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#OtvOPINIONS: Between Awolowo and Tinubu By Francis Abayomi


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
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
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
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
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.

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