Asiwaju Tinubu’s Presidential Victory: Emergence of Collective Leadership
By Prof. Ojo Emmanuel ADEMOLA
For twenty-four years, the Nigerian democratic practice (a model of the American participatory system of governance) has been subjected to variants of leadership interventions, and through it, political scholars seem to have found an avenue to explore appropriate concepts, assumptions and propositions (CAPs) applicable to our local settings. For instance, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s (OBJ) two-term tenure (1999 – 2007) as civilian president, was characterised by an admixture of autocratic and liberal styles of leadership, one that’s “benevolence” in nature. It was an administration that flagrantly disobeyed Court orders and judgements, breaking constitutional tenets of democracy at will. The seizures of the Lagos State’s statutory Federal Allocations in 2005 for years during the tenure of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s (BAT) as Governor of the State over the creation of additional 34 Local Development Councils (LDCs) in Lagos, was an instance of autocratic overbearing of the OBJ’s leadership. Ditto for the military overrunning of the Odi Community in Rivers State on his order/watch. The OBJ’s style of leadership bears antecedent in his military background/credentials, and it was hard for him to run on the principles of participatory/collective decision-making.
Between the administrations of the late Presidents Musa Ya’Adua and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2007 – 2015), a typical civilised pattern of democratic leadership evolved, indicating a departure from the rigid top-to-bottom command chain of governance of the OBJ’s era. One can easily pick the traits of liberalism associated with democratic practice in the eras of the duo where Constitutional orders were accorded respect and dignity. For instance, it was the late President Ya’ Adua who ordered the payment of the seized Allocations to Lagos State, aligning with the Supreme Court’s rulings on the subject. President GEJ’s tenure was even very exemplary in democratic ethos to the extent that, for the first time since 1999, a participatory process for the National Dialogue of Nigerian project was initiated and jump-started. Again, these instances, eloquently attested to the leadership credentials of the stated personalities of those eras.
The outgoing administration of President Mohammed Buhari (PMB) has anecdotes of leadership characteristics that students of politics would necessarily need to record for posterity. However, one thing is crystal clear either PMB’s tenure would be assessed based on its military antecedents like that of OBJ, or the synergy that brought about the June 12 Democracy Day. Surely, the leadership style cannot be far-fetched from being such a democratic outlook of looking to deepen Nigeria’s democracy, which some have loosely defined as unitary-crazy. Some also place the PMB’s leadership as one leadership that’s being manifested as an inwardly negotiated, and lately, flagrantly lawless, disobeying Court orders at Wills. The example of non-obeying of the Supreme Court’s judgements on the cash redesign policy is informative and comes in handy.
Nonetheless, the singular act of democratic boldness exhibited by PMB with the matter of June 12 will indeed characterise him as a Democrat for posterity. The Federal Government of Nigeria, led by PMB, declared June 12 to be the new Democracy Day on June 6, 2018, eight days after May 29, which was celebrated as Democracy Day. On June 12, 2019, Buhari delivered his inaugural address for his second term. These were done to remember MKO Abiola’s democratic election on June 12, 1993, deemed the freest and fairest election in Nigeria. However, the Ibrahim Babangida Junta erroneously cancelled it. After MKO Abiola correctly declared himself president, he was later detained. During the negotiations for Chief MKO Abiola’s release, Chief MKO Abiola drank tea and mysteriously passed away. In the presence of Kofi Annan, he began to cough, and he later passed away in the hospital. The recollection remains that MKO said that Nigeria would get back to having a good government.
In all, different administrative eras from 1999 to date have presented classic leadership styles that have had bearings on the deepening of our democratic experimentation, or otherwise.
However, in projecting into the future democratic journey of Nigeria, it seems a new vista of leadership style, all-inclusive, servanthood and affirmative, is in the offering by a full-blooded democrat. With the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) as president-elect of Nigeria, it can be said that a true and full-blooded Democrat, Progressive and Liberalist is bound in the saddles, and expectedly, pragmatic approaches with full traits of democratic practice can only be the order of his administration and MKO’s projection that Nigeria would get back to having a good government now fulfilled. The question may arise that how did I arrive at this postulation?
