History Encounters Bola Tinubu at a Dinner Table, By Gbenga Olorunpomi
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past…” Karl Marx
Good people are hard to come by. The uncomfortable truth is that this world despises good people. Human beings have a natural instinct to either extinguish the spatter of lights that dot the almost tangible darkness around us, or cover it up. We are quick to kill the better people in our society or to drag them down into the mud with us. We are uncomfortable with the notion that some people can be good while we swim in our filth. We resent the notion of such arrogance. We don’t understand it, so we destroy it.
Abel, Noah, Lot, Jesus, Mohammed. Just a few names of men people either tried to kill or did kill for the simple fact that they we were better than the rest. In Jesus’ case, we even went as far as to accept the likelihood of a curse. It didn’t matter. All we wanted was for the man to be dead. The world hates good guys.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the flesh. It was about 3am and the man had just concluded a round of meetings and was almost to his last one. I wouldn’t have recognized the man because he walked so fast for a man his age. It was the bald head and glasses that gave him away. Here I was, only 26, and missing my bed so desperately. On the other hand, Asiwaju Tinubu, then 58, was wide awake and working himself to the ground. In that singular moment, I felt both shame for myself and deep reverence for the Former Senator and Governor. In those five seconds, I saw the man I wanted to be; hardworking, deft, decisive, agile, alert and wily. Today, I admire him ten times more than I did that morning, even though he has never said a word to me directly nor shaken my hand.
While it would be wrong to completely attribute the attainment of our fledging but deeply threatened democracy to the efforts of Asiwaju Tinubu alone, nobody has contributed more to the sustenance of that same democracy than he. It is easy to forget how much the man gave himself to the battle to dislodge the military junta because we are a people in love with amnesia. It is even easier to forget the many juicy temptations thrown at him before it became too dangerous for him to remain in Nigeria. It might be hard to forget the many times the man took the federal government to court just to ensure the establishment of a true federalism in our country. However, I refuse to allow us forget the role this man has played to ensure every Nigerian continues to enjoy his freedom to speech and equal justice. I will remind us all of the man’s one-man resistance to the forces of the federal government for years. I will recall to our memory the countless times the man appeared in the corner of his colleagues and mentees whose electoral mandates were in jeopardy. He expended time and resources for the actualization of our people’s electoral wishes in Ondo, Osun and Ekiti. He did it with awesome dedication. No one else stood their ground with him. He went it alone.
Only recently did Asiwaju begin to get the accolade he truly deserves, the most notable being THISDAY pronouncing him their “2013 man of the year” and describing him as “The man who re-built the Nigerian opposition.” I wonder if people know what it took for that to happened and it is time someone told the story.
Barely months into the 2012, Asiwaju Tinubu met up with General Muhammad Buhari and asked for a fresh start to the talks that were never concluded in the run-up to the 2011 elections. He shuttled many times between Lagos and Kaduna to hold meetings with General Buhari in his house and also met other close political aides. These took place in Abuja, Kaduna and Lagos.
After getting the General on board, it was time to the reach out to other party leaders-APGA, ANPP, and the CPC. He also had to convince senior members of his own party, the ACN, on the merits of discarding the party and taking on a more nationalist outlook. These meetings held late at night and into the early hours of the morning. Convincing other parties to subsume their structure into one party was not easy. But Tinubu didn’t stop there .He took on the task to help resolve internal crisis within the CPC and the ANPP. He acted as the glue that stuck all the parts together. He pleaded and cajoled to get people to work for the merger. He was driven by the need to build a virile opposition and a broader national political platform that can compete with the ruling PDP.
He took the boldest step of dissolving his party, the ACN into the APC; a party that was yet to be registered then. That was in April 2013 when at the convention he showed the way. His rousing and moving speech lifted spirits and set the tone for the sacrifices to be made. He said he could feel the storm of positive change coming to Nigeria and he rallied all to be part of that movement. He said as difficult as it is to let go of ACN, a party all worked to build, but that it was a sacrifice necessary to move Nigeria forward.
Part of his speech that day read thus:
“Join me today in voting to move our party into merger with the ANPP, CPC, other parties and organizations to form the All Progressives Congress, APC.
I assure you that the place we are going will be your house of political fulfillment. We shall have a meaningful voice in the APC. The principles of democracy, justice, visionary governance and liberty that shaped the ACN shall carry over into the APC. The new party will be as welcome a home as the ACN. It will just be a bigger house for a larger political family.
It shall be this family that saves Nigeria by bringing to the people the creative policies that promote wide prosperity, employment, infrastructural overhaul, education, health care, civil rights, peace, stability and justice.
Thus,vote with me to close the historic and noble chapter on the ACN so that we can begin a new and bigger book called the APC.
For us this is not a sad ending, it is but the beginning of a great beginning. Let us do what is right so that when history writes its account of this day, it shall write that we lived up to our moral duties by doing what the moment required.”
It was Asiwaju’s tireless work and dexterity that helped to see the party registered. When other fake APCs emerged, Tinubu took on the battle to expose the trick but also worked the legal system to ensure the party registration stood. He spent time, money and invested intellectual resources. This was while he was recovering from a knee surgery in far away London. He was always in constant touch with his allies like Buhari, Baba Akande, Yemi Osinbajo, Lawan Shuaibu, Yusuf Alli, Kashim Imam, Muiz Banire and several then ACN governors. Tinubu did a Yeoman’s job.
While all this happened, one wonders where the current pretenders scheming to control the fate of the APC were. Those who never lifted a finger to help the fledging party are suddenly interested in who leads it. They want a share of the spoils where they never pulled a bow in the battle.
Suddenly, they are possessed with a desire to dictate. When Asiwaju was busy trying to convince the PDP governors to join the party, they did no more than twiddle their thumbs and wait to see if the move would succeed or fail. It took a lot of work, persuasion, meetings, all led by Tinubu and assisted by a few. While this happened, no one accused Tinubu or Buhari were hijacking the party. They were working tirelessly and getting results. Others like Tom Ikimi and Ali Modu Sheriff hugged the sidelines waiting to rip from others’ sweat.
Recently, there have been some sponsored reports and opinions painting Tinubu as dictatorial, lacking internal democracy and so on. One even likened him to the Conniving Tortoise, saying he is a serial double-crosser and untrustworthy. However, all being done to trash his efforts will fail. History will stand up in his corner. Tinubu’s contributions to the establishment of the APC are monumental and without Tinubu, APC could never have been a reality.
Those seeking to run it now are welcome to remember this fact. They should resist the temptation to stick a knife in his back. Humanity has lost too many good people already. And according to John F. Kennedy, “History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”