Expectedly, it has been torrents of hails and brimstones since Bola Tinubu officially declared his intention to contest the presidency in 2023. Tinubu lovers have also responded in kind; “arguments for” and “arguments against” rent the air as the contenders compete for supremacy. The din is deafening and the atmosphere electric. The cacophony over Tinubu’s “life-long ambition” has crowded out other trending matters including, surprisingly, the Super Eagles’ good run at the AFCON taking place in Cameroon. Thus, Tinubu has become the proverbial new-born babe that calls attention unto itself when it steps out to be named (on the eighth day). Should Tinubu have expected anything less? A man must be ready to float or swim with his life-long ambition; nothing else can be higher.
Tinubu is a gold fish that has no hiding place. His life has been an open book and hardly any of the issues being raised now about his personality or candidature is new. Stories already told will be rehashed, nonetheless, with garnishments, embellishments and adornments (salt and pepper, iru and ogiri will be added) before they are served a la carte as the occasion demands! New “world exclusives” on Tinubu will surface as old confidants-turned foes jostle for their own pound of flesh. Expect Tinubu, a veritable disciple of Nicollo Machiavelli (“the end justifies the means”), to fight back. We have been told that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not his real or original name; that, contrary to his claims, he has no family relationship with the Tinubu of Lagos and that he is not even from Lagos. When the going got bad between him and Rafiu Babatunde Ayinla Okanlawon Tinubu (now deceased), erstwhile Head of Service of Lagos state, RB, as he was fondly called, authored a book to denounce Bola Tinubu’s claim to the Tinubu name. As he told me (because I edited and printed the book) RB said he saddled himself with the tedious and strenuous task of researching the Tinubu roots to set the records straight. The book is titled “Onijumu Wura: The Tinubu Dynasty of Kakawa, Lagos: The Tree”. Apart from Bola Tinubu, there were other notable personalities bearing the Tinubu name in Lagos that RB said were not biologically Tinubu. RB also disproved the story of the Tinubus’ Kanuri ancestry as posited by respected History professor, Gafar Siyan Oyeweso, and which was repeated recently by respected columnist, Farooq Kperogi. RB insisted, instead, that the progenitor of the Tinubus,”Momoh Bugara Tinubu was a Yoruba man from Ijumu and Ibunu in present-day Kabba Province in Kogi state...Bugara Tinubu was also known as Alfa Tibunu (Alfa from Ibunu)”.
If Bola Tinubu is not the real name, I do not see anything spectacular about that. People change or modify their names. God started it all; and so Abram became Abraham; Sarai became Sarah; and Jacob became Israel. Jesus Christ modified Simon’s name from Simon Barjona (son of Jonah) to Simon Peter (the rock). I modified my own name from Ojo Saliu to BOLAWOLE Bolanle Ojo Saliu. I still call Prof. Oyeweso “Gafar” although he now answers “Siyan”. Recently, I noticed that RCCG’s Pastor Bisi Daniel (or Daniels) used to be my old friend, Bisi Ojediran. Among my family and friends, Yunusa is now Fola, Risikat now Dupe, Mulikat now Rev. Esther, another Mulikat now Toyin, Gani now David, Sikiru now Richard, Braimoh now Olanrewaju, ad infinitum! The only question we should ask Bola Tinubu is whether he openly declared his name-change. Not doing so is fraught with dangers; one of which is mistaken or crisis of identity.
