It is not for nothing that the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is highly revered in many circles and even feared in some. That his influence is pervasive across Nigeria, well beyond his south west home base is not entirely by accident. The man has consistently displayed great wisdom, an uncanny sense of times and seasons, and also a large heart. Scarred from many political battles, he continues to be gracious to friends and foes alike so much so that even his detractors will admit that there are many things to be learned from him.
One of the positive things for which he is admired is his ability to look past slights and hurts to stay focused on the big picture. It is one thing for those from without to become one’s adversaries and attack one viciously. It is another thing entirely for those attacks to come from within one’s ranks and from those whom you have been a benefactor to on several occasions. If an opinion poll were to be conducted among politicians, it would probably reveal that the unanimous sentiment among all is that betrayals from within one’s own camp are the most painful and the most difficult to forgive. Yet again and again, the Jagaban – as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is often referred to- forgives those who displayed disloyalty, reconciles with them and soldiers on in his march to the beat of Destiny’s drum.
It is public knowledge that he recently forgave the brazen prodigality of one his men, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi. Afikuyomi had publicly taken a stand against Asiwaju and the leadership of the APC in Lagos in the run-up to the last general elections over their decision to disallow immediate past Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode from contesting for a second term on the Party’s platform. Perhaps in his calculations, if Ambode were to successfully return for a second term as governor against Tinubu’s decision, it would afford him the opportunity of severing the over two-decades-long grip of Asiwaju on Lagos and the entire South West of Nigeria. As we have seen, his gamble didn’t pay off and the man had begun a steady spiral into political oblivion.
What made Afikuyomi’s case seemingly beyond redemption this time was that this was not the first time he had fallen out with Tinubu over political positioning. In 2007, he opposed the Jagaban’s decision to have Babatunde Fashola succeed him as Lagos governor because he wanted that position for himself. He left the Alliance for Democracy platform to try and actualize his ambition on the platform of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) but his efforts came to nought. Not only did Tinubu forgive him, he influenced his appointment as Commissioner by Fashola and subsequently as special Adviser to Osun Governor, Rauf Aregebsola. To compound his trouble this time, he had suffered a domestic accident that worsened and required him being treated abroad. For months he was bound to a wheelchair and it seemed life had literally and figuratively cut him down to size.
It is unclear who and who pleaded with Tinubu to forgive Afikuyomi and give him another chance but it is clear that their success was due not to their skills in rapprochement per se but largely due to Asiwaju’s personal disposition to conflicts and life in general. He generally does not seek to humiliate his opponents even when Life presents him the opportunity to. He would much rather win their understanding. His style is more of a “forgive and go forward”, building on the mistakes of the past and the energy generated by the reconciliation to create a new future. It’s why for instance, with both open and veiled barbs launched at him in Lagos by men like Nasir El-Rufai and Tunde Bakare, he prefers to keep quiet knowing that life will afford them an opportunity to understand their differences and go on their different paths. It may seem foolish to the unschooled or even average politician but Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is certainly no fool. What he has done by forgiving and reconciling with Tokunbo Afikuyomi is what makes great statesmen great and he has given us yet another masterclass in political leadership. He is an outlier in the discipline and his is a life that will continue to profoundly impact millions of people across the world.