We must build policies that interact with the world as it is, and not with the world as it should be. We must recognize these harsh economic tidings as advance warnings to the wise. Hence, we must think deeper and work harder for our people in Nigeria. I would be a most wicked friend if I knew a storm was approaching yet convinced you to ready your family for an outdoor picnic under the tallest tree. The truth is always a more valuable guardian than fantasy.” He said.
Fast forward to today, his prophesy and what he warned about has come to be, less than the 18-month maximum period for its manifestation. Today, the world is in a harsher recession than the ones before it.
Born 29th March, 1952 to Chief Abibatu Mogaji,, a trader who eventually became the Iyaloja of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu, attended St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos and Children’s Home School in Ibadan, South West of Nigeria. He then went to the United States in 1975, 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.
Tinubu worked for the American companies Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins, & Sells, and GTE Services Corporation. After returning to Nigeria in 1983, Bola Tinubu joined Mobil Oil Nigeria, and later became an executive of the company.
A Nigerian politician, Tinubu was elected senator for the Lagos West Constituency in Lagos State, Nigeria in 1993. The election was just prior to a military take-over in December 1993. When Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999, he was elected governor of Lagos State, holding office from 29th May, 1999 to 29th May, 2007.
He is a member of the All Progressives Congress party (APC); he also holds both the chieftaincies of the Asiwaju of Lagos and the Jagaban of the Borgu Kingdom in Niger State, Nigeria. He has been routinely referred to as the national leader of the APC during the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari
His political career began in 1992, on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (Nigeria) where he was a member of the faction of the Peoples Front led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and made up of other politicians such as Dapo Sarumi, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Rabiu Kwankwaso , Magaji Abdullahi and Yomi Edu. He was elected to the Nigerian Senate, representing the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic. After the results of the 12 June 1993 presidential elections were annulled, Tinubu became a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition, a group which mobilized support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of the results of the 12th of June. He went into exile in 1994 and returned to the country in 1998 after the death of the military dictator Sani Abacha, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.
In the run-up to the 1999 elections, Bola Tinubu was a protégé of Alliance for Democracy (AD) leaders Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Adebanjo. 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 January 1999, he stood for the position of Executive Governor of Lagos State on the AD ticket and was elected.
When he assumed office in May 1999, Bola Ahmed Tinubu promised 10,000 housing units for the poor.
During the eight-year period of his being in 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.
Tinubu, alongside a new deputy governor, Femi Pedro, won re-election into office as governor in April 2003. All other states in the South West fell to the People’s Democratic Party in those elections.
He was involved in a struggle with the Federal government over whether Lagos State had the right to create new Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) to meet the needs of its large population. The controversy led to the Federal government seizing funds meant for local councils in the state. During the latter 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 had become minister of works, and Bode George, the 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. Pedro competed to become the AC candidate for governor in the 2007 elections, but withdrew his name on the eve of the party nomination. He defected to the Labor 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.
The Lion of Bourdillon is a 2015 documentary film aired by Africa Independent Television, a Nigerian Television Station popularly known as AIT. The film centers on the political life of Senator Bola Tinubu, the former Lagos State Governor and the National leader of the All Progressives Congress. First aired on March 1, 2015, it was stopped from further airing on March 6, 2015, following a N150 billion libel suit filed by Tinubu
The airing of the documentary film on March 1, 2015, generated several controversies.
The film’s release was described by critics as an attempt to tarnish Tinubu’s image as a leader of a ruling party, the All Progressives Congress. Abimbola Adelakun, a Nigerian writer and columnist of The Punch newspaper, strongly criticized the film’s release in her publications on March 5, 2015, describing the airing of the film as “libelous and defamatory”, accusing the People’s Democratic Party of being an accomplice.
During his first term as governor of Lagos, the academic certificate controversy was a major problem that threatened his political base. The alleged certificate scam which reported to have begun with his secondary school soon graduated to tertiary institutions in Chicago in the United States of America (USA). Somehow, he survived it.
Ever since, his political strength grew in leaps and bounds to the point where he was able to mobilize the Southwest to form the game-changing political bloc that voted Buhari to power.
Another trying period for him, although not as challenging was the wait on him by the nation on his view and position on the establishment of the Amotekun security initiative by the Southwest governors.
Critics had been of the opinion that his silence and evasive disposition to the much-publicized security outfit must have been due to his ambition to be President in 2023 since he would need the support of the North. A larger section of the Northern establishment never hid their disdain for the regional security outfit.
When he responded, his response was direct and without apology to those on the other side of the Amotekun argument.
“Amotekun. This issue has dominated recent discourse and media headlines. Distilled to its basics, it concerns how best state governments can assist with the safety and security of their residents.” He began.
