Vanguard awards

April 8, 2016

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu: The strategist as game changer

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu: The strategist as game changer

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

By Emmanuel Aziken,

The significance of it was not lost on many when last month Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu moved the annual colloquium hosted on his birthday from Lagos to Abuja, the federal capital. The annual colloquium had in recent past been a forum for the political class to ponder Nigeria’s socio-political milieu, and of course, an opportunity to celebrate the man generally applauded as the Pathfinder.

torchbearer

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

The movement of the colloquium spoke for itself; to wit, the elevation and enlargement of Tinubu’s political power from Lagos and his Southwest base to Abuja, reflective of his bourgeoning his political strides and repositioning from opposition leader to national leader of the country’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Though President Muhammadu Buhari as president of the country remains the undoubted leader of the party, no one in the party doubts who moves the gear when it comes to political locomotion.

Speaking just before last year’s presidential election, Mrs. Aisha Buhari had made an open confession of how Tinubu is celebrated in the Buhari household.

“My husband, General Muhammadu Buhari has been contesting presidential elections for over a decade now, but this particular election is unique because our leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu jettisoned his personal interest for the sake of Nigeria.”

 Political prowess and patience

Buhari himself speaking at the Abuja colloquium had praised Tinubu for creating a “formidable opposition party in Nigeria that worked vigorously within a short period to oust a party that had been in power for 16 years.”

However, Tinubu’s emergence on the national platform was not without much stress. It took a lot of political prowess and patience for the former Lagos State governor to survive intrigues weaved against him by successive administrations controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Abuja.

In the 2003 elections, he was the only one of the five governors elected on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, who survived the political tsunami contrived in an ethnically inspired conspiracy supposedly framed to help return President Olusegun Obasanjo to power.

While all the other Yoruba AD governors lost to the PDP, Tinubu through sheer guts and political wizardry sufficiently checked the PDP marauders. The last man standing in 2003 then became the bastion of the progressive bloc. In his second term as governor between 2003 and 2007, Tinubu was faced with the double task of not just wading off the sustained political darts of the PDP from home and Abuja, but also ensuring that Lagos did not slip away from his political fold into the hands of the PDP in 2007.

Remarkably against many intrigues including the withholding of local government funds by Abuja, he succeeded with great aplomb in ensuring that Lagos remained within the pace and pattern of progressivism. Indeed, the 2007 transition was challenging especially as he sought to project a successor that would actualise his visions of Lagos.

 

Channels of dialogue

 

The emergence of Babatunde Fashola as his successor was a personal victory for Tinubu, the Pathfinder. It also was to pose some little challenges as politicians from within the camp sought to create a division between father and son, but both men to a remarkable degree managed the issues.

Unbeknownst to many, the issues between Pathfinder and Actualiser may not have challenged Tinubu as much as engaging the then seemingly frail new leader of the PDP, President Umaru Musa Yar`adua. Arrowheads of the new president seeing Tinubu as a possible obstacle to their 2011 dreams were halfway into the regime already seeking for how to divide the Tinubu camp by poaching and punishment. Remarkably, President Yar`adua’s short stay passed on, and Tinubu was faced with President Goodluck Jonathan.

The initial reaction of the Jonathan team was to intimidate and hence the arraignment of the opposition leader before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for allegations ranging from many years back. The charge was easily dismissed giving a firm legal cover which also helped embolden the opposition leader.

After the 2011 election, it became apparent that a national coalition was needed to successfully tackle the PDP. Drawing from his contacts with the North maintained since his days in the Social Democratic Party, SDP among whom was Senator Abu Ibrahim, channels of dialogue were opened with other oppositionists in the country.

Undoubtedly, Tinubu and Buhari turned out to become the anchormen in the building of what some regarded as a purpose built political infrastructure to demystify the PDP. It was not an easy task, and Tinubu’s prominent role in raising the new platform is recognised by both friends and foes. It was, however, not an easy task for the Jagaban of Borgu.

It took the prescient cognition of Tinubu to navigate the political landmines laid by the involvement with many strange fellows in the merger of the former Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.

 

Reconstruction of the opposition

 

There were subtle brushes with two men during the negotiations – Chief Tom Ikimi of the ACN and Ali Modu Sheriff of the ANPP – but Tinubu and other elders helped to maintain tact in order not to derail the reconstruction of the opposition.

In the end, patience paid off as both men left the platform, and Sheriff, ironically is now the chairman of the PDP!

That spirit of endurance is one of the knacks that has helped to make Tinubu the political enigma that he is.

Tinubu’s tact and tractor of the political landscape helped in the construction of the first national based opposition party to grab power from a ruling party; and he is for that for that and much more, Vanguard’s Hero of Democracy, 2015.