Asiwaju @ 65: To fight is to live By Louis Odion, FNGE


Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu raising the hands of Honorable Abike Dabiri Erewa (Now Presidential Adviser on the Diaspora) in Ikorodu in year 2003 as an AD Governor

who has not discovered what he/she can live and

      die for is not fit to live”.
     – Martin Luther-King

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu….The Lagos Man of all times?

The organizers probably
only intended an entertainment for charity. But, beyond raising cash for
the needy, the brainchild of the novelty duel would, at the end, find they have
also helped fashion an enduring allegory for what often animates enlightened conversations
in Nigeria today: the Tinubu role in the nation’s riveting
political narrative in the last two decades.

 Sure, pitting world
heavyweight boxing champion Evander
“the real deal” Holyfield
against Asiwaju, a warrior in
Nigerian politics, in a bout slated for May in Lagos is the stuff legends are
made of. 

What Bola Tinubu lacks in physiognomical
weight against the Goliath from Atlanta, for instance, he easily makes
up where it counts most – will power.
But the real excitement
should be more in the countdown. Will there be the customary weigh-in ritual
where the combatants, flaunting sweating 6-packs, exchange icily cold stare
before television cameras transmitting to a global audience? Will ex amateur
boxing champion Wale Edu (the
inspiration behind the monthly Lagos amateur boxing tournament), volunteer to
be sparring partner to much older Jagaban
ahead of the big night? (As a former amateur boxer himself, this writer can
vouch for Mr. Edu’s terrific footwork
and even more terrifying hands combination).

Asiwaju Tinubu in love with his Senator Remi

Now, the evaluation of
the arsenal. As any Tinubu insider
will attest, Asiwaju’s most dreaded
weapon against neighborhood bullies while growing up in Isale Eko was a ferocious head-butt. Could that also be deployed
after the sound of the bell against the man whose mystique is partly
framed by the humbling two decades ago of the once menacing Mike Tyson?
Then, the dramatic punch
of Professor Wole Soyinka, a literary
giant with global reach. With his immaculate white mane that readily evokes the
shadow of boxing icon Don King, it
will be interesting to observe Kongi’s agility in still “holding rapid
dialogue with” his feet even at 83 while officiating the exchange of blows
and upper-cuts in the rope square on the night ahead…

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo….Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s biggest donation to President Buhari’s Government

Now, away from the sweat-bespattered
arena of “the noble art in self-defense”. 
In characterizing Tinubu as the “Asiwaju of the universe” on Tuesday, boxing could
not have featured, even remotely, on President
mind. In his tribute at a colloquium held in Lagos as prelude to his 65th birthday Wednesday, PMB further described the celebrant as “the most outstanding politician of his
Indeed, the president
only restated what is already well known. Viewed closely, the theme of struggle
and liberty is easily discernible in all of Asiwaju’s
political engagements. They remain a study in uncommon courage, forbearance in
adversity, grace in denial. Those who dare him don’t know him; those who
know him never dare him. He carefully picks his friends.

Late General Sani Abacha….Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s tormentor-in-chief in the NADECO days

He relishes the
company of activists and the likes. 

His titanic exploits and
huge sacrifice in NADECO in the 90s while Abacha
tormented the land are already well documented. The illustrious memory of that
struggle is what, according to him, now partly finds constant expression in the
motif of a broken chain embroidered in his cap. (The now recognizable Asiwaju
insignia, that is.) As he puts it, the broken chain epitomizes freedom. 
What’s more, if you come
over to his private office on Lagos
, a giant signpost, “The
Freedom House”,
welcomes you.
Since 1999, compared to
the poverty of ideas and acute leadership bankruptcy suffered at the national
level for the 16 straight years PDP
controlled Abuja, Tinubu’s Lagos has continued to sparkle
as the ultimate center of innovation and excellence, holding aloft the flicker
of hope for other states. 
Nothing readily
illustrates this perhaps more than the very location of the forthcoming novelty
boxing fight. Planted in a soil reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, the emerging
Eko Atlantic City is a shining
monument to human ingenuity in seeking to quench a megacity’s thirst for more
land space and, at a personal level, a golden testimony to Tinubu’s fecundity as a man of ideas.

