EVERYWHERE in the world, there are people who go into politics because they feel a genuine call to service. Others do so, either for self aggrandisement or in furtherance of some ignoble objectives or simply to protect their crooked and morally unscrupulous background. Whatever the circumstances, it is our character that determines the motivation and pattern of our politics.
Anyone who remembers the dying days of military dictatorship in Nigeria and the activities of pro-democracy groups would hardly forget Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Those concerned enough to study his background and personal profile knew how difficult it was to sift the real from the fabricated. It was common knowledge that in Tinubu’s records – from family history, through education and working career to political activities – nothing simply seemed to add up.
Much of what was said or written about Tinubu belonged to the rumour category and was, therefore, of no significance to serious-minded Nigerians. Of what concern, for instance, was Tinubu’s doubtful parentage, whether or not the late Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji was, truly, his biological mother? Why would Nigerians bother, if he did or did not attend Government College Ibadan, whether or not he obtained a degree from Chicago State University, unless the qualifications acquired from these institutions were presented for the purpose of securing appointment?
Nor, was it of relevance to many in the 1990s – when Tinubu came into the political limelight – whether or not he grew up as an area boy (the euphemism for social miscreants) in Campus Square of Lagos Island or, indeed, whether or not he was once a political thug? What seemed most crucial to Nigerians at the time was that the man played an active role as one of the founding fathers of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that fought the nation’s military dictators to a standstill. So, when Tinubu ran away on self-exile in 1994-98, it was conveniently interpreted as an escape from military persecution. But, he might have had other reasons for abandoning his fatherland.
Tinubu’s rise, on the political ladder, since his return from exile, has been so meteoric that he appears to have forgotten his humble beginning. Having acquired enormous wealth and power, he now wears the toga of “Asiwaju.” Information has it that he is pressing hard to enthrone himself as the “Asiwaju of Yorubaland”, with or without the blessings of the Yoruba people.
Now, what accounts for the sudden rise of Tinubu’s profile? First, he was Governor of Lagos State, the richest State in the country, for eight years during which he was the Alpha and the Omega. Then, he installed one of his most loyal subordinates who agreed that his godfather must stick around for their mutual benefits.
The juiciest part of the agreement, it seems, was that Tinubu’s company, Alpha Beta (Consulting) Ltd, would be in charge of the assessment and collection of all taxes and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) due, payable and paid, on behalf of the Lagos State Government. In actual figures, the Lagos State Government makes over N40 billion from IGR every month and based on the percentage of commission agreed upon between godfather and godson, Tinubu’s company rakes well over N4 billion belonging to the long-suffering people of Lagos each month. So, in effect, Tinubu holds Lagos State by the jugular.
Tinubu’s rise appears unstoppable, especially after his transformation to the status of national leader, following the merger of the defunct ACN with other parties giving birth to the APC. He now sees himself as Nigeria’s President-in-waiting or, at least, Vice-President to be; which explains why he is desperately seeking recognition as the idolized leader of the Yoruba race. In fact, he made the point abundantly clear the other day when he challenged the Awo dynasty (even with Mama Hannah almost clocking 100 years) for a final determination of who should be the Leader of the Yoruba. No doubt, Tinubu has lost respect for traditional Yoruba values.
Those who may be reading inordinate ambition into Tinubu’s apparent desperation should take serious note of the man’s policy: “If recognition is not willingly given to you, procure it.” It is a policy anchored on the absolute power of wealth. To a large extent, it appears to be very effective, especially in the South West–dominated media where there is hardly any voice of criticism against Tinubu, no matter what he does. In fact, Tinubu believes that with money, the entire Nigerian media – and politicians too – can be bought. He may be right, considering the number of accomplished journalists, editors and columnists who sing his praises on a daily basis and would find nothing wrong, even if he commits murder!
As the saying goes, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Bola Tinubu believes that he has conquered the South West (almost all the States therein, except stubborn Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s Ondo). In some of the States, he has successfully deployed his army of area-boys. With Lagos State under his firm grip and the daily inflow of massive funds guaranteed, he believes that he is now capable of raising a military outfit that can defeat the Armed Forces of the Federal Government. That must have been Tinubu’s source of confidence when he recently threatened that “election riggers in Ekiti and Osun States”, during the forthcoming governorship contests in the two States, would be “roasted”, rather than face normal legal processes.
Now back to the critical question: Why is Tinubu in politics and why is he so eager to acquire more powers and resources? The answer is simple: he needs power to cover up his not too pleasant past and mountains of infractions – some purportedly criminal – against the people. He also needs the resources, perhaps, to continue to appease the Lagos masses that he has impoverished.
FEMI AYELABOWO,a public affairs commentator, wrote Ibadan, Oyo state.