You are currently viewing Perceptions 2023: Ahmed Bola Tinubu, by Femi Akintunde-Johnson
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Similar to the faint reminiscence of the biblical creation story when man was made manifest on the sixth day, in all its glory, this is the sixth edition of perceptual excavations of individuals with bold or brash ambition to lead or rule this nation as from 29 May 2023. This hopefully will illustrate the making or unmaking of the man some call ‘the kingmaker’, whose lingering hunger to be president is now an open secret noised in multiple assemblies across Nigeria by diverse people who are sharply divided about the sainthood or sorcery of the man who has grown to be known and addressed as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban Borgu (among several titles) – in spite of trenchant efforts of his detractors who bandy other less dignifying names.

Apart from the incumbent president of Nigeria, the taciturn former army general, Muhammadu Buhari, there is no Nigerian political figure, arguably, with the span of influence, vociferous cultic hero-worshipping, undisguised adulation of vaunted personal attributes, and a groundswell of passionate admirers and cynical traducers, almost in equal proportion and fervour.


On 29 May, 1999, the former Senator Tinubu became the 12th governor of Lagos State, taking over from the dashing military administrator and colonel, Buba Marwa. His deputy, the much older Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, in 2003, was to enter the history books as one in the first line of deputies impeached in the fourth republic – ridding himself of the vestiges of the oligarchs and power brokers of Afenifere, which brought him to power. She however insisted her exit was through voluntary resignation. The dapper Femi Pedro became his deputy for the second term, with a similarly devastating climax – impeachment!

Tinubu’s forays into politics began earlier in the 90s, rolling with the tides of IBB’s wily ‘dance and dribble’ political transition programme. He was with the likes of Rabiu Kwankwaso, Dapo Sarumi, Atiku Abubakar, etc, as a member of the powerful Shehu Musa Yar’Adua-led People’s Front group in the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP. He got lucky and became a senator, representing Lagos West district.

Then, the third republic collapsed aftermath of the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, and consequent ruckus. Tinubu was in the vanguard of restoring the beleaguered mandate of Chief MKO Abiola, until the “clear winner” died in detention on 7 July, 1998, and his warring acolytes scattered, mostly overseas. Tinubu was also amongst the “pilgrims” exiled by the repercussions of the popular stance against the rabid reign of authoritarianism unleashed by Sani Abacha between late 1993 and mid-1998. He was one of the vocal and gallant ones who sacrificed their personal and considerable savings for the triumph of holistic agitation against anti-democratic putschists – if the inspiring stories of NADECO talebearers would be trusted.

A year before the advent of the fourth republic, and after the demise of Nigeria’s number one nemesis, Abacha, struck down by the proverbial apple – or whatever the revisionists would have us believe – Tinubu stormed back to reckoning, clearing the thorny way to the Alausa seat of power in a blistering race with the more favoured Funso Williams (who died in a mysterious and gruesome circumstance) at the primaries of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Of course, he handily won the January 9, 1999 general election – a massive 841,732 votes (73%) to Dapo Sarumi of PDP’s measly 184,900 votes (16%) and the odd 122,000 votes for APP’s Nosiru Kekere-Ekun (10%).

Despite the alleged chicanery of the ruling PDP, Tinubu retained his seat in 2003, unlike his SouthWest colleagues who kowtowed to primordial sentiments in a soulless slugfest. Thereupon, Tinubu erected a succession hegemony that has continued to produce the rich state’s chief executives since he euphemistically stepped aside in 2007 – through different plumages as political parties: AD, ACN, and APC.

He joined other “renegades” of 2014 to topple the reckless buffoonery of PDP at the national level. And APC was formed. Buhari became the unchallenged face of prinning opposition while Tinubu was its war-chest manager and war-room commander. Apparently distressed by his inability to run with Buhari, on what the opposition would have greedily seized as an unconscionable Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 2015 electioneering battles, Tinubu suckled his amazing ill-luck, and hugged the contentious honorific of “National Leader”. And thus opened a miraculous doorway for his former commissioner for justice, professor of law, and loyal associate, Yemi Osinbajo, to become the Vice President. This would later culminate in a gigantic strategic handicap to the “Tinubu for President” campaign which has never truly vanished from the periphery of party calculus in the last seven years.


Now the roulette wheel has swung towards 2023, and all the chips have been thrown in, to install the redoubtable kingmaker as the next president of the biggest black nation on earth. On the other hand, malevolent monuments are gathering to frustrate the ambition of the man putatively attributed with elaborate political sagacity and profound human management prowess. And of course, he is reportedly ‘blessed’ with wealth and impatient cash too humongous for the ordinary mind to contemplate.

Given the situation we find ourselves, and the current turmoil our governance has wobbled under, the often touted capacities and competencies of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu: a visionary of stupendous girth; a connoisseur of headhunting and nurturing exceptional talents; a rare mind suffused in intellection and erudition; a knack for prodigious investments in worthy causes and self-promoting entities – when all most others see is emptiness and grey area. Such a man is surely sorely needed now!

However, the $5b question is this: Is Bola Tinubu of 2021-2022 the man we want to lead us in 2023? Is he the same man as that of 2003, 2007, and even 2011? Are we not on the verge of falling for the same trap that upturned our hope and expectations when we equated the Buhari of 2015 and 2019 with the wiry bohemian of 1983 and 1985?!

Let us plod through the litany of impediments strewn along the path of the Jagaba of Borgu. While it is probably uncharitable to bicker about the state of health of anyone, in view of the tragic humdrum the country suffered as our incumbent president battled one ailment or the other for the most part of his first term, thereby making more news and raising worried eyebrows for travelling overseas to receive critical medical treatment – contrary to his energetic promise or manifesto; Nigerians are understandably fretting about the severity or otherwise of Tinubu’s health – especially as some of his detractors have made a song and dance about the ambivalence of his age and the uncertainty of his medical stature. So many photos, articles, blog posts, and vitriols on countless social media have been expended to disparage or escalate these claims – yet, the campaigns have not even started!

(To Be Continued)

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