In Nigeria today, there are only 2 places where some of the biggest and most controversial political decisions are taken. Inside these two places, some men have walked in as ordinary and fairly accomplished Nigerians and emerged governors, ministers, senators, vice -presidents and even presidents.
Yes, these are the two places in the country where some of the biggest political decisions and appointments are taken. They are also places where decisions that could affect the life of the man on the streets are decided. One of the two places in question is Aso Rock in Abuja, the official seat of power and residence of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The other one is in Ikoyi, Lagos Island, in a quiet highbrow area called Bourdillon. This is the home of one of the most politically powerful men to come out of Africa, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is a two term governor of the most populous state in the African continent, Lagos State. Popularly called Jagarban Borgu, the national leader of the ruling party, APC, is the undisputed Grand master of Nigerian politics and the Master Strategist of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Bourdillon is his home, his fortress, where he holds sway and can do no wrong.
Mention the name Bourdillon in some of the most exclusive political circles in the land and everybody freezes. This is because, at Bourdillon, many hitherto fledgling political careers have either been catapulted into prominence or strategically terminated even before they could see the light of day. Little wonder the sprawling magnificent home of the political juggernaut called Asiwaju has since become a mecca of sorts to politicians of all shades and hues who go to him to seek political blessings or power.
Take it or leave it, Bourdillon is the place where who gets what, politically and on merit, is decided. Indeed, it is an open secret that even members of the opposition party sneak into Bourdillon under the cover of the night to go have private meetings with the Lion of Bourdillon. And you can’t blame them. The word out there within the corridors of power is that it is far more rewarding when you are on Asiwaju’s side than to be against him. Below is the story of Tinubu’s Bourdillon House in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Bourdillon Road in Ikoyi, in Lagos has become very, very popular. Call it the most popular road in Ikoyi and you won’t be wrong. So popular is it that all the Okada and Keke Napep riders are usually eager to go in that direction. But up until 16 years ago the street was not that busy. It was just one of the many streets in that exclusive part of Lagos. What changed the level of activity in that area is the presence of the National leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He lives in an imposing building structure on that road and his house isunmistakable. Why? This is because all day long, a lot of party faithfuls and politicians gather there daily to meet with the man who has been reputed to be the most strategic politician in Nigeria today. What surprises people is the diversity in the kinds of politicians who throng the residence to see Asiwaju. Just as you see APC vehicles drive in and out, you will also see PDP branded cars jostle for space. Also, as you spot APC chieftains you will also see PDP chieftains come in to consult The Oracle of Bourdillon. The leaders of all the various ethnic groups also come to see him. It is either you run into a Senator from Bayelsa waiting to see him or Reps member from Taraba waiting in the wings to just have a 5 minute tete-a-tete with Tinubu. As you see Igbo leaders come in for consultation, you will find Northerers come in to see him. How about the ethnic minorities? They are also there.
Suddenly, Tinubu’s Bourdillon road home has become the most frequented house of any politician in Nigeria. Though it is the official residence of Tinubu, it is also like his office and political melting pot for politicians who require Asiwaju’s prompt attention. There are many sitting rooms in the house, so also meeting rooms. That helps him to frequently host 5 to 6 meetings simultaneously as he moves from one meeting to another.
He has a huge compliment of staff (about 25) that cater to him and his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu. Most of the units in the compound have a minimum of about 3 staff each. Take for example the kitchen. It has about 10 staff. He has a Chef. He has about 5 cooks. He has about 5 home maids, and about 6 drivers. He has about 4 people handling laundry. Then about 25 security operatives keeping watch over the premises that is heavily guarded by monitors and many more. And the maintenance cost of the palatial residence is high because of the high turn over of visitors who wine and dine there. Round the clock, visitors are served food and drinks by uniformed waiters. And almost on a daily basis Tinubu usualy hosts delegations from all over the country who come to meet with him.
He is not only unarguably the Yoruba leader, he is the most influential Yoruba man of affluence and power, having led the group that removed a sitting President and installed a new President who had tried on his own to get to power but failed. But beyond just being a Yoruba leader, he has emerged a big player at the national level. He also has a big house in Abuja where he holds court to Nigerian from all works of life.
Over the last few months, Bourdillon has become the meeting point for politicians from all the parties, including APC. It is at Bourdillon that all the major decisions affecting APC are taken, just as conflicts are resolved at Bourdillon. Over the last several weeks all the decisions to accept decampees from other parties are taken at Bourdillon. Even when major decisions are taken elsewhere the major actors still have to come to Bourdillon for ratification. Even members of the diplomatic corp pay courtesy calls on Asiwaju. All the US and British encorps frequent Bourdillon. So also the EU represenatives. The clergy are not left out as a lot of Pastors and Islamic preachers usually drop by to see Asiwaju. The list of regular visitors to Bourdillon is a long one. But one common denominator is that many of those who visit Bourdillon go to him for favours and he does not turn them back. Irrespective of how difficult what they have gone to see him for is, they all leave his place smiling.
This is because he wields so much influence across Nigeria. There is no part of Nigeria that he does not have contacts. A phone call or a note from him to anyone, in any part of Nigeria will open doors. He is also known to be a very generous man who does not think twice before throwing money at problems. The popular joke in town is that even if you are as rich as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, can you spend like him? By last count he has helped over 500 politicians rise to the various positions they currently hold today. Through him, there are many who have been Governors, Senators, House of Reps members, State Assembly members today. Infact at this just concluded elections, Tinubu was instrumental to helping many public office holders get into power, from President Muhammadu Buhari to even local government Chairmen and Councillors.
