If anyone is still in doubt that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom is the Political Oracle of the Nigerian politics he should reexamine himself, readjust his crystal ball and beam his light on the trending political manoeuvre and development in Nigeria.
It is not by chance that Tinubu effortlessly defeated APC political gladiators like a sitting Vice President, Senate President, Governors, former Ministers, Pastor, and Billionaires, at the APC 2023 presidential primary election held on 7th and 8th June 2022. For so long, without an easy feat, Tinubu, the lord of Bourdillon had conceived political bridges and cultivated productive loyalists across Nigeria, which transformed into his political empire. Indeed, he is a man endowed with many thinking caps and phenomenal political stamina and bravery.
Tinubu’s political enterprise switched on smoothly in 1992 after, as a candidate of the Social Democratic Party, won Lagos West senatorial election held on 4th July 1992. At the Senate, Tinubu demonstrated his fetching tact and enchanting sagacity. He contributed immensely to helping a northern, Professor Iyorchia Ayu, who is the current National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to emerge as the Senate President in the 3rd Republic – an action which paved way for Alhaji Moshood Abiola, a Southerner, to become the presidential flag-bearer of SDP at Jos Convention held from 27th to 29th March 1993. Abiola was later the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 election. Through Abiola’s staunch followers and members of the People’s Front of Nigeria (PF) led by late Alhaji Shehu Yar’Adua, Tinubu’s political strength blossomed and connections nourished. It was the formidable PF that, with other associations, founded SDP in 1989.
The expectation that the Abacha’s government which toppled Chief Ernest Shonekan”s Interim government on 17th November 1993 would give Abiola soft-landing was dashed when Abacha arrested and incarcerated Abiola for treason on 23rd June 1994 after Abiola unilaterally declared himself the President of Nigeria on 11th June 1994. That sparked spontaneous reactions among some Nigerians, especially National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which Tinubu and like-minded activists formed on 15th May 1994, with the aim to return Nigeria back to a democratic system and revalidate the annulled presidential election held on 12th June 1993. When the clampdown of Abiola’s adherents intensified, Tinubu went on exile to America in 1994 and with other activists pressured the international bodies to sanction Abacha’s government for its high-handedness toward the opposition.
The death of Abacha on 8th June 1998, brought about new hope in Tinubu’s political terrain. He returned back to Nigeria to participate in the transition to the Fourth Republic. Abiola had died on 7th July 1998, in a manner that appeared suspicious. Many of the Abiola’s supporters, particularly Yoruba people smouldered in anger. Seizing the opportunity, Tinubu, and bedfellows, on 9th September 1998 formed Alliance for Democracy – a party mostly dominated by the Yoruba people. That was an advantage Tinubu exploited to the fullest. His popularity grew exponentially.
He became the gubernatorial candidate for the AD party after the toughest contest with Chief Funsho Williams, who later died mysteriously on 27th July 2006. During the Lagos State gubernatorial election held on 9th January 1999, Tinubu routed Dapo Sarumi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Nosirudeen Kekere-Ekun of the All People’s Party with an unprecedented margin. Added to that, Tinubu’s running mate, Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele was an advantage. She was an experienced politician elected in 1992 as the SDP Senator representing the Lagos Central Senate seat. So, by all majors, Tinubu was a man who stood above men.
His toughest challenge as a governor started when he was accused of falsifying his age, forging his secondary and tertiary school certificates, and fabricating his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate, which he claimed to have attended. All hell was let loose on Tinubu. The alleged certificate forgeries were impeachable offenses that Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the finest human rights lawyer in Nigeria pursued vigorously against Tinubu. It was a period of political trauma and nightmare for the Lagos Governor considering that it was a period when Alhaji Salisu Buhari’s “Toronto certificate” scandal and Chief Evan Enwerem’s name disparity were fresh. Both were unceremoniously removed from offices as Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate President respectively. So, Tinubu had many reasons to be traumatic and apprehensive. Dr. Adeleke Mamora, the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, had set up a five-man committee on 21st September, 1999, to investigate allegations against Tinubu. According to part of the Committee’s Report as written in the PM News dated 22nd January, 2022: “However, we wish to state that the Governor’s inability to clear these issues promptly left the field to numerous aides and well-wishers who circulated statements and documents, some of which the Governor [Tinubu] claimed were neither from him nor authorized by him. Since the Governor himself accepted responsibilities for the “needless errors” made, and in any event, he is responsible for documents signed by him, we strongly advise him to be more careful in ensuring the accuracy of documents that carry his signature in future.”
