We spoke economics and finance. I commended his writeups on financialism, and the pursuit of full employment by the deployment of fiscal sovereignty, and his opposition to austerity measures, and such like. His face lit up as I started this discussion. He regaled me of possibilities about and around Nigeria; how we could leverage and securitise our gas deposits, rather than go a-borrowing from everywhere, how we had so much space for growth and development and how we hadn’t even started at all.
Dear reader, as you may know, I don’t like doing easy things. I also don’t believe things easily. Tinubu looks like the unlikely president. Yes, he looks frail. He looks old. He has all sorts of allegations around him. But. But. Sometimes, the best gems are hidden in the rough. That he has survived so far in politics must mean that he has some aces in his pack. He is the one who the whole country has been discussing for the past few months, being the one who has stepped out to say he wants the job of the Number One man in the country. Many on social media have taken turns to lampoon, abuse, vilify, curse, excoriate, de-market, devalue, defame, and accuse him. Some hate him more than anything living or dead. A few have posed as friends and exposed him at his most vulnerable moments. But the man keeps going. My very few friends will likely tell you that I show up when they are most vulnerable. And there are two things I hate with passion; bullying and ingratitude. I don’t go around seeking favours often. But when I get favour from someone, I never forget him or her. So, Tinubu is at a moment when many of his mentees are ready to show ingratitude and when there is a growing crowd baying out loud, wishing to bully the man to submission. That, to me, is despicable
Too many of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s associates, proteges, those who call and know him as ‘Leader’, have abandoned him. Although he still has the usual bedlam of people around him because of his tremendous investment in people over time, however many of those who benefited from close association with him have since shifted position. For some, it is just the cold, calculated exigencies of the time. A political position is about to open up, and politicians usually have that driving ego and overestimated sense of self-worth. Everybody wants it. The platform known as the All Progressives Congress (APC) is up for grabs. It doesn’t matter anymore who it was that invested the most in creating the platform. Life is full of injustices; and so, shoving a Tinubu aside in the blinding scramble to get to that position is fair play. While most have been plotting silently and working their ways closer to the prize (knowing in their minds that they are traitors of sort), a few others have gone full blast – almost ready with their daggers to stab Julius Caesar to bleeding death in the Capitol, like Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Casius Longinus, and Publius Servilius Casca Longus, among the rest, did, while Cicero looked away. Some have even suggested and are working on ways of disenfranchising the man who has worked his way to the pole position. Mago mago arrangements, instead of party primaries, and every trick in the game, are on the table. Anything to stop Tinubu from becoming president. The Caesarian analogy is frightening. The 23 senators who stabbed Julius to death also adduced that they were trying to end dictatorship – Caesar had become too powerful. Envy and jealousy were principal emotions that drove the actions of a number of them. And they were afraid of the people. Like Caesar, Tinubu should be careful of the Ides of March. Those who know the story should also look out for him.
I see a man at his most vulnerable state, seeing betrayals on a daily basis, wondering who next, from among those he may have trusted in the past. Such is life. But for me, this is one of the attractions. As a child, when I was barely 10, my brother and I were returned to Akure to go and live with our granny. My dad’s house was being built but the completed boys’ quarters was ready. The old woman and her first daughter lived in one of the boy’s quarters. Eye Esther Faparoko Fasua used to sing. And these days, one of the Akure songs she sang often – which I never sang with her but which was burnt (etched) in my brains, goes thus; “maa s’ope o me ra fibi so’oloore. Oso fibi so’loore aje fibi soloore, ma s’ope o me ra fibi so’loore”. Translated, it means it is good to be grateful to your benefactors. Only truly evil people repay good with evil. I should know. In my little political experience, I saw the same; people who saw my investment of time, intellect and the little money I had, poured into the building of a party, but who rose in staunch, bitter opposition when I needed their support, sponsoring baseless and hopeless stories about me. I saw many who had no plans and wanted nobody else – including the party – to have any plans whatsoever. So, I think I understand the feeling fairly well.
