The name Tokunbo Wahab is well known in the halls of power and among the educated elite in Lagos State, Nigeria.
As a high-flying lawyer turned consummate politician and technocrat steering the ship of Lagos’ educational rejuvenation under the visionary leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Wahab has etched his name firmly in the state’s history books.
In this article, we trace the life of this scion of Lagos’ political aristocracy from early childhood to the towering heights he occupies today through a judicious blend of diligence, inventiveness, munificence, fierce loyalty and humility.
Tokunbo Wahab Early Life and Family Legacy
Born on May 17, 1972 in Epe town to the family of Olugbenga Wahab and Muyi Wahab (nee Sosanya Aberuagba), Tokunbo Wahab hailed from royal stock through his father who was a respected community leader from the Otuwunmi Ateshinmara Royal Dynasty of Ketu in Epe. His mother was a frontline female grassroots mobilizer who ardently supported Chief MKO Abiola’s historic presidential bid in 1993.
As scion to this politically conscious family, young Wahab imbibed the ideals of selfless community service and civic participation early.
He was also exposed to the grim realities of military dictatorship in Nigeria as his student union activism in the heat of the June 12 struggle of 1993 brought him into confrontation with agents of the draconian Abacha regime. This further strengthened his resolve to fight for democracy and good governance.
Education and Early Career
Wahab had his primary and secondary education in Lagos and proceeded to bag a law degree from the prestigious University of Benin where he was the President of the Law Students Union. His radical unionism which saw him leading protests against military rule made him a person of interest to state security agents who once detained him for weeks in 1994.
After graduating from UNIBEN, Wahab cut his professional teeth at the law firms of Paul Usoro & Co, Aluko and Oyebode before establishing his own firm, Wali and Ace, which provides professional legal services while also offering pro bono legal aid to indigent citizens in line with his personal ethos of accessible justice for all.
His law practice covers diverse areas like Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Energy & Natural Resources law, International Trade and Investment law among others.
To further equip himself for stellar public service, Wahab also attended Ivy League institutions like Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania where he polished his skills in governance, public administration, communications and fiscal policy.
Tokunbo Wahab Politics and Community Service
Never one to shy away from public service, Wahab was an active participant in community development activities in his native Epe division right from his teenage years. He has also been involved with groups like the prestigious New Era Club (F’s Club), Epe Club and Lagos Country Club among others where he brought his organizational skills to bear.
In 2014, Wahab took a shot at the Lagos governorship when he contested the APC primaries. Though he didn’t clinch the ticket, the exposure catapulted him firmly onto the state’s political stage while also allowing him articulate his vision of inclusive governance and collective prosperity that would later dovetail into the developmental blueprint of the Sanwo-Olu administration.
As Special Adviser on Education
If there is one area where Wahab has left huge footprints that will remain indelible in the sands of time, it is in educational reform and innovation, which happened to be a major pillar of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s development agenda captured as T.H.E.M.E.S.
Appointed as Special Adviser on Education in 2019, Wahab hit the ground running, deploying his prodigious skills and network in executing policies and projects that have transformed Lagos into Nigeria’s hub of academic excellence within just four years!
Some highlights of his outstanding tenure include:
- Facilitating the upgrade of Lagos State Polytechnic to University status as Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUSTECH), and the upgrade of Adeniran Ogunsanya & Michael Otedola colleges of education to Lagos State University of Education (LASUED). This instantly doubled the number of state-owned universities in Lagos from one to three!
— Pioneering collaboration between LASU and Cornell University to run 16 postgraduate degree programs in diverse fields like Artificial Intelligence, Healthcare Policy, Business Analytics and more. This boosted LASU’s global academic rankings.
— Initiating the Readysetwork and Jobs Initiative Lagos projects in partnership with private sector players to enhance graduate employability and bridge industry-academia gaps.
— Rolling out cutting edge Eko Digital Initiative to guarantee digital literacy and proficiency among students and teachers across primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Lagos. Over 1 million devices were distributed.
— Injecting transparency into university administration with the rancour-free appointment of LASU’s first female Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, as well as pioneering efforts towards making LASU residential.
With these and more remarkable feats, Tokunbo Wahab has not only proved himself a loyal disciple and diligent implementer of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s vision, but he has also become a poster boy for good governance in Nigeria, showcasing how skilled technocrats with the right mix of innovation and selflessness can drive radical development even in the public sector.
As he turns 51 this year, all eyes are now on his next political move which will likely see him occupy even higher offices of state responsibility judging by his antecedents and burgeoning political capital. But whatever role he goes on to play next though, Tokunbo Wahab’s place as one of the most cerebral and hardworking public administrators of this generation is already firmly sealed regardless.
Tokunbo Wahab Personal Life
Wahab has been happily married for over two decades to Oluwatosin Eso-Wahab, a Director at Guaranty Trust Bank Lagos and their union is blessed with two children. A devoted family man and committed Anglican, he unwinds by spending time with his family or teeing off on the golf course in the rare moments he finds time off his busy schedule.
Summary Born into a politically conscious family in Epe, Lagos State, Tokunbo Wahab’s path to renown began early as a radical student union activist. After qualifying as a lawyer, he cut his professional teeth in legal practice even as he made quiet inroads into grassroots politics.
In 2019, he was appointed Special Adviser on Education by Governor Sanwo-Olu, and he brought his innovative and transformational approach to revolutionizing education in Lagos State especially in the areas of tertiary education, digital literacy, industry-academia linkages and transparency/accountability in school administration.
As he turns 51 and closes one chapter of outstanding public service, the curtain seems set to open on even brighter prospects as this consummate gentleman-technocrat steps into the limelight of regional and national politics.