THIS week, former governor of Lagos state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is celebrating his 60th birthday. It has become the most talked about event in the media, as associates and supporters of that most incredible survivor and politician, have rolled out drums to celebrate their man: a dance drama and a new book about the man, are some of the highlights of the celebration.
General Muhammadu Buhari, in his birthday message, described Bola Tinubu, as “a consummate politician and a very strategic person who thinks on his feet”. I have never met Tinubu, but I have also followed his very controversial political career with utmost interest; reading every interview I come across and asking people who know the man or are close to him, to give me as accurate a description. Last week I was in Lagos for a few days, as a guest of Tunde Fagbenle and in the company of Wale Adebanwi, who is very close to Tinubu; I asked for his own view of the man too.
I think Bola Tinubu has become one of the most important political leaders in Nigeria today. That position has come as a result of incredible ability to galvanize people as well as the necessary ruthlessness, which is often inevitable in the political process. Bola Tinubu’s life carries its own share of controversy, encapsulated in the stories about his origins and the problem which emerged about his ‘Chicago’ affair; but his place in the struggle against military dictatorship cemented his position as a fighter for democracy.
He was able to face-off the dictatorial tendencies of the PDP, and especially General Olusegun Obasanjo, between 1999 and 2007. He saw farther than his other colleagues in the AD, thus turning Lagos into a redoubt from which he launch a brilliant political comeback, which led to the political victory of his party, in the Southwest of the country. Today, Bola Tinubu is the undisputed lord of the politics of that part of Nigeria.
Those who know the man talk about his incredible generosity and large-heartedness. I think by leading the political party which opened the space of democracy and curbed the excesses of the ruling PDP, in the Southwest, Bola Tinubu has assisted the consolidation of democracy in our country. He consistently speaks for federalism and that should not be under-estimated in the current situation in our country, and against the backdrop of the decades of military dictatorship, which distorted the political structure of Nigeria. I was reliably informed that Bola Tinubu has an ambition to run for president in 2015; that is his right.
But he will have to do a critique of his performance in 2011. Because there is still the very strong suspicion, that he entered into an agreement with President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that his ACN worked surreptitiously for Jonathan’s victory, especially in the Southwest.
There is a lot of politics ahead, between now and 2015, but an outline is beginning to form; the opposition must find a way to provide a national platform to challenge PDP’s hegemony.
Otherwise, the ACN will retain its handicap as a party of the Southwest, just as the CPC will continue to be a regional party, based in the North. The truth is that Bola Tinubu working with other patriots around the country,will have to play a central role in any effort to break the political logjam, which has made it difficult for a formidable national challenge to be posed to the excesses of the PDP. It is tribute to the man, that we cannot talk about contemporary politics in our country today, without mentioning the stellar contributions of Bola Tinubu. Happy Birthday at 60!