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67 salvos for the Jagaban, By Steve Nwosu

Frank Talk, By Frank Nwosu

I’m one of those in whose eyes Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu cannot do many wrongs.

I still believe he is the best politician in present day Nigeria. I rate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar the second best on this score. Of course, President Buhari does not even feature on my list of Nigeria’s best 20. But that’s a story for another day.

In spite of all his shortcomings, both real and imagined, I’m super-impressed by the calibre of leaders the Jagaban (who is not only of Borgu) continues to spawn out for Lagos State, the South West, and Nigeria in general.

Yes, Tinubu is selfish. But he is smart enough to subsume that selfishness in the larger interest of society. He finds out the direction his people want to go, keys into it, and then provides them the leadership they need in order to achieve that collective goal. It is called enlightened self-interest – the most acceptable form of selfishness. It is a win-win situation for him and society.

That is his staying power. And that is what sets him a class ahead of the different pretenders, springing up around the South-west. Unlike Tinubu, they aren’t grooming leaders. They are too scared and intimidated to have brilliant minds around them. Tinubu, on the other hand, combs the nooks and crannies of South-west, looking for brilliant minds.

Bola Tinubu

In fact, it’s even a plus for you if Asiwaju thinks you’re more brilliant than he is. He bends over backwards to empower you, even more. Meanwhile, his self-deluded rivals delight in being surrounded by intellectual Lilliputians, and move to cut down any ally perceived to be financially independent and stable.

As a politician, Tinubu knows when to plan, when to attack, when to make a strategic retreat, and when to reach a deal (permanent or temporary) in order to stay alive and be able to fight another day.

Yes, we could accuse him of, sometimes, inexplicable wealth, but many of those who have had the privilege of dining with him can confirm that the portion he eats or drinks is so little that it is even an embarrassment. He just eats enough to stay alive.  We all know that virtually every kobo of Tinubu’s wealth goes right back into the Nigerian system, grooming and hoisting first class leaders.

Tinubu’s staying power is not money. It is people. Quality people. The intimidating army of best brains in all fields of human endeavour, who are ready to go to war blindfolded, so long as Asiwaju is the commander. If you doubt me, institute a court case against Tinubu and see how many quality lawyers in the South-west would take up your case, even if you’d pay them the entire Nigerian annual budget. Conversely, you would not have the courtroom space to accommodate all the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who would line up to defend the Jagaban – and for gratis too.

Many of those who try to run him down cannot point to two or three people that they have made, even though they had the same (or even better) opportunities that the Jagaban has had. Greed and shortsightedness made them concentrated on themselves.

Yes, it might amount to heresy, comparing Tinubu to Awolowo, but the Jagaban remains the nearest thing to the sage that the Yoruba nation can boast of today.

For me, it is immaterial how old, or young, detractors delude themselves that he is. The man says he is 67, and 67 he is. I, therefore, join the millions of the not-too-jealous Nigerians in wishing this Nigerian phenomenon a happy birthday, good health and many more years in the service of mankind.

APC: Now, I’m getting really scared

Last week,  several of our politicians, top government officials and government delegations were in Rwanda for a series of international programmes –  either CEO Forum, Continental Free Trade Conference, Gender Conference, Aviation Business Summit or whatever.

Yes, we have suddenly discovered Rwanda, the new Rwanda, and it has suddenly become the place to be. Its suave, but benevolent dictator President,  Paul Kagame, has suddenly become the poster boy for Africa’s potentials and leadership possibilities. Somehow,  it is now more prestigious for world leaders to have a photo-op with Kagame than any other African president.

And, as our own leaders visit, I know they must have marvelled at the African miracle that Paul Kagame has made of the little landlocked African country, barely 20 years after the most brutish mutual annihilation and genocide in modern human history.

But rather than humbling themselves and learning from Rwanda, as the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, did during his own visit, which has now yielded a partnership that would see Rwanda helping to repackage and drive Bayelsa’s tourism sector, several of our big men, who visit Rwanda are more interested in trying to paint a rosy picture of a Nigeria, which they know, is just not working.

But here are a few quick lessons from Paul Kagame’s Rwanda:

Thirty per cent of the seats in Parliament are reserved for women. With that encouragement, the women, instead of staying in ‘ze oza room’, have unleashed themselves and pushed the envelop to 50%. In fact, after the recent parliamentary elections, the women have now tipped the scale over the 50% mark.

