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Many have wondered over the whys and wherefores of President Bola Tinubu’s romance with his foes. Few have reflected on how he makes them. Perhaps surveying how he hates can help us peer at his soul of charity. It can make us imagine how he will dispense love to over 200 million of God’s creatures in the years ahead.

He does not only make foes. He nurtures them. Nothing of late is more potent than “Akin, thank you.” That rhetoric exhumes former Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode. It announces him as the latest prodigal who returned home for the party. There have been many, high profile and low. President Tinubu has his revolving doors of comers and goers, a pageant of the beloved and damned. Come, all ye that betray, and a hug awaits thee.

We can content ourselves with a few rippling the news waves. Apart from Ambode, we know of the ebullient Godswill Akpabio, mercurial Nasir El Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, the bull in a tiny package. At one time, these men were soldiers at arms against Tinubu. Today, they are brothers in arms. In wartime against Tinubu, they growled in public, deployed troops, invoked an imperial throne, unleashed media and institutions, and betrayed trepidation when they were not displaying jubilation.

Today, we can call them the president’s men. No one in Nigerian political history has turned hate and warfare into a virtue. No one has redefined hate or even problematised its definition. Few would have welcomed back an Ambode after many draped him as a traitor and usurper. Lagos was on the boil as Ambode sought a second term. He defied the party chieftains and decapitated many a friend and ally. They charged him with hubris and an inflated sense of his own power and influence. He charged them back for underestimating him. For him, Tinubu’s time was on a hangman’s noose. He was his executioner. The party chose Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the now BOS of Lagos, to replace him. Ambode rasped and raged, questioning his health and sanity. Sanwo-Olu’s team took Michelle Obama’s path and asserted that “when they go low, we go high.” Ambode came apart. Tinubu the Phoenix was unscathed. Ambode dissolved into oblivion when reports were not naming him as fighting back under the sewer, in cahoots with a rival party, especially the PDP.

Few foresaw the magnanimity of his former foe. Dressed in his vintage cap and striding with casual dignity, the BOS of Lagos attended  Ambode’s birthday party, and that was the beginning of the party. His reborn day. We knew the man was now on all fours. That ‘Akin, thank you’ episode eventually unveiled him in a party that featured all four governors of the state in this republic, beginning with Asiwaju Tinubu himself. Many who expected comeuppance, not a comeback, must have mused on Asiwaju’s facility to make enemies when Ambode met him for a photo-op at the presidential villa. Gov Sanwo-Olu set it in motion. A medal for him.

Ribadu was a public foe as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). An OBJ protégé, Ribadu hunted the political class. The slim, slow-speaking, thin-voiced omen among men never fazed the Lion of Bourdillon. But Ribadu had railed about an Econet deal. It became a big harvest rather than a scandal and EFCC’s case became a dud. But Ribadu became the presidential candidate for the ACN, Tinubu’s party. He did not make it and abandoned Tinubu again to pick a Jonathan job. Tinubu’s famous statement of poignant irony wished the former EFCC boss well. But they came together again, and Ribadu will stand to be counted as one of the principal associates who stood like a rock and brother beside Asiwaju when many who now advertise their loyalty despaired about a Tinubu candidacy. Today, he is a worthy head of Nigerian intelligence.


El Rufai did not battle Tinubu in private. His is what the Yoruba call ija igboro. Fight in the open square. He is the last person many expect would be a candidate for a Tinubu cabinet. He accused him of the filth his foes in the Labour Party and PDP are throwing at him today. He once attended an event in Lagos and called for a party mutiny against their leader. When Tinubu was on the right, El Rufai veered left. Both were never permitted to access oxygen in the same hemisphere. I had a raucous exchange with him in front of Eko Hotel over an issue that concerned their clash.

Yet, when it came to the crunch, El Rufai was a voice as a balm. After Tinubu assailed an Aso Rock cabal for engineering the cash and petrol crisis to suffocate his bid for power, the then Kaduna State governor was the interlocutor of the northern conscience. He valorised Tinubu’s claims and rid him of any tar of paranoia. He was the one who kept saying that the North would not forget those who did them a favour, referring to Asiwaju’s role as Buhari’s kingmaker.


Of course, Akpabio held the forte in Uyo as a counterpoise to a charging Tinubu with his candidate, John J. Akpanudoedehe. It was a brutal election, and the exchanges sometimes held the register of an apocalypse. Outside the southwest, no prize was dear to AC and no foe was Mephistophelian like the governor of Akwa Ibom State. Today, though, it is Akpabio on Tinubu’s side and Akpanudoedehe in the crypt. His former ally morphed into one of the plotters to stop Tinubu’s candidacy. Who would believe that Tinubu gets the laurel for making Akpabio our chief lawmaker?

So, were these people ever his enemies? That’s the conundrum. When he fights, he is the lion. When he embraces, he is a loincloth. So when he was fighting, mapping strategies, reading maps, deploying men and resources, what was he doing? He was not hating; he was cultivating them to manure a future. The enemy is an asset. They may not know it. Shakespeare said “My only love sprung from my only hate. Too early seen unknown, and known too late. The prodigious birth of love is it to me. That I must love a loathed enemy.”


Tomorrow, they might return to the barricade. But it is nothing personal. His is not the classical hate, not the sort Mike Tyson meant when he said he had no love left and no one should deprive him of his hate. No ferocity here, except to tame the foe into a hug. During the age of Emperor Justinian, Rome signed the Treaty of Eternal Peace. Russia signed a similar one with Poland. Persia resumed war later. The Russian one expired. But when he wars, Tinubu would prefer what Balogun Latosa of 19th century Yoruba Wars called “the war to end all wars.”  If it resumes, he slips back into the battle gear.

Yet some are fuming, unleashing cannons, digging trenches, concocting fantasies of Asiwaju’s skeleton in a Gehena. He has no malice, no poisoned chalice. He merely pursues the prize. He wants them alive. They have value. If they die, what a loss. It would be like Walt Whitman’s lines after the American civil war, “My enemy is dead; a soul divine like myself is dead.” Something of his soul tolls in the other, apologies to John Donne.

He has been accused of privileging rebels over constants. He acknowledges it with an air of impotence. Like Jesus said of his sheep. If one strays, he abandons the flock and goes after the lost one, so that they can be one flock and one shepherd. There are quite a few lost sheep today. Some still asking for pardon and not asking for pardon. Some fuming in silence. Others spewing out rants. But the man loves it so. Who will be so bold to blend a prodigal with the flock again after all the quarrels? The flock is a quicksand anyway. It is called politics. Hence, Churchill’s friend, Lord Beaverbrook, wrote, “A man with a will to power can’t make friends.” They make enemies, especially the best of them. 

  Who will defend the poor?


Those who say the social register of the poor is flawed, have they seen it? Can they tell us the chinks and weaknesses? Do they know how it was made? Do they know that the same states that are taking over also created these registers and handed them to the centre? Are we going back to our vomit? Do we throw the baby away with the bath water? Can’t we repair the damage? I am happy though that few people are now shouting that N8k is too small. It is a case of the haves speaking on behalf of the have-nots and wanting to stop the poor from having little. What a babel of disenfranchisement! They don’t even understand that more of such money in circulation stimulates demand and production and jobs. No wonder Jesus said the poor will remain with us. No one said the states should not share N2 trillion but the poor cannot have N500 billion. Nawa o!

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