Tinubu, The Baobab by Professor Kehinde Yusuf

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Yoruba ethnic group has an interesting proverb about ascendancy: Eni t’ó bá ma ga, esè rè á tínrín. (‘Those who would be tall cannot avoid having thin legs.’) Being tall here is the metaphor for recording the highest levels of achievement or reaching the highest rungs on the social ladder. Thin legs, on the other hand, are the metaphor for all the vicissitudes, cumulative challenges and obstacles encountered on the way to the top. No doubt, President Bola Tinubu has had more than his fair share of these legs.


The President has, like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, received “the most unkindest cut of all” from people who, in the normal course of affairs, should be there for him. In fact, a review of the politicking preceding the 2022 All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primary shows clearly that many aspects of the denigration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu by Mr. Peter Obi (the presidential candidate of Labour Party – LP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party – PDP) and their followers were leftovers from the derogation of Asiwaju by significant sections of the Yoruba elite. This bears out the Yoruba proverb, Èyìnkùnlé l’òtá wà, inú ilé l’aseni n gbé. (‘The enemy is in the backyard, but the traitor lives right within the house with the target.’)


One of the quite amazing things was that some of his key denigrating kin would come out on television, specify how Asiwaju had been a godsend to them in their moment of pain, vulnerability or need and then follow the specification with the word “but”, and state that they would not support his presidential aspiration. This is strange, because the normal pattern is for the word “therefore” to come after the list of areas in which a person had been a benefactor, and be a precursor to indicating that the speaker would support the benefactor in the spirit of reciprocity. In other words, with those major Asiwaju associates, reciprocity had gone out of fashion and one good turn no more deserved another. Some of them tried to diminish the favours he had done them and gave ‘patriotism’ as their reason. This readily brought to mind the profound position that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.


Some detractors have stridently cast aspersions on every bit of the President’s life and have invested huge resources into dragging him through the mud. Considering all the denigration, flagellation, sabotage, ingratitude and peer envy the President has suffered for so long, it is understandable for him, warts and all, to have earned substantial sympathy. Providentially, at every turn, he has been lifted well above his detractors.


Getting this far in life in spite of the seemingly overwhelming challenges on his path is enigmatic. Steadily, his detractors have inadvertently been creating a mystique around him, making him to live out the Yoruba saying, Ìpa tí won n posè, ara ló fi n san. (‘The more they debark the baobab tree, the fatter it becomes.’) I found it noteworthy that a columnist with Nigerian Tribune, Suyi Ayodele, placed the President in the class of àkàndá. Specifically, in the article titled, “Salute to Melchizedek of Nigeria”, he said: “There are people known in Yoruba worldview as Àkàndá (special beings). Everything about them is a mystery (Àdììtú). They get away with everything that would easily consume other mere mortals.”


President Tinubu’s life experience, I believe, is the stuff of which legends are made, and his is the epitome of a grace-filled life. He won a Senate seat at the first attempt, won the governorship seat at the first attempt, and won the Presidential election at the first attempt. The crowning glory of this legendary winning streak would be his institution of sustainable good governance in Nigeria.


In this regard, the following articulation by Yap Kioe Sheng of the United Nations (UN) outline of the essentials of good governance is noteworthy: “Good governance has 8 major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are considered and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.” As another UN-related perspective states, the key question any effort towards good governance would seek to answer is: “Are the institutions of governance effectively guaranteeing the right to health, adequate housing, sufficient food, quality education, fair justice and personal security?”


President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should not be deterred by detractors of whatever hue. And when he has recorded optimal success with respect to the above-mentioned indices of good governance, as his Renewed Hope Agenda promises, this nation would have been blessed with a profound visionary, an undisputable hero and an epochal and enduring inspirational figure.




Professor Kehinde Yusuf

Chair, Programme Committee

P-BAT Academics & Professionals

(E-mail: [email protected])

Friday, November 17, 2023

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