By Bolanle Bolawole
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – A line from the play, King Henry the Fourth (Part Two), by William Shakespeare.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, ex- two-term Lagos governor and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress – I don’t know whether we can still call him the APC National Leader – was in the eye of the Amotekun storm last week partly for no fault of his.
The commotion over Amotekun, the regional security outfit launched with fanfare by the governors of the South-west – five of them APC and one PDP – was ignited by Abubakar Malami, Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, who waited for the birth of a baby before attempting to abort it.
Lifers would bate no eyelid before describing Malami’s action as attempted murder. Mercifully, he is now reported as having recanted – but the harm had been done. Since its coming to power in 2015, the APC/Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) junta has gone away unscathed with serial blue murder; it, therefore, must have thought Amotekun would be another feather on its cap. How wrong!
“Eni gb’adie otosi, o gbe t’alaroye”! In Luke 18: 1 – 8, scriptures captured this succinctly in the parable of the persistent widow who bombarded a judge “which feared not God, neither regarded man” (Does this sound like the Buhari junta to you?) but the widow, poor and powerless as she was, had her demands met by the judge – wicked, arrogant, unfeeling, power-drunk and godless as he was. Impunity bowed to persistency, consistency and doggedness. Justice had the last laugh over injustice. Our politicians and leaders are known generally to be fetish, but there is yet one sacrifice they cannot successfully offer – that of the “alaroka”. Scripture again attests to this when it describes the tongue as one of the smallest parts of the body but mightier than all else.
Beware of the power of the tongue! Beware of the indestructibility of a people united in action. Mass movement and mass/people action worldwide are the sepulchres of dictators and tyrants. Yoruba depicts this with the imagery of “osusu owo” – a broom bound together – that cannot be easily broken. Again, scriptures concur in the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11: 1 – 9 and in Psalm 133: 1 when it says: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” Ecclesiastes 4: 12 says “…a threefold cord (“osusu owo”) is not quickly broken”
There is a God called “A ja ma fi t’ibon se” He carries no AK-47 into battle. Prayers of the saints have so far restrained His hands. May we be wise enough to now let go! The June 12 battle was fought and won not on the turf of a civil war like the Biafrans – but it was won all the same. One of my darling musicians was the Akure-born Wale Glorious. He died young and in controversial circumstances in the 1970s but not before he had left a lasting impression on me. I love the song in which he eulogised his home town, Akure. It goes something like this:
“Awa l’Akure Oloyemekun/Omo a mu’da s’ile/F’ogun enu pa ni/Okunrin Akure n t’oko ibo/ Nwon f’agada p’erin o/Obirin Akure n t’oja ibo/Nwon f’osilo p’efon” Something like that or let the Akures help us out! When they say the pen is mightier than the sword or gun or AK-47, what they attest to is the superiority of the power of the tongue – not just any tongue but one connected to a brain and controlled by the brain. Brain rules brawn. Intellect is forever superior to the empty grandstanding or gutter-like gibberish of Miyetti Allah and their ilk.
Once the Amotekun fire was kindled by Malami, it was sure to spread like Australian wild fire in the harmattan period with casualties on its trail. It is surprising that Asiwaju Tinubu and his minders failed to see this early – or they trivialised it. “Igi gangaran ma gun mi l’oju” – what must you do? You must take precaution and plan you exit route long before it gets close to you. But Asiwaju left the Amotekun issue for far too late in the day until he became, regrettably, not an Asiwaju leading from the front but a Lanlehin trying desperately to jump from the rear door into a train that had just left the station fully loaded.
