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“Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.” While extreme, this famous dictum contains a truth. Every society imposes on the individual its established traditions and conventions, every individual become bound by the standards of behaviour of his society and often are subjected to coercive controls imposed by political system. The poetry of Alexander Yesenin-Volpin above conveys the same sense. He was a young Russian Writer during the communist era. For speaking the truth, he was hounded and later imprisoned by the Soviet authorities in 1959. He was tagged an unorthodox dissenter and his is a poetry of political rejection.
Recently, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba called the attention of the Senate to comments made by Senator Oluremi Tinubu in the national dailies. He said Tinubu took a swipe at the leadership of the Senate, accusing it of poor performance. In one of the Interviews, the Senator representing Lagos Central was said to have stated that activities in the Senate are dressing because its leadership has failed to address a lot of pressing national issues . The Senate Leader said Tinubu accused the leadership of the senate of pandering to the wishes of the executive arm of government which is led by the Peoples Democratic Party. (PDP) she was said to have disclosed that she may not return to the senate next year if there were no obvious changes. Ndoma Ugba also quoted Tinubu to have told the media that, “The Senate is not a place I really want to go back to except APC becomes the majority. If it is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government, I don’t think it is the environment I will like to be again. I have had my fill.”
Ndoma Egba grouse is that she ought to have discussed her concerns with the leadership of the Senate instead of speaking to journalists. “ I am a senator first and foremost and by the grace of my colleagues, a member of the leadership of the Senate. And to the best of my knowledge, Sen. Tinubu has never raised any concern with me or with the leadership on the activities of the Senate. It is most unkind, it is most uncharitable for a distinguished senator who has the opportunity of raising concerns with her colleagues, not doing so and going straight to the media to play to the gallery. I object seriously to the comments made by Senator Tinubu and I want to submit that my privilege as a senator of the Federal republic has been breached by the said senator.” The matter has been referred to the Committee on Ethics, privileges and public petitions so that senator Tinubu can present her own side of the story.
The Senator Leader is invariably implying that those comments by Mrs. Tinubu are a deviation from the norms of the Senate; an embarrassing disclosures and an implicit refutation of the senate basic doctrinal assumptions. Therefore, it is assumed that she has crossed the invisible line between orthodox and unorthodox dissent. A spontaneous expression of even limited political dissatisfaction is now being interpreted as an unorthodox dissent. Egba is simply saying that her views appeal to principles and values that have no sympathetic support in the senate. But the Senate is supposed to be an important centre of independent thoughts. You don’t suppress in the Senate; you decompress.
What kind of values did Senator Tinubu comments invoke? These values are generally within the democratic pantheon of principles. Values like the right to free speech and independent thoughts. Her comments are justified pragmatically. It is part of the accepted game of politics. The lady Senator is just pointing to the gap between democratic ideals and democratic reality in Nigeria. She is not satisfied with playing a marginal role. Maybe, her party has frequently experienced a frustrating and fearful sense of isolation. So what she said is dictated by her concept of political necessity in a given time. And there is nothing wrong with the fact that she has developed an abiding loyalty to the All Progressive Congress. It is only natural that she would want them to be in the majority in the Senate. Burke in ‘Reflections on the Revolution of France’ said “To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in the society is the first principle (the germ, as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love of our country and of mankind.” Making it out as if she is calling for a cataclysmic political intervention is wrong. Hers is just a cry from the heart.
In a wider sense, political scientists will always tell you that no political system ever achieves total compliance and commitment from its citizens. They believe that in one way or the other, with varying degree of intensity, dissent makes itself felt. This goes to show that there is no fully satisfactory mode capable of encompassing the complexity of the human condition. The rules of the Senate should not in any way impede on the freedom of speech. It is also wrong for the senate leadership to have made political loyalty to the President a prime civic virtue. You cannot beat a child and expect her not to cry. She did not mean to cast aspersion on the Senate leadership. It is actually a wakeup call. There is actually a fine gentility in those comments. One good thing about criticism is that it has a texture of love. She is also echoing the views of well meaning Nigerians that the Senate leadership is not playing its role effectively.
Oluremi Tinubu is one woman that symbolizes all that is good in womanhood. Harassing her for airing her views is bad politics. She is one woman that has a special sensitivity to the needs of others, which includes an almost intuitive understanding of situations and people’s feelings. Her empathy makes it natural for her to feel the hurts of others. This woman does not wear pride on her face. She is not haughty and arrogant. Her private life is a pastel shade of calm. She introduces joy, colour, harmony and lightheartedness into human life. Senator Tinubu is not a power driven woman. To her, being in a position of authority is not a do or die affair. This is not the first time she is expressing such concerns. When asked if she has an ambition of running for the office of the Governor, she said it is not a place for the tender hearted. “Even to run for this office, it is the press that started it. Truly and truly speaking, it is never my ambition to run for governor of Lagos state. Remember, my husband did it for eight years and I was not an outsider to it. It is not a place for the tender hearted. It is a lot of work to govern Lagos and I am not the type that doesn’t put hard work into whatever I do. I don’t think I have the strength to say I want to govern Lagos. There is still a lot of work to done in Lagos.”