No matter how bad Tinubu is, should the world hang him out to dry? Is he truly guilty of all he has been accused of, or are some of these accusations part of the price of leadership? During EndSARS, one guy was dishing instructions from England or wherever, that his boys should burn down Oriental Hotel. They did. It was meant to belong to Bola Tinubu, until the Chinese guys who own Wempco made their claim. In fact, they have tried to sell off the place because it had become a target. Tinubu is supposed to own half of Lagos, if we are to believe traducers. Whereas I cannot vouch for transactions done under his government, but from what I now know about Nigerians, we love a wonderful, fantastic story; and most of those stories are deployed against those we hate. Sometimes, these stories destroy them. I have come to fear leadership roles in this country. I often caution friends on social media to go easy on the hate they express for our leaders – especially because I see these same friends aspiring to the same leadership positions.
I used to look forward to being a leader, and bringing to bear my knowledge, my energy, my imagination, and whatever else I think I have, on changing our country. But for some years now, I have been expressing serious doubts about the wisdom of offering oneself for leadership in these parts. Is it worth it? Why try and serve people who will never appreciate your efforts? People who, oftentimes, don’t even know what they want. People who are not even ready to make a single sacrifice to secure that El Dorado they speak about. People who fail the pragmatism test, by imagining a paradise when what we should be striving for are sure, incremental improvements in our polity. People whose daily vocation – and oftentimes profession – is to damage the country, steal her blind, rob her dead, ruin her reputation – yet they come out and pontificate about the state of the country. People who cannot introspect for a second – it is all about what they want and when they want it, never about how the collective could make progress. People who will falsely accuse others of thievery, and bribery, simply because that is their own default mode, which they project onto others. These are the vocal minority. Thankfully, Nigeria still has patriots for whom good leadership should be a worthy sacrifice.
Asiwaju’s human cultivation prowess is legendary. His plantation of human and social capital is vast. They are everywhere you turn. Too many years of familiarity may have led some of his plants and trees to disdain their planter, or for some of them to even go after him. He maintains his position and looks for more seeds. We see those he has planted everywhere, every day. Some of them are doing incredibly well in positions of leadership.
Asiwaju is being projected by the vocal few as the ‘baddest man that ever liveth’, but I strongly doubt this is true. I think that though he is surely imperfect, he is largely a victim of the kind of politics he has played so far, which is also borne out of the person he is. I have never been in government. But as a Lagos man, yes he could have taken a bung or two, but given the number of people he has raised, I think people should really show him some more respect. Asiwaju is a good man. An eleniyan (a man of the people). His investment is largely in people. They even teach us in business school that the best investment is in people, but most of us find it hard to practice. People, when well cultivated, will deliver the money. How much do you really want? You will get tired. A Chinese adage goes further to say; ‘if your vision is one year, cultivate flowers. If it is ten, plant a tree. But if your vision is eternity, cultivate human beings’. Of course, some of those you cultivate will go bad, toxic and poisonous. Some will want to gut you. When that happens, the only thing to do, is to plant some more human beings.
Asiwaju’s human cultivation prowess is legendary. His plantation of human and social capital is vast. They are everywhere you turn. Too many years of familiarity may have led some of his plants and trees to disdain their planter, or for some of them to even go after him. He maintains his position and looks for more seeds. We see those he has planted everywhere, every day. Some of them are doing incredibly well in positions of leadership. The question nobody seems to have asked is how come most Nigerian leaders are not also actively seeking people who can make a difference and cultivating them? How come this man is about the only one who looks out for talent wherever they may be and stakes his bet on them. Bola Tinubu is the best football scout in Nigerian politics. He doesn’t get it right all the time. But sometimes he does and scores a Ronaldo or Messi. He has been hands-on in Lagos. Say what you want, Lagos is still the reference point in development and governance in Nigeria. It is not only about the money they generate. Some decades back, we didn’t even know the money was there. So, it took ingenuity, effort and organisation to bring out the potentials and transform Lasgidi into what it is today. Tinubu heralded it. I recall the days of Pa Otedola in Lagos (Femi’s dad was nicknamed Baba No Bitumen), then Marwa came and showed some hands-on approach. Then Tinubu came and laid the foundation for the massive expansion of Lagos. When I left Lagos for Abuja in 2001, most of what is known today as Lekki up to the Epe axis were bushes and swamps. The trio of Fashola, Ambode and Sanwoolu are some of the smartest, most-hardworking Nigerians we have seen in public service in this country.
