After years of widespread speculations about the political future of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, the former Lagos State governor has formally thrown his hat into the ring for the 2023 presidential election, Ejiofor Alike reports
After keeping his supporters in suspense for several years, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, last week revealed his ‘lifelong’ ambition to be the President of Nigeria. The former Lagos State governor cleared all doubts about his political future when he told State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari last Monday that he had informed the president of his ambition to succeed him in 2023.
“I have informed the president of my intention, but I have not informed Nigerians yet. I am still consulting. And I have no problem consulting. I have not set a parameter of limitation to the extent of how many people I will consult.
“You will soon hear. All you want to hear is the categorical declaration. You’ve gotten that truth from me that I have informed Mr. President of my ambition, and you don’t expect more answers than that,” Tinubu reportedly told journalists.
Before his formal declaration, speculations were rife that the former Lagos State governor wanted to succeed Buhari. At the early stages of Buhari’s administration, it was rumoured that the president had promised to hand over to him after the completion of his second term. The rumour was fuelled by his invaluable contributions to the victory of the APC in the 2015 presidential election. Before APC won the election, Buhari had contested three times in 2003, 2007 and 2011, but lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was believed that Buhari’s alliance with Tinubu’s South-west earned APC the victory at the 2015 presidential poll. Tinubu’s role in the victory of the ruling party was highly emphasised by a former Governor of Osun State and ex-interim Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, in his controversial autobiography, ‘My Participations’ launched late last year in Lagos, where had narrated how Buhari had promised to pick Tinubu as his running mate in the 2015 election. Akande, however, disclosed that Buhari later reneged on the agreement.
However, those who described themselves as ‘Buhari boys’ had debunked the claim in interviews with THISDAY, insisting that the president had only promised to partner and work with the former Lagos State governor, in the context of a partnership between the South-west and North-west.
But nobody can deny Tinubu’s contributions to the alliance, which produced the APC that dislodged the then ruling PDP. It took the merger of Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the then ruling PDP to be dislodged.
Before the advent of democracy in 1999, Tinubu had identified with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and other pro-democracy coalitions to fight for the return of the military to the barracks. Though he became governor of Lagos State in 1999, his journey to national politics actually began in 2003. Then, he played what could be described as ‘smart politics’ and became the only AD governor in the six AD-controlled states in the South-west that survived former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s onslaught against the AD states. Tinubu took credit for defeating the PDP in the 2003 governorship election in Lagos State, but Obasanjo’s then deputy, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, had revealed that he was the one who actually saved the National Leader of the APC from the humiliation of losing his governorship seat to PDP.
Atiku had during his campaign as a presidential aspirant in September 2018 told members of the main opposition party in Lagos that his former boss, Obasanjo, had before the 2003 elections, directed him to deliver the six South-west states then governed by the AD to the PDP.
Atiku said that he delivered all the states to PDP, except Lagos.
The former vice president said that he deliberately did not do much to win Lagos because of his relationship with Tinubu.
He apologised to the PDP members for what he called his mistake, saying that Lagos would have been better off, if he had delivered it to the PDP then.
After retaining his seat as Lagos State governor, Tinubu became the face of opposition in the country, galvanising all other opposition elements until PDP was ousted in 2015.
Shortly after the victory of the APC at the 2015 poll, Tinubu was touted as a potential presidential hopeful, with some of his supporters claiming that Buhari had promised to hand over to him as an appreciation for his role in the president’s victory.
However, the perceived dishonourable treatment meted out to him by the Aso Rock during Buhari’s first term did not support the claim that he would be the president’s anointed successor.
Before Tinubu, better known as the Jagaban, Yoruba leader, APC national leader, the de facto governor of Lagos State, Enfant Terrible of Nigeria’s politics, and most endearingly, the Asiwaju, threw his hat in the ring, many support groups had emerged to promote his undeclared ambition. As he has cleared all doubts over his political future, Nigerians are eagerly waiting for him to also clear the air on issues surrounding his stewardship as Lagos State governor, his alleged stupendous wealth and godfather role in the state.
His supporters had claimed that the state, under his watch, had prospered from generating N600 million monthly as internal revenue when he took over to generating over N7 billion monthly when he handed over to his successor in 2007.
But his critics had alleged that a large chunk of this revenue goes to his private company that serves as revenue consultant to the state. To clear the air, the former Lagos State governor will have to explain his perceived stupendous wealth.
Many of his critics had also disputed his age, insisting that he is much older than he claims. Apart from this controversy, many who are clamouring for the younger generation to take over in 2023 are also not comfortable with his declared age. By 2023, he will be 71 years and if he realises his ‘lifelong’ ambition, he becomes another old man who will rule Nigeria. Many are also dissatisfied with his godfather role in Lagos State where it is believed that he anoints all the candidates for elective positions, including governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives, state House of Assembly, and even councillors and local government chairmen.
That his wife is a senator, his daughter in charge of the markets and his son allegedly in charge of billboards and signage in the state, had also raised eyebrows. Equity, justice and fairness did also not favour his ambition as South-east is laying claim to the presidency in 2023. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the South-west has produced president from 1999 to 2007 and vice president from 2015 to 2023, while the South-south produced the president from 2010 to 2015, leaving the South-east as the only geopolitical zone in the South that has not produced the president or the vice president. The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, through its spokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonnia had reportedly described Tinubu’s declaration to contest the presidency in 2023 as against the rules of natural justice.
Before he declared his interest to contest, a founding member of APC and Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Chief Osita Okechukwu had urged him to shelve his ambition and instead unite the APC and maintain his role as kingmaker.
Okechukwu had also advised him to back a younger candidate from the South-east in line with the zoning convention.
Reacting to whether it wouldn’t be ideal for him to remain a kingmaker instead of becoming a king himself, Tinubu had insisted that: “And I have never seen where it is written in the rulebook anywhere in any country that a kingmaker cannot be a king, unless you commit murder.”
For the former Lagos State governor to transform from a kingmaker to the king, he has to navigate through these challenges in the coming months.