ASIWAJU: THE BIOGRAPHY OF BOLANLE AHMED ADEKUNLE TINUBU
s a political player in Nigeria, I only read Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu from a distance and then make impressions. I am convinced he has been stamping indelible footprints on the political terrains of Nigeria since he joined partisan politics in the '90s. That we operate from two political divides makes an easy encounter a near impossibility. However, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is an enigma, a colossus and a political icon of many parts raised by Providence essentially to transmogrify Nigeria's political setting, a new narrative on the power game anchored on his brand of politics. Then lately, one of the authors of this book; Asiwaju: The Biography Of Bolanle Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu, Dr Moshood Ademola Fayemiwo approached me with what I later discovered to be a herculean task. He entreated me to be the reviewer. Why me was my initial reaction? In any case, I accepted the task on a term that as a woman, a politician at that, coming from the background of an opposition party would make a good reviewer of a book on Asiwaju. He got me red- handed. But running through the 474-page book, I could not but have a pang of pity for the authors. Dr. Fayemiwo and Margie Neal-Fayemiwo had succeeded in producing an omnibus on Asiwaju Tinubu. The authors caught my interest with the huge efforts they dispensed, running from pillar to post in their encyclopedic efforts for this seminal work. The authors demonstrated uncommon ambition to leave nothing out of the narrative on Tinubu and in the process, ended with an abridged history of Nigeria, which they produced within 6 years! I concur that it may not be easy to write a faultless biography of a politician, who is viewed with different lenses and from diverse quarters. The Asiwaju, as I know, is a huge ball of wander that keeps rolling even over dangerous landmines and yet remained un-punctured. The book has helped to unveil the man Tinubu like never, bringing into the front burner issues that have made him controversial even from childhood to adulthood and his emergence as a national political icon. At a point, I felt that Asiwaju and his arch supporters should be grateful that the authors made painstaking and scientific efforts to puncture all lies about him, bothering on alleged certificate forgery, place of birth, political leanings and affiliations while taking everyone into the world of the Asiwaju without any form of restraint and embellishment.
The Authors and Writing Style:
The biography on Asiwaju is a telltale of the rich background of the authors in investigative journalism and their committed attempts to register as modern historians. I say this much bearing in mind the different encounters I had with Dr. Moshood Fayemiwo. He exudes the confidence of a top-flight journalist, while his ambition to register as an accomplished publisher is instantly striking. Therefore, there is no mistaking the expository and narrative styles the authors deployed in every chapter, just to hold the reader spellbound. The biography on Tinubu captures attention from the first page with a splash of Vox-pub and memorable quotes from eminent Nigerians who know Asiwaju Tinubu intimately and would make no exaggeration about him for any reason. The authors indeed cleverly documented the worldviews on Tinubu by political icons, not forgetting to bring in President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and his wife, Aisha, President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, Professor Wole Soyinka, His Eminence, the Sultan Of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Chief Bisi Akande, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Governors of Borno, Kashim Shettima, Ogun, Ibikunle Amosun, Ekiti, Ayo Fayose, former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, his successor, Godwin Obaseki, Olusegun Mimiko, former governor of Ondo state, Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia state, Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a host of others. The rich content and the narrative on the Asiwaju, presented in logical sequence by the authors are accentuated by the remarks from a man who wrote the forward; Ogbeni Raufu Aregbesola, the governor of the State of Osun. Aregbesola had laid emphasis on how Asiwaju has been giving all to rekindle the fire of progressive politics in Nigeria and how he stood against all odds to recast Lagos over which he governed for 8 years into a modern city of pride, not only to the indigenes but also to Nigerians in general.
Reasons for the Asiwaju Biography
Nigerians will not agree less that Asiwaju has etched his name boldly on the plaque of Nigeria's political history with the role he played in rallying the opposition parties to displace the government by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) that ruled for 16 years. It was not a child's play for an opposing political party to attain such a feat in a country like Nigeria. The authors latched onto this as a strong reason the former governor of Lagos state deserves to be recognized. Let me say pointedly here that PDP, despite its failing, ranked as the most formidable political party ever in Nigeria and Africa but its capitulation, though looming was a regret. The fall of the party is a great lesson that custodians of power should never by any means be careless. Very ruefully, PDP constituted opposition to itself and in the end, gave the opponents an easy avenue to clinically finish off the game of power at its expense. The authors' second reason for writing the biography is to celebrate Asiwaju as a life-long democrat and an advocate of people's power. On this, the book depicts Tinubu as a builder of men and women, as a philanthropist, a modernizer, a visionary, an apostle of good governance, a political tactician as well as a leader for the future. Again, the Jagaban's strident advocacy on having Nigeria restructured for the sake of better governance on the scale of true federalism counts as another significant reason that fired the instinct for the biography.