First, Asiwaju’s democratic credentials speak volumes, and they date back to his entrance into politics pre-1993. Even in the late 80s with the late Shehu Musa Yar’dua as a founding member of the People’s Front of Nigeria, BAT had been at the forefront of democratic struggles along with the early Progressives who fought the military dictatorship to submissions. He played an active role in the NADECO’s push against the IBB/Abacha’s intolerant regimes, committing both personal resources and intellect for the emancipation of the Country from individualistic autocracy. He is a staunch opposition to democratic pretences and bastardization of benevolent leadership, always pushing for the finest of democratic practice. Asiwaju won numerous Court cases against Obasanjo’s administration to deepen Nigeria’s democracy. He’s a credible believer in the rule of laws, a sine qua non for stabilisation and consolidation of the democratic drive.
Secondly, ASIWAJU BAT is a pragmatic team player with an eye on the results. His acceptance speech at the end of the intensely contested primary of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja glaringly publicizes his deep personality for collective bargaining, mobilization, lobbying and benefit concessions. Asiwaju has summed up his acceptance speech thus: “Now that we are here, we will roar, we will develop the building together”. The emphasis of a democratic leader has always been on the collective pronunciation of “WE”, and not the egocentric word “I”.
Profoundly, BAT acknowledged that the task ahead was a collective one, submitting that: “Then to the Progressive Governors Forum, we are truly progressive. We are confident that this nation is back on track. I didn’t know what I did that gave you the confidence to nominate me as the candidate of the party. We will worry and eliminate the intruders at the party. No intruders, no destroyers can bring Nigeria backwards.” A speech that took root from a great mind and full-blooded democrat who won his party presidential primary with such a huge margin in 2022.
What’s more, Asiwaju’s speech is with a mind of no-vanquished-no-victor mentality, a distinct team builder in BAT threw the Olive branch to his co-contestants: “I commend my fellow aspirants for the stiff opposition you offered. I am now a better man and I am humbled. I thank those that stepped down for me. You chose to step down through personal conviction that you trust my brain and competence. The competition is not over and those that did not support me have nothing to fear. I hold no grudges against you. We must work together to defeat the PDP and their retrogressive ideals. They left us with hunger, and we must do everything to defeat the agents of poverty, terror and lies that characterise the PDP”.
Thirdly, BAT is a complete and detached tribalist, a committed nationalist who can be trusted always with power in the national interest. Asiwaju’s interest remains that of national interest, he competently carries Nigerians’ collective intelligence that lies in a genuine, united and prosperous nation. In a more pluralistic society like ours, leadership with a large heart is required (particularly at this time), and this is found in Asiwaju Tinubu who has demonstrated during his stint in Lagos the capability to accommodate all shades of ethnic entities. Lagos has been home to millions of Nigerians from North, South, West and East; all living together harmoniously to foster their daily living. Indeed, it was recorded that Asiwaju laid the foundation for the collective governance of the State across ethnic divides by incorporating non-indigenes into the Executive and Legislative arms of Government. So, it’s not a surprise that Asiwaju’s acceptance speech post his election at the presidential pull on February 25th was laced with strings of patriotism and nationalism:
“Whether you are Batified, Atikulated, Obidient, Kwankwasiyya, or have any other political affiliation, you voted for a better, more hopeful nation and I thank you for your participation and dedication to our democracy. You decided to place your trust in the democratic vision of a Nigeria founded on shared prosperity and one nurtured by the ideals of unity, justice, peace and tolerance. Renewed hope has dawned in Nigeria”. Truthfully, it takes a servanthood and all-encompassing leader to embrace his opponents in the building of a genuine Nationhood.
Fourthly, the president-elect has often espoused uncommon visionary traits characteristic of legendary leaders in the eras of Awolowos, Azikwes, Balewas, etc. His vision for an economically, prosperous and united nation has set him miles apart from his peers. And peeping from his vision of Nigeria, Asiwaju has accentuated wisely: “Today, Nigeria stands tall as the giant of Africa. It shines even brighter as the continent’s biggest democracy”.
A man of commitment and unbridled ambition, BAT has set his priorities right for the tasks ahead and expressed infectious optimism that will galvanise the whole country around his leadership: “I thank the Nigerian people for their abiding belief in our democracy. I shall be a fair leader to all Nigerians. I will be in tune with your aspirations, charge up your energies and harness your talents to deliver a nation that we can be proud of”, he pledged in his acceptance speech. More emphatically, the president-elect craves all-inclusive leadership when he asserted: “Political competition must now give way to political conciliation and inclusive governance”.
