“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”
—John Quincy Adams
Questions have always been asked, over the centuries, about the secret ingredients that make up the pot pourri of political leadership, especially with regard to those who dictate the affairs of men and materials. While William Shakespeare, the literary icon, opined that: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”, the led majority often looks out for certain outstanding character traits in people who epitomise their collective dreams. They identify more easily with those who have the capacity and capability to articulate enduring solutions to their most nagging and intractable challenges. More so, leaders whose life trajectories have followed the inspiring path of zero-to-hero. And those who have at one time or the other worn their tattered shoes, know where they pinch them most and are always willing to use their time, money and other resources to assuage their pains.
One man whose legion of friends, admirers and political associates, here in Nigeria and beyond our shores, would today doff their hats for, click and raise their glasses to toast to his 65 chequered years in resilience and resourcefulness is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. As they celebrate with the man some love to call “the master strategist” and others “the game-changer”, one cannot but take a sober moment to drink from the fountain of his illustrious life. In so doing, one comes in humility to glean lasting lessons in character, courage, charisma, confidence, candour and compassion (the 6C principles). Others come in a mixed milleu of humility, honesty, integrity, decisiveness, responsibility, passion, reliability and dependability.
Does he have all these qualities, or less, or even maybe more? That remains the testy task for scholars in the political evolution of Nigeria to unravel. But for now, a few examples of the exhibition of these attributes would suffice. One of that is his uncanny ability or knack to identify sterling leadership qualities in people, while others grope in the darkness of doubts and don’ts. Specifically in 2007 when the governorship market din swirled in Lagos over who would be his successor, he went for his erstwhile Chief of Staff, Babatunde Fashola. Though many analysts felt he was then a political neophyte, as the governorship candidate of the Action Congress, Tinubu knew that Lagos, with its increasing population and industrial/environmental challenges needed a man who knew and stood by the rules of law like the wavy lines on his palms. History has since proved him right.
And so it has with the wave-making Akinwunmi Ambode, the incumbent governor of the Centre of Excellence, Lagos. When the coast was getting clear for political dreamers, jobbers and adventurers to throw their hats into the governorship ring of the state in 2014, a few, if any, looked the way of Ambode. True, he might have traversed the civil service landscape as an auditor for not less than 13 local councils. Yes, he might also have risen to the enviable posts of Accountant General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance as part of his 27 years sojourn in the civil service, but what has that got to do with the nitty-gritty of riding the wave crests of the murky waters of Nigeria’s brand of power and politics. In fact, the man looked too gentle to equate to the average political aggressor.
Yet, again Tinubu saw in him, the most capable and trusted professional to lift Lagos above the rising tide of the looming economic recession. He knew that Nigeria was on the verge of that, what with the dwindling oil revenue and after the restless run of ravenous locusts of the PDP-led government at the centre. But a few did not. As recent events have proved and considering his remarkable achievements in infrastructural development, transport, health care delivery, education, entertainment and tourism, within a short span of two years, even Tinubu’s most critical political opponents are openly asking for the magic wand. But as the Pidgin English parlance in Nigeria goes, “Dey no dey buy am for market”.
It is an unusual gift from God, given to few men for the benefit of all. Indeed, great political leaders “analyse problems; identify the best solutions – not based on loyalty to political party, but rather on what is good and right and in the best interest of the nation as a whole”. Again, Tinubu’s open endorsement of the then All Progressives Congress candidate- and the current President Muhammadu Buhari will for eons stand him in good stead. Towards the tail end of the Jonathan-led, administration, Nigeria’s ship of state was literally on the verge of collapse, besotted on all sides by the wanton waves of the twin evils of corruption and the insidious culture of impunity. There were overtures from the PDP, for Tinubu to use his political clout to swing political patronage in their favour but he stood his ground. Nigerians are the better for it today, not minding the temporary pains of the economic recession.
It is in tandem with that patriotic zeal in him, that he used his legendry political sagacity to resolve the impasse between the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Federal Government over the inevitable increase in the pump price of petroleum products. With dwindling crude oil production, no thanks to the mindless mayhem unleashed by the Niger Delta Avengers, as well as a drastic drop in the choice of our oil by foreign countries the price Premium Motor Spirit jumped from N97per litre to N145 per litre. Such was his skills at negotiation and peace-making that neither the NLC nor the TUC could embark on mass demonstrations to protest the hike, as it had happened under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Ditto for reaching out to the young stock of politicians in Borno State, who had hitherto been mesmerized by the stranglehold of a power- poaching politician for upward of 16 years. It was on the invitation of the governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima. More violence would have reared its ugly head in the Boko Haram-bedevilled state, had he not single-handedly offered the olive branch to calm strained nerves.
And in the South-West geopolitical Zone, where he hails from, Tinubu has become the respected rallying point, preaching peace, even across political divides. Little wonder that informed politicians from the well-informed axis now speak with one voice, on burning national issues. He remains a critical catalyst for the socio-economic integration of the hugely blessed zone. History therefore, beckons on him to continue to use his unique and uncommon political wisdom and wizardry to seek the best and the brightest, for both state and country. He deserves all the accolades showered on him. For, anyone or group of people who ignores him as the march begins towards 2019 does so at their own peril. It is 65 big gbosas to Nigeria’s most revered political colossus, still standing tall at 65!
Ajanaku, Special Assistant on Information and Strategy to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, wrote in from Lagos.