Editor's note: Mufutau Egberongbe, a member-elect of the House of Representatives for Apapa constituency of Lagos state, argued that the 'Next Level' mantra of the All Progressives Congress (APC) started with Tinubu many years ago.
Egberongbe advises the party and the incoming administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to follow Tinubu's set examples.
On March 27, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari had a reason to speak about Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the title holder of Jagaban of Borgu. It was the occasion of the 67th birthday of the former governor of Lagos state. The president, in a short message to felicitate with the celebrant, summarized a part of the life of the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
“President Buhari affirms that Asiwaju’s uncompromising posture in the face of injustice and refusal to follow the path of least resistance for personal gains stand him out today as a rare breed and one of the cornerstones of Nigeria’s democracy, especially with his track record of persistence, consistency and effective leadership.
“As the father of modern Lagos state, the president commends the visionary and inclusive leadership style that the Asiwaju provided for the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria for eight years, laying the foundation for a modern and technologically driven city, and ensuring that every successive leader in the state sticks with the masterplan of a greater Lagos…,” Buhari had noted about the man that daily becomes an enigma.
Embedded in Buhari’s message is that fact that Tinubu has been thrown up as one of the heroes of, not only Nigeria’s democracy, but the survival of a country that was left crawling as a result of bad governance, dictatorial tendencies and consecutive military juntas that have held it on the jugular for many years. Starting as a fighter, which Buhari implied, Tinubu became synonymous with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which was made up of a team of passionate Nigerians, who using their intellectual strength, energy and resources, got the military, with all its might and power of the barrel back to the barracks. It is known how Tinubu staked his resources for the battle. It is not hidden how Tinubu once reportedly sold his house to fund part of the successful media campaign of that period against the khaki boys.
In 1999, Tinubu became the governor of Lagos and that was where the real ‘Next Level’ of today started. It was a journey that many, not even among his contemporaries, never envisaged. But it was one that was tortuous and needed a Tinubu to surmount. History shows how a man, fierce in battle, brimming with ideas and surrounded by brains, successfully won a political war against the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo and his federal might. He was starved of funds in a bid to cripple his government. His ‘crime’ was that he created the Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). Today, Lagos has been the best for it.
Tinubu confirmed this when he was asked which of his battle against the federal government was his fiercest in an interview. “If I have to rank them, I think the creation of the local governments was my favourite because the processes are clearly stated and well articulated in the constitution. And if you do all of that and comply with the constitutional requirements, then you should not be denied. I believe in true federalism. I believe in local government administration, which I think is a service centre for the state. The constitution is clear. It is a misnomer to even think that there are three tiers of government in a federal system of government.”
The mark of a leader does not lie in leaving his loyalists desolate. It does not also lie in leaving obstacles that would make him always better than his successors. His endorsement of Babatunde Fashola as governor of Lagos state after him is a case in point. Fashola, against all odds, emerged and proved Tinubu right in his argument that his successor has what it takes to lead the state from where he left it. Tinubu laid the foundation for a greater Lagos, Fashola came in stretching the dream to into a mega city project.
Ask Tinubu about what he left behind and the leader would say in a March 29, 2016 interview: “My best legacy is the financial engineering of Lagos state, especially to bring financial autonomy to Lagos state and eliminate wastage and mismanagement. That was just one aspect of it. My greatest legacy is Governor Babatunde Fashola. I identified and endorsed him. That was when my corporate background as a recruiter and talent seeker for Deloitte came to play…You look at the ability of individuals to really take and develop others. There is nothing unique about any leadership. Everybody can come up with different ideas. You can take different routes and arrive at the same answer. No matter how much steel and metal you put together, the greatest achievement and legacy is the ability to develop other leaders who can succeed you, otherwise your legacy will be in shambles. It was a very difficult and challenging period for me. I thank God I stuck to my guns.” Does that not sound as the ‘Next Level’ dream that became a reality in Lagos?
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Having succeeded in his state, it was time to move to the centre. Tinubu was one of those who prevailed on Muhammadu Buhari, one who had vowed not to seek election again after many attempts and defeats, to return and take the reins. He championed the campaign for the election of Buhari in 2015. I always remember one way he described the situation during the campaign. He would remind Nigerians that some of the developed countries were once at crossroads and that it took former military officers to put them on sound footings. In France, he would say, General Charles de Gaulle brought the country back from the road to ruins. That was the foundation of the ‘Next Level’ at the centre.
One can effectively argue that the four-year journey of the APC between 2015 and 2019 was that building foundations, but indirectly consolidating on the ‘Next Level’. Against all odds, the APC has continued to meander and spread across the nation, thanks to Tinubu’s sleepless nights and resolute passion to remain on the side of growth, development and progress of the nation. In Tinubu, the country has created a lot of leaders and a factor, a subject of study. As he journeys towards 68, the prayer is for him to remain strong and healthy to continue to lead the path. The wish is also that he would continue to be the leader, who according to the late Myles Munroe, would say: “Follow me, I am right behind you.”
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