I have met Asiwaju twice. Once in 2016 when I commented on some of his articles. He had written about economic concepts of full employment, currency sovereignty, the futility and toxicity of austerity measures, financialism. I was enthralled. I sent a link to his then Special Assistant who is now Minister of Sports, Mr Sunday Dare. He invited me and I met him for a few seconds at Asokoro, gave him two of my books, chatted a bit and left. I liked that he called me. He is a headhunter. He caused my article to be published on pages two and three of The Nation (you know my writeups are usually long). Since this new era of politics started, and the bullying went into overdrive, I have made a few comments that he should be allowed to freely pursue his ambition. I believe that many of those who should be organising are busy looking for who to abuse. Abusing people does not give power. In fact, it eats the abusers from inside, makes them die bitter. I swore too long ago never to be in that group of timewasters, that is why I moved for the formation of a party, ran on it and encouraged others too. So, as the man has been traversing the whole of Nigeria, what we see on social media, especially, are super commentators, savage writers who can pen the bitterest few words about how he is ugly, frail, old, and whether he peed in his pants or not. Yet, the man keeps marching on, building a momentum for himself that would be hard to rob him of. It was a similar thing M.K.O Abiola did pre-1993 and why his election was clear, and the military had to do the unacceptable just to stop him. Tinubu has put himself in the pole position for 2023; a fishbone in the throats of everyone who is eyeing that position. He has declared, he is building a network, convincing people, going round, shaking hands, even spending for those who don’t have. He is subjecting himself to a grueling schedule that will buckle some of the fittest amongst us. But my people on social media think abuse will stop him? The grassroots don’t really care about the grammar.
And so, Tinubu reached out to me – the second time. This time, my friend Kayode Adebiyi kept reaching out from London. I said okay, we shall see how it goes. Even another big friend, Mallam Imran from Kano, was setting up a meeting through a friend of his. But the link from Kay came through earlier, through a man I had had a very bitter quarrel with over Buhari (my namesake Tope Ajayi). I kept on doing my thing everywhere until they called one day at 4 p.m. and said my meeting was for 6 p.m. I set out at 5.20 p.m. but it looked like the meeting was not to be, as I ran into some of the craziest traffic I ever saw in Abuja. I didn’t know that Asokoro roads were closed in part. I basically missed the appointment as I did not arrive at the venue until 6.40 p.m. Imagine that! But no one held that against me.
Of course, other visitors (governors) had filled up my slot and so I had to wait till almost 8p.m. before the man sauntered into the small sitting room in which I waited. We did a fist bump, I greeted him, and we commenced our discussion.
The other guys I have soft spots for are Kingsley Moghalu and Adewole Adebayo. The latter is a philosopher and polymath who has been making waves lately, and like Tinubu – he is also a people’s person. Moghalu also reaches out to people. My fear, which I have expressed to the two, is the issue of platform. I have too much hands-on experience in the business of putting a new party or coalition together and have been greatly disappointed by the way Nigerians are.
