By Segun Tomori
As the race for the Presidential primaries of all political parties gather steam, all eyes are on the two major political parties; the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it is widely believed that either of its flagbearer will become Nigeria’s next President. Out of the litany of aspirants in both parties, one name resonates across the length and breadth of the country, one looms large with a larger than life image – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Unfortunately, not many, especially the younger generation, are familiar with the progressive political trajectory and exemplary leadership antecedents that gave rise to this.
Tinubu’s rise to political dominance dates back to the early 90’s when as a Senator in 1993, he became a rallying point for the de-annulment of the June 12 Presidential elections, widely believed to have been won by late business mogul, M.K.O Abiola. Despite mouth-watering offers by the then military government which allegedly included an oil bloc, Tinubu stood fiercely on the side of the people and became the leading light of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the pro-democracy movement that fought the military junta to a standstill. Indeed, Tinubu’s activities soon became unbearable for the then Abacha regime that he became a target of annihilation, and only escaped assassination by the whiskers, through the then famous, but covert “NADECO route”. The rest is now history, but his sacrifice and contribution to the pro-democracy struggle endeared him to the people, and formed the fulcrum of popular support that culminated in his emergence as Lagos Governor in 1999.
In 1999, Asiwaju literarily took over a collapsed Lagos, where public infrastructure had broken down tremendously, where organized crime was the order of the day, where heaps of refuse reigned supreme, adorning the landscape of the metropolitan city, earning it the epithet of “one of the dirtiest cities in the World”. Like a clinical physician, Tinubu rolled up his sleeves, and wheeled critical sectors of the State into his theatre, in preparation for an extensive surgical procedure. But first, he assembled a team of surgeons – a widely acclaimed star studded cabinet, gifted in diverse fields to assist him.
The likes of current Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Works and Housing, Ex-Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola, Wale Edun, Yemi Cardoso, Rauf Aregbesola, Ben Akabueze amongst others were the team, under Tinubu’s leadership that conceptualized the Lagos master-plan culminating in innovative financial reengineering of the State – raising monthly revenue from a paltry 600m in 1999 to N14bn in 2007; community-based Private Sector Participation (PSP) in reorganizing and reequipping the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) that addressed the refuse menace; Justice reforms that included enhanced welfare for judicial officers, establishment of the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) for provision of free legal services to indigent citizens, computerization of court registries
In addition, Asiwaju reorganized and restructured “Operation Sweep” into an effective crime-busting outfit called Rapid Response Squad (RRS) which is maintained and equipped by the private-sector led Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSTF); Establishment of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) to plan and manage an integrated transport masterplan for Lagos which culminated in the revolutionary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme, construction of 55 bus shelters, development of the blue and red line fast rail amongst others.
Despite stiff opposition by the then Obasanjo-led Federal Government, it is on record that Asiwaju made a bold move to solve the power supply conundrum in Lagos, successfully establishing the first Independent Power Project (IPP) by any State which contributed 270MW to the national grid. Narrating the innovation, pragmatism and creativity brought into governance would take more than a literary piece, but what is important to note is that Tinubu revived an ailing State, revamped a comatose State economy which is today rated as the 4th largest in Africa by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There is a biblical saying that “whoever is faithful in little things, will be faithful in large ones”, that is why since Asiwaju’s declaration to run for President, his legacy of exemplary performance in Lagos has spurred a groundswell of support across the country.
Nigeria today is similar to what Lagos was in 1999. Despite the modest efforts of the present administration in infrastructure and social services, it is evident that the need to create wealth and ingeniously increase revenue, cannot be overemphasized. The financial wizardry of Tinubu will be needed to diversify the economy – unlock the solid minerals potentials of the country, modernize the agriculture sector and stimulate the growth of agro-allied industries that will culminate in exports of products which will in turn become major foreign exchange earners for the country. Once we produce more and export, we will gradually stabilize our forex and reduce the overly high forex rates with its attendant adverse effect on inflation.
Amongst all the aspirants jostling for the Presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Tinubu has proven to have the capacity to harness the best possible human resources, provide the requisite direction that will galvanize and motivate them to achieve spectacular results. It is envisaged that a President Bola Tinubu will assemble a crack team of experts, wherever they may be, across the World to assist his administration in providing solutions to challenges that have become intractable. Unlike what is obtainable under the present administration, it is expected that those that believe in the ideology of the APC, those that toiled for the party and understand what it stands for, will form the core of the cabinet and drive the vision of the party in the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs). That way, the party and the administration will work in synergy, reward system for party loyalists will cascade down to the grassroots, and further strengthen the party.
The issue of age which seem to be recurring in debates should not be a factor in determining the next President as most developed countries have since embraced the experience and competence that comes with age. America just last year elected Joe Biden, 78, as its oldest, first term President. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa is just a few months younger than Asiwaju as he will be 70 by November! Former US President, Donald Trump assumed office in 2017 at age 71. Therefore, mental acuity and clarity is what a leader needs, and Tinubu has over the years shown he has that in abundance. Indeed, he restated this in a chat with press men after his famous informal declaration to run, “I have the competence, the vision and the capacity to rule”. Perusing his antecedents and achievement, it will be difficult to fault that assertion.
There is also the over-flogged perception of Tinubu as being corrupt. Till date, those allegations remain in the realm of beer parlour gossips as no “prima facie” case has been established against him. It will be recalled that the case brought against him at the Code of Conduct Bureau by the Jonathan administration was dismissed for lack of merit, and he was discharged and acquitted. Indeed, a former EFCC chairman had declared Asiwaju as the most investigated politician, stating however nothing incriminating was found against him. This is the time to tap the intellect of this gifted administrator, utilize this shrewd manager of human and material resources for the development of our country, not a time to exalt inanities or flawed hypothesis.
As the APC races towards its party primaries in the coming weeks, it is important delegates to the National Convention consider what is paramount in the mind of voters – the economy and the security situation, in selecting the party’s flag-bearer. A candidate that will resonate with the people will be one that has the record of a fixer, one who can break barriers to reset the system and bequeath well-thought out solutions to problems, not one that is running on continuity – bereft of fresh ideas. Let’s make it a date with history by electing the best man for the job as APC’s Presidential Candidate – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu!
-Segun Tomori is a Member of the Media & Communications Directorate of Asiwaju Tinubu Presidential Campaign.