Tinubu was let off the hook. It is obvious he has nine lives. In appreciation of the role played by Professor Yemi Osibanjo, the former Attorney General of Lagos State, during his travail, to save his bleeding image and aching political career, Tinubu confessed during a book launch titled “Contemporary issues in Nigerian constitutional law”: “Osinbajo brought his knowledge of constitutional law and stood by me even at the time when some of my commissioners were planning to resign from the cabinet. He indulged my politics and allowed it to flourish in the face of detractors.” Acknowledging Osibanjo’s assistance demonstrated the depth of Tinubu’s gratitude. This could be one of the reasons Tinubu chose Osibanjo to be Buhari’s running mate when the offer was given to him.
It is on record that Tinubu, as a man of strategic political prowess, sailed through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s storm during the 2003 gubernatorial election in Nigeria. The attempt by the six governors of the South-West to support their kinsman, Obasanjo, caused the sweeping of all states in the South-West to PDP except in Lagos State, where Tinubu and his running mate, Femi Pedro won. It was a bitter experience for the failed governors and a triumph for Tinubu, who had read the handwriting of Obasanjo. Following that, Lagos overtook Ibadan as the theatre of politics in the South-West – thanks to Tinubu’s Risorgimento.
By this period, Lagos’s population was speedily growing, and the need to make governance closer to people increased. In line with this, Tinubu created additional 37 Local Council Development Areas (CDAs) to augment the existing 20 Local Government Areas. The Obasanjo government objected to the creation but Tinubu remained adamant and refused to rescind it. The resultant effect was that the federal government ceased Lagos State Local Government allocation until it was released to Governor Tunde Fashola by President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. It was a blessing in disguise. For once, Lagos Local Government functioned independent of federal allocation; doubled its revenue generation, and brought Tinubu closer to the grassroots. Among other good works he did is that after his government’s study of the Brazilian city transport system he introduced a modern transport scheme called Lagos Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT).
It is not disputable that Tinubu is a harvester of good leaders that have governed many states in Nigeria especially Lagos State – Fashola, Ambode, and Sanwo-Olu. It would be too numerous to enumerate the people he raised to grace due to the potentialities he saw in them. It was many years of cultivation and harvest that crafted Tinubu as the Leader of leaders, and numerous loyalists flock around him. It is no wonder that at the APC Presidential primary election Tinubu won with 1,271 votes to defeat other contestants overwhelmingly – Mr. Rotimi Amaechi – 316 votes, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo – 235 votes, Dr. Ahmad Lawal – 152 votes, Gov. Yahaya Bello – 47 votes, Gov. David Umuahi – 38 votes, Sen. Ahmad Yerima – 4 votes, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu – 1 vote, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajuba 1 vote, Sen. Rochas Okorocha – 0 vote, Mr. Tein Jack Rich – 0 vote, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu – 0 vote and Pastor Tunde Bakare – 0 vote.
This was made possible after the powerful 11 Northern governors agreed to shift power to the South. This motivated some Southern powerful aspirants led by Senator Godswill Akpabio, to step down for Tinubu – a man whose calm-looking physiognomy could mislead an observer in gauging right his political combustion.
During his victory speech at the APC presidential primary convention dated 8th June 2022, Tinubu appreciated: “Because of your democratic exertion, this convention shall be recorded as a shining moment in the evolution of our party and the life of our nation.
“I must thank you all for making me the standard-bearer of our progressive party. And I humbly accept the nomination of this convention to be the presidential candidate of our enlightened, humanitarian and great party, the All Progressives Congress.
“I also offer my sincere gratitude to President Buhari for his calm and prudent leadership throughout this process. I thank him, also, for his steadfast determination to ensure a level playing field and a free and fair primary process for every aspirant. Without him, I would not be standing here today as the new flagbearer of Nigeria’s party.
“I thank the governors for their invaluable contribution to internal democracy and unity.”
