By Funsho Arogundade
Great names and institutions are not built overnight. It was H.H. Younus AlGohar who drove it home by positing that respect does not come by asking for it; it is earned overtime through giving it to others.
Over the years, Nigeria’s political luminary, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has shown like Laurence Sterne said that respect for ourselves guides our morals while respect for others guides our manners. Only little people are indifferent, superior people are caring and respect constituted authority whether traditional or political. It is not out of place to say that Tinubu falls among those in our part of the world with great respect for traditional institutions having rightfully earned two great titles —among many others— Asiwaju of Lagos and Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom in Niger State, bestowed on him by two revered monarchs.
In a country where traditional leaders are still widely respected, these chieftaincy titles enhance his power and reach. And he has used them for the good of the nation and so many of the citizens.
As a two-term Governor of Lagos State, it is not by happenstance that nearly a decade and half since he left the seat as the State’s Chief Executive, Tinubu still retains massive support in the state and outside. He has been credited with the social and economic progress seen in Lagos over the past two decades. He keeps an open house and reaches out to people in need. Tinubu is a man of the people. He is liked by many people of different social status.
It is a known fact —by many— that Asiwaju has helped great numbers of young and elderly people to grow and achieve their dreams. Even when some of these people turned around to work against his interest, he never begrudged them and is always quick to forgive them whenever they realised their follies. No matter the circumstances, Tinubu is not known to have ever undermined any of those he helped to rise or subject them to any form of public ridicule.
This brings to the fore the needless furore dominating the social media feeds of some characters over a circulating video and still picture of His Imperial Majesty, Oba Babatunde Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife; and National Leader of the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Tinubu exchanging greetings during the coronation outing of the 15th Oniru of Iru Land, Oba Omogbolahan Lawal in Lagos last Sunday September 6, 2020.
Of course, some mischief-makers have gone to town spinning different conspiracy theories around the picture and the fleeting moment of the interaction. There had been allegations of Asiwaju Tinubu displaying arrogance and disrespect to the highly revered Oonirisa. But that is farther from the truth and not a representation of what transpired at the coronation event.
While so much attention has been focused on the picture, those pushing the false narrative have refused to allow the true situation to explain itself. His Imperial Majesty Ooni Ogunwusi actually came in when the programme was reaching its peak with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu —represented by his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat— reading his address. Many dignitaries including Asiwaju Tinubu were already seated when Ooni made his way into the venue. At events, it is protocol not to allow anyone into a venue when a Governor or President is making a speech. Meanwhile, protocol was shunted aside to accommodate the entry of the revered Ooni, with the number one citizen of the state —a duly elected Governor standing— waiting to continue his speech, which he had to pause to welcome the Ooni. Everyone at the top table welcomed the Oonirisa, including Asiwaju, and allowed him to quickly take his seat.
As rightly gathered, the circumstance of the exchange of courtesy was such that before Asiwaju could get up, Oonirisa had moved. This beggars the question: why so much ado about a harmless, fleeting courtesy moment? To them, such posture denigrates the office and stature of the Ooni. Some have even stretched the issue languorously with tales of how Oba Ogunwusi emerged as the Oonirisa. Of course, the true story of how the monarch emerged and people who knew the role played by Asiwaju are still alive to present the true narrative when necessarily. But to those who want to cry more than the bereaved, they should not drag the revered stool of the Ooni into the needless controversy.
There are always different angles to a story but those screaming for Asiwaju’s head, do so not because they love the Oonirisa more but definitely just because Asiwaju was involved.
Mr. Tunde Rahman, a seasoned journalist and media adviser to Asiwaju Tinubu, in a reaction to one of the threads on Facebook, said “Anyone who knows Asiwaju Tinubu would know that he has great respect for traditional institutions. He is full of humility. He would not disrespect any traditional ruler, talk less the Oonirisa, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who is no stranger to him.
“Kabiyesi and Asiwaju know that there is no issue in this. They are not unmindful of the fact that some people are just out to fish for a non-existent disaffection between the two of them. Oonirisa knows Asiwaju holds him in high esteem and has high regards for him”.
Of course, Asiwaju Tinubu is the phenomenon! When they do not talk about him then there is nothing to talk about. But Jagaban is a recipient of many titles and he respects tradition so much.
Observing rightly how Oonirisa and Asiwaju Tinubu were circumstanced at Oniru’s coronation outing, there was no way Ooni has been denigrated.
It is not surprising and unfortunate that those at the forefront of schisms and stoking controversies around the incident at the Oniru coronation outing notably were Yoruba.
But I will like to leave these compatriots with a quote from a notable social commentator, Olukayode Salako, in a recent article; he said: “Yorubas are fast losing it, they hardly support themselves to grow economically, unlike the way the Igbos and the Northerners do to one another; they naturally rebel against their own kinsmen and they are fond of always standing and working against the survival of their leaders.
Funsho Arogundade is a Lagos based journalist