Recently the former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, marked his 69th birthday with pomp and pageantry. From Kaduna to Kano Tinubu was celebrated by political friends and well-wishers. Back home in Lagos, his wife, Oluremi Tinubu, a Senator of the Federal Republic, ensured that guests at Bourdillon were taken good care of. Tinubu remains an enigma, a potentate in politics Nigeriana. Given his political ingenuity and godfatherism he has succeeded in becoming a colossus in Lagos politics, one without whom any guber ambition is dashed.

The Asiwaju of Lagos and the Jagaban of Borgu, by dint of hardwork, had worked his way to the top of local and national politics earning whatever vilifications or condemnations or commendations that come his way. His political sagacity has paid off handsomely in Lagos and elsewhere where his tentacles are spread across the federation. Like him or loathe him Tinubu knows the game and plays it professionally.

SOC Okenwa

But in his political career spanning decades he has courted controversy as same has come his way involuntarily. When you are in the eye of the storm everything could be thrown at you. Yet your ability or capacity to stay standing (staying power) could be said to be the barometer with which your success or failure is measured in the long run. Tinubu has paid his dues and no one can begrudge him for the publicity, negative or positive, that trails him whenever he intervenes on any issue of national importance.

At the 12th Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Colloquium held in Kano to mark his 69th birthday some sycophants had used the occasion to sing his praise to high heavens. And hisadversaries used same to splash mud on him. While many eminent personalities including the President (presently in London on medical tourism) had commended his forthrightness and leadership qualities others had sought to paint him black adducing minuses in his political trajectory.

One of the controversies that greeted the great man's birthday had to do with his real age. Is he 69 or 79? Did he doctor his real age for political reasons? Well, a hard look thrown his way shows that he is indeed a year from attaining 70 in our reckoning. Yet the social media was agog with discrepancies over his age. Even Wikipedia erred ostensibly by attributing 79 to his age only to take it down when the heat became unbearable online.

Our position is that Tinubu looks his age, 69! While we are not his parents -- who are in a better position to say with certainity when he was born -- we hold that he could not have been 79 for whatever reason. If he is 79 that then means that he is older than President Muhammadu Buhari whose official age is put at 78? If that should be the case then Tinubu looks younger than Buhari in every physical and intellectual perspective.

Tinubu brand sells across the federation because of his large heart, generosity and resourcefulness. He appears completely comfortable engaging across ethnic, religious, and partisan divides. He engages both friends and 'enemies' alike maintaining an outlook that gives him away as a bridge-builder. He may have his shortcomings and strenghts as every politician of his generation do but what distinguishes him from the rest is his vision and experience.

From NADECO opposition to the June 12 political crisis to the Government House in Alausa, Ikeja, Tinubu has seen it all. Yet there are issues still sketchy about his ascendancy and continued relevance. From Chicago University certificate forgery to looting the treasury (leading to failed EFCC prosecution) Tinubu has weathered the storm. He brushes aside every challenge that comes his way and moves on thinking forwardand planning ahead.

Rumours had it that he is nursing a presidential ambition. Though he is eminently qualified to rule Nigeria what would put spanner in the works remains his association with the failed Buharian presidency in which he is still a major stakeholder. Even if he contests it will be near impossible for him to win the primaries given his controversial profile. 

In Yorubaland he is more hated than loved. Up north some Arewa politicians detest his guts. Down to the south-east he is seen as a Fulani apologist who values cows more than human lives!

There were reports online hinting that the northern cabal around President Buhari are not favourably disposed to the Tinubu 2023 presidential project. There were rumoured subterranean efforts to weaken Asiwaju's ambition by bringing on board his political foes like the former 'disgraced' Lagos Governor, Akinwumi Ambode.

Since Nigeria is not Lagos where Tinubu dictates the political pace and tune it would be a hard-fought battle for him to be accepted across the ethnic political divides. His godfatherism works wonderfully well in Lagos but that is another story at the national level.

Tinubu has committed some notable gaffes in the past for which he was called out by critics. He goofed when last year Funke Olakunri, the daughter of the 94-year-old National Leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Reacting to the gruesome incident Tinubu was quoted to have asked: "where are the cows" refusing to pin the blame on the murderous armed invaders.

Up north during his recent birthday bash he had hailed Governor Ganduje for fighting corruption! The same 'Gandollar' that was caught on video stuffing millions of Dollars inside his flowing 'agbada'? The same Ganduje who rigged his re-election? The same Kano Governor who dethroned the former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, on flimsy excuse of insubordination and lack of respect for constututed authority?

By taking the 12th Colloquium to Kano Tinubu stands accused of playing politics with his birthday. He cannot escape the accusation that he was trying hard wooing the core north towards his 2023 presidential dream. The Tinubu presidency post-Buharism (if it happens at all) may well turn out to be better than the present leadership muddle at the centre. He would be better than Buhari because for all intents and purposes he is definitely smarter and more intelligent than the so-called "Daura dullard".

Yet getting there requires a whole lot of political brinksmanship and horse-trading. While Asiwaju is good at both he may find out that politics Nigeriana has had a long list and history of buried dreams and corpses.

SOC Okenwa
[email protected]

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