Being called a politician or seen to have close ties with one is arguably the worst thing you can have on your professional résumé. As a digital strategist, the last category of clients I mention when discussing what I do are the politicians I work for. In fact, being the social media manager for a presidential candidate in the 2011 elections casted a shadow over a job interview I attended two years ago. How do you convince your would-be employers that you are honest and hardworking when you just tried to enter a sector famous for lies and profound laziness?
As the years roll by and one lying politicians get replaced by another, the people’s faith in politics and leadership is at an all-time low. President Obama is having a rough time in office, an obviously corrupt and authoritarian Putin is back in the saddle in Russia and the European Union is hardly united on many things these days, except the fear of budget deficits. In Africa, we have an 89-year-old dictator “winning” a presidential election while other rulers have been largely replaced with smooth criminals. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni wants his son to take his place after being in power since 1986. Here in Nigeria, it’s even worse, considering the 1999 constitution on which we base our democracy, seems to encourage political irresponsibility. Even a willing progressive mind can be persuaded to loot because the system has neither checks nor balances. Most political office holders cannot be held to account as the institutions to do that are either too weak or simply nonexistent. So, the conclusion is pretty straightforward: all politicians are thieves by default and should go to hell!
One man has managed to standout, however. This is a man whose determination, vision and courage has made him unique. This man is a born leader, heavenly-equipped but street-smartened. This is a man whose principles have allowed him leap over the traps of quick gratifications and landed himself in the bosom of modern Nigerian history. This is a man who, on numerous occasions, sacrificed his ambitions and resources for the good of the majority. This man, however controversial, has shown that leadership is not only about conceiving great ideas but giving them life and letting them grow. For him, an idea is not complete until he can touch the manifestation with his own hands. The man I write about is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
I am of the firm belief that our collective perception of leaders is guided by the information or lack of information we have about their persons, their work and their vision. When the direction a leader chooses to tread is not clear and said leader fails to properly communicate his vision, it gives room for misunderstandings. So, I embarked on a quest to find out how Bola Tinubu became so revered and respected both by friend and foe. I read widely, listened intensely to tales of his adventures from his associates and watched him from a distance. Truth be told, I was a fan before; now, I’m a disciple.
Looking back at his time in office as the governor of Lagos state, taking in how far he has come since he left office and the future he rigorously fights to secure for the majority of Nigerians, Bola Tinubu’s vision is clear; a Nigeria where equal justice and democratic principles are the vehicles for economic prosperity. Even way before the man took the oath of office in May, 1999, Bola Tinubu’s desire for lasting democracy and true federalism was never in doubt. His humble beginnings were stepping stones to the man he was destined to become and like a man possessed, he has never looked back.
So many obstacles were thrown his way but his hunger for immortality would not let him fall. First, he could have allowed poverty to beat him into submission; he didn’t. He slaved through college and university to bag his degree. He could have allowed the lure of a comfortable life as corporate exec at oil giant Mobil blind him from the injustice in his environment; he refused. He had the chance to shift loyalty and support the Late Abacha against the rest of us after the unfair annulment of the June 12 election; instead he fought so hard that he was hounded into exile. He had the chance to be appointed Administrator of Lagos state under Abacha, but declined. He could have stayed back in the United Kingdom, comforted that the military jaunta was out and his life safe; he returned home, participated and led from the front. He could have finished his eight years, left Lagos in debt and retire with benefits; instead he found a worthy successor to manage the considerable resources he left in the state’s coffers and built a political empire that will stand the test of time.
You cannot be blessed with as much abilities as Bola Tinubu is and not be restless, and that is the best way to describe the man – restless. With a mind that is constantly working, you then know why he has many Eureka moments in his life. In order to further deepen federalism as he believed would best suit our country, he took the federal government to the Supreme Court on 13 separate occasions. Before then, only twice have the apex court being asked to rule on federalist issues. He fought for the separation of powers and a distinction between the Accountant General of the Federation and the Accountant General of the Federal Government. He fought for the more independence for INEC. He fought against rigging. He fought for state governors to create more local councils and to be true chief security officers of their domains. He fought so democracy could live.
Now, no man born of a woman is without fault and Bola Tinubu is clearly as imperfect as human beings come. However, he is humble enough to know this and to reduce his mistakes, he regularly engages in long and drawn out debates on several topics with the best minds he can find. Lately, his speeches have carried a lot of weight, with friends and opponents admiring their content and delivery because of their potency and flow. That is the product of his constant engagement of his mind with himself and with the best of the best. If only other leaders would be so hungry for knowledge, perhaps our national life may not have come to this sorry pass.
As we march towards 2015 and the drama that elections bring begin to play themselves out, it is important that we keep open minds. I think the quality of our national leaders needs drastic improvement for Nigeria to stand a fighting chance in the world we currently live in. With terrorism firmly in our midst and alternatives for oil being discovered all over the world, critical reasoning must take the place of hapless and weak leadership. I am yet to find a leader more open to accommodating fresh ideas and more willing to deploy resources to make unusual things happen like Bola Tinubu. You may disagree with some of his methods but you will never fault his purpose and drive.
The APC that you see today is a product of time, sweat and sacrifice. It was built from the ground up. Perhaps, giving a chance to builders may be the way to go. There is no better organizer and implementer of democratic ideas I know than Bola Tinubu. Now, that is one politician I proudly associate with. Anytime, any day.
by: Gbenga Olorunpomi
Gbenga Olorunpomi is a digital strategist based in Lagos.