Still, room must be made for Tinubu inside the Amotekun jolly-ride train because of his pedigree and antecedents. He is not an ordinary person. He is even not anyone’s mediocre leader. Asiwaju has paid his dues. He has been leader extraordinaire and role model par excellence. He has seen and won many battles. I suspect that was why he thought, like Malami had thought, that Amotekun was just another of such battles that he would win effortlessly. It was another laurel or prize to put under his belt. Like boxer Anthony Joshua initially thought of challenger Ruiz. How mistaken! Joshua got the beating of his life. When people are used to victories, they seldom contemplate defeat. Those who are used to dictating to others seldom get accustomed to their wishes being queried. But like Joshua got a second chance against Ruiz, let’s give Tinubu an opportunity to make good on Amotekun; after which…
Tinubu is a man of many battles. I knew him before June 12; when he still lived on Balarabe Musa Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos. As editor of The PUNCH way back then, I used to send my reporters to interview him or nose around him for stories. It was one of them who first alerted me that there could be issues with the Asiwaju’s curriculum vitae. That was weeks before Toronto broke. Tinubu fought and won that battle.
But before Toronto was the pro-democracy titanic battles and life in exile. Tinubu was like the life-wire of the patriots in exile. Who can ever forget the sacrifice of those of them in exile: Kayode Fayemi, Opeyemi Bamidele, Wole Soyinka, Anthony Enahoro, to mention but a few? Radio Kudirat was their ingenious creation. They meshed well with the Resistance at home. Tinubu was prolific in those days, churning out statements after statements denouncing the military dictators. He used to send Akintola Benson (or is it Oke now?) with his missives to me in those days. In the end, we saw the end of military dictatorship. Tinubu won the battle.
Those who claim to know said Tinubu would not have been Lagos governor in 1999. Others, including Funsho William, contested with him, as is usual with such contests. Insiders said the Afenifere leadership broke into two or so as a result. In the end, Tinubu won the battle and was elected governor of Lagos State in 1999.
Tinubu started on a sound footing as governor. If I recall, his first act was to freeze all Lagos accounts while he ordered a clinical examination of the books. What else do you expect from someone who had risen to the enviable position of Treasurer of a multi-national oil company? But Toronto, in my view, scuttled that. He had to quickly abandon his holier-than-thou approach to governance to put out the fire raging on his roof top. That, in my view, was the beginning of the descent into the “Area Father” and “Jeun s’oke” mentality that became the hallmark of Tinubu’s two-term tenure as Lagos governor. Tinubu, however, managed to keep his army of area boys in check. Today, area boys, cultists, and “agberos” have become a scourge and parallel government of their own.
Tinubu was elected on the platform of AD in 1999, together with the other Southwest governors. President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja was a prophet that had no honour at home, having been massively rejected in the 1999 presidential election in which the South-west preferred Chief Olu Falae. Armed with Federal might, Obasanjo decided to force himself upon the South-west and railroad his party into office in the region. When they – I am sure you know who the “they” are – scoff at impunity or abuse of federal might, kindly note it did not start today; it started yester-years. It is simply the case of the pot calling the kettle black. Only Tinubu survived the tsunami unleashed by Obasanjo on the Southwest. Other Southwest governors collapsed like packs of card but Tinubu won second term; he won the battle.
Still, Obasanjo would not give Tinubu respite. An opportunity that Obasanjo should have latched upon to correct some of the injustices and oppressions in the system – when Tinubu created more local governments in Lagos State – the then president cashed-in upon to punish Tinubu and Lagosians by seizing federal allocations meant for Lagos. Tinubu went to court and the case went as far as the apex court. Obasanjo lost. Tinubu won. Yet, Obasanjo scoffed at the Supreme Court and refused to release the seized Lagos State allocations as directed by the court or lift the seizure order he had placed on the state’s federal allocation. So when they cry today of disobedience to court orders, note where the rains started beating us. Again, I am sure you know who the “they” are! Those who set bad examples can neither come to equity with clean hands nor be our moral compass. In the court of public opinion, Tinubu also won the argument.
