Anyone attempting to write Tom’s surname on a smartphone or tablet will find that the in-built auto-correct feature will attempt to write the surname as ‘Bikini’-that flimsy, not-meant-for-high-occasion clothing worn by fun seekers on beaches.
While this gives good cause to LaughOutLoud, it isn’t really Tom’s fault but it is very telling in an ironic way. Tom has come to symbolize that typical ‘not-to-be-taken-serious’ Nigerian politician whose value at any gathering is, at best, comic, and at worst, disruptive. This is why, when Tom recently felt compelled to write an article justifying why he decided to renounce his membership of the only credible opposition party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC), many people were amused. This is because he didn’t have to offer any justification. No one was expecting any justification from him. After all, what is it to Nigerians that this Tom was decamping…once again…as usual and…as expected?
After reflecting on Tom’s flip flopping on the political stage over the years, his ignominious role in the dark days of Nigeria’s political history and his childish rant in the letter announcing his departure from the APC, one could not but understand how, in the minds of discerning citizens and keen political watchers, the reputation of Tom as one not to be entrusted with the important and consequential was fully earned.
Given his antecedents as the ‘sell out’ Chairman of the National Republican Convention, Tom is rightly regarded in political circles as the fun seeking beach goer in a bikini. While I won’t advise any one to conjure up the picture of Tom in a bikini in one’s mind, the metaphor explains why Tom will never be trusted with any office of consequence. No one invites the bikini wearer to the high table.
Tom continues to complain to any one who would listen that he was barred by certain forces from emerging as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress. The truth is that Tom keeps missing the point and breaking one of the fundamental rules of life inscribed in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: Man, know thyself. Tom should look in the mirror and limit his ambitions and his opinion of himself. Tom was not barred by ‘certain forces’. Tom was barred by the will of the members of the party. And the members were right. No Nigerian would have taken the party seriously with Tom as its Chairman.
Only very exceptional men can manage the inherent weakness of man in failing to know himself. Tom does not appear to be one of such exceptional men. Tom needs to begin to see himself as he is seen and as he is:
• Tom cannot, even under the most twisted definition of the term, be counted as a true Nigerian Progressive. He is one of those of whom Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu spoke of in the Punch Newspapers of June 12, 2013: “Many who connived with the clique in those debasing and disenfranchising years are … today even masquerading as champions of democracy … Such people include those … who now today sit atop parties’ Boards of Trustees … Some reign at the pinnacle of the legislative arm of government in Abuja. There are numerous others in the arms of government and even among the progressives, who ought really to search their conscience, if the survival, well-being and progress of Nigeria is truly in their agenda.”
• Tom cannot live down his role in the scuttling of the aspirations of Nigerians in 1993. For, if one is revolted by the duplicitous politicians who, while heading political parties connived with the military to annul and waste the democratic gains of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Elections, one of one’s prime objects of anger should be Tom.
• If one is convinced-as are all independent observers and students of history-that most of our nation’s woes are the result of years of military misadventure in governance aided by self-serving and sycophantic civilian politicians, Tom should deservedly be one’s punching bag.
• Tom is one of the Nigerians who have helped the PDP design, oil and perfect its anti-democratic electoral fraud machine. One needs look no further than to Chief Tom Ikimi, the owner of the ‘Obasan-joooh….Obasan-jooh’ voice that, in 2003, manufactured the contraption that foisted even more years of PDP misrule on Nigeria. (In furtherance of that electoral fraud machine, the PDP stole the recent election in Ekiti and, even before formally declaring for the PDP, Tom is already helping that party spread the official lie by blaming APC’s loss in that state on the perception of APC’s leaders by the people of Ekiti.
• Tom is one of the lead facilitators of that dark episode in Nigeria’s history when, 19 years ago, the respected playwright and activist, Mr. Ken Saro Wiwa and others were gruesomely murdered by the ruthless regime of General Sani Abacha which Tom enthusiastically, obediently and dutifully served as an adviser and foreign minister and who proudly and unapologetically defended gruesome murders and miscarriage of justice before the whole world.
• Tom is undoubtedly that imposing man who possesses fairly impressive oratory prowess. But it is largely for amusement as of those fun seekers in bikinis. However, people who know what is at stake should not be amused by it. We must begin to reject the culture and leaders that promote the use of empty words and phrases to disguise the issues or to disguise their own lack of understanding of the issues and lack of good will and intentions.