In Rwandan, if a party wins the presidency, the party that comes second would produce the head of the Parliament. It means there’s effective opposition (and checks and balance) from the onset. They do not criminalise opposition to the president, as we do here.

Today, we can’t claim to be a better country than Rwanda. Today, while Europe and America are regularly issuing travel advice on Nigeria, Rwanda is the African destination.

And we must not forget that as recently as 1994, Rwanda had an even more vicious fratricidal war, than Nigeria had in 1967-70. But the Rwandese have grown from their experience. They have preserved the history, as a reminder of what should never happen again. We, on the contrary, have made deliberate efforts to obliterate our own history, preferring to live in denial and pretending that it never happened. Anyone who as much as makes reference to our own war is immediately tagged a tribal warlord and ethnic jingoist. Healing has thus become impossible.

And since we have denied our past, we have continued to repeat the same mistakes that got us to that sorry point in our history. We continue to annihilate each other along ethnic, religious and regional lines.

And the war drums have begun to sound louder, even after the fractious general elections.

In fact, going by the way APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has been sounding lately, especially, since INEC turned-in the results of the recent presidential and National Assembly elections, I’m beginning to get really scared for our country and our democracy.

Yes, his APC party may have carried the day, but the way Oshiomhole is rubbing in his winner-takes-all disposition is the perfect recipe for national disaffection and uprising. Whatever happened to that phrase about being magnanimous in victory?

Why must we continue along this line that nearly crashed the house on all of us? Did we vote out PDP, after 16 years, only to have APC repeat the same thing for which we voted out the PDP? I thought it was a new wine we voted for, and not a new wine skin?

The APC spent the last three and a half years making the country ungovernable for itself, for no other reason than that the preferred candidates of the president did not emerge leaders of the two legislative chambers.

Nobody watching our polity from outside the country would ever believe that both Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara were members of the ruling APC, at least, for the better part of the last tour years.

The Presidency declared them enemies of the party, and by extension, enemies of the state. It did everything to destabilise them and their leadership of the legislative chambers.

Of course, as we say in my part of the country, it is only a tree that would hear of a plot to cut it down and still remain standing on the same spot. Having been pushed to the wall, Saraki and Dogara decided to fight back, as a means of self-preservation. However, they always left a window for rapprochement – an opportunity, which the executive repeatedly refused to seize, preferring to perpetually remain on warpath as a result of the ‘original sin’ of their not being the chosen ones.

Things got even worse with the emergence of Oshiomhole, as national chairman of the party.

The former Edo State governor went about the fight against Saraki and Dogara like a slave, desperate to impress his slave master would. Like the Yoruba would say, he went about his slave errand without any pretension to being a freeborn. Of course, his overzealousness destroyed whatever little chance of reconciliation that still remained. That ultimately led to the defection of Saraki, Dogara and several other APC lawmakers to the PDP, from where they had decamped to the APC four years earlier and helped scuba President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid.

If there was ever any failure of the Presidency and the outgoing Eighth Assembly to work together, it was not the making of the leadership of the legislature, but the refusal of the Presidency, the APC leadership and their lackeys in the National Assembly to accept the leadership of NASS. I know of, at least, three senators, who did nothing else in the last four years except scheme to unseat Saraki.

And now that Saraki is on his way out (albeit temporarily, because he will bounce back sooner than his traducers ever thought), the APC is already throwing its dictatorial weight around. It has, in no unequivocal terms, told the PDP lawmakers to go to hell – that APC can produce Speaker and Senate President without any help. It has again shown its cards by imposing its candidates. That was what cost it those seats last time out. Much as it is not likely to lose out this time around, it would sure live to regret its actions today tomorrow.

It is erroneously looking at the PDP for opposition, and seeing none in the horizon, it is carrying on as though it can pull the moon down to the earth if it so wished. But how wrong it is. Opposition will definitely come. And it will come from within its own womb. Yes! The same way APC defeated APC in Oyo, Bauchi and, I dare say, Kano, is the same way the APC will destroy itself in the Ninth Assembly. It does not matter that the party, as it stands now, can literary muster the two-third majority needed to even decree Nigeria out of existence, if it so desires. That probably explains why the incoming Senate President is already contemplating the idea of tenure elongation for President Buhari.

Clearly, APC learnt nothing from PDP’s self immolation.

But the day is still young. However, in my part of the country, we are able to tell how a day would be, by the signs we we see in the morning.

  • Steve Nwosu, celebrated back page columnist, is the MD/Editor-in-chief of The Nigerian Xpress newspaper
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