Situating Asiwaju Tinubu In Lagos Politics
The authors' attempts in the early chapter to locate Tinubu in Lagos had compelled them to take a long winding voyage into the roots of the Nigeria's former Capital. As earlier stated, the biography on Tinubu equates a complete history of Nigeria, given the depth of information the authors offered on Lagos, dating back to the pre-colonial era. I initially felt the long narrative on Lagos should have been avoided. All the same, I came to terms that the biography is a nice tip, or rather a bonus for every reader as it offers some hidden information about Lagos and Nigeria. Lagos, I agree, is a home for all. The book unveils Lagos as a microcosm of the world, drawing indigenes from Latin American and Caribbean nations such as Brazil, Jamaica and Haiti. In Lagos, we have famous families like Thomas, Fernandez, Da Rocha, Towery-Coker, Savage, Salvador, the Cokers, Simpsons, Oniru and Bucknor, tracing their lineages to Portugal and Brazil. It is more prestigious to be born in Lagos and to be a Lagosian. That is the point the authors just made in the book, emphasizing that the Asiwaju is a blue blood Lagosian, born into the Tinubu's family with a sliver spoon and by an energetic, business- inclined, politically- conscious and very caring mother, Alhaja Abibatu Magaji. They opined that no one should be taken by surprise that the DNA of political activism and fight for worthy causes are in the veins of Asiwaju. Quoting the authors: - "Tinubu's father, had a dalliance with Mama Abibatu and on Saturday March 29, 1952, Mama Abibatu gave birth to a baby boy. At her home at Ita-Faji in Lagos Island, the Muslim eight-day "sunna" naming ceremony of the new baby boy took place and being the more prominent and richer partner in the relationship, Mama Abibatu christened her favorite and only baby boy: Bolanle; meaning, "born into wealth," and Adekunle; meaning, "Addition to family abundance and wealth." His father elected to name him after himself: "Ahmed," meaning: "Much to be praised."
In Chapter Two, the authors made deliberate attempts to lay the card on the table by dispelling the "conspiracy theory" on the birthplace and parentage of the Asiwaju. They traced the genesis of the controversy to the circles of PDP in Lagos. Tinubu had shocked bookmakers on the manner he rode to power on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) and at the expense of notable governorship aspirants and godfathers in the opposition party in 1999. To regain Lagos, some forces in the PDP whose names the authors boldly listed, resorted to name calling and character assassination. Tinubu became a target that must be brought down, and destroyed permanently. From then on, opponents raised the campaign that he was never from Lagos, but from a sleepy town of Iragbiji in Osun state. In the same vein, Asiwaju ran into stormy waters on allegation of certificate forgery, which the book trashed out explicitly in Chapter Five. To dispel the incongruities about his birthplace, the authors brought into the picture the Aragbiji of Iragbiji, His Royal Highness Oba Abdulrasheed Ayotunde Olabomi IV and some foremost chiefs of the town. They all dispelled what the author referred to as mere destructive propaganda against Tinubu, contending that Iragbiji would have even loved to be associated with a colossus like him, given the greatness his persona would have offered the town.
