Bola Tinubu served as governor of the state of Lagos from 1999 to 2007, during which he initiated reforms that improved the efficiency of the civil service and improved infrastructure.  He served from 1992 to 1993 as a senator until the end of the Nigerian Third Republic.  Prior to entering politics he worked in the private sector for companies including Arthur Andersen and Deloitte, Haskins, & Sells.  He was also an executive of Mobil Oil Nigeria.  After Tinubu left politics, he became active in negotiations to unite Nigeria’s opposition parties and in pushing for electoral reforms.   He earned a bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University in business administration in 1979.  He holds the tribal aristocratic title of asiwaju, given to him by the Oba of Lagos, who holds a ceremonial position as traditional leader of the state of Lagos and the Jagaban of the Borgu Kingdom in Niger State, Nigeria. He has been routinely referred to as the national leader of the APC during the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari.

Early political career

His political career began in 1992, on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (where he was a member of the faction of the Peoples Front led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and made up of other politicians such as Dapo Sarumi, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Yomi Edu). He was elected to the Nigerian Senate, representing the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic. After the results of the 12 June 1993 presidential elections were annulled, Tinubu became a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition, a group which mobilized support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of the results of the 12th of June. He went into exile in 1994 and returned to the country in 1998 after the death of the military dictator Sani Abacha, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.

In the run-up to the 1999 elections, Bola Tinubu was a protégé of Alliance for Democracy (AD) leaders Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Adebanjo. He won the AD primaries for the Lagos State gubernatorial elections in competition with Funsho Williams and Wahab Dosunmu, a former Minister of Works and Housing. In January 1999, he stood for the position of Executive Governor of Lagos State on the AD ticket and was elected.

As Governor Of Lagos State

When he assumed office in May 1999, Bola Ahmed Tinubu promised 10,000 housing units for the poor. During the eight-year period of his being in office, he made large investments in education in the state. He also initiated new road construction, required to meet the needs of the fast-growing population of the state.

Tinubu, alongside a new deputy governor, Femi Pedro, won re-election to office as governor in April 2003.

As Governor

1. Tinubu instituted of a reform plan that greatly improved the welfare of judicial officers including magistrates

2. He revamped the civil and criminal procedure rule as well as creation of the Citizens Mediation Centre; a well-staffed and independent Office of the Public Defender, offering legal services for the poor.

3. He established additional 5 general hospitals in Lagos state

4. He upgraded facilities at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH)

5. He provided free healthcare services including free ante-natal care for women, free eye treatments and free glasses, popularly called ‘JIGI BOLA’.

6. He pioneered the Bus Rapid Transit System and LAGBUS

7. He established the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA)

8. Reference of at least 13 matters related to the principle of federalism to be tested by the Supreme Court

9. Tinubu created 37 Local Council Development Areas

10. He spear-headed the political merger that produced the APC.


This section focuses on the substance of selected speeches of Asiwaju Tinubu and his ways of planning to achieve. This study settled for the published collected speeches of Asiwaju Tinubu titled The Presiding Genius: Select Speeches of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu  in commemoration of his 60th birthday celebration.  Asiwaju Tinubu’s major focus in the collected speeches covers general governance issues as well as specifics relating to education, health, environment as well as the rule of law.

With deep consciousness for his background and his proclaimed political mentor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Tinubu delightfully, on January 17, 2005, spoke at The Pinnacle Publications “Symposium on 50 Years of Education for All: Advancing the Legacy of Educational Excellence in Yorubaland.”   The occasion was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Free Universal Primary Education in the Western Region of Nigeria.  Tinubu states pointedly that he has been inspired by Awo, as Awolowo is fondly called, to conclude that “the desire to do good and benefit people matters; courage matters, structure matters.  At that event, Tinubu hints on true federalism, that has since become a most enduring issue for which he has to advocate in his political career.  In what appears like bracing up to sustain the legacy of Awo, he  pledges:

We will continue the march of progress in all areas of life. We will shame the forces of evil.  We will uphold the right of Lagosians to education, health, meaningful work and decent living.  We will be able to say as Awo did after 8 years of his leadership of the Western Region, that we have advanced the good of humankind; we have kept the faith of Awo and we have been true to our convictions and to our God.  For now, we say as Awo did in 1966, that “only a truly federal constitution can unite Nigeria and generate harmony among its diverse race and diverse linguistic groups”. (Tinubu, 2012:10)

