Friday, April 5, 2019

A lesson in political leadership: The Tinubu experience

April 15
14:13 2015


After observing this personality called Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu from afar, the following are leadership qualities I have observed in him that haVE made me develop a liking and respect for his “political personality”. Please note, I have never met this man in person; I have never seen him in flesh.

All I write here are basically my own observations from distance, derived from local and international news, blogs and the social media coupled with my interaction with people who are politically close to the Jagaban. For students of political leadership like me, I put this together believing that somehow, we will get a lesson or two from this political phenomenon.

While starting a political career, join a worthy cause

Tinubu wasn’t a commissioner and never had a political appointment before his election, first as a senator, and then as governor of Lagos. From his job as an accountant with Mobil and after his election as a senator of the federal republic, Jagaban launched himself into the June 12, 1993 politics by joining NADECO. He escaped the dragnet of the Abacha regime to set himself up as one of the strong pillars of NADECO abroad. You will wonder why a guy with his privileged background would do such. He really endeared himself to Yorubas. That singular act that ultimately catapulted him into the government house Marina over many political juggernauts in Lagos such as Kofoworola Bucknor and Funsho Williams.

Good works not enough; play serious politics
After becoming governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu realised he was in the same camp with a motley crowd; there needed to be some separation. He started building and developing his own crowd and quickly set himself apart from mainstream Afenifere. This will consequently lead to the formation of the ACN and ultimately the APC.

Get the youth involved; don’t keep them in the backgroud

Jagaban understood the relevance of youth in the demographic segmentation of Nigeria. He foresaw the emergence of this sector of our demography and quickly exploited this. The consequence of that is the emergence of young political heavyweights like Fashola, Osinbajo, Ambode, Banire, Obanikoro, Alake, Fayemi, Edun, Aregbesola, fowler etc. To have a cult following, the youth must definitely be behind you.

Keep the elders in the background
“You can’t bend a dry crayfish”. No one, while running forward, keeps looking at his back, He will definitely fall. The youth carry the vision while old people will keep reminding you of the past. If Tinubu had remained with the mainstream Afenifere, the best development Lagos would have witnessed would not have surpassed what was witnessed in Ogun state under Olusegun Osoba between 1999 and 2003. It was a mediocre performance that contributed to Osobas failure at the polls in 2003 along with his ilk in Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Osun states.

In politics, money matters

When people, out of myopia, come down heavily on Tinubu for having wealth, I often laugh. To them I say, go and do just a percentage of what Tinubu has done without money. How he did it will be explained later, but Tinubu understood very well the role of money in present-day Nigeria.

Empower your cronies in the private sector but never dip your hands into public till

With his background in the private sector, Tinubu had an already-built trusted network in the sector. He knew those to trust with influence and money; many of these people later proved to be worthy investments to the Jagaban. Do people now wonder why EFCC can never have anything against the man? He knew he had to keep his hands clean. The Yoruba do not entertain rogues. He was scrutinised by political foes and they found nothing against him.

Never put politicians in public leadership positions

Do this and start writing your political epitaph. With the betrayal of people like Obanikoro, Tinubu quickly realised this point and the rest, they say, is history. The likes of Muiz Banire, Ganiyu Solomon and Tokunbo Afikuyomi will be biting their fingers now. The moment Jagaban realised they were building their own political structure, it drove the nail into their ambitions to rule Lagos as far as Tinubu was concerned.

Learn quickly from bitter experiences
The Obanikoro experience is instructive here. Tinubu is a fast learner. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. Obanikoro actually taught Tinubu never to trust a man with political ambitions. His betrayal shook Tinubu’s political structure to the foundation.

Your enemy today may be useful tomorrow

I often wonder why people marvel at the new rapport between Tinubu and Obasanjo. Asiwaju knows the essence of keeping the door permanently open to people of political significance.

There are certain people you must never work with

Your interest and that of some people will never cross; don’t make a fuss of it. Forget it, an Asiwaju will never work with a Bode George. Their paths will never cross, and only a fool will not know that!

Develop your family and those extremely close to you for leadership positions

Who better to work with and trust than members of your family! They know you and understand you better. Chances are they know the vision better than outsiders. I remember one day in Awka while attending a burial with some friends sometimes in 2004, many were crucifying the then president for only giving contracts and juicy positions to friends and cronies. One of us just stood up and silenced everybody with a single sentence. He said: “When you find yourself in a position of influence, you can as well give the contracts to your enemies.” Very instructive, you will admit. Asiwaju understands the need to put tried friends and families in positions of influence but he only does that to those he knows are fully developed and prepared to handle such demanding duties, this set of people are getting the Job done. The young Iyaloja of Nigeria is certainly doing well.

Your inner circle should comprise technocrats

Technocrats will always get things done. They have the experience behind them and they give sound advice devoid of political scheming, while politicians are always thinking of what is in it for them. This better explains the reason why Lagos, till date, remains the best governed state in Nigeria.

Aggregate people’s opinions to arrive at your policy directions

I find it amusing when people say the southwest is following Tinubu blindly when, in actual fact, the reverse is the case. For me, this is where I respect Tinubu the most. Tinubu knows his people, he knows they are well-opinionated. Maybe because of enlightenment, it is virtually impossible to mould the opinion of an average Yoruba man. What a good political leader does is to aggregate opinions and work with the majority. In 2011, the majority sentiment in the southwest was for ‘shoe-less’ Goodluck Jonathan to be president. Tinubu realised that and quickly went into a coalition of sort with the PDP and Jonathan was elected but the moment he realised the majority opinion of the people of the southwest was that the Jonathan government was a failure, no money in the world would be sufficient to make him move against the wishes of his people.

Play at the level of your people
The grassroots in Lagos are area boys. Therefore to lead them, you have to be the ‘father of area boys’! Jagaban adopted the ‘area boy’ culture; he dealt with lagosians at the grassroots level. PDP can never capture Lagos without adopting that culture!

Keep in touch with your original constituency

Asiwaju balanced the above (playing at the level of his people) by staying in contact with his primary constituency, which is corporate Lagos.

Adopt the power of mysteries and myths

The rumour has always been Tinubu owns every part of Lagos. Really? No one knows, but it helps! People do not know your real power and resources that back the power! Keep them rolling in the suspense of those myths and mysteries. By doing that, they have nothing but respect and awe for your person.

Know when to beat a retreat

Jagaban fights and runs! The Fashola case is a pointer! He knows when to beat a rapid but calculated withdrawal from a battle without losing face.


Dada,  an international trade facilitator and trainer, is the immediate past national treasurer of the Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists.


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1 Comment

  1. ladun
    ladun April 22, 14:20

    I must give a lot of credit and respect to the writer,he has encapsulated the real essence of a true leader in ‘our ‘ Asiwaju.I cannot agree any less…..kudos

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