The Peoples Republic of China had the legendary Chairman Mao. Cuba had the legendary Fidel Castro. South America and some other parts of the world experienced Che Guevarra. Nigeria has had great men like Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Like them or loathe them, they were great in their own way, galvanizing action for causes dear to their hearts and etching their names indelibly in history before they breathed their last.
It would be an epic travesty to write of this epoch in Nigeria’s history and not place the Jagaban Borgu, the Asiwaju indeed, the National Leader of the ruling political party in the most important black nation on earth, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in the pantheon of the greatest political leaders that the country has produced. It is not for nothing that he is highly revered in many circles and even feared in some. From among the Yoruba nation, no one is currently as influential as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is; not even former President Olusegun Obasanjo who backed a different candidate than his in last year’s presidential election and lost.
In the last four general election cycles in Nigeria spanning from 2007 when his own tenure as Lagos State governor came to an end, Bola Tinubu has backed the winning horse in the presidential race. For at least four consecutive decades, Asiwaju has been impacting his community, nation and continent, etching his legacy in history as a prolific leader of people and an extraordinary influencer. Indeed, his influence predates these days where the term “influencer” is thrown around a lot and used loosely. In his case it is much deserved. From helping shape Lagos and helping make his political party arguably the most powerful in Africa, his ability to spot talents and turn them into skilled, successful men and women, or spot opportunities for the advancement of his people and dig in until they birth success is legendary. He has shaped and is still shaping the trajectory of history and there are not many men of whom that can be said.
Sometimes ago , January precisely, state governors within the South West region of Nigeria, concerned for the security and safety of the people they had sworn to protect, collectively came up with a complementary security initiative codenamed “Amotekun”. For some reason, the initiative sparked off controversy, heated up the polity and threatened to become an inferno that could incinerate Nigeria and what was left of her unity. The Attorney General of the Federation had deemed Amotekun to be an illegality, but his sweeping statement touched frayed nerves across the country. The South West Governors, in tune with the wishes of the people, were not going to back down. Amidst the furore, it was observed that Asiwaju had not yet made any public statement. Mischief makers went to town, reporting that his position on Amotekun was at variance with the feelings of the people across the South West and that the South West Governors were also using the formation of Amotekun as a means to get the man to commit political suicide.
What would Bola Tinubu do? What would he say? The South West of Nigeria is regarded as Bola Tinubu’s power base and for good reason. If he could not extinguish the fire that had started in his backyard, the pervasive belief was that it meant he had exhausted his political value. With bated breath, Nigeria waited for him to speak on the issue.
When he eventually did, it was a display of sagacity, unparalleled insight and foresight, and a roar that was heard across Nigeria reminding many that the Lion of Bourdillon is far from finished politically. The entire statement was so powerful that it will likely be studied in institutions of learning in the years to come alongside speeches by statesmen like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, Barack Obama and other renowned leaders. It calmed the tensions, spoke truth and has led to visible cooperation between the Governors of the South West states, the Attorney General of the Federation and other relevant agencies.
What did Asiwaju say? Here are some nuggets from his statement:
“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.”
“If truly I am a political leader as I am often described, then I have not the luxury of hasty, ill-conceived utterances. There are those who will use inflamed words to spark the passions of others. This may bring transient applause. But when the cheers fade, we shall only have further descended because their words were never inclined toward resolution and long-term improvement but toward short-term popularity and perpetual confrontation.”
“Those claiming that this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the Republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion. Those claiming that the Federal Government seeks to terribly suppress the Southwest have also lost their compass. Those who occupy these two extremes have sunken into the dark recesses of fear and political paranoia that can undo a nation if such sentiments are allowed to gestate.”
Asiwaju went on:
“I believe in this nation and its benign prospects. I dearly love its people, all of them. To these people I owe my best. The welfare of this good and decent people is my overriding concern. I again stress to well-intentioned Nigerians to shun those who employ heated language to inflame emotions. Before leaping from our seats to lift our voice to the high rafters in profound indignation, we first would be wise to properly discern the situation. We must ascertain whether it merely is a tempest in a teapot or whether our house and all its teapots are swirling in a real tempest.”
His words are certainly words for us to live by and if there was ever a statement by a national figure that preserved national unity, these words by the iconic Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be in the same league as the ones by which the late Ikemba Emeka Odumegu Ojukwu and his General Phillip Effiong ended the Nigerian civil war. What Bola Tinubu has done 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.
From fighting off dictators in the 1990s to preserving Nigeria’s democracy in 2020, the man Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s place in history as one of the greats is assured. Say what you will of him, but you cannot deny him that.
* Culled From Maiden Edition Of TEJ *