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Igi Nla Indeed: A Tribute to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, By Akintunde E. Akinade

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All birds find shelter during a rain. But an eagle avoids rain by flying over the clouds.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

I continue to use Igi-Nla as a veritable symbol to capture Asiwajus massive majesty and poignant political profile in Nigerias contemporary landscape. In the Nigerian precarious political context, one can assert without any equivocation that Asiwaju is a bold eagle perched on a big tree—observing, reflecting, and unruffled. This eagle loves to fly over choppy clouds! In the midst of an often-tempestuous political climate, Asiwaju continues to soar to new heights like an eagle and also establish creative political paradigms.

In the Yoruba socio-cultural landscape, many appellations abound for describing established norms and constellations. Yoruba people relish the capacity to capture peoples imagination with profound perspicacity and paradigms. In terms of understanding nature, Yorubas have developed a sophisticated model of classifying trees in the forest. There is Igi Awon Agba (Trees of the Elders); Igi Owo (Trees connected to Commerce and Finance); Igi Owo (Trees worthy of Esteem and Veneration); and then there is Igi Nla (The Big Tree that encapsulates and embodies majesty and wonder). It cannot be compared to other trees. It stands the test of time and prevails against any tempestuous storm. Alas, it is a powerful tree because of its omnipresence. In contemporary Nigerian political firmament, one can affirm without any equivocation that Asiwaju stands firm and unshaken as its veritable Igi Nla.

The forest is an apt metaphor for the Nigerian political profile. It is a forest of more than one thousand demons where many dangers lurk. Senator Sola Adeyeye once remarked that If Lucifer exists, perhaps his very worst demons inhabit the minds of politicians! The political jungle is inhabited by many trees of different height, capacity, and shade. However, Igi Nla towers above them all and represents a class of its own. It represents a veritable sui generis category that is robust, rare, and rugged. Rebecca Gordon writes in TomDispatch of October 17, 2016 that: Sometimes I think the politically engaged life is like surfing. You expend an enormous effort paddling past the breaking surf. Then you sit on your board breathing hard, scanning the horizon for the wave. Sometimes you sit out there for a long, long time, but when that wave comes, you have to be ready to grab it and enjoy it. Asiwaju is an assiduous player in the Nigerian political terrain. He understands its gains, frustrations, and pitfalls.

It is interesting to note that Li Poh Yang (Lao Tzu), the legendary founder of Taoism noted in the Tao Te Ching that a big tree is susceptible to vile derision. It stands out and naturally attracts more gaze, attention, and acclaim. Anyone entering the innermost thickest of the forest cannot fail to notice its grandeur and gait. Asiwaju most innocuous utterances and moves attract attention and controversy. However, he has cautioned others to engage in actions that will also engender meaningful engagement within the Nigerian body politic. In light of Asiwajus courage, tenacity, and power, it is not a misnomer to label him as an ajanaku to n migbo kijikiji… he is the big elephant that mightily shakes the forest. Asiwaju is not an irreverent interloper; rather, he fully understands the vagaries and internal logic of Nigerian politics. Governor Kashim Shettima has boldly remarked that Asiwaju gave Nigeria political freedom.

In terms of a cross-cultural perspective, I found it very instructive that a powerful organization within the Muslim World understands the poignancy and power of a big tree. The grandeur and allure of Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar are captured with a vigorous symbol of a mighty tree. This is the Sidra tree, growing strong and proud in the harshest of environments. It is the quintessential symbol of perseverance and nourishment across the borders of the Arab world. It captures the Foundations mighty innovations, ventures, and initiatives in Education, Medicine, Science, Technology, Art, Sport, Community Empowerment, and International Engagement. The architectural firm that designed the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) intentionally used this symbol as the dominant leitmotif for its imposing edifice within Education City.

Hearty congratulations Asiwaju. I rejoice and felicitate with you on your birthday. Igba odun, odun kan. This is an auspicious time for you to count your stupendous blessings and also reflect on your legacy within the Nigerian nation. Personal introspection promotes growth and transformation. Leonard Sweet once remarked, What you do is your history. What you set in motion is your legacy. May Almighty Allah continue to give you the wisdom, patience, and courage to continue the transformative projects you have already started in Nigeria and Africa. May Allahs generosity and divine grace be upon you and your family.

Happy birthday, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigerias unperturbed generalissimo, the tireless champion of political progress, and the intrepid Lion of Bourdillon.

67 resounding cheers all the way from Doha, Qatar to a political gladiator, strategist, and juggernaut who continues to defy many skeptics. In terms of how Asiwaju has engendered a sustainable democratic space in Nigeria, o to ope indeed!

My best wishes to our one and only Jagaban of Borgu. Jazak Allahu Khayran—May Allah reward you with goodness.

 

Akintunde E. Akinade, Professor of Theology
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University, Doha, Qatar.

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