We spoke economics and finance. I commended his writeups on financialism, and the pursuit of full employment by the deployment of fiscal sovereignty, and his opposition to austerity measures, and such like. His face lit up as I started this discussion. He regaled me of possibilities about and around Nigeria; how we could leverage and securitise our gas deposits, rather than go a-borrowing from everywhere, how we had so much space for growth and development and how we hadn’t even started at all. He spoke proudly about what he has been able to achieve in Lagos with the succession planning. He veered off and spoke about the criticisms – he explained what he meant by the ‘wrestle with the pig’ allegory and how he read something from a Greek philosopher. He is a reader. And that is something. He pulled up one leg of his trousers and showed me his right knee where he must have had a surgery and said, ‘and they said I was dead’. I think the man had made up his mind a long time ago that ‘eebu oso’ i.e. abuses do not generate on someone’s body, visible for others to see. I told him that some of his ideas (like the naira sovereignty, which goes against the petrodollar advantage of the U.S.) will meet with resistance from the powerful countries of the world. He responded, “I don’t give a damn”, and pointed to a U.S. senator who was then being shown on CNN “that guy is my friend”. He lapsed into a sombre mood and said “this presidency is a prison. I don’t really need it.” He also spoke about our religiosity as a people. He said “I can keep a Bible here and my Quran there and tomorrow morning you will not find them quarreling”, wondering why Nigerians quarrel over religion. I think he has a digital mind, that type with so much on it, trying to process so many things at the same time, tough to catch up with. Anyone who dismisses him does so at their own peril.
We had a great discussion for about 15 minutes, after which he asked me to represent him at Governor Fayemi’s book launch three days after. He said I should inform Governor Fayemi that he will give ‘something handsome’ towards the books through his office – a message I couldn’t get to deliver because that point never came up at the launching. Tinubu then asked me to come on board with him, and ‘join the struggle’.
I left there feeling confused, elated and sad at the same time, wondering what to do. In all the confusion, one feeling was paramount for me; here was a man who sought people out. My friend Tope Ajayi said he got to meet him through a single article he did too. Tinubu just saw the article and informed his guys ‘I need to meet this guy, bring him on board’. And he never forgets people. I have been living in Abuja since 2001 – the seat of power. I can’t remember being sought out by anyone in government who wanted to engage in anything intellectual, despite all my trenchant writeups, TV appearances and what have you, some of which hopefully make sense. I had even written so many great things about people like Fashola in Lagos, but none of his people got in touch. I still really respect that guy. I have also commended Sanwoolu on social media. He left Tinubu in the bigger sitting room that day to come and meet me and said some of his guys had told him about me. He seems quicker on his feet. I have been having cause to object to the attempt by Professor Osinbajo to the presidency, based strictly on the non-performance of the Buhari administration of which he is number two and the de jure head of the economic team. If Osinbajo was anything like a Tinubu, I believe he could have reached out to small boys like me, given that I had had great trust in him since 2015 and also written as such. What I get instead is that his team steps down anyone who they see as a threat. Yes, they are into deplatforming people. He didn’t learn a lot from Asiwaju, it seems. He may have learnt more from Buhari who has shown himself as a selfish snub, even to those who did everything to get him there. Buhari is not interested in fresh or new ideas. He is firmly rooted in the 1950s. But this is not about me.
For now, I will support this hardworking man, and wish him godspeed. I pray his health continues to hold strong and I really want to see him on that ballot. He is a good man. We don’t need to trample him to death as we usually do.
The other guys I have soft spots for are Kingsley Moghalu and Adewole Adebayo. The latter is a philosopher and polymath who has been making waves lately, and like Tinubu – he is also a people’s person. Moghalu also reaches out to people. My fear, which I have expressed to the two, is the issue of platform. I have too much hands-on experience in the business of putting a new party or coalition together and have been greatly disappointed by the way Nigerians are. In Nigerian politics, you cannot trust anyone. The needed total transparency and openness that can make a coalition fly in this country is not something most Nigerians can stomach. It was what killed the idea of PACT (Presidential Aspirants Coming Together) in 2019, as I suggested the same and the idea was shot down. Those coming together today did not ask our set for the experiences we had. They assumed that we were just naïve. And so they will only repeat the same mistakes – perhaps on a bigger level. Already, Kwakwanso and a few others have formed a party. A few more will come. Smart guys are stepping out of the wood works on a daily basis. Some believe we should take everything to the east – on a silver platter. There is so little time to maneuver much less really campaign. Asiwaju keeps on taking more space. I know that many of his opposers are planning even the undemocratic just to stop him. How easy will a June 12, 1993 robbery be, in 2023? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.
And no. No money exchanged hands at either of our meetings. Not one kobo. None was demanded. None was offered. He didn’t even ask me to join APC.
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