Bola Tinubu, National leader, All Progressive Congress
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Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor and senator, is not new in the Nigerian political arena. He has over the years built alliances across regional and party lines ranging from family to historical allies, and from political enemies to business partners.
Better known by many as Asiwaju of Lagos, Jagaban of Borgo Kingdom, Lion of Bourdillon, Governor-General of Lagos and a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), his personal and political organisations have continued to dominate Lagos and South-West since the end of his last term as Lagos State governor in 2007.
Indeed, it is said that his word is law in Lagos State as he singlehandedly decides who gets what in the state. But his clout seems to be waning as evidenced by recent happenings in the Nigerian political scene.
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Ahead of the 2023 general election, a political crack has appeared in the once-closely knit Bola Tinubu Political Family, with some of his political loyalists such as Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti State; and Adams Oshiohmole, former Edo State governor, declaring interest to contest against him for the APC presidential ticket.
Tinubu and his political associates are in a battle royal to clinch their party’s ticket for the 2023 presidency.
The political trajectory of the trio showed that they each benefited from the benevolence or at least enjoyed the support of the Asiwaju of Lagos at one point or the other.
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The first sign that all is not well in the Tinubu political family was when one of his age-long trusted allies and protégé, Rauf Aregbesola, minister of interior, drew the battle lines with him.
Although an indication of a major crack in the Tinubu political family emerged in 2021, strong denials and rebuttals were put up to douse the tension.
The ditching of Akinwunmi Ambode, the then Lagos State governor, for Tinubu’s preferred candidate in the 2019 governorship race signalled the imminent collapse of the political empire, as Ambode was denied the second term party ticket and thus became the first governor of the state to fail to win a second term in office.
Aregbesola’s recent outburst against his estranged leader under whom he served as Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Public Infrastructure for eight years were clear warning signals of an end to politics of godfatherism and enthronement by leaders whom he said were playing God.
For Aregbesola, trying to install his choice candidate and former secretary to Osun State Government, Moshood Adeoti, as governor in Osun to replace Tinubu’s cousin and incumbent governor Gboyega Oyetola has put him and Tinubu in a political contest.
It is incontestable that Tinubu has been of great political assistance to many people, especially in the South West zone of the country.
In many instances, he was reported to have deployed money, material and men to fight legal battles to retrieve governorship and senatorial tickets for loyal candidates who were rigged out.
Among his known political sons and daughters are former governors of Edo and Osun states, Oshiomhole and Aregbesola, as well as Fayemi, during his first time as Ekiti State governor.
There were also suggestions that he partly financed or provided strategic support for the gubernatorial ambitions of former Governor Ibikunle Amosun and late Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Ogun and Oyo states respectively.
It could be said that Tinubu took a cue from the late MKO Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12,1993 presidential election that was willfully annulled by military President Ibrahim Babangida.
He campaigned even for candidates, like Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, whom he did not initially endorse, and those recommended, like Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, who later parted ways with him by joining the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Tinubu also midwifed the ruling party APC, which was a merger arrangement between his Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change, All Nigerian Peoples Party, nPDP and a splinter of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
There are views that Tinubu was instrumental to the emergence of Osinbajo as vice-president, Fayemi as Ekiti governor and Oshiomhole as APC National chairman.
Osinbajo’s ambition to become President is generating the most heat. Asked about the vice-president’s declaration, Tinubu said: “I don’t have any son grown up enough to make such declaration.”
While Asiwaju is yet to make a public reaction to Fayemi’s declaration, the governor said his presidential aspiration was not an act of betrayal of his erstwhile political associate, Tinubu.
The chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum said this when he featured on ChannelsTelevision’s ‘Politics Today’ programme on Wednesday, the same day he declared to run for the presidency.
He said: I’ve had a very good relationship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu whom I met in exile in 1994 when he came out after the annulment of the election and the establishment of NADECO (National Democratic Coalition)…We maintained a very cordial relationship ever since then.
“So, when I was asked by Governor Niyi Adebayo, the current Minister of Trade and Investment, to come and run for office in Ekiti, Asiwaju supported me; he was out there for me because of his knowledge of my involvement in the pro-democracy movement and we’ve worked together on a number of issues.”
He added: “I have the greatest respect for Asiwaju and I will continue to do that but I do believe that I have a strong vision on how to reposition Nigeria and build on the legacies of the current President.
“The Asiwaju that I know is a democrat; he believes that politics is a marketplace of ideas and people should test their own convictions. His courage of conviction is not in doubt and I do not think he will want to stamp on the convictions of others in terms of how Nigerians should go.”
Oshiomhole is yet to make any statement on his relationship with Tinubu and the race they are into.
He said his vision for Nigeria is to reposition the country for sustainable growth and development through creating enabling environment for an egalitarian society, job creation, healthcare facilities, security and qualitative education.
“Let us forget our religious and tribal differences. My presidency would focus on policy issues that would deliver jobs, and prosperity for Nigerians. We will with the issues of insecurity. I will assemble a cream of left-of-the-centre economists to fix the economy. Together we will create a prosperous and secure Nigeria,” the former APC chairman said.
The list of those vying for the presidential ticket on the platform of the APC is getting longer.
Tony Abolo, a Benin-based communication expert, said: “Oshiomhole’s declaration came at a point when it is free for all in the party. If he had declared at the very beginning, maybe we would have read more meanings to it. At this moment, we have all sorts of people like Amaechi, Akpabio, Fayemi, and Amosun vying for the presidency.
“Maybe, they are not really up against Tinubu. This could be a typical Nigerian strategy, and on that day, many of them in Tinubu’s camp will eventually step down.
“The good thing for Tinubu, looking at it from the strategy of a political party, people like Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Kashim Shettima, among others, are all for him. And I believe they will come with more delegates to support him in addition to Lagos and Osun States that have said they are standing firmly behind him.
“We are not sure what Ogun may do. And we are not also sure what the Yorubas may do. They may go there, split their votes, and by the time you split some of the extra votes outside of Osun and Lagos, you may discover that half from the other states may just go for Tinubu, and perhaps, he may win.”
Godwin Erhahon, former Edo State chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, said the increasing number of aspirants, including the recent move by Oshiomhole, is not a betrayal of trust because everybody has the right to contest.
Erhahon, the pioneer state publicity secretary, Edo State chapter of APC, added: “I am sure that those followers who are picking forms have their reasons. I also believe that it will serve as a signal to Tinubu that his mission will not be as easy as he has thought.
“Those picking forms are doing it for their own personal interest not because they want to please anybody. Using N100 million to pick a form is not something to gamble with. I don’t want to believe they are doing it to serve any sinister motive. They said they are aspirants, so let’s wait till then.”
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