Gani Kayode Balogun Jnr.
Contrary to popular perception, I had spoken one on one with Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Asiwaju of Lagos and Jagaban of Borgu, only on handful of occasions : The first being when PUNCH was packaging a supplement for his 50th birthday in 2002 and I was part of the team, the last being at an event at the height of the Sanwoolu-Hamzat campaign three years ago.
In between these occasions, I had met him essentially as a carrier of messages between himself and the late publisher of the Tribune titles, Unbreakable himself, Chief Wole Awolowo , simply because I was the ranking officer at the Lagos office at that point in time
But I had known of him long before he came into the public space. The late Saka Adio Olayigbade , the Lagos island born Sakara maestro, had serenaded his mother, Alhaja Habibatu Mogaji in one of his singles thus:.
“Iya Jibade jaiye owo, Abibatu “
“iya Ajibola jaiye Ola : Abibatu “
” o we gele o ko owo e seyin”
“Abibatu mi, O fi p’owe pe ori elegan lo fo “
This roughly translates to Jibade’s mother is enjoying the fruits of her riches, that Ajibola ‘s mother is enjoying the fruits of her wealth, simply by tying her head gear facing the back, signaling that her detractors are the one suffering from headache triggered by jealousy .
But despite not having a direct relationship with the man, all my close friends and mentors are tied to the Tinubu political machinery at every level.
His influence therefore permeates every strata of politics of the South West, in many shapes and forms.
Senator Tinubu is obviously a politician’s politician, a student of the Chicago style politics, especially the one of the South Side of Chi-Town, which is based on creating layers upon layers of loyalists, who in turn create foot soldiers and a pool of willing and sometimes conscripted population based on a very rigid reward and punishment set up.
A system that rewards loyalty but also punish dissent. A system based on the need to know basis and a very elaborate intelligence gathering system that ensured that they have eyes and ears at the highest level of the opposition camp.
The upside of this system is that it can survive a massive hit from the opposition and still manage to survive with a few core leaders and committed foot soldiers.
The downside is that because it is driven more of personality and not by ideology but by opportunities, its fall will be in direct proportion to the abuse of the system by few lieutenants cornering most of the spoils for themselves and their relatives,, thereby creating an army of disillusioned supporters who are willing and ready to jump ship once a credible alternative is found.
But no matter where you stand on the Tinubu issue, it cannot be denied that Alhaji Tinubu is a consequential player in this current dispensation of the Nigerian project.
That he had weathered the storm for fifteen years after leaving office, is a testimony to his resilience, given that his political demise had been proclaimed consistently for over a decade, yet he is still standing.
Happy 70th birthday to the Jagaban, the man who, by understanding how to use the system to his political benefit, tried to recreate it in his own image.
The jury is still out wether he will succeed or not, but whatever will be the verdict of history, nothing can be written about the third democratic interregnum , the June 12 struggle as well as the fourth Republic, that a chunk will not be on the role of Akanbi omo iyaloja.
Many happy returns, Akanbi omo Olodo ide.
Thank you for listening.
(Being a paper delivered via zoom to a US based Pan Yoruba think tank with members based in Indianapolis, Chicago and Atlanta to mark Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu @70.)