In the book of tributes published about ten years ago when Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu turned 60, Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashiola revealed a lot about Tinubu. In the book, “Asiwaju, leadership in troubled times”. Fashola revealed what many don’t know about Tinubu’s rare qualities. In fact, he has not said it anywhere before but in this book.
In the book, he titled his article, “Tinubu, The Logistician” and he wrote: Let me start by stating that in describing Asiwaju as a Logistician, I took the literal meaning of the word and that was the context in which I spoke. A logistician is someone skilled in the practical organisation that is required to make a complicated plan successful when all of the people and equipment are involved. In this context, I will explain my estimation of Asiwaju as a man who fits this definition through a case study of a few real-life situations and leave the readers to make up their minds about this man for whom it will take some time for our inks to dry as his story is written and unwritten.
Let me say generally about his public image that I do not remember one public contest where he lost the war. I will speak to many battlefronts, from Oyo to Borgu, Ife, Ibadan, Lagos and Anambra to mention but a few. Of course, he bears many battle scars and these attest to his tactical ability to surrender battles to win wars.
I have never told him this before, but I think his looks are perhaps his biggest weapon. He wears a placid face that masks his intellect and quick thinking and probing mind. By the time I started working for him, I realized how much advantage his looks gave him against his adversaries. It was always tempting to underestimate him but many of his opponents have found out often too late that they have been outwitted by a man of razor-sharp mind and quick wit.
My first contact with him was a visit that Wale Tinubu, his nephew and I undertook to his office when he was treasurer of Mobil at Bookshop House in Lagos, a day after the Eid-el Kabir festival in 1990. What struck me was that in his suit as a Senior Executive, he had the time not only to have arranged fried Sallah ram meat for his staff who were less privileged. He was supervising the distribution of the fried meat neatly packaged in polythene wrappers among the staff from floor to floor in the bookshop house.
He could have asked somebody to simply go and distribute them as many of us would probably have done. Our interactions were fewer and far between until August 16 2002 when I assumed duty as his chief of staff.
One of the first assignments I had to deal with in the early months of my tenure was the voters’ registration exercise in preparation for the general elections and presidential visit to Lagos in 2002.
Of course, we all know, that voter registration is a federal government responsibility carried out by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
It is not important to dwell on the ineffectiveness that characterised that effort. suffice to mention that many should recall that what should normally be a continuous painless exercise in better-organised jurisdictions that appreciate the value of planning, was a rushed exercise of a few days that produced stampede, emotional stress and anguish for the citizens who were to benefit. Many were let out.
What did Bola Ahmed Tinubu do? As usual, the federal government got the full length of his critical tongue, but he is not only a talker. The logistician set to work, we printed forms, we organized the courts and local governments and got all the people who were excluded to complete forms and swear an oath to the act of their exclusions. The same foresight and organizational ability were brought to bear during the last census exercise.
It is to his organizational credit and ability that Lagos must remain grateful during this exercise, first that he declared a work-free day which saved the loss of many lives that would have been lost on the broad street during the exercise when the bank of industry building partially collapsed. if fate was at play, the result that produced a figure of 17,250,000 people as the real population of Lagos in 2006 was the product of sheer doggedness, organisation and a spirit that never gives up.
As chief of staff, it was my schedule to organize all the local government chairmen to co-ordinate the recruitment of men and women as our local enumerators who followed the federal government enumerators from house to house. They collected the same data and it is perhaps strange that they arrived at different results.
But I recall very vividly, every night for about 10 days that the exercise took place, we all met from 9pm at the state house, Marina with the logistician in the chair, listening painstakingly to every enumerator, and the problems they encountered on the field every day. To each, a solution was provided and we gathered the next day at night long into the early hours of the next morning to monitor progress, review new challenges and provide answers. He was simply unreservedly committed to getting the headcount right.
While the nation slept, the Logistician slaved with his people for his state and country.
I recall about 2 days before the end of the exercise when he spoke to the president at about 2am about the shortage of materials. The president responded that the nation had shut down and that it was simply impossible to get materials to Lagos unless Governor Tinubu could get an airplane to Abuja to pick them up. I am not in the position to judge whether the president did not believe he could order any of his presidential jets to deliver those papers to Lagos. If he thought getting an airplane in a time of national shutdown was a tall order, he had truly underestimated the logistician.
We had a small discussion and by 4am, I had woken up a plot and at 7am, a plane was on the way to Abuja. Lagos got the extra materials and the rest is history.
It is this determination and resoluteness never to accept defeat that put Lagos in a position to instantly refute the figure of just over 9,000,000 people reported by the federal government as the population of Lagos. Asiwaju held a press conference showing in detail, in a presentation made by Dr Obafemi Hamzat, the then Commissioner for Science and Technology, the fallacy and falsification in the foundations of the Federal Government declaration that Lagos had only a population of 9 million people in 2006.
I must admit that his effort has proved most useful during my tenure as governor because the modest successes we have recorded here in improving the standard of people’s lives have been substantially assisted by the fact that since 2007, we have budgeted for and planned for a population of 18 million people as against the 9million that the federal government will want us to believe.
While there are many experiences to share and I think I should leave him to decide how much of that he will share when he writes his memoirs, I will only now conclude by referring to how this organizational ability plays out in his politics.
After the 2007 general elections and the strong feeling of injustice supported evidence of rigging and falsification, the logistician set out what may fairly be adjudged as his political battle yet. He assembled a team of lawyers, and political experts and sought knowledge and assistance from far and near. One of the novelties of this endeavour was the introduction of forensic analysis and expertise to our election petition trials.
Sleep was forsaken, food had only mechanical value of sustenance and was not a matter of relish. All that mattered was the fight against injustice that rankled. Men were mobilized, inspired, and equipped and in the fullness of time, results began to show.
One by one, with God, injustice was remedied, Justice triumphed, all the stolen states were returned, from Edo, came Ondo, followed by Ekiti and eventually and perhaps most sweetly, Osun returned to Oranmiyan.
With his involvement in CODER, a single item agenda was set for the 2011 elections – one man, one vote. As a result, Ogun and Oyo returned to the progressive hold of which he is the undoubted standard-bearer.
Although the work is not finished, very commendable progress is evident. The road to this pleasant liberation of the South West has taken many hours of sleepless nights and many days of belief and hope, driven by unyielding commitment. It had been fought by many men and women, and some have paid the supreme price. Enormous resources have been deployed to it. But the champion of the cause has been the indomitable organizer, mobilizer and manager of men and resources.
He has been bruised and sometimes beaten but certainly unbroken and remains undefeated”.