Tom, in his defection rant, claimed to have played a prominent role in the founding of the Action Congress of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress and felt that entitled him to the Chairmanship of the APC. In light of the above, he should know that if he had been promoted ‘in his bikini’ to such a high office in the APC, which is Nigeria’s surest bet out of the doldrums, all progressives would have been part of those George Santayana referred to as “Those who do not remember history” and are, ipso facto, “condemned to repeat its mistakes.” If the military and the PDP would gladly treat Chief Tom Ikimi as a leader, the APC rightly cured itself of such malady. The APC must not been seen as suffering from collective amnesia.
The only problem with Tom’s rant and diatribe is his attempt to cast aspersions on otherwise principled politicians dedicated to the struggle to liberate Nigeria from the shackles of corrupt and inept leadership foisted on the nation by Tom’s natural family, the Peoples Democratic Party (“PDP”). In the same old, intellectually lazy fashion we have become accustomed to from PDP sympathizers and enemies of progressive politics, Tim joined the ranks of desperate detractors of the Asiwaju of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in attempting to cast aspersions on his person and integrity.
It is a historical fact that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is one of the visionary behind, and one of the principal architects involved in, the formation of the All Progressives Congress. It was the Asiwaju’s personal leadership that led the now-defunct Action Congress of Nigeria to unanimously support the vision to cast lot with the APC and it was his (and few others’) tireless and selfless investment of time and resources that built the APC into the formidable alternative party that it now is.
Long before the formation of the APC, the Asiwaju has since cemented his reputation as the leader of a new brand of politics and activism in Nigeria. The politics that vigorously promote the welfare of the electorate and activism that courageously and doggedly pursues the enthronement of the rule of law and the pursuit of business as unusual for the sake of the greater good.
In his first Inaugural Address as the Governor of Lagos State, he famously said, “As flag-bearers, we are not unmindful of the heavy burden and responsibility that we carry. We are not unmindful of the huge expectations of our people, young and old, man and woman, able and disabled. Nor are we unmindful of the misery and poverty that the generality of our people have had to endure almost forty years after Independence. … Our goal, as the Prophet of old commands, is to lighten the burden of our people, alleviating poverty by providing jobs for our youths, houses, secure homes, water, good roads and creating efficient mass transportation system, industrial development and providing life more abundant for our people.”
And long before his election into executive office, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu played key roles in Nigerian politics. He was elected to the Senate from Lagos West constituency with the highest votes in the country in the short-lived Third Republic. In the Senate he was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, Currency and Appropriations. In that capacity, he initiated a far-reaching probe of the finances of the National Assembly that set him at loggerheads with the legislative bureaucracy and the military regime at the helm of affairs at the time.
Asiwaju was also at the forefront of Chief MKO Abiola’s campaign for presidency in 1993. When the June 12, 1993 election, described as the freest and fairest in the country’s history was annulled, he emerged as one of the fiercest opponents of the annulment. As the arrowhead of the struggle to actualize Abiola’s mandate, the military junta reached out to him severally to jump ship and come over to their side. He was offered juicy appointments and contracts to no avail. He refused to betray his principled commitment to the sanctity of a free and fair election. Exasperated by Tinubu’s intransigence, the military viciously went after him. He was detained. His house was fire-bombed. He eventually had to flee the country for his dear life. His wife, now Senator Oluremi Tinubu and her children had to be smuggled out into exile. Tinubu, while in exile remained steadfast in his commitment to the pro-democracy struggle, making great personal and financial sacrifices towards this effort. A pseudo democrat would rather enjoy the transient benefits of economic and political power rather than risk his life fighting for truth and justice but not Tinubu who remained steadfast.
It is in the light of the Asiwaju’s indisputable record of service and sterling leadership that the attempts by some elements in and outside the APC to reduce the Asiwaju’s influence in the party raise red flags for many Nigerians who have anchored their hope of Nigerian redemption on the APC.
Do people like Tom think that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s claim to leadership is simply that he was once elected to the Senate of the Federal Republic or that he performed as one of the most conscientious Governors of Lagos State in recent years? No! It is because of his profile in courage! It is because of his sacrifice for the greater good in good times and bad times. Who was the rallying point and strategic voice for all the opposition figures in the dark days following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections? Who was in the forefront of the global assault on the regime of General Sani Abacha? Who was the governor that redefined governance after years of mismanagement by the military? Who was the governor with the courage and vision to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to establish the fiscal rights of States in the Federation? Who is the politician with acumen and endurance to organize the political opposition that our democracy surely needs to survive? It is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Thus, to reduce the influence of such a leader or to discount the value of his guidance is the recipe for doom. The people perish when they lack vision, so the holy writ says. In the same way, the APC will lose its way if it forsakes the counsel, leadership and vision of its founders and, in particular, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The Asiwaju has always sided with the aspirations of the people of Nigeria and his vision is, first, of leadership that is not about the spoils of office or ethnic loyalties but about ideas. The prime idea being that democratic governance must be transparently fair and must deliver tangible benefits to the people.
