In 2006, far away in Borgu Kingdom, one of the oldest Emirates in Northern Nigeria currently under the present Niger state, a Yoruba man was conferred a title that carries the same weight as the Chief of Army Staff in the contemporary setting.
The late Emir of Borgu, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro Kitoro III named the former Lagos state Governor, Bola Tinubu, Jagaban of Borgu while his wife, Remi, was conferred the Yun Bana Jagaban of Borgu.
‘A gaba’, in hausa language, is literally translated as “in front” hence, the derivation of Jagaban as someone that leads from the front. It wasn’t like the proliferation of titles like traditional rulers in recent times.
They are recklessly willing to turban or put royal beads on necks that are undeserving of these titles but Tinubu’s was one that came with a backstory. Before his death, the monarch chronicled how Tinubu’s sweat and blood earned him the title.
“It was in the days of the ill-fated 3rd Republic, in the fateful year of 1992 that my path first crossed that of His Excellency Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We were both elected into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he as an SDP Senator and I on the platform of the NRC. In the early days of the National Assembly of that still-born Republic, out of the dynamic social turbulence and constantly shifting political quicksand certain strong bonds of understanding, collaboration and partnership were forged between various leaders across the political divide,” the monarch narrated in an interview with the City People’s Magazine.”
“In particular I and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, though from opposing sides of the political divide, gradually discovered that our positions on issues of burning national importance increasingly propelled both of us and few other like-minded patriots in the same political direction. Naturally therefore, at the inter-personal level, we both easily gravitated towards each other. Little were we to know that difficult and dangerous times lay ahead for the entire nation.
In November 1993 all democratic institutions across the country including the National Assembly were dissolved by the Gen. Sani Abacha regime and the country was returned to Military rule. It is on record that the first challenge to this unconstitutional take over was mounted via a Press Conference which followed a closed-door meeting of about 35 Senators including myself, Senator Chuba Okadigbo, Senator Abu Ibrahim and of course Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
There is hardly any point describing the security situation as at then, but suffice it to say that we were all hounded with incessant threats, arrests and incarcerations. Eventually the struggle assumed darker dimensions and various pro-democracy proponents had to go underground. It was in the course of these struggles that I came face to face with the inner core of the essential character of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
Tinubu’s contribution as a pro-democracy activist didn’t end in 2006 when he was conferred the title.
Remember, at that time, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dominated national politics and Tinubu and his opposition Action Congress could be likened to the lonely voice in the wilderness. His consistency in propagating the ideals of late Statesman Obafemi Awolowo endeared him to many and built him a followership that transcends beyond the River Benue and River Niger.
It should be noted that he was also instrumental to the APC merger that displaced the PDP in 2015.
So, when the arguments on who’s fit to right the wrongs, in terms of consistency, leadership experience and ideological clarity, Tinubu’s name pops up.
“I discovered that he is one personality that can neither be bought nor distracted. He has absolutely no sense of materialism and has been known to risk his life and the lives of his dear ones in defense of the truth. He personifies the superior logic of having elected instead of selected leaders. Needless to say, he is a die-hard workaholic,” Alhaji Dantoro concluded in that interview.
If an educated and well-travelled Northerner has this testimony of Tinubu, there’s no other conviction needed to ascertain that he’s a round peg in a round hole.
Also, in his memoir “My Participations” which has been creating ripples, Bisi Akande alluded to the fact that Tinubu gave up his ambition for the actualisation of Buhari’s dream by stepping down for Yemi Osinbajo to be Buhari’s running mate. It exemplifies the possibility of a man forsaking personal interests for a collective good.
Groups across the country have continued to mount pressure on the Jagaban to throw his hat in the ring and he has yielded the call, which implies that Nigerians can celebrate in anticipation of the greater things a Tinubu’s Presidency will offer.
“I informed the president about my ambition,” Tinubu said, announcing his plan to run for president. “I have the competence, vision and capacity to build on the foundation of the president.”
As expected, political jobbers with pecuniary interests have continued to criticise the immense contribution of the Jagaban of Borgu and his political trajectory but like the long-term British statesman, Winston Churchill, puts it, history is written by victors.
Dr. Perry Okolugbo writes from Abuja