Comprehending the Tinubu Phenomenon
Segun James writes that following Sunday’s hoodlums attack in Lagos on a bus carrying journalists in the convoy of APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it appears that his presidential ambition is causing much stir in the polity
Since Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced that he would contest the February 2023 presidential election, all hell let loose as the Former Lagos Governor has become the dominant figure in the political landscape.When the convoy of Tinubu was attacked Sunday at Ebute-Ero area of Lagos Island, it was not only unexpected but unprecedented. Tinubu has been a political enigma in Lagos state who calls the shot and determines the political direction of the state. If this rare action was a determinant of the new political order of the people of the Southwest, it is yet to be known, but journalists and medical personnel on the convoy of the former Governor and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) bore the brunt of the wrath of the hoodlums as they sustained injuries from broken glasses and suffered personal losses of their working tools.
It has been a long time since Lagos residents line the streets to herald the coming of anyone to the state. If there is one man Lagosians would troop out in their numbers to welcome every time, it is Tinubu. As this is what happened when 10 days after winning the APC presidential ticket, hundreds of thousands of Lagos residents lined up the streets to welcome him back home. From Oshodi to Anthony Village to Gbagada and into the heart of Lagos in Isele-Eko, the people trooped out to welcome him. It was a carnival of some sort until the attack on the journalists and media personnel assigned to cover Tinubu’s return to base.
Confidence in political leaders is at a record low in the country, but not in Lagos where one man continues to hold the ace. Sustainability suffers an image problem, yet, the Lagos voters continue to accept whatever this man throws at them. Welcome to the world of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Reverence is a dirty word at the altar of politics, but this is how Tinubu is held not only in the polity but also by the voters in Lagos.
The most important change in Nigeria in the last 23 years has been the successful change from one government and party to another. The first time such activity will take place in the almost 60 years of its chequered political history as a nation. But the most significant event that will take place soon is the 2023 election. It will be the deciding factor that will determine the fate of the nation as a democracy.
It is fashionable to lament the rapidity and short-termism of the Nigerian political system; but without it, it is argued, Nigeria would have gone the ways of many an African country with one man ruling for as long as he wanted.
Nigeria brims with colorful politicians whose showmanship cannot be equated. But none of them has matched that of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the famed national leader of the APC.
Tinubu’s first taste of power was as a Senator during the ill-fated Third Republic between 1992 and 1993. He became famous during the time of NADECO as one of its leaders in exile. But his true worth became visible when he became the governor of Lagos state. From that position, he projected himself to the leadership of the Yoruba nation, much to the chagrin of his enemies. But it is his sagacity that has kept him in political relevance since.
To a lot of Nigerians, both friends and foes, Tinubu is one man who must be respected or knocked down, depending on the political divide you belong to. And if the truth be told, he is set to play another big role in 2023, but from all indications, it will surely be at a cost.
With a soft voice, he held Lagos tightly with an iron fist. As Governor, he survived the onslaught of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who, as President, greatly decimated Tinubu’s party then, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), leaving him the only governor standing in 2003 out of six from South West zone
In the midst of these, Tinubu pursued his own economic and political agenda and strategy, keeping Lagos from being dependent on allocations coming from the federal purse to the chagrin of Obasanjo who had vowed that winning Lagos was a “do-or-die” battle.
Under his watch, Lagos prospered from generating a paltry N600 million as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) monthly at the time he took over to making over N11 billion monthly by the time he handed over to his successor in 2007.
He frustrated Obasanjo so much that he called the presidential bluff when President Obasanjo refused to release local government councils’ funds to the state over the creation of new council areas by the state government.
In his words, nothing was more important than seeing off Obasanjo, which in turn could only be achieved by the unyielding exercise of financial prudent engineering. This view was not in itself unusual, but what made it remarkable and formidable, were the clarity, elegance, intellectual power, and street sense with which it was carried out. Hence, he weathers the storm created by Obasanjo for which the President never forgave him to date.
By May 29, 2023, Tinubu will be 71 years old. He would not be the oldest Nigerian to contest the presidency, but he will be one of the strings of old men that have been ruling Nigeria recently, assuming he becomes president.
Although the strident call-in in recent times has been for a much younger man as president which prompted a challenge by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during the recent primaries of the APC. In a deft political move, Tinubu defeated the Vice President, three serving governors, three former governors, and the President of the Senate.
Today, the opposition to him is growing and some people are determined to ensure that he is not elected. These people are many and formidable themselves.
To his enemies, nothing is more important than seeing off Tinubu from the political field, which in turn could be achieved only by the unyielding exercise of brute strength. This view was not in itself unusual. What makes it reasonable and formidable were the intellectual power with which they are fighting, but they have met a match in Tinubu.
The first law of diplomacy according to a diplomat, is that “it is not the other side you need to worry about, but your own.” This saying is not lost on Tinubu as he finds some of his supposedly loyal lieutenants, blinded by ambition, now betraying him. Hence, he has purged his political machinery, disbanding every group and its associates. It was a clean sweep.
The move by Tinubu has led to the removal of the Minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola as the leader in Alimosho, the most populated local government area in the country. Also removed from the position of influence around the leader is the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed whose son also lost his re-election bid for the Lagos State House of Assembly.
If nicknames mark the measure of a man, then, Tinubu would be a giant. Over the years, he has been called Jagaban, Yoruba leader, APC national leader, the unelected but still continually ruling governor of Lagos state, and most endearingly, the Asiwaju.
This multitude of names reflects something of the controversy that has long surrounded the populist radical, who is suddenly the one person that must not be allowed to take power.
In the Nigerian political field, the gulf between sentiment and reality is thin, very thin indeed. In politics, culture splits weirdly. Politics encourages one another to move across the political divide without emotion. You can go and come back as you please. What matters is your interest at any given time.
Examples abound, since 2007, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has traversed many political parties and returned, all in the bid to actualize his greatest desire of ruling Nigeria. In the 2023 election, Atiku, a friend of Tinubu will be his main opposition. But who between the duo will win the election? That’s the question that will be answered by February 2023 when the presidential election will hold in the country.
To the followers of Tinubu, the nation is facing a crisis, a crisis of effective leadership. Today, decisions are being made based, sadly, on political dogma. The guiding principles, they insist, that can make a country great like competence, capacity, and capability, which will foster innovation, create jobs, and provide more economic opportunities for the people have been overtaken by mindless tribalism. Policies are based on ethnic and religious considerations and unrealistic beliefs while the nation’s competitiveness in the community of nations weakens. This, they reiterated is what Tinubu is determined to change. This is what he represents.
In politics goes a proverb: “politics is a game riddled with a circle of men holding a gun to each other’s head, ready to pull the trigger at the first opportunity.” For Tinubu, this scenario is all too familiar; and not surprisingly, he survived it when some of his former political soul mates challenged him to a duel in the quest for the presidency. He has survived many political adversaries, prosecutions, and betrayals in the past, more especially in the few weeks leaving pundits to wonder, how does he do it?