Twenty-four years ago today, Bola Ahmed Tinubu would stand in Isolo, Oshodi Local Government Area, to lead his campaign for Governor of Lagos State. Standing before over 20,000 people at the former federal capital where he once served as senator, Tinubu reeled out his plans for the 1999 elections, the problems he wanted to solve in office, and his vision for Lagos State.
“I have come to change the story,” he said. “We will develop education, health, security and empower youths and women to make Lagos work for all.”
Over the next five months, almost one million people would sign up to vote for Tinubu for a better Lagos. Working together, traders, community leaders, commercial riders and civil servants built a strong network that stretched across all the LGAs and ultimately led to Bola Tinubu – a returning NADECO chieftain from exile – being elected governor with the most votes ever given any candidate in Lagos history. It was the beginning of a history that #MyAsiwajuStory now tells of Tinubu and Lagos — and the one that continues to spur meaningful conversations as Nigeria heads to the 2023 polls.
Why is it so?
As greatly as his tenure was judged, what has been even more impressive was what followed. Many former cabinet members, colleagues, students, young people, traders and the less privileged who were impacted positively by his government have been giving testimonies. They went on to serve in government, or float businesses, founded non-profits, joined the private sector or found ways to serve their community. Many still draw inspiration from their experiences as a testament to what we can accomplish when we’re willing to elect credible and competent leaders.
Clearly, this would be the difference in a chaotic campaign. Testimonies like #MyAsiwajuStory are what this nation needs now — and the reason he could be chosen. The interrogation of the capacity, ability and credibility of those angling to take the baton of leadership, in line with their achievements, in the offices held previously. Out of the three major candidates, it would appear only Tinubu has such a record to show or people to bear witnesses, and it is commendable.
Less than 20 years later, Atiku Abubakar, flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), continues to struggle to own up to his little or no impact in the Olusegun Obasanjo-led government as vice-president. Aside from run-off-the-mill press statements of promises, there is no documentary or credible literature to assess his economic plans and leadership abilities. It may account for why, after six trials, Nigerians would not trust him to be their president.
With all the momentum he enjoys, Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), has a lot to do to shed an image of a man who talks about all the problems of the country but solutions he designed even as a governor in Anambra State, to merit a higher office. Aside from all the worries over the provincial nature of his ambition at a time the nation needs peace, many temperate analysts and fact-checkers continue to highlight Obi’s propensity for cooking data and figures at public outings as off-putting.
It is in the midst of this that Nigerians from all parts of the country are calling on their counterparts to “to let Tinubu take on the unfinished business of fixing our union. He has done it before, he can do it again”.
Tagged #MyAsiwajuStory, a collection of stories by people impacted by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the series bears the imprint of the legacies of a servant-leader and trusts in his prowess to turn around Nigeria for good.
Ebuka Anisiobi hailed from Anambra State, South-eastern region of Nigeria, but grew up on the streets of Lagos, Maryland in Kosofe LGA where his parents had sought greener pastures.
Despite being a ‘non-indigene,’ he became the first ever one-day governor and the youngest in Nigeria after winning a spelling bee competition organised by the former governor’s wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, for secondary school students in 2001.
“Despite my ethnicity and religion, Asiwaju and Senator Remi Tinubu gave me the chance at education and leadership through the spelling bee competition and One-Day Governor initiative,” Ebuka said in a sensational video account on social media in August.
“After winning the One-Day Governor Programme, I got a scholarship for further education. The Lagos State Government also paid for all the WAEC fees of all students that year and subsequently, and that gave me the opportunity for quality education.
“Today, I have worked in various organisations in the oil and gas industry, and consulting industry, and I am also an entrepreneur. I owe all this to the belief that was placed in me singularly on that fateful day in June 2001.”
It would be discovered that the One-Day Governor initiative was introduced by the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu-led administration to reward academic excellence and foster social inclusion in Lagos State. The initiative has now become a tradition in the state, having been upheld by successive governments in the last 21 years.
Ebuka, the first beneficiary of the scheme, was a Christian and South-easterner.
In 2002, Brig. Gen. George Emdin (rtd) was posted to Lagos fresh from War College. The security situation in Lagos was frightening and it needed a stronger approach to solve the issue.
“As at that period, the security situation in Lagos was so bad that armed robbers would even write to the streets that they were coming and they would actually come. It was so bad,” Emdin said.
“He did a lot on the insecurity in the state. From my observations or knowledge of him, I think he set the foundation for what Lagos is today. It started with him. As the coordinator of the security team which involved the army, navy, airforce and police, including the other paramilitary within the state, we held regular meetings with the governor to talk about the plans and strategies for an efficient security system. With the cooperation of other agencies, I achieved a lot of success.”
Despite being the most populous state in Nigeria, Lagos has no history of terrorism, banditry and insurgency. From initiating and equipping the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), an anti-crime unit in Lagos, to solving the internecine war between motor park managers, Tinubu is being touted as the man who can solve the current national security crises.
“The Rapid Response Squad (RRS) that he helped establish is now being copied by other states,” said former IG Mike Okiro on how Tinubu fought crime as Lagos governor.
In another video, Chioma Agu recounted how she could have missed out on getting educated, if not for the free education scheme of the Tinubu-led government, because her father thought her brothers should be educated other than a girl.
“When it was time for us to start the process of WAEC registration, my dad called one day and told me that he would not attend to my needs when my elder brother is still there. He advised that I withdraw for another year or not even write it,” Agu said.
“While we were on it, the principal called for an emergency one afternoon and announced to us that the Lagos State governor at that time, Tinubu, had paid for the WAEC fees for all Lagos State secondary school children.
“Nineteen years later, I had the opportunity of telling him how he impacted my life. When I asked him why he did that, he said he once saw a boy hawking during school hours and called him to ask why he wasn’t in school. The boy told him his parents could not afford school fees. So, he turned immediately to the state House of Assembly and moved for a bill for free WAEC for all. I remember he told me that he wanted education to be free for all students in Lagos State.”
At a time students in the public higher institutions have been on strike for over seven months in the country, stories of free education and WAEC fees may, indeed, be instructive of the priority of Tinubu for education, if elected as president.
From economy to education and security, there is an avalanche of accomplishments in the public and private sectors to prove Tinubu is credible, tested and worthy to be trusted again.
Through the videos, many who ordinarily do not have enough knowledge and are given to lies and some propaganda about his tenure and personality, may have a change of heart.
But it should not be about him alone. It is pertinent to have Obi and Atiku blaring in high pitches what they did in the past 20 years so people can make objective opinions about their abilities.
#MyAsiwajuStory is the sort of issue-based campaign Nigerian voters need to guide us from choosing the wrong person in the 2023 polls.
* Dr. Olagunju writes from Texas, USA
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