By Gbenga Olorunpomi
Never has one man’s return been so eagerly awaited. By 8am last Saturday, both sides of the road leading to the Lagos International Airport was lined with cars. The mood was festive and the people were restless. Most were dabbed in the colours of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and you could tell that they all came to make a statement. If anyone was in doubt as to why they were there, several banners carried the message home: “Welcome Home, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
Truth be told, the journalist in me was a little irritated. “Why are all these people here?” I asked myself. “This is a press event!” I wondered why the supporters and fans of Sen. Tinubu didn’t just go wait for the man at his house. The major thing for me was for the press to capture the early moments of the loved politician’s return and to get those juicy sound bites that were sure to make the front pages of newspapers.
All I wanted was for the cameraman with me to take photos, give them to me and for me to find a way to get them to all my contacts in the online media. I almost screamed, “Go home and let the man land in peace!” That was until one man standing beside took a look at the crowd, and said, with a smile on his face, “Dem Baba don come back.” My anger evaporated.
After three months outside Nigeria, Sen. Bola Tinubu returned to the country he has always fought to defend from marauders and scavengers. This was the longest he had ever stayed away from Nigeria since he returned in 1998, after the military junta hounded him and sought to exterminate him. He had become a pest to them, one that needed to be crushed.
His offense was his constant call for the military to return late Moshood Abiola’s stolen mandate and leave the political scene for democracy and social justice to thrive. For his refusal to yield ground, he was hunted. So, he fled, teamed up with other freedom fighters and battled them from the outside. Back then, his return was hardly noticed. This time, you couldn’t ignore it if you were blind, deaf and dumb.
Accompanied off the plane by Gov. Fayemi and Ogbeni Rauf, both of whom had boarded the aircraft after it taxied to a corner of the airstrip, Sen. Tinubu’s first act was to give his dear wife, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, a warm hug. He then kissed her smack on the lips. For those brief seconds, no one else existed. This was the woman who had his back when he chose to leave the comfort of a corporate and easy life as the treasurer at oil giant, Mobil.
She stood by him when he plunged into the murky waters of politics in 1992 and fled with him when it was time to go. Same woman was there for him when he began the transformation of Lagos State and raised its profile to an unassailable height. She was there through the political struggles that culminated into the merger of progressive parties and the establishment of the APC. She took care of him when he needed succor while healing from surgery. Now, she was there to welcome him home. Believe me, we didn’t exist to the man within those seconds!
Clearly overwhelmed by the sheer number of people there to greet him, Sen. Tinubu couldn’t contain his joy.
“It is a great joy to be back,” he said. “It is good that we are back and I really appreciate your concern and this great gathering. I am returning today, having travelled overseas for medical attention. It is indeed good to be in my fatherland. This is the first ever and the longest period of my absence from Nigeria’s political scene since 1993.
“It has never happened. The only time something like this happened was when I was in exile. Since 1999, I have never been away for more than one week,not even personal vacation. I am glad that I am back, I am fit and able; I can run 2.5 kilometer, if you want to try me, I will get down, and we can run and see who wins.”
Always the man to share his wealth of experience, Sen. Tinubu said this of the doctors who treated him, “Among those who contributed to this (surgery/recovery) are great Nigerians, well qualified physicians, who have moved out of the country because there are no facilities, no equipment here. No such opportunities exist for them in Nigeria. Among them are physiotherapists, who did the job that I must get well quick and return to the country to participate in recovering Nigeria to the path of excellence. I thank them all.”
After making statements on his new party, the proposed national conference (a sick joke, I must add) and the recent plane crash, Sen. Tinubu was off. One would have thought he would be anxious to go home but this maverick just can’t be that predictable. He headed straight for the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, to see the victims of the plane crash. After commiserating with them, along with the governors of Osun, Ekiti and Oyo, he headed straight for the Oba of Lagos’ palace.
This last act is the mark of a true Omo Odua. That Sen. Tinubu respects the throne, traditions and customs of his people is the mark of a great man. Many people of influence and power are quick to neglect their African roots and, like streams that forget their source, dry out and wither. This man wants to remain relevant for a long time and could not afford to disrespect the throne. A lesson for young leaders here.
A carnival of sorts was waiting for the man at home and he duly obliged the thousands who have waited for hours to catch a glimpse of their leader, benefactor and hero. He danced to their drums, waving a broom (APC symbol) in the air. Once within his walls, he proceeded to seat under a canopy where prayers were held for his safe return and continued good health. The three major religions were represented. Finally, the man disappeared in-doors, his welcome party still going on in his compound.
The highlight of the evening was when a group of dancers from Benue State emerged and did the Swange Dance. It was colourful and many of the guests seemed to enjoy it.
As they swayed, twisted and turned to the drums and the flute, I sat back and marveled at how this dance hasn’t changed despite the many challenges and alteration this country has faced. The dance still required great skill, flexibility strength and endless practice to master. You couldn’t pull off the Swange Dance without much dedication and sacrifice. Same way you couldn’t lead Nigeria properly if your patriotic credentials are in doubt or you suffer a lack of ingenuity and purpose.
Thankfully, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is blessed with all the gifts of nation building, is back home, safe and sound. The catalyst for progressive politics in Nigeria has arrived. The one they call ‘Oko Iya PDP’ has re-entered the stage. The time to unite and save Nigeria is now. Sweep on, Asiwaju!
Gbenga Olorunpomi is a Digital Strategist based in Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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