By Mobolaji Sanusi
“Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it” –Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
THE story of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; former senator of the federal republic, erstwhile governor of Lagos State, renowned politician and aspiring president of the country come 2023 has so many angles waiting to be explored by friends, foes and knowledge-seeking social scientists. Notwithstanding who is narrating it, and how that person encountered Tinubu, one thing is certain, Tinubu’s political greatness is assured.
This is because Tinubu had deployed his God-endowed talent and wealth to ingrain his name on the political firmament of this country. Unlike his several co-elite friends on the political turf whose large heart is seasonal, Tinubu’s large heart is of all time and strategic. From this writer’s personal experience, Tinubu discerns a talent and courts such long before he needs them, even when he may never need them. That is Tinubu for you.
My first encounter with him clearly explains the enigmatic Tinubu. The talent hunter that sees beyond the immediate. It was in 2003 that our paths crossed, deliberately out of his choice. Prior to our meeting, I was serving on the Editorial Board of Vanguard newspaper and also writing a weekly Friday column. At the time, the column was a thorn in the flesh of then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
Surprisingly, the serious issues discussed in my then Vanguard newspaper column must have attracted the attention of Tinubu. And obviously in one of his conversations with Aremo Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, alongside our Vanguard publisher, Mr Sam Amuka (Sad Sam), my name/column came up and Aremo mentioned his fatherly relationship with me. The decision for me to formally meet Tinubu was probably taken at one of their meetings.
Then one night while driving home from Apapa, my phone rang and it was Aremo calling. I picked the phone and he requested I should meet him at Isaac John in Ikeja. I respectfully asked what was going on there and he said, ‘Bola wants to see you.’ He told me he was going to wait for me in front of the Lagos Country Club, Ikeja so that we could get there together.
From somewhere around Agege where I was when his call came, I immediately turned my car and headed towards Ikeja, encountering slight traffic on my way.
As I was almost getting there, Aremo called again and requested to know where l got to and when l told him l was nearing the agreed point, he told me he was seated in one black Mercedes’ Benz Coupe and that once I signify my arrival he would lead while I drive behind his own car.
It was when we got to where Tinubu was that I realised that the man behind the wheel, and most likely owner of the Benz Coupe, was the popular Bonsue Fuji exponent, Adewale Ayuba.
Aremo led us in to meet Tinubu at his gorgeous dining table. One striking thing about Tinubu during our first meeting was his spartan food consumption as reflected in the sparse food items on his plate.
Upon greeting him, he started relating with me as if we had met years back. We discussed contemporary issues of that time before he later introduced me to his then Chief of Staff, Mr Babatunde Fashola, who surprisingly succeeded him as governor. He gave him clear instructions to arrange a visa for any preferred country of my choice for me. Why he offered me is a revelation, among others to be unfurled in my upcoming book, My LASAA Days, to be released soon.
From then on, l have always been in touch with the patriarch of progressive politics, even after leaving Vanguard for the Editorial Boards of two other newspapers before being appointed MD/CEO of Lagos State Signage & Advertisement Agency in September 2015. Again, courtesy of my commitment to Tinubu’s cause, as always.
Sometime in 2013 when l travelled to England for my routine annual vacation, I didn’t know that Tinubu was in town but only read very nauseating rumours about him online. I called Nigeria and was informed that Tinubu was in London. The next day, in the morning, I took off for his house in Cavendish. When I got there, without an appointment, I pressed the doorbell and the voice from the other end was that of the Lion of Bourdillon himself. ‘Who’s that?’ I answered ‘Bolaji Sanusi’ and without further questioning, he released the lock and said ‘come upstairs.’ I went upstairs where he opened the door. One ‘aburo’ that followed me could not believe the great Tinubu’s simplicity thinking he was going to meet a gorgeously dressed man but here’s Tinubu standing before him, without airs. The guy left with smiles after benefiting from his large heart.
I was there with him till evening and told him I was leaving for Nigeria the next day. He insisted l should stay for a few more days, and for four more days, l was going to his house every day. Sunday Dare, current Minister for Sports, was the personal assistant staying with him and one younger aide. I discussed virtually everything I wanted with Asiwaju and he actually laughed over the rumours making the rounds back home. In line with his routine daily exercise regime that I witnessed, he did seven miles on his static bike every day, putting a lie to the rumour about his legs being bad. I wrote about this in my column of that week in 2013.
It was during that time in 2013 that l met, for the first time, my incumbent Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, who met me in Tinubu’s house on one of the days that l went there.
Dignitaries from Nigeria flooded his house, yet, it is only abroad that you can get the best of time with Tinubu.
At one time or the other, one has been opportune to work with mentors/egbons like Dele Alake and Tunji Bello; and sometimes with his knowledge alone, to achieve the Asiwaju objectives.
Now Tinubu has signified his intention to succeed the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, come 2023.
Hate or love him, no right-thinking man can deny the fact that he’s not seeking such coveted office for the sake of going there for mere experiments; he has the experience since his days in government in Alausa, Lagos seat of power, and the larger percentage of Lagosians have consistently attested to how phenomenal his accomplishments as governor were. Nigeria has had enough of experimentally unprepared leadership. From Gowon to Murtala, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Sonekan, Abacha, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, the presidency was either acquired by force or gifted by those with little or no collective interests of Nigeria at hearts. And at the end of each experiment, the country has been left worse off than the reagents of such experiments met it.
Asiwaju, after Awolowo, as I observed in an article I did during his 69th birthday, has become the main issue in Nigerian political firmament. He’s a brand that one can ignore at a grave political price. Just early last week, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, during the inauguration of his $2.5 billion Dangote Fertilizer Plant in Ibeju Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos, Tinubu during his address as the ‘Asiwaju of Nigeria.’ This coming from the richest man in Africa underscores the high premium placed on the Tinubu political brand.
Anything Tinubu touches becomes an instant hit in our body politic. Until he was made the Asiwaju of Lagos, not much significance was accorded the title: Until he was given the title of Jagaban of Borgu, not much was known of that traditional chieftaincy title beyond the shores of the North. Borgu land, because of Tinubu, is now in the consciousness of Nigerians. When he assumed the title of ‘national leader’ of the ruling party, the sobriquet became one of high political significance.
With regards to Tinubu’s desire to succeed President Buhari in 2023, those that are up in arms should sheath their swords and remember the ‘God factor.’ This supersedes/neutralises orchestrated evil plots by any human against fellow human beings. The wish of God shall always triumph over human machinations, at all times.
This is where the words of that American essayist and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, readily come to mind. Tinubu has started something, taking a great leap, by professing his ambition to become president before any Nigerian under this dispensation. Unlike others, he has started working towards the realisation of this ambition.
Constructively, no other aspirant under the current dispensation has exhibited his level of political work rate and preparedness. Obviously, he is prepared to win the presidency having realised that power is not served a la carte. For the foregoing reasons, his enemies should save their breath because the Tinubu brand has come to stay beyond Tuesday, March 29, 2022, when he’ll clock 70 years on earth.
Asiwaju Tinubu, happy 70th birthday and may all your heart’s desires come to pass. Amen.
Sanusi, the immediate past MD/CEO of LASAA, writes from Ikeja, Lagos.