Certainly, Tinubu must be grateful to Buhari for not being his stumbling block after he allowed sentiment to becloud his judgment at Abeokuta. In his words, “If not for me that led the war front, Buhari won’t have emerged. He contested first, second and third times, but lost. He even said on television that he won’t contest again. But I went to his home in Katsina, I told him you would contest and win, but you won’t joke with the matters of the Yoruba.” To date, many political observers were surprised that President Buhari, once feared Army General, was non-retaliatory to Tinubu’s utterances – an action that could have elbowed Jagaban into major difficulty and put his presidential ambition in jeopardy. All the same, Tinubu was triumphant and waxing stronger.
It is true that Tinubu is getting older – a factor that could affect his physical strength and agility. Except for people providentially endowed, it is understandable that elders of Tinubu’s age are bound to battle with health challenges. It is not peculiar to Asiwaju of Lagos born on the 29th of March 1952 in Osun State, by his ever-loving mother Abibatu Mogaji, a famous merchant of Lagos, who later became the Iyaloja of Lagos State till she died on the 15th June 2013.
Tinubu’s elementary education was at St. John’s Primary School, Lagos. After schooling at Children’s Home in Ibadan, he travelled to America in 1975, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Chicago State University in 1979.
After working briefly with Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins, & Sells, and GTE Services Corporation in America, he came back to Nigeria in 1983 and worked with Mobil Oil firm, until he joined politics to salvage the plight of his people.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is blessed with a 61-year-old wife, Oluremi Tinubu, an Amazon of note, who is a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, and the former 1st Lady of Lagos State. Tinubu has wonderful children, namely, Folashade Tinubu-Ojo who is the Iyaoloja of Lagos State; Jide Tinubu, a graduate of the University of Liverpool, who died on 1st November 2017; Seyi Tinubu, a law graduate from the University of Buckingham and media expert, who is the CEO of Loatsad Promomedia Ltd; Zainab Tinubu; Habitat Habitat Tinubu and Olayinka Tinubu. In toto, Tinubu has a promising, respectable, and exemplary family.
The 2023 presidential election will surely test the firmness and foundation of Tinubu’s political empire. The speedy ascendancy of Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP); the superheated surge of Waziri Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who had contested for the Office of the President five times; and the Kwankwasiyya movement steered by Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP); are development that must surely give Tinubu concern and anxiety. Being a Muslim from the South-West, it would be risky for Tinubu to select another Muslim from either the North-East or the North-West, where the bulk of Muslims’ vote would come. Following such a difficult path could arouse sentiment and resentment among the Christians in Nigeria. It is important to remember that General Muhammadu Buhari, APC Presidential candidate in 2014 once offered the Vice Presidential ticket to Tinubu, but was kicked against by some Northern political stalwarts championed by Senator Bukola Saraki due to the fact that Buhari and Tinubu were Muslims. According to Saraki’s statements signed by his Media Assistant, Yusuph Olaniyonu, on 3rd June 2022: “Let me make it clear that the decision to oppose the plans by some people to make APC present a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015 was in the national interest and I will take the same stand today, tomorrow, and any other day. My stance is based on the fact that such a ticket is not good for the unity of the country and will further accentuate one of our fault lines.”
If northerners had kicked against the Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2014, it is rational and appropriate that Tinubu’s running mate should be a northern Christian. The most favourable Northern Christian from North-Central he could pick as his running mate is the 59-year-old Governor Simon Lalong, who is the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF). Although Lalong is charismatic and loved, the votes from North-central may not be enough to sail Tinubu through, considering that Christianity is a minority in the north. On the other hand, if Tinubu decides to pick Ganduje as his deputy, the corruption allegation against him could slow down Tinubu’s campaign tempo. According to Premium Times on 14th October, 2018: “A scandalous video has been published appearing to show Governor Umar Ganduje pocketing vast wads of American dollars in what was said to be bribe payments from public works contractors.” More still, Governor Nasir El-Rufai may be a good candidate, but to what extent is he a centre of attraction in the north? All these are the dilemma Asiwaju finds himself, unlike Atiku and Kwankwaso that must pick a Christian running mate either from the South-East or South-South. The same with Peter Obi who would choose a Northern Muslim as his deputy.
Whatever way his political pendulum swings, generations will remember Tinubu as a political oracle that has made a king and aspires to make himself a king.
Photo credit: apc.com.ng