By Palladium

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 72, has a mystique about him. Narrowing it down mainly to his policy successes, amply exemplified by his ongoing tentative recalibration of the Nigerian economy and politics, will be grossly unfair. This writer seldom does a copious examination of his policies, considering that even tyrants sometimes stumble into great policies and occasionally mange to rebuild and transform their broken countries.

However, President Tinubu has chalked up over the years some spectacular policy successes worthy of consideration, not least when he was governor of Lagos State, and remarkably too outside office when he assigned himself the prefectural but unconstitutional role of inspiring and coaxing the state and his successors into a disciplined army. The writer made a tangential reference to this insubstantiality of the Tinubu essence on March 17, 2024 when he commented on Gen. Christopher Musa’s national admonition on the power of the spoken word with respect to the peace and stability of Nigeria.

To, therefore, attempt barely nine months into his first term to discuss and celebrate President Tinubu’s policies, or to excoriate him on the same score, is to open oneself to accusation of flattery or prejudice. It will take time, hopefully shorter than expected, for his policies to mature and deliver results or miscarry. Policies have their gestation periods; those enunciated by the president on his assumption of office, or any leader for that matter, are not exempted. What is, however, unhidden, no matter how carefully a leader tries to conceal it, is his character make-up, his intrinsic, essential person.

That intangible self endures well after everything else is dissipated, and that essence is not vitiated by wealth or poverty, praise or persecution, or background or status. It would be unkind to look at President Tinubu’s 72 years on earth strictly from his policy successes or status attained. These are of course notable policy triumphs intertwined with his person, but they are too limited to give a proper understanding of the man, his politics or leadership.

President Tinubu’s governorship in Lagos gave only a small glimpse of his person; the last presidential campaigns gave an even far better glimpse of the kind of person he really is, especially how closely he approximates the algebra of leadership.

Unlike ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and a former United States president Calvin Coolidge who both seemed propelled on the wings of luck or celestial interventions in their affairs, everything about President Tinubu has seemed anchored on the deliberateness of his plans and actions. Gifted with boldness that flows from intuition, and borne on the wings of fate that transcends his will, he has faced great risks, braved incredible challenges, and taken on formidable enemies. Here he finds himself in fellowship with some of history’s great leaders, not only in Africa but also in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Had he come at a different era, he would have been a military conqueror, dreaming campaigns of conquests over vast lands and territories, his fallibilities and sometimes failures assuaged by the sanguinary thrills of battles and victory parades.

To become the president of Nigeria last year, he overcame two daunting obstacles. The first was the opposition within his party and conspiracies by his party that were religiously and ethnically curated for years before being unleashed upon him months before the ruling party welcomed any aspiration to the throne; and the second was the opposition by the general populace to any aspirant or eventual candidate connected with or presented by the All Progressives Congress (APC).

No earthly political calculus favoured President Tinubu, either as an aspirant, at a time he was deeply loathed by his friends and fellow party men, or as a candidate, when he was overwhelmingly reviled and mercilessly caricatured all over the country. It was abnormal in those circumstances for anyone to throw his hat in the ring. One might conceivably swim against the tide; but his intuition led him inexorably into that abnormal unthinkability of swimming against rapids and waterfalls, sometimes maintaining contemplative silence in the face of general doubts by family and long-term friends and associates, and at other times demonstrating the fitful effervescence of someone who had just consulted the gods.

His forte, it is increasingly clear, is political gambling, which some detractors and aides sometimes interpret as unbearable cocksureness and inflexibility. (Chief Obasanjo once infamously quipped in his accustomed colloquialism that he backed Labour Party’s Peter Obi because he needed someone he could reprove. Candidate Tinubu, he was convinced, was inured to reproof).

It was, therefore, unsurprising that on the day aspirant Tinubu consulted with then President Muhammadu Buhari regarding his intention to contest the presidency, and then proceeded to announce his aspiration to a motley assembly of jaded pressmen, he was accompanied by only his media adviser, Tunde Rahman, with both of them looking forlorn and probably wondering what they were getting themselves into, or what demons they were unleashing.

President Tinubu loves life and has enjoyed it to the fullest, a paradox for someone so normally contemplative, a politician not dissuaded by the inevitable paralysis that often accompanies too much thinking.

But this is one of the enduring conundrums of his mystique, that such a man who loves life so consummately and dances to and interprets the talking drum, can also summon the chutzpah to produce a winning and yet nuanced same-faith presidential ticket that baited and tamed the religiosity of conclaves of opposition bishops and Pentecostal preachers driven into frenzy by his political audacity. Few knew he could win; but he won and then spurred many more rounds of angry detritus of prophetic offerings from clerics. At first glance, everything about his life seemed designed to consign him to unremitting ordinariness.

But not only has he achieved the impossible by winning the presidency against an opposition that would have long broken any other person of lesser mettle, he has also walked incredibly more surefootedly beyond the first few tentative months that could equally have crippled probably anyone else. Fathoming the mysteries and mystique of his trajectory so far does not lend itself to casual analysis using popular analytical tools.

One more explanation can be hazarded. Despite the security challenges upending parts of the country, and the economic hardship that sometimes makes the country to nearly keel over, not to talk of the contrived opposition by powerful interest groups still stunned by his victory, the undecipherable mystique that imbues his person with strength and ennobles his policies may yet produce the magic powerful enough to animate his success and ensure that once the curtain falls on his presidency, Nigeria would never remain the same.

For him to transcend the incredible opposition that assailed his presidential ambition, regardless of whether you like him or hate him, may be an indication that he seems tuned to the spiritual wavelength of forces imperceptible to the human mind. Should President Tinubu prove adept at riding on God’s coattails, not withstanding his occasional policy missteps, no one may stop him from climbing the heights he has envisioned.

Would he, like President Buhari wailed in his early weeks in office, also yield to the despair that sometimes accompany winning the presidency as a septuagenarian?

President Tinubu’s gait is of course not as strong or brisk as when he was in his 40s or 50s as governor, and his elocution has sometimes seemed tortured; but the vigour of his mind has not been attenuated by age nor his zest for life and leadership wearied by the ravages of time.

He was a distinction student at the university, and later a keen and exemplary accountant and auditor.
That combination affords the owner a forensic and logical mind incredibly capable of grappling with normative science.

Added to his passion for politics and newly acquired indifference to the foibles of men, and being a bit of an adrenalin junkie, he will see his new age as a challenge to be confronted not evaded, a reason to live and lead, not a trigger to evade or abdicate. He has matured considerably as a septuagenarian, has acquired the sangfroid and sharpness great leaders are noted for, and his definition of loyalty and friendship has become less idealistic and convoluted.

He will in fact do much better now than when he was governor, especially considering that the cruel and stifling opposition he faced on the road to the presidency had mollified his temperament and made him more resilient and more keenly aware of his place in this era.

•CULLED From The Natiön of March 31, 2024.