Obasanjo meant to strangulate Tinubu with his unconstitutional act but some disadvantages can be blessings in disguise. Biblical Joseph told his brothers who sold him into slavery: You meant it for evil but God meant it unto good (Genesis 50: 15 – 21). Tinubu and his team became ingenious in finding alternative sources of revenue to keep Lagos afloat. They succeeded. Thus began the meteoric rise of the internally-generated revenue profile of Lagos State such that, today, Lagos is, perhaps, the only state in the federation that can survive, and survive well, without going cap-in-hand to Abuja every month for federal allocation. It was Tinubu who extricated Lagos from being among the 36 miserable beggars with begging bowls, as my colleague, Funke Egbemode, once described them, going supine to Abuja. As some have alleged, the Lagos IGR regime may be opaque; there may not be full disclosure; there may be need for more transparency and accountability; nonetheless, Tinubu won the battle.
Since 1999, how many governors have succeeded in replicating themselves in office? How many have maintained their hold? Everywhere, godfathers and godsons have scattered. Governors who tried to imitate Tinubu’s success story here – if we can call it that – like erstwhile Gov. Peter Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa or Segun Mimiko of Ondo, failed miserably. Of course, it has not been all smooth-sailing for Tinubu; not all sons have been loyal or, better put, some sons have been more loyal than the others. But by and large, he has succeeded more than the others. Tinubu has won the battle.
In 2003, erstwhile Lagos State Head of Service, Alhaji AbdulRafiu Babatunde Tinubu (RB Tinubu), commissioned me to help him with his autobiography. In 2004, we published “Paths of Honour: Reminiscences of R. B. Tinubu” RB retired from the Lagos civil service on a blaze of glory. He got as parting gift an open-roof Jeep, which was not common in those days, and was “pulled out” in a carnival-like ceremony at the Alausa secretariat; himself and then Gov. Bola Ahmed Tinubu were not just chummy, they were family. But then, things fell apart between them; how, exactly when and how, I cannot say. In 2007 RB called again to say he wanted to write another book, which he said was the result of years of painstaking study and research into his Tinubu family tree. Titled “Onijumu Wura: The Tinubu Dynasty of Kakawa, Lagos (The Tree)”, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s name was conspicuously missing in that Tinubu family tree, further pouring petrol into the raging fire of the Asiwaju’s ancestry.
Efforts to launch that book with fanfare were scuttled. RB eventually only managed an impromptu launch in one dingy office on the ground floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lagos. Understandably, many Tinubus stayed away. It is always a ding-dong affair whenever the Tinubu ancestry is thrown into the Lagos political fray but Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, like the eagle who relishes the coming of storms and rides them on its wings, has always mounted with wings as an eagle, riding the storm instead of getting submerged by it. Here again, he has won the battle. I cannot tell whether the Asiwaju and RB settled before the latter translated last year. May Allah grant RB aljanah firdaous!
Who ever thought Buhari would rule this country as civilian president? Thrice he tried and thrice he failed. He screamed. He wept. He raised dust – all manner of dust, including that of ethnic and religious killing in 2011 – still, he lost. Buhari was a goner, as they say; a serial loser – until Tinubu arrived on the scene with his magic wand to bail him out. Tinubu sure has the Midas touch. Presidency cabal can say what they like or strut like peacock, the space they occupy today was made available to them by Tinubu. Tinubu – not Buhari and not the cabal that have coalesced around him – won the presidency in 2015 and 2019 for Buhari. Mark my words, without Tinubu in their corner in 2023, their balloon will go burst!
You can, therefore, understand – without conceding – if a man with such an impeccable record of victories begins to see himself as a tin-god; as someone who can do no wrong or as someone whose orders must be obeyed at all times. Let him, however, remember that indestructible Achilles had his heels!
Words of advice for Tinubu as I close: On Amotekun, do not discountenance the passions and sentiments of the populace, which are running so high on this subject-matter. While marrying them with your own rational thoughts on the matter, accord them the pride of place they deserve. They cannot be treated as an addendum. Two: The price (of leadership) comes before the prize in that order. You shuffle them at your own peril. Three: Let your charity begin at home. Four: Beware the Ides of “ogun enu”! No one has ever won that battle.
Finally, “Qui sera, sera”, say the French. What will be, will be!
*Bolanle Bolawole is a notable writer and journalist.