General Olusegun Obasanjo…The man who took 5 states off AD in 2003 but couldn’t get Lagos off Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

From being the “last man standing” in 2003 in
the South-west after Obasanjo’s
ambush of the Alliance for Democracy
confraternity, Tinubu held out
bravely in Lagos in the subsequent
years against the rampaging PDP.
With an uncanny application of populism, uncommon daring and innovative ideas,
he inspired a progressive resurgence that eventuated in ACN’s total control of
South-west in 2011, except Ondo
State. Of course, that created the momentum that would alter, on a seismic
scale, the national landscape in the years ahead. 

Ex-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan…Sent Asiwaju Tinubu to Code of Conduct Bureau in 2011 but Asiwaju Tinubu sent him back to Otuoke in 2015

If Hurricane Buhari overwhelmed Jonathan
in 2015, it was only because, for once since June 12, the usually
fractious progressive community across the nation agreed to pool their
resources together and confront a common enemy. The turning-point was
undoubtedly Tinubu’s self-sacrifice
in accepting to forgo his own personal ambition and putting in the service of
the renascent progressive coalition his vast political assets. 
Since Buhari took over in Abuja, opinions are definitely divided today if Asiwaju has got a fair treatment
relative to his toils and whether sufficient space is created for the infusion
of his fabled winning ideas in the governance process at a time of economic
pestilence. Some would argue he was too trusting to agree to lead a battle
without first agreeing on the terms of compensation after victory. 
Regardless, only those
who don’t know Tinubu intimately
would, by any stretch of imagination, continue to peddle the fallacy of any
regret on his part. In planting the seed, a farmer acts in faith. It is rarely
within his powers to also determine how bounteous the harvest would be.

Nuhu Ribadu (R) His Osun votes in 2011 election nearly upturned the apple cat in South West equation

Before throwing himself
into any battle, all Tinubu often
bothers about is whether such is consistent with his core value as a human
being – social justice, the pursuit of what is best for the community. The
formula for sharing the war booty can wait. 
So, in spearheading the
coalition against PDP between 2014 and 2015, Tinubu must have reached a personal conclusion that the clearly
sybaritic and clueless Jonathan now
posed grave danger to Nigeria’s continued survival as a corporate entity. 
That principle was very
much in evidence in 2011. Apparently not unmindful of the just cry of the
people of Niger Delta over the years
for power shift, Tinubu would seem to
have chosen not to mobilize fully his political forces against Jonathan in the South-West in the
historic presidential election of that year. It was, therefore, not a
coincidence that Jonathan won big in
Yorubaland in that poll,

Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun State….Gave Nuhu Ribadu 2 million votes in 2011 and made Osun a distinct state

save in Osun State
where hard-tackling Ogbeni Rauf
, for once, broke ranks. 

But in appreciation, one
of the earliest projects embarked on by Jonathan
with much zealotry after being sworn in was to put Tinubu on trial at the Code of Conduct tribunal over what turned
out to be false charges. The cost of that political folly must have dawned
on Jonathan four years
later following his forced return to his native riverine Otuoke, humbled and battered
electorally. Jagaban had resolved to
stake his all to rout PDP from Aso Rock.
At a personal level, to
say Asiwaju is a reporter’s delight
will be an understatement. As governor, he preferred to host journalists at
informal sessions periodically to foster personal relationship, deftly seizing
the moments to create for them a sense of ownership of his

The Author, Louis Odion FNGE….Has many sacred encounters & histories of the life of the Lion of Bourdilon, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

On the whole, his charms
derive largely from his humility, not deeming it belittling to share even the
darkest secret or seek the opinion of someone who, by stature and status, could
not be considered an equal. All he has to establish first is your
As administrator, his
strength lies in surrounding himself with mostly those who can disagree with
him. In an environment where only sycophancy seems most desirable and
fashionable, this is quite significant indeed. In fact, Tinubu craves intellectual jousts, often at the dinner table. At
such moment, you could mistake him for a hyperactive schoolboy, either punching
the air or banging the table while marshaling his point before equally
unyielding quarries, luminaries of varying talents themselves. 
From such hot
distillation of ideas, what then emerges as consensus at the Bourdillon round-table is a robust
prescription to identified challenge.