A peace-oriented advocate (one without which progress can be attained), Asiwaju combines rare guts with laying enduring growth paths for nation-building; thus, his patriotic counsels to his co-contestants in “renewed hope” acceptance remarks: “During the election, you may have been my opponent but you were never my enemy. In my heart, you are my brothers. Still, I know some candidates will be hard put to accept the election results. It is your right to seek legal recourse. What is neither right nor defensible is for anybody to resort to violence. Any challenge to the electoral outcome should be made in a court of law, and not in the streets. I also ask my supporters to let peace reign and tensions fade. We ran a principled, peaceful and progressive campaign. The aftermath of our campaign must be as benign”.
Reassuringly, Asiwaju said: “Yes, there are divisions amongst us that should not exist. Many people are uncertain, angry and hurt; I reach out to every one of you. Let the better aspects of our humanity step forward at this fateful moment. Let us begin to heal and bring calm to our nation”.
From the strategic point of leadership positioning, BAT’s sterling quality, again, resonates with the mood of the Nation. The restive youths were addressed and given “renewed hope” in a demonstrative manner: “Now, to you, the young people of this country, I hear you loud and clear. I understand your pains, and your yearnings for good governance, a functional economy and a safe nation that protects you and your future. I am aware that for many of you, Nigeria has become a place of abiding challenges limiting your ability to see a bright future for yourselves. Remodelling our precious national home requires the harmonious efforts of all of us, especially the youth. Working together, we shall move this nation as never before”.
A bridge-builder across heterogeneous Societies like ours, Asiwaju’s innate leadership is not in doubt. In his series of interactions with the stakeholders, the president-elect has been transparently reassuring: “My running mate, Vice President-elect Shettima, and I understand the challenges ahead. More importantly, we also understand and deeply value the talent and innate goodness of you, the Nigerian people. We pledge to listen and to do the difficult things, the big deeds, that put us on the path of irreversible progress. Hold us firmly to account, but please give us a chance first. Together, we shall build a brighter and more productive society for today, tomorrow and for years to come”.
What a great mind Asijwaju is. As I put this analysis on the pen, what I see is one Nigeria, coming together and prospering together under Tinubu’s presidency. In a functioning democracy, after the election’s outcome, citizens are to pray for the success of their leaders. Most of the castings against one of the freest, fairest, and most peaceful general elections in Nigeria’s history have the thumping print and essentially the fingers of some people who are ignorantly or intentionally choose to live in another man’s perceived past. Active citizens, lovers of Nigeria’s democracy, are proud of what God has chosen to do for us. All Nigerians are to pray ceaselessly for the leaders God has chosen to give us. It is for God to choose leaders and allow them to lead, as He has given citizens the grace to pray for leaders to succeed. Over the years, some Nigerian leaders have decided to replace God’s roles with theirs and stand in the way of citizens to pray for the success of our leaders across the board.
Nigerians must now take on the baton of ceaseless prayers and start praying for the success of Tinubu’s presidency because that is what God has given to us graciously. In God’s Theocratic reign, He provides us with democracy for our leaders to emerge. That’s what God has ordained for Nigeria, and every Nigerian must pray for the success of our leaders, and nothing otherwise or less is acceptable to God. Good citizens shall remain patriotic and pray for leaders of their nations and the nations of their Residency. That’s the way God has designed it, and that is the way it works for the great Nations of the World. God has bestowed on Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to be the president-elect, to be inaugurated on May 29, 2023, as the President and Commander-In-Chief. His wife will become the first lady in the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All Nigerians should obey God and continue to pray for the success of Tinubu’s presidency ahead of the inauguration and beyond.
Generally, it’s heartwarming that the Nation will soon begin to run with Singaporeans’ model of leadership that is visionary, committed, focused, pragmatic, inclusive, audacious and ambitious to propel the wheels of Nationhood. Rightly, the era of Asiwaju Tinubu’s leadership promises to represent more of the aforementioned. God bless us all.
Prof. Ojo Emmanuel ADEMOLA is a foremost strategic political analyst and a global Cyber Security expert