Chapters Three, Four and Five gave readers the formative years of Asiwaju and the conscious efforts by his caring mother, Alhaja Mogaji to mold him into a great man of her own dream. Asiwaju had a turbulent start in childhood. The book made us to understand how rascally he was as a kid, given the environment he grew up in Lagos. He was a prankster too who gave the mother sleepless nights. Like every other growing kid, Asiwaju took interest in the unprofitable ventures of socialization, preferring to party and carouse in dark corners rather than being academically conscious. Worried Alhaja took a wise counsel of easing him out of Lagos to Ibadan for his middle level education. It worked. In 1965, Asiwaju Tinubu ended up at the Children's Home School in Molete, Ibadan managed by a disciplinarian, Mrs. Tanimowo Ogunlesi. To keep his mind straight on academics, Alhaja, again resolved to send him abroad for further studies after his secondary education. His departure from Nigeria to the United States marked the turning point in his life. He was forced to adjust to the reality of fending for himself in the United States. For instance, who would have believed that to survive in the U.S, Asiwaju, who had brief stints in New York and Virginia en-route to Chicago, his final destination worked as a cab driver, security man and a dishwasher just to survive? However, by Providence, he fulfilled his dream of studying Accounting at Chicago State University by dint of hard work. Before then, he had attended William J. Bogan Junior College and took some remedial courses, passing out in December 1976. After his graduation, the school was renamed; Richard J. Daley College in honor of the Mayor of Chicago, who died that year. The renaming of the school sparked the row over certificate he obtained, which his opponent insinuated has been a fake, as the authors explained. The authors traced the Asiwaju's rise to stardom to the moment he bagged a prestigious job at Illinois state, with a world-renowned Fortune 500 corporation; Deloitte Touche Tohamtsu Limited. The first major job he handled for Deloitte in Chicago was at the Chicago Savings and Loans Bank. "He earned a good salary and became a member of the privileged black upper class, who lived in a safe and affluent Chicago Southside neighborhood. Then, he began to invest in blue chips, stocks and bonds, determined to build a comfortable and financially secured life he had longed for. He never knew the best was yet to come and it wasn't far away", the authors wrote,
Return to Nigeria
Asiwaju was asked to audit one of the company's foremost clients; National Oil Plc. The task took him back to Nigeria and in the process got established with enablement to build a dynasty, which he has since been exploiting till date. He gave that credit to an old-time senior friend late Prince Ajibade Ojora, then a director at the Mobil Oil Corporation who facilitated his employment into the mega oil company.
Asiwaju must have been ideologically indoctrinated during his school days at Ibadan, the political headquarters of the southwest. Students of his age were exposed indirectly to the cases in the Action Group (AG) and how the party split over irreconcilable differences between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Ladoke Akintola in the 60s. I recalled that as a student of his age, we usually formed opinions about politics based on what we read and the stories we were fed with about Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Personally, I chose Awolowo as my hero, while many fell on the side of Akintola. Politics was very thick in those days as kids naturally tagged along too. Asiwaju heard about the coup and counter coup of 1966 and the political turmoil that engulfed Nigeria all through the '60, culminating in the Nigerian Civil war. Those events made him more politically conscious and were invariably shaping his own political future. I have no doubt that he equally fell for the political ideology of progressivism espoused by Awolowo. Chapter Eight unveils the prompt decision of Asiwaju to take to partisan politics after returning from the United States. The authors wrote; "In early 1990, Bolanle took a momentous career decision that altered his life history and future forever. He decided to try his hands in Nigerian politics." Asiwaju, in the book tells the story of how he joined partisan politics. "The MD at Mobil, Bob Parker thought I was crazy when I told him I wanted to play Nigerian politics. I also told the financial director, Peter Akinyelure that I wanted to join politics and use my brain for my country and I couldn't continue to be an armchair critic. "They could not believe what I said. They said, given my career path at Mobil, if there was any chance of anybody becoming something there, then I would be the one."
Asiwaju's sojourn in politics took off when he attempted a senatorial seat in Lagos in 1992 as a candidate for Lagos West under the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He won landslide and became a senator during aborted Third Republic. His membership of SDP brought him in close contact with Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. In 1993 after the military government of General Badamasi Babangida annulled the June 12 election, which Abiola won, Tinubu was at the forefront of agitation for revalidation of the annulled election results. He was a top member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which spearheaded the struggle. Members of the group gave the military sleepless nights such that most of them, including Tinubu who escaped arrest went on exile and into safety in 1994. He returned to the country in 1998 after the death of General Sani Abacha. As a founding member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Asiwaju rode on the crest of support by top members like late Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and others to defeat Chief Funso Williams, Dr Wahab Dosunmu to pick the party's ticket. He won the governorship election in 1999.