Honorable Minister for Power, Works & Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) an old student of the University of Bourdilon

So, when at a crossroads vis-a-vis policy
options, it is often this formidable faculty Asiwaju engages. And when in the dark at personal level, it is the
sense of judgement of that inner circle Tinubu
depends on.

The depth and range of
that leadership recruitment and grooming process is clearly reflected in the
constellation of Tinubu boys and
girls who today occupy the commanding heights of the nation’s political economy
and are individually proving their mettle. 
In a close encounter, Tinubu is not your fast-talking
braggart. A man of deep emotion, he carefully picks his words in a deep
guttural voice, gesticulating occasionally. But don’t be fooled; behind that
seemingly vacant stare is an encyclopedic mind. 
No less engaging is his
self-humour. He would recall with nostalgia his early childhood exploits on Lagos Island under the wings of a
doting father. As was common with Muslim homes
then, an Alfa (Islamic tutor) was contracted by Pa Tinubu to teach his
brood Koran verses at home after
school hours. To get pupils to memorize long verses, most Alfas took extraordinary measures, especially a generous
application of “atori” (horse-whip). So, for then little Bola and other kids, the mere thought of
Alfa was a source of fear, if not terror. 

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos….Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s New Kid on the bloc

For a long time, Pa Tinubu would only sit in his
reclining chair in the veranda, savoring the evening breeze, not bothering to
enquire what transpired between the bearded Alfa
and the kids in the courtyard behind. But following a shriek cry by one of the
kids one day, the old man broke his rules by walking over.
To his chagrin, he met
the Alfa still thrashing his beloved
little Bola mercilessly not just with
a big whip; his left hand clutched another one. 

Even his Enemies appreciates him from afar and salutes his political sagacity

Many decades later, Asiwaju, a glint of boyish mischief in
his eyes, would recall what had transpired next that fateful evening:
 “My daddy came to our rescue
telling the Alfa off, ‘Will you
stop this nonsense! I pay you to teach my children Koran, not to kill
 them for me with cane!!’ “
Of course, that was the
last day that particular Koran
teacher came to their home.
In yet another fit of
self-humor, Asiwaju would recount,
with photographic clarity, his ordeal at the hands of night marauders during
his early days in politics in the early 90s. The party caucus had just risen
from a meeting ahead of a campaign date. As the treasurer, he was handed cash
to share to the foot-soldiers the following morning. Later that night, he was
barely half-asleep in the hotel room when a cold hand violently roused him.
Looking up, what he saw sent shivers down his spine: a gunman stood by the bed

Baba Buhari is grateful to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for giving his Pastor Yemi Osinbajo

Quickly wiping the last
trace of sleep off his face in the half-lit room, Asiwaju’s instinct to duck vanished the moment he beheld two other
assailants brandishing equally dangerous weapons just on the other side of the
Given the timing of that
unholy visit, he needed no reminding that his quarries were acting on insider
information. Realizing the futility of resisting in the circumstance, he did
the most sensible thing by not waiting to be asked before dragging out the bag
of cash he earlier carefully stashed away under the bed.

Top Fuji Musician K1 De Ultimate….Another beneficiary of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s largeness of Heart 


His recollection: “I found myself cooperating without a
To see the emotional
side of Asiwaju, you only need to
steer your conversation to his very humble beginning or the question of
comradeship or loyalty to friends or ideas. He never forgets a favour, however
minor. Just as he is ready to stake his life defending anyone he considers a
true friend. 
Little wonder he is fondly called the “Lion
of Bourdillon”.


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