Tinubu has also been accused of not owing up to his ancestry: His parentage, place of birth, date of birth, and state of origin. Hiding one’s ancestry is an exercise in futility because you have relations and once they are traced to their roots, you, too, would be exposed. If you grew up in a locality, you are bound to have people who will tell you your history. I grew up in Owo, Ondo State among family, friends and neighbours who can tell my history. For my Primary School (Ansar-U-Deen Primary School), Owatowose, Owo, I still remember some of my classmates like Banji Adelegan (aka Bomber), Lasisi Olukokun (aka “Three Stones” because of the shape of his head), Dupe Ajape, Yunusa Adenola, etc. Ibikunle Falana was my classmate at All Saints Modern School, Owo. Recently, Ibikunle (who also became my classmate at Owo High School) reeled out the names of some of our other All Saints classmates that I have even forgotten: Funmilayo Oloye, Owolabi (the oldest in the class), Ogundare Alfred, Adeniran Adeseluka, Foluke, Daramola, Bayo Aladegbule, Maku, John (whose mother fried “akara” opposite St. Andrews Church), Florence Olotu, Alite (very troublesome stammerer), and Aiyedun, without forgetting our hard-hitting teacher, Famose (a replica of Jacobs, later Omole of Owo High School), and our unforgettable headmaster, Agunbiade (and his scanty mustache!) That was some 54 years ago! My Owo High School class of 1974 operates a Whatsapp platform and only on December 4 last year, my alma mater (the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University) honoured me, along with 59 others, with its Distinguished Alumni Award. No one, least of all someone of the standing of Tinubu, can hide their identity and or ancestry. If Tinubu fails to come out clean on it, what of all those out there who know the truth; shouldn't someone be bold enough to speak on camera?
When they say Tinubu has no certificates, I wonder if it means he never went to school! How come he worked in an organization like Mobil Oil as Treasurer? Maybe he went to school but in another name. There should be people living who have the information. Who were his classmates? Who were his friends? Who were his colleagues at work? Who were his neighbours? All of them down the line cannot be timid or lily-livered. It can also not be that all of them have been bought or silenced. They should come out and tell us what name he answered and in which school or place of work. It is unfortunate that one-time governor of Oyo State, Lam Adeshina, is not alive to dispel or confirm the rumour that he took out of circulation documents that could have thrown some light on these issues – but some aides must have run the errands for Lam. They should come out and speak!
Tinubu’s actual age is also in contention. Some say he is 10 years older than he claims. We are all familiar with the fact that people “doctor” their age for many reasons; some because there were no records of their date of birth. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly said he belonged in this category. I, too, but plus or minus, the gap should not be a whopping 10 years. Even at that, friends, relatives, classmates, and neighbours can help us pin down the exact age of Tinubu.
Another issue in contention is Tinubu’s tenure as governor of Lagos State. One good thing I remember Tinubu for is how he fought Obasanjo to a standstill over the latter’s mindless seizure of Lagos State allocations over the creation, deservedly, of more local governments in Lagos. That tango created the necessity for Lagos under Tinubu to look inward and exponentially balloon its IGR. The use to which the resources have been put is another matter entirely. In my opinion, Lagos is more of a mega slum than a mega city – but the fault is not entirely Lagos’. It bears repeating that the influx of every Tom, Dick and Harry into Lagos plays a big role in its degradation while its neglect by the Federal Government since the capital moved to Abuja on 12 December, 1991 has not helped matters.
In conclusion, should Tinubu run? Yes, if he feels like it! And that is not the same thing as saying he is a good or bad candidate for the job! Have you noticed that the same hysteria of 2015 has returned in 2022? "Anything but Jonathan! Away with Jonathan! Nothing can be worse than Jonathan! Buhari is the Messiah!" Have you seen where that led us? The same hysteria is building, this time against Tinubu! I was party to the hysteria in 2015; I refuse to be party to it in 2022 or 2023. It is too early to make a choice. This time around, I will shine my eyes very well, as they say. Many of those yelling at Tinubu are in the same breath rooting for the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo (though he is yet to officially declare). A Pentecostal pastor who cannot defend the Church and Christians against genocide by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists; a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who cannot stand up for the rule of law; a professor who cannot lend a voice to the ASUU and his colleagues in the Ivory Tower; a Yoruba man who did not lift a finger as Fulani herdsmen over-ran the Southwest, killing, maiming, raping but who went to the United States to say reports of the mindless killings by the terrorists were exaggerated; a supposed good man who was as silent as the graveyard while our #EndSARS youth were cut down at the Lekki toll gate; and who looked away while the same youths were made to lose good money to the vexatious Twitter ban by Buhari!
Birds of a feather! Six and half-a-dozen! Grandma taught me: If for any reason I cannot swing my hands, I should fold them on my head!
- Bolawole is a former editor & chairman of the editorial board of The PUNCH newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio, television, traditional and digital media.
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