Many people don’t know that before Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu went into politics years ago, he was a top manager with Mobil in the late 90s. He was in fact the Treasurer of Mobil, with the office at Bookshop House on Lagos Island.
A while back, he told The News Magazine how he left his plum job at Mobil to go into politics. He was asked how he joined politics, his answer was very revealing.
“We decided to support Chief Dapo Sarumi Gradually, I moved from raising funds to getting involved. I brought some money to Nigeria out of my dividends abroad. I was comfortable because my investments in America and London were already yielding dividends. Then came the crisis leading to the ban of Professor Femi Agbalajobi and Chief Dapo Sarumi. I threw my weight behind Yomi Edu.”
“He lost the election and our group was devastated. I went to Ahmadu Abubakar and IBB. I wrote a report and I was strongly against the Structural Adjustment Programme introduced by the military government. The idea of the new generation banks came from those reports. Abubakar, from being a permanent secretary, became Minister of Finance.
IBB saw the significance of the advice as well as the short, medium and long term vision that were in the report. That man was great. He was a good listener. You could think with him. He is still alive. This probe of NNPC dates back to those periods. You can give the NNPC a bank draft for 120 days and you will still be using that money!
They started touting the idea that intelligent, brilliant and dynamic people like me should be in the Senate and must change Nigeria. The idea gradually started coming into my head. People like Kola Oseni, Alhaji Hamzat, Busurat Alebiosu, Demola Adeniji-Adele, Prince Olusi, who were members of the Primrose Group at that time, started persuading me to go to the Senate. The Primrose Group was piling so much pressure on Alhaji Kola Oseni to persuade me.
The MD of Mobil, Bob Parker, thought I was crazy when I told him I wanted to join politics. I also told the Finance Director, Akinyelure, that I wanted to join politics and use my brain for my country and that I couldn’t continue to be an armchair critic. The two of them could not believe what I said. They said, given my career path in Mobil, if there was any chance of anybody becoming something there, then I would be the one. I stood my ground and said I would give it a try.
I told them that people do it in America and Bob Parker agreed. They said they would give me a leave of absence for four years, during which they would not fill my position. They later said that they would not stop me because it would rub off positively on them if I became successful in politics. They told me to come back and take my position if I found it uninteresting and unchallenging. So I contested the Lagos West Senatorial district election.
Why not Lagos Central?
Lagos West was where our weakness was apparent. The political leaders in the Social Democratic Party just assigned Lagos West, which was the most challenging district, to me and said I had the money, personality and wherewithal. Lagos Central was preparing for me and they wanted me.
In our group, we wanted to help Wahab Dosunmu to stay in Central, so I went to the West. It was a big battle, but I won the nomination for Lagos West.
Wahab Dosunmu got a nomination for Lagos Central, but they got him disqualified. The battle was then left to Shitta-Bey, Towry-Coker and Bucknor-Akerele. Whatever happened in the primaries is history. It was a crude primary election, but a most transparent one. That was how I got into politics, which nonetheless was an adventure for me.