Asiwaju As Builder of New Lagos
The emergence Asiwaju as an undisputable Icon began from the moment he became the governor of Lagos State. Many great ideas and initiatives about transforming Lagos from its characteristic chaotic city to pride were credited to him. He had from day one nursed the ambition of creating a mega world-class city out of Lagos and had produced a Blue Print for that. He had made Lagos a reference point on good governance and how to drive progress and development in a state. His successors have no choice, but to take the Blue Print on transforming Lagos as a compelling holy book. Chapter Ten captures the initiatives brought to bear by Asiwaju to drive progress in Lagos as governor. The passion to develop Lagos sits robustly in Asiwaju's mind at all times. It surpasses the period he served as governor. Here, we can pause to applaud his creativity in selecting his successors. He proved his critics wrong by anointing Babatunde Raji Fashola to succeed him in 2007. Fashola upped the ante on governance and as well advanced on the legacies of laid by his mentor. Today, we have Akinwumi Ambode, who has also made name for himself in holding the Tinubu legacy aloft with what book makers referred to as excellent performance. The authors disclosed that, "Asiwaju had an idea of what the post-Asiwaju Lagos should look like. So, he coined the motto: "Eko Oni Baje" literally "Lagos must always soar in greatness" That motto encapsulated all that Asiwaju had in mind for his dear state, but which could not be accomplished under two-term constitutional limits of eight years. What he did was to put all the necessary tools in place for his successor."
Lagos residents will agree that the attempt to create orderliness in Lagos which culminated in the creation of LASTMA, BRT, construction of first grade roads to open up new areas, initiation of Eko Atlantic idea and others, will always echo his name. The authors recalled that young secondary school students in Lagos who benefitted from the free education policy of the Asiwaju administration were appreciative of his large-heartedness in paying for their common entrance examination fees for the annual West African school certificate examinations and national common entrance examination (WASC/NECO). Besides, Asiwaju as governor off set medical bills for needy Lagosians, offered scholarships for deserving students to study abroad, paying the bills for pilgrimage of many Muslims in Lagos and more.
Revenue Generation for Lagos
Asiwaju, according to the authors, would always be credited with creativity and ingenuity on building sound economy base for Lagos. They recall that before him, the military government of Colonel Muhammed Marwa used to generate a paltry N300m monthly. Marwa's government later hired a private tax company; Adekanola to assist in revenue generation which doubled up to N600m monthly, whereas the state's wage bill per month was N800m. But with Bola Tinubu, the use of electronic banking came into force. He launched a system/revenue collection-monitoring project (EBS/RCM), which helped to eliminate waste and bring innovation to revenue-collection in the state. His government followed up with total overhauling of the state's internal revenue service, now known as Lagos internal revenue service (LIRS). "By the end of his first term in office in 2003, Lagos state was generating N5.5 billion per month (about $17m). By the time he left office after eight years, Tinubu handed over about N8.2Bn about $32m) per month to his successor," according to the biography
Asiwaju As a Political Myth, and Visionary
As unveiled by the authors, it was never a bed of roses for Asiwaju, governing Lagos all through. He towered above the tempests that threatened to pull him down, drawing from his political sagacity, tactfulness and ability to locate the future in any political game. The authors put forward facts on how Asiwaju saved Lagos from the PDP tsunami at the instance of then President Olusegun Obasanjo. The former President deployed the tricks of a fox to outmaneuver the AD governors of the southwest in annexing the zone for the PDP. Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti state, late Chief Adebayo Adefarati of Ondo state, Adebisi Akande of Osun and Alhaji Lamidi Adesina of Oyo sat in conference where they took a dummy sold to them by Obasanjo on trading of votes for election victory. It was a case of; you rub my back and I rub yours. In the 2003 general election, the Presidential election was listed first in the timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Southwest governors were to deliver the zone to Obasanjo, who in turn was to guarantee their return to power through the scheduled governorship election. In a twinkle of an eye, the governors lost out while the PDP took the southwest, except Lagos. Tinubu, who earlier issued strident warnings to his colleagues against such political deal became an avatar. He saw through the chicanery, treachery and backstabbing by Obasanjo. He stayed off the deal. The government of Obasanjo never for once gave up on plot to break the then Lagos state governor. For the larger part of his two-term of eight years, the government of Asiwaju reeled in pain of financial strangulation when the Federal Government withheld its federal statutory allocations. Surprisingly, Lagos survived it all as Asiwaju stood like the rock of Gibraltar, drawing inspiration on sound economic initiatives to trudge on.
