•What Former Aide Said About Him
Folorunsho Coker is one of the long-standing associates of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Popularly called Folly Coker, he served as Personal Assistant to Asiwaju Tinubu from 1999 to 2007 and rose through the ranks. At some point, he was the CEO of the Lagos State Vehicle Plate Licensing Authority. He is now in Abuja where he heads one of the top Culture and Tourism parastatals. He is the DG of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation. He was appointed in March 2017. When Tinubu turned 60, ten years ago, he was one of those who revealed what many don’t know about Tinubu. He should know. He has worked with Tinubu long enough to know him intimately. In 1999, he was appointed PA to Tinubu when he was governor, and in 2003, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff. In 2015, Folly was appointed Tourism, Arts and Culture Commissioner in Lagos.
According to Folly, Asiwaju’s political family, which now extends beyond Lagos and the South-West and is increasingly growing by the day, is perhaps the only real rival to his immediate and traditional family life. Asiwaju’s political convictions, determination and zeal have meant that he doggedly fights for and supports those who share his political ideals. An undying and committed democrat, he has inspired many around him and beyond to fight for their beliefs and remain true to their convictions. He has become an enigma in African politics, a credible and worthy opponent and a firm and fair party leader. Examples abound of how Asiwaju has ensured his political family remains as one. He is present at virtually every level of campaigns and elections. He knows party members personally and has an uncanny ability to remember the names and personal details of even the most obscure persons.
Asiwaju the boss has a host of employees who form another family. They cut across all walks of life, sociocultural backgrounds, religions and even more interestingly tribes. I will never forget one day, we were driving back to Lagos in his convoy as a sitting governor and saw a sign for Ikire, a town in Osun State. His long-serving driver and now “eldest son” Mustapha, aka Paddler (of blessed memory) was from lkire. Asiwaju diverted the entire convoy to Ikire to Mustapha’s mother’s house so he could pay his respect. That was remarkable and taught me a lot about humility, respect and the value of loyalty and trust. When one of his security details, Tope, was shot in Asaba while on an official assignment, Asiwaju directed that the badly injured man must walk again. He ensured that Tope was given the best treatment possible and Tope remains as one of his personal security aides today. It is this kind of affection and loyalty to his peers, subordinates and allies that in turn breeds the fierce commitment and near-fanatical loyalty they have for him.
His acknowledgement that Lagos is a place where people of all religions, tribes, and genders have and must continue to play a role in the development and greater good of the state, is the reason why his political family is so diverse. As a Governor, he had a female and a Christian as deputies. His cabinet was sprinkled with non-indigenes, from other South-Western states and even included an Ibo man. At a time, when the country was still “hung-over” from the harsh days of military rule, where conversations
and appointments were conducted with mutual suspicion; and paranoia the order of the day, his ability to be “all-inclusive” was brave and visionary. The colourful tapestry of Lagos State, which he helped to nurture, as we see it today, remains one of the most relatively peaceful states in the country.
In these times of religious intolerance, Asiwaju’s utmost respect for humanity and people of all faiths is remarkable and indicative of his sterling leadership qualities. In his home, he is a practising Muslim and his wife a devout Christian. Amongst his children, there are both Muslims and Christians and his
unflinching support for them is evident as he attends and fully participates at functions where his presence is required, whether in a church or mosque.
I would be REMIss (no pun intended) in my write-up if I do not at this point acknowledge that whilst he is the head, our dear Senator, Oluremi Tinubu is the neck that keeps this head moving. She has been a source of constant support for Asiwaju, keeping the family together, when her husband has been occupied with political and official obligations. Although a commonly used cliche acknowledges the importance of a strong woman behind every successful man, most men rarely ever acknowledge it. That is not the case with Asiwaju. Knowing that Remi put her career on hold to support his political ambitions and keep their family together, he was quick to allow her restart her life as soon as his “official” career ended. Knowing that they had been in the race together, he handed over the baton to her in his characteristic manner of being a fair, firm and dignified team player. She is now an able and worthy Senator representing Lagos Central in Abuja.
Asiwaju has never failed to publicly acknowledge Senator Tinubu’s support and always prefaces his speeches with “my darling wife” and similar words of affection. He always insisted that congratulatory messages were (and still are) signed with both their names. What always amazed and amused me was his insistence that I organize fresh flowers and a “private” dinner for Valentine’s Day. He never fully understood what it took, to reduce his convoy to 2 cars (from at leastl2), convince the security detail to give him some space and that he was unlikely to be ambushed in a quiet dark corner of La Scala restaurant. Needless to say, we always managed to pull it off.
As a philanthropist, Asiwaju is a man of great compassion and generosity. Never tired of extending a helping hand to the needy, his entire salary as a governor, was evenly split across over 30 orphanages and charitable organizations. Each month, they would unfailingly receive a cheque from his personal salary account.
His friendships cut across all strata of society as he had an enviable ability to be at home in the company of both the high and mighty as well as the less privileged members of society. One of his closest friends was Adingbe of blessed memory. This was a man who sold dry-fried pieces of beef known as “stick meat” in a glass display box, which he proudly paraded around the offices in Alausa. Announcing his arrival and advertising his appetizers in a “sing-song” voice, he was truly a character who entertained as well as nourished those who dared to indulge. Asiwaju stumbled across Adingbe one day, and that started a bizarre friendship, which saw Adingbe regularly visiting and chatting with the Governor. As a lover of entertainment, he assisted talented but neglected artistes such as the late Kokoro and Fatai Rolling Dollar. He funded life-changing surgeries and treatments for many Nigerians, many of whom were stories he picked up in media reports. Our instructions were always “get it sorted, my friend”. In all, I found myself as a young returnee to Nigeria in 1999, who was given the benefit of working with the new Governor of Lagos. Having been away from the country for many years, I was suddenly thrust into a complex, fast-paced working environment, with a man I barely knew and did not have the luxury of an induction. I was expected to second-guess him, anticipate his needs, be one step ahead at all times and never ever fall foul of him. The hours were endless, the pace was 100 mph, the results were difficult to ascertain and the rewards seemed non-existent.
Fast forward a few years later, I was able to one day sit back and reflect on my experiences, and I realized that this baptism of fire was the best induction course back into Nigerian life, society and workforce. No youth corp camp or cushy bank desk job could have ever given me the depth and breadth of the experiences I had, working with Asiwaju for 8 solid years. He became a father figure and has remained one. I look around all his “boys”, and know that each and every one of us treasures the lessons and values he imbibed in us. My relationship with Asiwaju has shaped my personal and professional attitude to life, people and family. Working with Asiwaju has taught me to stand true to my beliefs, to never fear or falter, confront and engage my enemies, respect and value my friends, reward trust and loyalty, and above all to fear the Almighty. All of this underscored with humility, focus, leadership and hard work.
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