As Emilokan heads for Aso Rock Villa…

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Bola Ahmed Tinubu

President-Elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose latter-day moniker is Emilokan is just a few hours away from achieving his life-time ambition of leading Nigeria… hopefully to the Promised Land. The Jagaban of Borgu is hardly remembered by that title he was famously known for among his admirers. In fact, “Emilokan” meaning “It Is My Turn” has found its way into our lexicon… and will soon sneak into the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

Emilokan is an enigma, a dogged fighter par excellence. No one gave him a dog’s chance of coming this far. His traducers mocked him for insisting it was his turn, and pigeonholed him as a finished or expired political material who should retire for the young ones. But the old political soldier defied all odds and soldiered on to the chagrin of his foes. In fact, Emilokan has become the man they hate to love.

In the annals of Nigeria’s political peregrinations, no politicians have faced obstacles as Emilokan did, even from within the party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which he single-handedly midwifed.  Aside from his close associates and some loyal mentees, almost everyone around him wanted him out of the way to the Villa. The argument has been that he is too old and too sick to be an occupant of the Seat of Power. Many did not even believe he could last the distance and cope with the rigour of the race to the Villa.

Tinubu’s “health status” became a source of concern to many political watchers. He was slammed with all manner of terminal ailments. They saw in him another Muhammadu Buhari who was described as a walking corpse ahead of the 2015 general election that swept him into office. No one gave Buhari a chance to last the distance, as evidenced by the challenges he faced in the first few months of his presidency which he spent in a London hospital. At a point, he was rumoured dead and his cadaver was said to have been shipped to Saudi Arabia for interment. And as time wore on, it was said that a look-alike character, made in Sudan, had been cloned and shipped to Nigeria to continue where Buhari stopped. How foolish could his death-wishers be!

But Buhari did not only pull through, he also lasted the distance to the disappointment and amazement of everyone. When Buhari got to the Villa and his condition deteriorated (some folks believed he was poisoned), I wrote a piece entitled, “The swinging arms of Buhari”. I had drawn an analogy from the story of a hyena that trailed a hunter to the outskirts of his village.

The predator had sighted the hunter swinging his right arm while holding the gun across his left shoulder. In the think of the animal, the arms, hanging loosely from the shoulder, would soon give way. So, it furtively trailed the hunter until they got to the outskirts of the village. When the loose arm failed to drop to the ground for it to pick up, the hyena gave up the trail to wait for another day. Similarly, those waiting for Buhari to drop dead had to give up when the gangling “old soldier wey no dey die” continued to soldier on! And he survived many of his death-wishers who were younger and healthier.

Emilokan is also pigeonholed as a sick, dying man. Pissed off by the criticisms of his fitness during the presidential campaign, his tag team partner, Senator Kashim Shettima, said that the process was not an Olympic event. I agreed with him totally.

For the purpose of this argument, let me throw up this analogy. I see Emilokan as the Chief Coach of Team Nigeria. In that capacity, he does not need to be on the field to kick the ball around. All he needs to do is to be in or around his dug house which the Aso Villa represents to shout or dish out instructions to his men on the field.

During one of the sessions I had with my students at the NTA Television College, Jos, where I was a sports guest lecturer some years back, we debated on who makes a good team: the coach or the players? The argument was intense but at the end of the day, we all agreed that it is the coach that makes a good team because at the end of the day, the bucks stop on his table.

In other words, you could assemble good ingredients as a chef quite alright but the soup could be unpalatable because of horrible cooking skills. A good coach can assemble an average team and transform it to a winning team. Conversely, a bad coach can turn a good team to non-performers. Instances abound in both foreign and domestic soccer leagues.

Emilokan and his Vice have one thing in common: they are both former two-time Governors and former Senators. Emilokan is also an accounting guru, while KSM (not to be confused with Knight of St. Mulumba) as the Vice President-Elect Shettima is known, came from the financial sector.

In order for the pair to succeed, all that is expected of them now is to assemble competent and skillful players to man various positions. Emilokan must fix round pegs in round holes, blending experienced players with young and energetic ones. Replacing non-performing players whenever it becomes necessary in the course of a match should be a matter of routine. The sage is well-known for assembling a good team as seen during his tenure as Lagos state’s helmsman between 1999 and 2007.

The (first) 11-member opposition team to face in the 2023/2027 season are insecurity; injustice; weak power supply leading to the bleeding of our economy; collapse of manufacturing sector/unemployment; refinery in desuetude state/fuel importation; deplorable health care services/perennial strikes by health personnel; crisis-ridden education sector/poor funding; poverty/hunger/inflation; poor road network; incessant flooding, and above all systemic corruption… that invidious crime that impoverishes the masses.

Everyone is expecting Emilokan to hit the ground running. I have no doubt about that. As a City Boy from Lagos, he must have learnt the art of hitting the ground running, though that habit is an exclusive preserve of monkeys. The primates are experts in the area of hitting the ground running. You cannot survive the chaotic Lagos transportation system using the danfo buses without a mastery of hitting the ground running. No danfo driver will bring his bus to a complete halt to drop or pick passengers on the streets of Lagos. Their guiding philosophy, borrowed from the military, has always been this: “No Parking, No Stopping, No Waiting, Keep Moving”. Jumping down from a moving danfo bus and being flatfooted is a risk one should avoid any day, anytime and anywhere. You will end up falling flat on your face with injuries to show for being a rookie. If you doubt me, ask Emilokan. It is called monkey business!

Now that his turn has come, I wish Emilokan and his team well as they pilot the affairs of this nation when the first blast of the referee’s whistle will be sounded after the inauguration at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Monday, May 29, 2023.

No one should envy them! But who knows, maybe someday it would be my turn too. Who knows? Who knows?