By Lateef Raji
Except perhaps the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, there is no other Nigerian politician whose person has been cruelly maligned as the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. There is no other politician in the current dispensation that has been such an object of vicious and groundless attacks as Tinubu. Since his emergence as a major pillar of progressive politics, Tinubu has had to live with many callously-cooked-up stories that are clearly meant to disparage his person. The recent damning documentary that was aired by the African Independent Television (AIT) in the run-up to the 2015 general election is, possibly, the height of all lies and propaganda being peddled to tarnish his image. Tinubu’s bashing has so much become a calling that many who never really know the man bear false tales about him; sometimes authoritatively claiming to have ‘evidences’ to back up their unfounded claims. Some just hate him out of vicious envy and unashamed jealousy. They couldn’t just fathom how it is possible for a Nigerian politician to tenaciously and jealously hold on to his political beliefs and principles in a polity where politicians change parties like they change clothes.
As far as his adversaries are concerned, there is nothing good about Tinubu. Unfortunately, they are dead wrong. Today, many speak glowingly about how Governor Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has been able to transform Lagos State. That Fashola has performed well in Lagos is an incontrovertible fact. However, one indisputable reality that some don’t just want to hear or speak about is that it was Tinubu that laid the foundation of the modern Lagos that has so much thrived under Fashola’s able leadership. No doubt, the eight years spent in office by Tinubu, Fashola’s predecessor and Governor Emeritus, set the pace for the birth of this modern Lagos. The Tinubu administration laid a solid foundation for the new Lagos that has now become a model for good governance in Nigeria. It was Tinubu’s government that set up enduring institutions such as KAI, LASTMA, LASAA, LAMATA, to mention just a few. This is aside putting in place a creative and ingenious template that has institutionalized governance in Lagos State. It was the Tinubu administration that began the systematic fixing of the State’s infrastructure. The complete regeneration of the Lagos Island Central Business District took place under Tinubu’s watch. Many roads across the State such as Kudirat Abiola Way, Lawanson-Itire road, Ikotun-Ijegun road, Ikotun –Igando road, LASU-Iyana Iba road, to mention just a few, were rehabilitated and expanded by the Tinubu administration while a comprehensive program for resuscitation of public schools in the State was also put in place.
Perhaps, more importantly, the Tinubu administration put the State on the trail of economic independence as it shored up its revenue base. Tinubu inherited a failed economy from the Marwa administration. By the time he was leaving office in May 2007, his administration had increased the State revenue base from a meager N600 million to over N8 billion. That the administration survived the Obasanjo’s onslaught was mainly due to its rich revenue stand. BRF’s performance so far is a vindication of the precise political mast and sound aptitude for human judgment of Asiwaju Tinubu and the defunct Action Congress, AC, leadership that recommended him to Lagosians. It is partly because we have not been able to replicate same at the federal level that our nation has for long been at a critical crossroads. While Lagos remains politically and economically stable today, same cannot be said of the PDP led government at the centre.
Unfortunately, today, mischief makers and incurable Tinubu’s haters disparage this architect of the new Lagos, but mischievously celebrate the Lagos model of people-oriented governance put in place by the same man. Not acknowledging Tinubu’s contribution to the Lagos project is impish, stereotyping him with corruption is rather puckish. After they have failed to pull him down politically, it has now become the past time of professed Tinubu’s haters and bashers to stigmatize him with the unproven label of a corrupt politician. These days, every prime property in choice locations in Lagos and other parts of the country is owned by Tinubu. Indeed, according to the tale bearers, the whole of the Lagos economy is now under Tinubu’s control. He owns every new hotel and eatery in town. All shopping malls in Lagos belong to him. Tinubu has now become such a mysterious money bag that ‘owns’ what Dangote, the popularly acclaimed African Richest Man could not boast of.
The truth of the matter is that a check with the Corporate Affairs Commission would easily reveal that most of the business interests that are being falsely linked with Tinubu actually have nothing to do with him. Corporate organizations such as First Nation Airways Support Services Ltd and Oriental Star Restaurant and Hotel Ltd widely linked with Tinubu, investigation reveals does not have anything to do with the man. A scroll through the lists of directors would show that these are corporate organizations with well-defined profiles. The lie represented by linking these companies to him is enough to convince any rational and sensible person that, the hue and cry about the ownership of choice holdings are nothing, but lies manufactured from the innermost recess of hell. If the man is as corrupt as he is being tagged, it is difficult to understand how none of the anti-corruption agencies, under the control of the PDP-led federal government, has not been able to pin him down to any financial crime. Being a leading opposition figure, in the past sixteen years, if the man is actually as corrupt as he is being painted, he ought to have been behind bars by now. It is an open fact that Obasanjo and Tinubu were not the best of friends. So, if the Obasanjo government could not nail Tinubu on alleged corrupt tendencies, it goes to show that something is actually missing in the whole jig saw.
However, there is a fact we should not ignore. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is that proverbial man with the midas touch. He is a national brand that every business wants to associate with to become an instant success both in government and in the private sector. The belief is that the name would sell their business anywhere in Lagos and beyond. A classic example is the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Central Business District, a public-private partnership arrangement by Ibeju Lekki Local Government. It is the same principle that has defined his political leaning. In 2003, when the Alliance for Democracy, AD, lost all its controlled states in the South-west, except for Lagos, the only attractive option for Asiwaju Tinubu was to jump ship and move to the ruling PDP. He could have made instant gains. That is the natural path in African politics because playing opposition politics in this clime is hazardous and unattractive. However, such choice is for men with blatant opportunistic disposition, not Tinubu. Those that are privileged to know Tinubu are conscious of his unquestionable patriotic zeal and uncommon commitment to the emancipation of the downtrodden. As for those who peddle unsubstantiated falsehoods against him, like it is often the case at weddings, the onus is on them to come up with the body of judicially acceptable proofs or shut up forever!
*Raji was Special Adviser, Information and Strategy to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State.