I cannot conclude this review without restating the take home point the authors analyzed as factors that indeed, made Asiwaju a formidable political icon. The first factor, according to them, is the attribute of boldness on the part of the Jagaban. Added to this is the Asiwaju's self-confidence and daring spirit. Any politician who lacks these virtues will always end up as mincemeat to the opponent at any day. Reading through the biography, I dare say that these attributes run in the blood of the National Leader of APC. He has succeeded in passing them to his disciples. It is the reason he treaded on forbidden terrains all the while and still came out with negligible bruises. The second lesson that I feel Nigerian politicians can learn from Asiwaju is the necessity for building a cult followership with strong political base for survival. From personal experiences, I agree with the authors that there is no short cut to politics and power. You are either on call by nature or you take to crooked means which in most cases, is short-lived. To build a cult followership as a politician, you cannot but be good to those you come across and those who crave to learn from you. Asiwaju demonstrates this to a fault every time. He has been good to those he knows and those he had never even met. His philanthropy and milk of human kindness flow in every direction in Nigeria, not limited only to the southwest. Asiwaju is in the class of Moshood MKO Abiola, Alhaji Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, Chief Arthur Eze, just to mention a few cases of exceedingly pro-people in our politics. Perhaps the greatest staying power for Asiwaju, according to the authors, is his consciousness to leave lasting legacies. Legacies, we all agree live forever. Asiwaju is ever restless in creating ideas of building a better future meant to traverse generations. While he does that, he builds men and women in whom he infuses strength and capacity to bring his dreams to manifest reality. It is not by happenstance that the Osinbajos, Fasholas, Fowlers and others who learnt politics at his feet back in Lagos, are today high- fliers in the current administration. To cap it all, Nigerians are not unmindful that Asiwaju was a strong pillar, which President Muhammadu Buhari stepped on to cling power in 2015. There are reports that the top echelon of the ruling APC, starting from the Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun also rode on his back to be in political contention today.
Asiwaju owes his political strength to adeptness in war chests. According to the authors, his ability to keep his political war tactics close to his chest; his political masterstroke to spin surprises and his predilection for tapping wisdom from the right quarters on issues had severally made him to triumph over opponents and traducers more often. Asiwaju, I learnt don't just take decisions considered very crucial to the public interest. He does that often in conference with eggheads, which he usually assembles to take decisions on steps to take. He lives by the wisdom of the wise, so to speak. It is a reason his actions are hardly faulted, as governor. Most importantly, the authors generously depict Asiwaju as an apostle of Change. This is treated in the book as his unique selling point in leadership. He is the real Game Changer of the present generation. I could guess, therefore that the Asiwaju inspired the APC to settle for the mantra; CHANGE, which the party used as talisman to gain wider attention of the electorate in 2015. The authors said Asiwaju holds it as a principle to change things rather than allowing things to change him. For me, the secret of Asiwaju's successes in political wars and turbulence is his firm believe in the Almighty God. No man does anything great, unless he has the backing of the Most Supreme. His religious tolerance, which makes him more acceptable even within the Christendom, also counts as a selling point. I had watched the Asiwaju lead some of his Cabinet members to religious grounds, especially The Redeemed Christians Church of God's Camp in Lagos severally to seek the face of God. Nigerian politicians should take a cue from this.
In all, the impression I got from the first page of the biography to the last is that Asiwaju Bolanle Ahmed Tinubu scored high marks on everything in his life sojourn, all through. The authors seemed to have overlooked the omissions that opponents often point out about the Icon of national politics. No mortal is infallible, really. I say this taking into consideration complaints by opponents and even aggrieved supporters that their point of disagreement with the Asiwaju is rooted in his alleged spirit of winner takes all, coupled with his domineering gait and disposition. I am aware that Asiwaju has arch and sworn enemies in the APC. At a point in the ruling party, the fear of Tinubu's domineering figure was the beginning of wisdom for members who love to corner power and live in it without restrain. All the same, I see the National Leader of APC as a politician who is secretly admired by those who love to hate him. I submit therefore that the man Asiwaju Tinubu has no duplicate in the politics of Nigeria. He is a hero too in many respects. The future of Nigeria still looks up to him. I endorsed the pains taken by the authors to decode Asiwaju in the labyrinth and foggy politics of Nigeria. And on this note, I recommend the book for every political player, students of politics, diplomats and every other person eager for depth of information not only about Tinubu, but about the larger Nigerian politics which presents variegated complexities.
Most Distinguished Senator Grace Folashade Bent (CON) was a senator representing Adamawa South between 2007 and 2011 at Upper Chambers at the National Assembly, Abuja Federal Republic of Nigeria.