Also, the Asiwaju’s vision is of the promotion of leaders whose democratic credentials are unimpeachable, he himself having sacrificed greatly both during the struggle for the enthronement of democracy and now during this struggle for the enthronement of good governance. In the dark days of the June 12 struggle, was it not the Asiwaju who sacrificed greatly to mobilise and support the forces of democratic governance? Was it not the Asiwaju who successfully led the defence of the Constitution and the rights of states against an imperial presidency? Was he not the one who led democratic forces to ward off an onslaught of the might of the humongous and corruptly oiled political machinery of the PDP in the desperate effort to ‘capture’ the states of the South West? Was it not during his leadership that the winning electoral strategies that restored progressivism to most parts of the South West were successfully formulated and implemented?
Furthermore, the Asiwaju’s vision for the APC is of the elevation to leadership of persons who are not men of mere words but men who have toiled in office for the sake of the people and who have performed so exceptionally well that they can raise their heads up high and walk confidently among the people of this country. The Asiwaju himself was a popular Governor of the cosmopolitan state of Lagos for 8 years. It was the Asiwaju’s administration in Lagos that in 2001 became, perhaps, the first state administration to record 90% budget performance. In fact, for his excellent performance as the Executive Governor of Lagos State of Nigeria (1999 – 2007), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu received several awards. These include Best Governor in Nigeria for Y2000 by the Nigerian-Belgian Chamber of Commerce; Y2002 Best Practices Prize in Improving the Living Environment, awarded by the Federal Ministry of Works and the UN Habitat Group; and the Y2000 Best Computerized Government in Nigeria Award by the Computer Association of Nigeria.
In the Asiwaju’s vision, the APC should be a party of resolute leaders who are in the forefront of the fight for justice, for good governance, for the integrity of the ballot box, for real development and for change in a corrupt and dysfunctional polity. It should be a party of leaders who are echoing the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln who himself paid the supreme sacrifice in his leadership of his people by dedicating themselves to the unfinished work which heroes in the past have thus far so nobly advanced. The APC of the Asiwaju’s vision should be a party of leaders dedicated to the great task remaining before us: that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish.
The APC will also do well to take advantage of the Asiwaju’s wide, varied and rich experience of Nigeria. He has been priviledged to know Nigeria well from the perspective of an ordinary citizen living in a country struggling with developmental issues and every day infrastructural problems; from the perspective of a Nigerian living in the diaspora; from the perspective of a citizen making his first foray into the murky waters of politics; from the perspective of an activist-politician co-leading the often very dangerous struggle against military dictatorship; from the perspective of a public servant twice elected to serve as the governor of the largest, richest and most cosmopolitan state in Nigeria; and from the perspective of a political leader now seeking to put democracy on firmer footing by organizing a viable, coherent, and alternative political leadership for Nigeria
For the umpteenth time, people like Tom must surely be reminded that it is intellectually lazy to capitalize on Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s relationship with the Managing Director of Oando Plc to create ridiculous conspiracy theories. Surely, the deal between Oando Plc and Conoco Phillips is one scrutinized by regulators in Nigeria, the United States and South Africa. To suggest that it was a front for some shady deal is lazy and also mischievous, uninformed and rash.
Tom referred to the number of defectors from the APC to justify his own defection. But he should be reminded that the struggle of the opposition is not one that can be endured by all. It is a natural phenomenon for the chaff to be separated from the grain. The wheel of the formidable machine of progressivism will continue to roll undeterred. When the battle is finally ended and the roll is called, we know those whose names will be missing.
Even the most ardent sympathizer and fan of the PDP or President Goodluck Jonathan now agrees that Nigeria is in desperate need of a breath of fresh air, longing for an influx of air that is not stale or smelly, a portion of air that is not “contaminated” with unpleasant people or situations and demanding a new, fresh, and imaginative approach to the Nigerian Project. Gladly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has, thanks to the vision of courage of selfless and indefatigable progressives, offered long-suffering Nigerians an alternative to the clueless and debilitating failed leadership offered the nation by the PDP over the last 15 years.
And as the year of battle draws close, there may be more defections but there also will be more people enlisting for the struggle. But even as the APC is seeking the help of all and sundry to defeat the cancerous monster that is the PDP, only men of sterling characters and reputation may apply. Beach goers and large men in Bikinis may keep amusing themselves.
Edmund Otudeko is a political analyst and an APC chieftain.
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