You can then imagine how busy his schedule is, as everyone insists on seeing him, having a handshake with him and taking selfies with him. Among politicians who are loyal to Tinubu you must constantly update your photos with him to show how relevant you are in the scheme of things politically. There are sets of politicians who go to Bourdillon on a daily basis. The first are members of the inner caucus. Two, those who have scheduled meetings with him.
Three, those who need help or favour. Four, those who are hangers-on, who need to use their visits to Bourdillon to boast to others that they met with Tinubu a few minutes, hours or days ago, to boost their profile.
Lets tell you the origin of the name of the road. Bourdillon is named after Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon GCMG KBE (1883–1948) the a British colonial administrator who was Governor of Uganda (1932–1935) and of Nigeria (1935–1943).
Bourdillon was born on 3 December 1883 at Burnie, Tasmania. He grew up in England and South Africa, and was educated at Tonbridge School in Tonbridge, Kent. He attended St John’s College, Oxford, graduating in 1906. In 1908 he entered the Indian Civil Service. He married Violet Grace Billinghurst in November 1909. In 1935 Violet was described as “the perfect Governor’s wife”. His three sons, Bernard Godwin Bourdillon, Henry Townsend Bourdillon and Patrick Imbert Bourdillon attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford and they all followed their father into the Colonial Service. Bernard Godwin Bourdillon, Assistant Chief Secretary to Palestine, was later killed in the King David Hotel bombing in 1946.
In 1913 Bourdillon was appointed Under-Secretary to the Government of the United Provinces. In 1915 he was made Registrar of the High Court of Allahabad. While in India he earned a reputation as a linguist. During the First World War, Bourdillon joined the army as a temporary Second Lieutenant in 1917, and was posted to Iraq in 1918. He rose to the rank of Major, and during the Iraq insurrection of 1919 he was mentioned in despatches. Bourdillon left the army in 1919 to join the Iraq civil administration, and was appointed Political Secretary to the High Commissioner of Iraq in 1921. From 1924 to 1929 he was Counsellor. Between 1925 and 1926 he was High Commissioner with Plenipotentiary Powers in the negotiations over the 1926 Anglo-Iraq treaty.
Bourdillon transferred to the Colonial Civil Service in 1929 to take the post of Colonial Secretary of Ceylon, serving in this role until 1932 and twice acting as Governor of Ceylon. Whilst in Ceylon he served as President of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1931.
In 1932 he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Uganda. In 1935 he was made Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria, holding the post until he retired in 1943. Sir Bernard Bourdillon was aligned with the reforming trend in colonial policy, and rapidly gained the respect and friendship of the educated elite of Nigeria. On 1 February 1938 he met with the Nigerian Youth Movement to hear their complaints about the way in which the European Cocoa Pool agreement was limiting competition. When asked to take a neutral position in the dispute he refused, saying he supported the African position. A few days later the Colonial Office announced a commission of inquiry and soon after the pool was suspended. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot was full of praise for Bourdillon. He continued to remain on close terms with Nigerian opinion leaders throughout his term.
Britain was wary about getting drawn into permanent expenses with the colonies, and would advance loans only if the colonial government guaranteed to cover interest charges or repay the investment. This inhibited the poorer colonies from requesting support for development schemes. In 1939 Bourdillon wrote to the Secretary of State concerning the economic development of the African colonies. After describing how little had been spent on development and giving the reasons, he asked that the British government “should accept responsibility for financing the operations of the agricultural, forestry, geological survey, veterinary and co-operative departments” under a ten-year programme.
Bourdillion divided the South of Nigeria into Eastern and Western provinces in 1939. In the early days in Nigeria the British had governed the north of Nigeria indirectly, through the traditional rulers of the Muslim emirates, and had kept the region somewhat isolated from the outside world. There was perhaps a subconscious view that the feudal society was not ready for the full impact of modern civilization. Sir Bernard Bourdillon decided that this was not a viable policy. In February 1942 he visited the leading Emirs and gave his opinion that they should not say “We will not have the southerners interfering in our affairs” but instead should say “we ought to have at least an equal say with the southerners in advising the Governor as the affairs of the whole country”. The emirs accepted this advice.
Bourdillon recognized that the northerners were handicapped in comparison to the southerners by their lack of education and lack of English. Rather than simply expand the Legislative Council to include more northerners, he explored the idea of Regional Councils with a Central Council in Lagos that would review their findings. However, he saw these councils as strictly advisory in nature, saying “a benevolent autocracy is the form of government best suited to a people who are educationally backward and whose religion inculcates a blind obedience to authority”. This view of the non-political nature of the regional councils helped alleviate concerns that the proposed federal system would cause antagonism between state and federal authorities. Bourdillon raised the question of whether Nigeria should be further subdivided into more than three regions. Some officials thought that the Tiv and Idoma divisions and most of Kabba province should be detached from the north. Some were in favour of more regions, each more homogenous ethnically, in a similar arrangement to that followed in East Africa. No further changes were made before Sir Bernard retired, handing over to Sir Arthur Richards. He is credited as an adviser on the film Sanders of the River.
After retirement Bourdillon continued to serve on the Colonial Economic and Development Council. He became treasurer and then chairman of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association. In 1946, his son, Bernard, who was working in Palestine, was killed in the King David Hotel bombing. He was a director of Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas), and of Barclays Overseas Development Corporation. He died on 6 February 1948 at St Saviour, Jersey, aged 64. Many don’t know that this upmarket and exclusive Bourdillon road in Ikoyi, Lagos, is named after him.