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What Umahi Should Have Learnt From Tinubu



After serving out his tenure as governor in 2007, Tinubu got the Senatorial ticket of the Action Congress (AC) for Lagos Central, but had to relinquish it in order, according to him, to focus his attention and energy to building and strengthening the Party across the Southwest and the entire Nigeria. There is no doubt that if he had kept that ticket, he would have won the election and gone to the Senate, because against all odds, he was able to retain Lagos for his Party and also got the Senatorial seats.

In the same 2007, Orji Uzor Kalu, with his Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) won two governorship seats, a Senatorial seat and a few House of Representatives seats. Of course, he got a good number of House of Assembly seats, but while Tinubu focused on expanding his political interests against all odds, Orji Uzor Kalu, within two years lost the two governors in his Party, and was already negotiating his way back to the PDP. While the AC grew from controlling one State to holding three States in the Southwest, the PPA under Orji Uzor Kalu took a nosedive to oblivion, as the former Abia governor could not hold his Party together.

Tinubu invested his money and contacts into improving his Party’s presence in the Southwest and empowering more of his lieutenants, while he sat behind to build and plan for what he is enjoying today. He was not swayed by PDP’s apparent dominance, nor feared that his Party would never make it to Aso Rock. He was focused and single minded about his pursuit of political power.

Unlike his contemporaries from the Southeast, Tinubu did not present himself for elections, for the sake of it. He wasn’t also petty and insecure like many political leaders from the Southeast are wont to be. While he relinquished the AC’s presidential ticket to Atiku in 2007, he drafted in Ribadu to run on the Party’s platform in 2011, and in 2015, he merged his Party with what remained of the ANPP and CPC to form what we have today as APC.

Tinubu had always had his mind set on becoming President and he worked for it. He did not allow himself to be distracted by small pursuits. Unlike the Orji Uzor Kalu, Okorocha and recently, Dave Umahi who would run for President today and turn around to drop down to begging for a ministerial position, Tinubu, even though he is believed to have reached a political deal with the PDP and Jonathan in 2011, did not lose sight of his pursuit. He took that deal and immediately returned to the trenches and funded one of the most formidable oppositions in Africa, which eventually culminated in ousting the PDP .

Tinubu knew he was going to be President and he knew he was going to ride on the back of an incumbent to get that presidency. From 2015 until 2023, Tinubu produced a Vice-president, a number of ministers, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and numerous governors. Given his influence within the Buhari presidency and the fact that he remained the National Leader of the APC, even when there was a sitting President, he could have got any position he wanted for himself, but he looked ahead and concentrated on the big price, instead of allowing himself to be distracted by crumbs.

If Tinubu had been greedy and petty like Orji Uzor Kalu, David Umahi, Rochas Okorocha and others like them, he would have been messed up or even thrown into jail before now. His greatest secret is fixing people in positions he ordinarily could have taken up himself, and when it mattered most, those people, stood up for him and fought for him. Even when some of them disappointed, they were still incapable of stopping him.

When you look at David Umahi resigning from the Senate to take up a ministerial position from the same man he contested against in the presidential election, you will easily understand why Tinubu overlook all his contemporaries, especially from the Southeast. Someone like David Umahi would have jumped at an opportunity to extend his tenure as governor, if the opportunity had come, because he does not believe in raising new generation of leaders. But Tinubu, as a governor was one of the most outspoken critics of the purported Third Term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He could have negotiated his way into getting a third term for himself if he wanted, but he knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid of empowering younger people to take over positions in politics.

We must understand that when we talk about political leaders in the mould of Tinubu, Orji Uzor Kalu and the Umahis of this world, Peter Obi cannot be mentioned alongside them, because Peter Obi is a different kind of leader and stands completely apart. Peter Obi is a revolutionary idea, who cannot operate in the same league with characters like Tinubu and Umahi, but we cannot also fail to concede that in Nigeria and Africa, it is people like them who succeed in politics. Umahi could have learnt a lesson or two about empowering other people instead of bringing himself to take up every opportunity that comes.


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