I sincerely think she is the one to do that hard work. Mrs. Tinubu should be urged to run. She will deliver the goods. I hope she doesn’t chicken out. Those who are underrating her are poor students of history. Humble and unassuming people are usually the most productive in the business of governance. James Garfield once made a memorable remark about Abraham Lincoln. “ Strange phenomenon in the world’s history when a second rate Illinois lawyer is the instrument to utter words which shall form an epoch memorable in all future ages.” Nobody ever gave Lincoln a chance. But he had innate qualities which very few eyes could see. This lady will spring surprises. She has an intuitive mind and prodigious capacity for work. She has a singular ability to transcend personal vendetta and bitterness.
It could be recalled that when she celebrated her 45th birthday, she urged her friends not to buy her gifts. She took a full page advertorials in major newspapers to plead with friends to support her in bringing hope to the Nigerian child. In an advertorial on page 79 of the Guardian edition of September 20, 2005, entitled Letter to Well-wishers, Mrs. Tinubu appealed: “Dear friends and Well-wishers, to the glory of God, the Ever-Merciful, on September 21, this year, I will be 45 years old. It is an occasion for me to thank God for His protection, His blessings and for standing by me all through the past four and a half decades. It is a practice for friends and well-wishers to use occasions like this to express their affection by sending birthday cards, gifts and putting congratulatory adverts in the newspapers. However, I urge you all to celebrate with me in a kindler and gentler way. I urge you to put whatever amount you intend to spend on those gifts, cards or congratulatory adverts aside to reduce the death of children due to Sickle Cell Disorders.”
Some years ago, she showered love on Liberia children by building them an Elementary and Junior High Schools. By doing that she is helping about 500 children whose future were devastated by a bloody civil war to find succor and hope. The idea of building a school came naturally to her because she is a professional teacher and loves the classroom. This is perfect example of what it means to show love to one’s neighbour. Helping your neighbor does not have to be people from your household.” God did not tell us that they must be people of your own household. When I was sending clothes to Liberia, people asked why I am not sending them to the refugee camp in Nigeria. And I asked why don’t you give to the refugee camp? This is where I am led by God to serve and if God did not want me to do it we wouldn’t have commissioned the project. I strongly believe that not that I have money stacked up somewhere.”
Senator Oluremi Tinubu is currently the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity. Recently, she awarded N13 million grant to traders in her constituency. The grant is for small time traders in the 13 council areas within the Lagos Central Senatorial Zone. Mrs. Tinubu revealed that 50 traders would be given a N20, 000 non-interest facility each to invest in their businesses. This programme tagged’ Petty Traders Empowerment Capital Scheme’ is a grant and not a loan. According to her this scheme is imperative because petty traders are major contributors to the sustenance of the informal sector and it is in line with promise of All Progressives Congress (APC) to improve the life of the people.
Mrs. Tinubu has too much of an alloy in her composition to handle the position. In a recent interview, she revealed that she is from a political family. “ I am from a political family. There is no time that we are not ready to serve. We have been serving at the state and at the national levels for a long time. So we have been in the process trying to bring succor to the people and I don’t know how more ready you want me to be. For me, my husband has been a very visible and active player. If he hadn’t gotten the support from home and the understanding, I don’t think he would have been able to go this far.” She truly exudes the hearty simplicity of nature. There is vim beneath her gentle exterior. Mrs. Tinubu is so convinced of the fact that she is a comrade. “I am a comrade. I said that this is the new face of labour. It is in the blood. I also came from the trenches. I never talk about June 12. Everybody would give themselves all the accolade and I will just look. I paid dearly.”
It is also about time we had a Christian governor in Lagos. A person who understands what love means. A person who loves the common man and feels their pain. This woman whose character is marked by a happy mixture of amiability and courage can do the job. She disclosed that her primary concern in the senate is to give succor and hope to the young people. “This wasn’t the Nigeria that I grew up to love. I keep saying it that I was not from a very wealthy family, but we were comfortable. We were the then middle class. We could aspire and we could dream to be whatever we want to be. I am here today because that dream kept me. But that is not what we have today. I look at the young people and my heart goes out to them. People ask me do labour people dress the way I do? But I say, this is the new face of labour, and it is in my blood. If you fight for the common good of the people you don’t have to dress in towels and deceive them, but they know who is who. You can see the kind of rapport I have with the common man. My heart is saying who is going to give them Justice? Who is going to fight their cause?
Oluremi Tinubu is the first woman to follow her, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to the senate. She was the First Lady of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007. During that period she used her New Era Foundation to impact on the lives of the people. She should be urged to run for the top job in Lagos State because she has clothed herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Ikechukwu Orji wrote via [email protected]
He lives in Lagos.