Tinubu’s direction of governance thus set with the guiding spirit of Awo, he went on ceaselessly to impress his commitment to education of Lagosians across all tiers in spite of conspicuous artificial inhibitions.  On the occasion of the 11th convocation ceremony of the Lagos State University on September 2, 2000, he laments that Lagos State is the most deprived, marginalized and deliberately disadvantaged State in Nigeria.  His account:

We have the deplorable situation, in which this State contributes over 70%  of Value Added Tax (VAT) collected in this country but receives less than 10%  of this amount.  In the same way, the bulk of the Petroleum Tax Fund (PTF) which goes to the Federal Government is generated in this State.  Again, Lagos State contributes over half of the total amount collected as Education Tax Fund (ETF) but does not receive a share commensurate with her immense responsibilities in this sector.  Indeed, it is difficult to believe that going by the current sharing formula, some States which do not have as many schools as even one Local Government Area in Lagos State will benefit more from the ETF. (Tinubu, 2012:23)

In spite of the conspicuous funding deprivation in the face of mounting educational demands in the State, Asiwaju Tinubu chose to forge on.  At the same convocation ceremony he confessed his dream for LASU as that institution which will be regarded as a model for all others in terms of its structural finesse, intellectual and academic freedom, quality social life and a source of productive thoughts for the State Government.  He sums it up arguing that “my own idea of a state university is one whose contributions to knowledge and role in the polity will become a challenge to other existing institutions.  To this end, I have begun a process of systematic development at all levels for Lagos State University.” (Tinubu, 2012:19)

Still on education, Asiwaju Tinubu argues that it is bad enough that the Federal Government of Nigeria does not subscribe to the UNESCO recommendation that 15% of GNP should be expended on education. This, according to him, has given rise to lots of challenges especially at the level of primary school.  He regrets that a State like Lagos with over one million primary school pupils was being given allocation far lower amount of money than for States with fewer numbers of pupils but with more local government councils.  This was his comment during the 2005 nationwide strike of primary school teachers.  But he would not be deterred.

On January 30, 2001, he turned the sod for the millennium classroom blocks at Ojodu Grammar School.  At that event, he notes that his administration has taken giant strides at evolving highly qualitative education system aimed at ensuring continued excellence in the educational system of Lagos State.  After recounting the highlights of his government’s expenditure on education, he goes on to conclude with a clarion call to the Federal Government to “ …give special allocation to Lagos State to finance education for the pressure that the status of Lagos State as the former Federal Capital and industrial nerve centre of the nation put on our infrastructure…Lagos State is the only State that does not discriminate against non-indigenes in the execution of our free education program in our schools.” (Tinubu, 2012:37)

Governor Tinubu’s commitment to the health sector was not any less.  Health care delivery across primary, secondary and tertiary health establishments concerned him almost equitably even as the challenge of HIV/AIDS bothered him.  Lagos State, under him, was the first to set up the inter-ministerial committee on HIV/AIDS.  According to him, government’s good disposition to public health is an asset for all.  At the 2004 convocation ceremony of the National Postgraduate Medical College, he recalls a particularly pathetic death of the Health Commissioner of a State.  The Commissioner had just closed from work when he suddenly began to experience health complications. He was rushed to government hospital which unfortunately was under-resourced. He breathed his last in that same facility which, ironically, he had the opportunity to make functional but hardly received any serious attention.

Betraying serious concern, Tinubu recalls that the first diagnosis of AIDS in Nigeria happened in 1986 and has since remained another major disease burden. At the One-Day Workshop on HIV/AIDS for Policy Makers on September 22, 1999, he further notes that HIV has been detected in 4.5% of pregnant women in addition to 5-8% of Nigerian populace , both urban and rural.  Also, no fewer than 10% of school children between ages 15-10 years were infected.

For the governor however, it was not enough to raise alarm with the disturbing data even as his government was barely steering to a balance.  At the same workshop mentioned above, he announces that teaching of methods to prevent HIV/AIDS in the schools would be strengthened even as  his administration would, in the face of stigmatization of HIV –positive persons, do everything possible to support them by not discriminating against infected persons in its employment and other policies.

