Asiwaju, The Kohinoor (Jewel Of Mankind) @60: Leadership Is Earned —Joe Igbokwe



In 1994, the late General Sani Abacha and his deputy General Diya organised a Constitutional Conference to chart a new course for Nigeria. Both Abacha and Diya got their foot soldiers and recruited them to traverse the political landscape to cajole eminent Nigerians to participate in order to gain legitimacy. Professor Jerry Gana went to the East and Diya went to the South West. While Prof Jerry Gana succeeded in convincing Dr Alex Ekwueme and company to participate, General Diya could not convince any serious first class leader in Yoruba land to participate. Reason: Yoruba leaders figured that General Abacha was just trying to buy time to consign Chief Abiola’s June 12 mandate to history, with that conference. When it became obvious to Diya that no eminent Yoruba would listen to him, he resorted to blackmail and intimidation and boasted that he will create new leaders for the South West.

He went ahead and recruited hungry mediocres and small-minded elements, gave them landed property. They went to the conference but the rest is now history. But the most significant features of the power game that time was that all those people Diya recruited are today unknown, unsung and unremembered in the history of Nigeria. Another significant aspect of the power game was what the late Chief Bola Ige said when Diya thundered that he will create new leaders in Yorubaland. In one sentence: LEADERSHIP IS EARNED through long history of hard work, sacrifice, and commitment to service to humanity, Chief Bola Ige consigned Diya’s scurrilous drivel to the dustbin of history.

While Diya and company were looking for what to eat via Abacha’s constitutional conference in 1994, our own Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was in London campaigning for the reversal of the grave injustice meted out to one of their own, Chief MKO Abiola. It is now 18 years on and while Diya is hardly remembered, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu continues to move from grace to grace, from honour to abundant honour and from blessing to amazing blessing. While Diya is an unremembered footnote of history, Asiwaju has become a landmark of history whose deft political savvy saved Nigerian democracy from the peril of one-party dictatorship and raised the hope for a Nigeria where democracy is still possible.

But the success story of BAT’s political career is not a one day job. He has fought many wars, faced many bullets and risked his life to be where he is today. He has faced raw persecution, warred with feverish attempts to tarnish his name and dampen his fighting spirit but he continues to persevere. From the fierce 8 years battle with former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Lagos 37 LCDA’s, to the many legal battles he waged against an octopoidal federal government on true federalism, to the nearly 10 years of battle to reposition his party, South West and Nigeria, BAT has seen it all in Nigeria’s chequered history. From repeated threats to his life to the Code of Conduct Bureau Tribunal ambush, to a well oiled effort to paint him black before the masses for his daring political exploits, Tinubu has walked through mines triumphantly without being hurt.

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Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s emergence as the hottest leader in Nigeria today can be traced to his sincerity, personality, integrity, humility, courtesy, native wisdom and charity. His victories over his numerous foes teach a lesson in faith, perseverance, doggedness, commitment, persistence and belief. BAT, a paragon of quiet efficiency, was once described as a political character in the mould of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo divinely blessed with a third eye to locate men and women of unimpeachable virtues and used same for the good of the commonwealth. He has a lot of enemies who cannot resist the great envy of his rising political clout and these eternally wish he could be made to disappear from the landscape for them to flower. But he has survived their fear-driven angst and their feelings of insecurity to emerge as a leader Nigeria cannot do without. No wonder political scientists are still studying how he routed PDP rigging machine in the Southwest and beyond in a 4 years of fierce war, even with the array of incumbency power, a threatening federal structure, a beguiled sitting president.

BAT, I know always presents a very calm disposition in the face of adversity. That allows him to marshal out his defence and once he delivers his punch, the enemy lies flat on his back. He retraces steps, assembles his arsenals and pushes forward without looking back. BAT commands respect and fanatic following in the Nigerian politics. He is close to the common man and makes him the centerpiece of his politics. He fights for all but finds tremendous lift in fighting the oppressor for the oppressed. He lives his life for others. He lives to serve and he serves to live! In the bid to fight for the masses, Asiwaju had consistently stepped on powerful toes who have wasted no time to lash back. He has survived such fight back through the prayers and well wishing of the masses for whom he fights.

I will continue to insist that history and political students have a duty to unravel the mystery why Nigerian young, old, learned and unlearned, the bad, the good and the best, the poor and the rich easily get attracted to the BAT brand come rain some sunshine. At 60, Asiwaju has matured to become one of the few leading lights in the Nigerian sphere. He has become a political colossus through dint of hard work and deft deployment of scarce strategies and he has earned every accolade he gets today as the quintessential leader of men, a lodestar and a guiding light in the nation’s disturbed march to full nationhood. Happy birthday Sir and may God continue to keep and preserve you for the good of this nation.

•Igbokwe writes from Lagos

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