Between Awolowo and Tinubu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Between Awolowo and Tinubu

Posted: Apr 26, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


It has become seemingly pervasive among some overzealous political activists to seek to compare Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Emeritus of Lagos State and National Leader of the ruling party in-waiting, the All Progressives Congress (APC), with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late Premier of the defunct Western Region. Such comparison has not only led to some hazy conclusions, but also tend to unduly obfuscate the peculiarities of the dynamics that separate Awolowo politics from that of the present era. Such comparison based on uncritical evaluation leads to suggestions to the effect that Tinubu is effectively the new Awolowo or were Awolowo to be around, he could not have achieved as much as Tinubu.

While it is not out of place to draw contexts between individuals who are leading lights at different eras, it is the rather patronising and illogical premises upon which such comparison is founded that raises concerns. If Tinubu is the new Awolowo, who then are the new Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Tawafa Balewa, Enahoro or Dennis Osadebey, etc? If the president-elect, General Buhari could not be compared with any politician of northern extraction what is the need comparing Tinubu with Awolowo? The simple fact remains that no living politician elsewhere in Nigeria could be compared with these leading lights who have taken dignified exit from the stage.

Of course we reckon than even if Awolowo remains the avatar, Tinubu cannot be denied his rightful place in history. Tinubu has made his mark even as he still has a great future ahead of him. No one knows what providence has in stock for him in the future, but it is certain he has already earned a place in the history of the politics of this era. He is neither too young nor unqualified to be referred to as the leader of the progressives of this era and there should be no controversy as to his leadership. Nevertheless, Tinubu is not Awolowo pure and simple and could hardly occupy or step into such enigmatic shoes based on facts that are obvious. Awolowo’s inimitable stature as a nationalist and foremost Yoruba political leader simply dwarfs Tinubu regardless of whatever credits we like to accord him.

The point must be made those ideals for which Awolowo lived and died by providing political enviable leadership for the Yoruba and in leading the cause of progressive politics in Nigeria far outweigh the quest for winning elections. It could only take ignorance to reduce Awolowo’s enviable struggle for a Nigeria based on equity, justice and progress to the quest for winning elections at all costs. To provide leadership for Nigeria was a dream Awolowo never realised, but attempt at confusing history by simply reducing winning elections and exercise of power at the centre to all that Awolowo and Yoruba crave for in Nigeria is totally ruse, misleading and a great disservice to history.

Those who seek to draw needless comparison between Tinubu and Awolowo apparently need proper reassessment of the roles and place of Awolowo in Nigeria’s political history. There may be no question as to freedom to admire and adore Tinubu for his political feats, but it is apparent those who seek comparison need better understanding of what the essentials of Awolowo politics underpinned and still represents rather than dwelling on the aesthetic of winning elections.

In fairness to Tinubu, he never compared himself with Awolowo or claimed to be another Awolowo. Even if he has been accused of coveting political leadership in Yoruba land for which he is entitle to aspire or seek, the fact remains that Tinubu has not openly laid claim to such title. The man has simply being contended with playing the role that space and time thrust upon him. Regardless however, hagiographers are busy making futile attempts at creating the impression that Tinubu has succeeded in surpassing Awolowo’s contributions to politics in Yoruba land or Nigeria. The impression is being created that the recent success of the APC automatically translates to taking Yoruba people of the southwest to the centre of governance and that nothing else seems to matter in determining or defining leadership for the Yoruba.

Indeed, nothing demonstrates leadership than the recognition by people as being relevant and capable of taking up the challenge when time and situation demand. Without doubt, Tinubu has paid his dues as a formidable player in the prevailing era of politics. But to simply overlook the dynamics that has brought him to the fore in playing such role may not be a good way to document history.

But beyond this, there are issues with the frenzy with which the Yoruba are currently being touted as having been elevated to the centre of governance under the emerging Buhari presidency, as some would want to impress it on the rest of us. Dealing with such fallacy is however not the real concern here at the moment.

But, if there is so much attraction in at the centre as we are being told, it is therefore important to remind the bandmasters that Yoruba were at the centre for eight years between 1999 and 2007 under Obasanjo’s watch. If the argument is that Obasanjo did not enjoy the support of the Yoruba in 1999 and by that strength the centre was inaccessible to the Yoruba, we cannot simply wish away the fact that Obasanjo secured overwhelming approbation of the Yoruba in 2003 with his political platform; the PDP taken effective control of five of the six states in the southwest region. And if winning at the centre was an uphill task, MKO Abiola surmounted the barrier with the SDP in 1991 even if his mandate was denied.

It would therefore be futile to argue that the Yoruba have at long last realised the age-long dream of aligning with the centre of governance with the recent victory of APC at the presidential poll. To draw the rather preposterous conclusion to the effect that Tinubu is the first to succeed where Awolowo is seen to have failed would amount to unnecessary distortions of facts. Tinubu should be seen and revered as a unique player in his own right. For the simple reason that the Yoruba of the southwest are no longer politically monolithic as it were under Awolowo also underlies the fact that the template of politics has change in Nigeria and would continue to evolve with the southwest not being left behind. The results of the last elections only point to the fact that the future could only be more interesting politically speaking with issues, ideas and emotion determining the way the people would go.

We cannot also forget that Awolowo commanded so much reverence based on the strong philosophical and ideological foundations that underpinned his politics. Beyond the romance of power, Tinubu can only strive to be a believer in the politics of Awolowo if he chooses to live up to the qualities that endeared Awolowo to enthusiastic followers beyond the shores of Yoruba land. Tinubu would be enhancing his leadership by availing his teeming enthusiasts opportunity to relate with his biographies as well as his political thoughts on his aspirations for a Nigeria and Yoruba land of his dream the same way philosophical and ideological perspectives of Awolowo speak for him even in death.

There is indeed a huge millage to cover in measuring up to the track records of Awolowo. However, it is important to emphasise that how much Tinubu weathers the storm of leadership and how far he consolidates on the achievements already earned would not be on account of recreating another Awolowo of this era.