More fundamentally, Tinubu avers that “…our teaching hospitals, while providing conducive environments for teaching and research , should give a pride of place to the provision of services.  The present situation….whereby patients are seen more as guinea pigs for teaching or research…should be discouraged.” (Tinubu, 2012:55) He adds:

I speak about a deliberate integration and development of the primary, secondary and tertiary tiers of health care to the highest possible levels. It has to be like this because the fortification of the primary level of health care will necessarily take care of over 80% of cases which would otherwise have sought no health care at all or flooded the secondary and tertiary centres.  (Tinubu, 2012:54)

beyond the dual sectors of education and health, Tinubu’s speeches on other sectors are by no means such that could be ignored by anyone, experts or laymen.  This is especially in relation to his other pioneering efforts in the realms of transportation and environment.  From samples of studying him, the focus or concerns of the senator-turned governor is not in doubt.

From the perspective of rhetoric, he calibrates his messages his  from the broader outlook level through the details in each of his presentations focusing at different themes at different events. This is so much in conformance with the scholars’ prescribed orderliness from both the generalist (communication) and rhetoric-specific perspectives. The rhetoric experts list ideal components of a persuasive rhetorical presentation as comprising invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery.  Invention describes what to say such as focusing on cause and effect as well as comparison and so forth.  Arrangement concerns the ordering of the constituent elements of an average presentation.  At least from the presentation in the collection of  Tinubu’s speeches focused on here, Governor Tinubu began his public communication from the generalist to the specific.  His speech at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Free Universal Primary Education is indisputably foundational, signaling the direction Tinubu’s government in Lagos would head.  In that speech he recounted the major accomplishment of the Awolowo’s premiership in the Western Region same way Awo had recalled them in 1980 at a public function.  Following that speech in the same volume are others in which he has had to address each of the issues  considered fundamental to good governance in the same manner as his Nigerian mentor, Awolowo.  They include education, health, transportation and the environment.

As if to demonstrate his inspiration by the persistence of Gandhi who was persistent in his push for the exit of British imperialism from India, Tinubu repeatedly laments the unfair financial deprivation Lagos State was suffering due to lack of fair fiscal federalism in the Nigerian Federation. At every possible event of either laying the foundation of a project or commissioning a completed one, he reinforces this challenge as regularly as possible.  Often, he describes it as smacking converse proportionality even as it also ignores the reality of the  status of Lagos as the former federal capital.

.  In the realm of education for instance, to justify his advocacy for fiscal federalism he singles out Lagos as the only State in the Federation that does not discriminate against non-indigenes in school enrolment and related details. Incidentally, it is the most populated of all the federating states, coupled with its status of former federal capital and ironically the source of the bulk of the tax revenue shared by all. But not to worry, he assures Lagosians in another breath,  that his vision for LASU is that of a university that would emerge a global brand explaining that his government had concluded a review of its current performance and would do the needful in the course of time. He also states the readiness of Ford Foundation to support the university with as much as $300,000 following his engagement with the foundation.

In the face of his perceived insufficient funding for health by the Federal Government and the consequential burdening of the modest health facilities run by the states, Tinubu conjures another solution in one of his speeches cited earlier.  He argues for the necessity of the integration of the three tiers of health institutions to make for decongestion of sophisticated facilities even as health services would be more accessible with such approach.   It is gladdening that today, primary health care centres are being accorded enhanced attention and support by the Federal Government.

Genung’s assertion that oratory concerns “matters of personal import” further manifests clearly in Tinubu’s relentless advocacy for fiscal federalism. Before becoming Governor of Lagos State, he was in the Senate, indeed as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, Appropriation and Currency.  The immense knowledge gained from this position has strengthened his advocacy. Incidentally, now that the ruling party in the State is the same as the party in power at the centre Tinubu’s persistence may soon begin to yield result as the party has endorsed restructuring which may encompass fiscal federalism

watch out for Episode 2 next saturday

A.I. ADEKANLA (Editor, Content developer, political analyst & reseacher)

Adekanla A. Richard

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