BY FEMI BABAFEMI
FORMER governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has reaffirmed his commitment to the deepening of democracy in Nigeria even as he explained why he has spent his adult life and resources to fight for the enthronement of good governance in the country.
“My role as a politician is the determination to democratize my country, indivisible commitment to democratic values. I am not a thoroughbred politician having come from a corporate background. But I believe in strategy; and strategy to win is that of every politician. We can be politically sensitive and come up with the fact that you want to be a good politician but no boxer steps into the ring to lose. No investor would want to invest to lose; otherwise, you can carry your money and throw it to the Lagoon. You are there to win. How do you plan that strategy to win and to come on top? That is where I always like to specialize. Then, there are elements of diabolical perversion in the political process particularly in the maintenance of status quo. Mine is to challenge the status quo if it is perverted. How do I challenge it?”, Tinubu stated in an exclusive interview with a team of The Sun editors in his Bourdillion, Ikoyi, Lagos residence.
Going down memory lane on how he fought several political battles, Tinubu said his first litmus test was the 1999 governorship election in Lagos when he had to contend with a lot of forces to emerge governor of the nation’s economic capital.
According to him “When we came back in 1999 and the political space was opened, we had our political party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the platform where I contested. The perversion started with the so-called delegates’ election. How can I want a free and fair election if I subscribe to the delegates’ election where you buy people like chickens and apples and you pay them off? I said let the Lagos people determine through the political party structure who and who they wanted. I created a process to eliminate that delegates’ election system and we won. We won the debate and we now have direct primaries in all the local governments. Those who have followed politics here know that it was a tough battle between Funsho Williams of blessed memory and myself. I won 17 local governments out of 20 and in two of them, there were no elections. They chewed the results in my local government, Ikeja. Lagos Mainland was the stronghold of late Funsho Williams and Ikorodu too with Ogunlewe and co. But we challenged the status quo because it was evident that I won that election no matter whatever story anybody tells you. I still have that record. It is there. Then I was determined to form a government that is professionally and intellectually balanced to be a model for other states. It is very easy for people to forget.”
Speaking on some of the highpoints of his political struggle, the APC leader said he would never forget what happened in 2003 when he survived, as the only South West governor, an intricate political assault launched by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
His words “The high is when I survived as the only governor and one man standing on the platform of the AD in the South West after the 2003 governorship election. In leadership and political battles, you must be able to recognize the talent of your opponent. Don’t ever underestimate your opponent particularly a personality like former President Obasanjo. First, he is not just an Army General for nothing; they call their overall fatigue uniform, camouflage. What does that mean? Deception! They are trained in strategy, deception and tactics to defeat the enemy. If you underestimate them, you do that at your own peril. If you now recognize that quality in them, you know how to play the game with them. There are some aspects of it that I cannot discuss here; they are my own weapons tomorrow. When I started a journey of a tree that can make a forest, the game is first of all, survive. I made it clear that everybody should know that this friendship is laced with poison. I kept the warning to everybody very loud. How can you trust a man whose uniform is camouflage? How can I believe that he is my political friend when I am in the opposition? No, draw the battle line.”
He however conceded that ousting an incumbent President in the 2015 general elections was his most difficult battle ever. “President Jonathan’s battle was the toughest. When you are fighting the incumbent, it is tough. You had the challenge of terrorism; you had a class that is divided and a nation that was almost moving from its focus of religious tolerance and diversity to religious division. You had a system that had been corrupted beyond anybody’s imagination. People were being bombarded with money in Lagos. But you have to forget personal temptation”, he stated. He added that engaging former President Obasanjo on the political field was equally another herculean task for him. “Obasanjo, during his time disobeyed court order on the disbursement of money for local governments in Lagos but you knew where he was coming from; you just had to be careful. That period was also a bit challenging. There are different situations that you had to face with different strategies. But to unseat an incumbent president in Africa was the toughest battle. It was not easy”, he admitted.
While defending his role in Lagos politics as a political godfather, Tinubu said “godfather is not negative but god lords are. They are the mafias. Godfathers exist even in the church. If you call me a godfather, it is alright. I have many children everywhere.” Explaining his position further, he said “You are talking about imposition in a democracy. If you are a strong adviser, you would get blackmailed; you have seen great qualities in an individual and one that has capacity to do good; you identify those you believe can deliver on the evolution of good governance. I have a responsibility to recommend. My party has a right to reject the person. When I identified Babatunde Fashola, some people shouted imposition but when he started to blossom like flowers in the garden, Fashola now became their child. The umbilical chord is buried and the baby has survived. In democracy, sometimes, you have the sprinkle of dictatorship too when you know that you are working on the overall interest of the people. You have facts that some people do not have; so you do not get angry.”
BY FEMI BABAFEMI