For him, this was a matter of serious concern entitled to sober thought. However, he said, the discourse had been turned into a political tug-of-war, adding that fierce, often unthinking rhetoric, for and against, has crossed the lips of too many Nigerians. More subjective talking than objective thinking has been the fuel of this outburst.
“Question those in favour of Amotekun. Most have but the vaguest notion about it. They know few details yet vigorously attribute to its opponents the most negative intentions. Ask those who oppose Amotekun. They are equally ignorant of its provisions. They oppose the initiative not on its merits but merely because it was proposed by their political opponents or because they don’t see an avenue for personal gain from it.” Said the Jagaban.
While colorful, he remarked that the rhetoric has been disconcerting. How people had mishandled the matter was a demonstration, for Tinubu, that Nigerians still have a long way to go in perfecting the nation’s democracy. Too much energy had been spent distorting the issue, instead of seeking a resolution that supports local enhancement of security while keeping the constitution intact. He then feared that if this becomes the standard for how the people handle disagreements then political actors would have obscured Nigeria’s path forward with ill-conceived sentiments.
“In this matter, I do not see malign intent in the differences of opinion between the South West Governors as authors of Amotekun and the Attorney-General as the primary law enforcement officer of the Federal Government. Shorn of the overly dramatic language, what lies before us is but a step in the evolution of our federalism. This is an opportunity to more clearly define that federalism; but one cannot attain this better, more functional definition through overblown, emotional language.
Objectivity and calmness are required. To a significant degree, the enduring quality of our republic will be established by the sagacity with which we handle disagreements regarding the division of power between federal and state governments. Such disagreements are inevitable. This is not the first. Nor will it be the last. We must devote our energies more toward solving problems rather than amplifying them.’ He said.
Explaining the rationale behind the initiative, he said in seeking to fulfill their mandates of protecting their people, the Southwest governors established a program to buttress existing security mechanisms. Seeking to protect the constitution as best he could, the Attorney-General, he said, offered his opinion on what he believed the governors sought to do. He maintained no one could blame either party for seeking to fulfill what they genuinely viewed as their public duty.
“Until now, I have deliberately maintained a studied silence regarding Amotekun. Many have tried to goad my swift public reaction. Those who have taken this road did so not because they care about Amotekun or even the people it intends to help protect. They did so, knowing this had become a delicate and emotional issue for many. These cynics did so with the adversarial hope that, in haste, I might misspeak or misstep in a manner they could twist to their political advantage.
Such people are possessed of a mercenary aspect that permits them to sacrifice almost anything, even jeopardize the very foundations of our political unity, if they might exact personal gain from the upheaval. In that they know no nobler purpose than their own appetites, we should feel sorry for them. However, we must not allow our sympathies for their barren condition to persuade us that there is worth in their destructive misconduct.
They must be left to the consequences of their own devices.” Said Asiwaju.
Clearing the air on his delayed response to the nationally sensitive issue, the APC National Leader said if truly he is the political leader he is often described as, such a position did not grant him the luxury of a hasty, ill-conceived utterances. He affirmed that there are those who will use inflamed words to spark the passions of others. According to him, this may bring transient applause, but when the cheers fade, it would further plunge the country and its democracy into the valley of retrogression because their words were never inclined toward resolution and long-term improvement but toward short-term popularity and perpetual confrontation.
“I believe in this nation and its benign prospects. I dearly love its people, all of them. Over the years of our existence, they have suffered much. Yet they still hold forth with heroic patience and an extraordinary optimism born of strong faith. To these people I owe my best. I shall not treat them cheaply or bandy their emotions like some errant football. The welfare of this good and decent people is my overriding concern.
Equally, I do not cow to the demands of those who press for me to make a premature statement on an important issue. Again, that is a game devised by those who care more about political cleverness than the quality of governance. I chose to talk when my position has been made ripe by a collection of the facts and a reasonable assessment of those facts.”
The lion of Bourdillon is one politician who cannot be ignored in Nigerian politics. Through him, three successive Governors of Lagos State, including the incumbent, have emerged, one of them has been made the Minister with more than two strategic ministries, Babatunde Fashola. To top it all up, he gave Nigeria the best Vice President she has ever had. More than any time before now, the brand of qualitative godfatherism Tinubu has brought to bear on Nigeria’s socio-political space is one that has continued to impact on some of the strategic areas of the nation’s economy and polity.
He may have made mistakes in some of his judgments but overall, his imprint on the heart of the country looms large.
Days ago, on his birthday, he must have sat in the privacy of a seclusion to reflect on his journey, actions and impact, so far, on a country whose future he is passionate about. He would have come out of the reverie with a conclusion that, good or bad, the name, Bola Ahmed Asiwaju Tinubu can never be ignored or forgotten in this generation and the ones to come.