Tinubu Reminds Me Of America’s Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, the great American hero, was born into poverty in rural Kentucky, United States of America in 1809 but became the 16th president of the country. He was a self-made man. He did not have formal education but trained himself to become a lawyer and statesman.
He joined politics and quickly became party leader and contested and won election into the US Congress as senator on the platform of the Republican Party. He became president of the US at the most divisive period in the nation’s history when the south and the north of the country were polarized as we have in Nigeria today.
He was an anti-slavery politician and when he ran for president in 1860, the pro-slavery south did not support him. He was seen as a threat to slavery and the southern states began to secede when he became president. At the time, there were 4 million enslaved blacks in America, with almost all of them in the south.
Lincoln’s presidency was seen as a threat to slavery. As soon as he became president, the south started a revolt that led to the American Civil War that lasted nearly five years. Lincoln won the war, preserved the unity of America and won re-election in 1865.
On April 14, days after his re-election, he was assassinated by a pro-slavery activist called John Booth while attending a theatre in Washington D.C. But he is often ranked in scholarly polls as the greatest president in American history with a monument dedicated to him in Washington DC.
He is fondly remembered as a martyr for America especially as a result of his war time leadership.
What is most fascinating about him for me is that he rose to such Olympian heights in American politics without the privilege of formal education and family affluence. He learnt from private teachers and became an avid reader, reading all sorts of books from the Bible to children’s literature.
His ancestry, which till today is shrouded in some mystery, was not used against him when he ran for public office at a time the American society was deeply conservative and ideologically polarized. Rather he was judged by his achievements and the power of his ideas about the fate of the American union.
In his investigative biography of Lincoln published in 1995 entitled “LINCOLN,” David Herbert Donald, the Pulitzer winning writer reported that when Lincoln was running for president and his campaign team wanted to write his biography, there was “incertitude and absolute darkness” about his ancestry. But the American electorate which elected did not give a damn.
He also wrote about Lincoln: “Abraham Lincoln was not interested in his ancestry. In his mind, he was a self-made man, who had no need to care about his family tree. In 1859, when friends asked him for autobiographical information to help promote his chances for a presidential nomination, he offered only the barest outline of his family history.”
And a year later, after he won the presidency, when a journalist proposed to write his biography, he told him: “It is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of my early life…”
There’s no doubt that many would see Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressive Congress, to be on a similar trajectory with Lincoln. Anyone who has followed his political evolution would readily acknowledge the parallelism. But Lincoln hailed from a different society where a man is judged by his personal achievement and capacity for leadership, and not by where he comes from or who is parents were.
Despite his grass to grace story, and the enviable political leadership he has offered Lagos State, there is a noisy group of political failures who have continued to ask questions about his pastas if the past is what will define his success or failure as president.
These people have also recycled the story about his alleged false academic qualifications since 1999, when he was first elected governor of Lagos State. It turned out the man graduated from the Chicago State University in the United States with distinction in Business and Administration.
Now in 2022, these people are telling us he does not have primary and secondary school certificates! How ridiculous can people be! Is it the fear of this man or the fear of his presidency that his driving them to desperate means?
Despite the similarities of his life and political trajectory with America’s Lincoln, Nigeria’s Tinubu has suffered more to get to where he is today. He’s fought firestorms of opposition and prevailed. There’s no political leader that has attracted so much love and hate at the same time. His teeming admirers, some of who have never met him including this writer, love him for what he has achieved and what he represents.
A man who left a plum job in an oil company to join politics and staked his life in support of democracy in Nigeria in the dark days of military rule is a man with absolute convictions about his country. Unlike some of those in the presidential race for 2023, Tinubu, along with others, fought for the return of democracy and was driven into exile by the Sani Abacha regime.
While in exile, he kept in touch with home and gave huge support to pro-democracy groups in the country. That was no doubt why the Alliance of Democracy in Lagos rewarded him with the governorship ticket of the party in 1999.
Since leaving power in 2007, Tinubu has been building a pan Nigeria political movement for progressive politicians in the country. He wanted a platform for people who share his progressive ideas for Nigeria before launching a bid for the presidency. This came into fruition in 2014 with the formation of APC, a merger of his Action Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change.
His haters are largely those who consider him a threat to their ambitions or see him as the cause of their downfall. There is also another group of haters in the southern parts of Nigeria who have not forgiven him for supporting Buhari against then President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. It still pains this group of people that his support for Buhari led to a historic victory in which an opposition party defeated an incumbent president for the first time.
So deep-seated is the resentment of his haters that they have looked and scratched everywhere and everything with a view to bringing him down from the Olympian political height providence has placed him. They have continued to raise questions about his past. Some have also asked how he made his wealth without telling us what they know about it!
They said he’s corrupt and not fit to lead but present no evidence of their allegations. No political party , politician or civil society organization has sued him for corruption since he left power in 2007. Since the project is to bring him down by all means, some have even suggested that the man, who is married to a pastor of a leading church in the land, is a Muslim fundamentalist because he did not join southern leaders in disparaging the Buhari administration over alleged killing by herdsmen in the South.
They call him an emperor because of his hold on Lagos politics, yet Lagos APC has always held party primaries to pick governorship candidates. They said he stopped Akin Ambode from getting a second term, but Ambode participated in the party primary won by the current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. How unfair can enemies be!
After he emerged presidential candidate of the ruling APC, his enemies have become restless. They’re scared stiff that the man they took for dead politically has refused to die, and is instead, on his way to achieving his highest political goal in life—to be president of Nigeria and transform the country that belongs to the largest black race in the world.
This is why they have resurrected dead arguments about alleged perjury in order to create a none existent legal controversy they hope would scuttle his chances of running for president in 2023.
But for many Nigerians, including this writer, Tinubu will continue to be a democracy hero whose love for Nigeria is not in doubt, and who is yearning to see a new Nigeria in his lifetime. Now that he has a fair chance, Tinubu deserves the support of all lovers of democracy.
They didn’t want Lincoln to win the presidency, but he won. Tinubu too will prevail.
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.