Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is one of the names that have remained dominant in the political space since the return of civilian rule in 1999.
His emergence as the 12th governor of Lagos State, the economic hub of Nigeria, from 1999 to 2007 made him one of the most powerful names in the Fourth Republic.
According to record, Tinubu’s political career began in 1992, when he joined the Social Democratic Party where he was a member of the Peoples Front faction led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and made up of other politicians such as Umaru Yar’Adua, Atiku Abubakar, Babagana Kingibe, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Magaji Abdullahi, Dapo Sarumi and Yomi Edu.
He was elected to the Senate, representing the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic.
He joined forces with others in the formation of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), to mobilise support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola as winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections.
However, the dexterity of the Third Republic senator to have control over Lagos State and extend such influence not only to other states and regions in the country, but also the presidency, has made him the master of the political chess game and the numero uno kingmaker.
The kingmaker has not hidden his intention to become the king in 2023, despite doomsday prophecies about his imminent downfall. Many have argued that he is better off as a kingmaker.
However, the Jagaban of Borgu kingdom in Niger State, who is acknowledged as the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has continued to wax stronger, building political alliances and wooing new faithful to his fold.
One of such places where Tinubu is extending his tentacles is Kano, the most populous state in Nigeria according to the 2006 Population and Housing Census.
The state also accounts for 5.4 million voters, after Lagos, with a staggering figure of 6.5 million voters as of 2019 voter register by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, is rumoured as a potential running mate to Tinubu if the latter picks the ticket of the APC.
While Ganduje has not openly declared his support for Tinubu, the duo has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship in recent times.
Ganduje was recently appointed as the patron of Tinubu Support Organisation (TSO). Some of the loyalists of the governor, including the speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hamisu Chidari, who is the Northwest coordinator of TSO and a governorship aspirant in the state, Abdulsalam Abdulkareem Zaura, have openly declared their support for Tinubu.
Only last week, Tinubu intervened in the feud between Ganduje and Senator Ibrahim Shekarau’s camps in the Kano State chapter of the APC. Dust has been trailing the intervention of the former Lagos State governor.
Tinubu, recently, secured the support of a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, for his presidential bid.
Yakasai confirmed to a national newspaper that Tinubu was at his Abuja residence to solicit his support for his presidential ambition in the next general elections.
“He (Tinubu) just came to visit me but actually I have two of them (presidential aspirants) that I have earmarked right from the beginning and I made a vow that any one of them who came to ask for my support first is the person I would support. Tinubu is the first person,” he had said.
This statement is the clearest indication that Tinubu will run for the presidency in 2023 as he has not openly declared his intention despite the fact that over 50 groups are already mobilizing support for him.
The groups include but are not limited to Southwest Agenda 2023; Disciples of Jagaban; Tinubu Support Group; Tinubu 2023 Support Group; Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu – B.A.T National Forum and Tinubu for President 2023. Others are Tinubu Solidarity Group; Tinubu Peoples Network; Vote Tinubu 2023; Northern Alliance for Tinubu 2023; Bola Ahmed Tinubu Group – USA; Tinubu Mandate Group; Tinubu Transformation Agenda 2023; I Love Tinubu; Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu Northerners; Northern Region Supports Tinubu 2023 for President (NRST-23) and Tinubu Grassroots Movement.
Some prominent politicians are behind some of these groups. For instance, SWAGA, one of the prominent groups clamouring for the former governor to vie for the highest position in the land, is led by a former senator, Dayo Adeyeye.
Adeyeye and other members of SWAGA, including former Oyo South Senator, Adesoji Akanbi, have shown uncommon commitment to the campaign, moving across the states in the region to solicit support for Tinubu.
“APC leaders and members across board are using their money to fund SWAGA. Members are not after money.
“Let me tell you this, 16 governors are now backing Tinubu for president and they are no longer afraid, after Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State openly supported us when we did the flag off in Lagos,” Adeyeye boldly declared at a recent event of the group in Ekiti State.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila is also believed to be coordinating other federal lawmakers from Lagos State, especially those in the Green Chamber, to support the presidential bid of the national leader of the APC. Campaign posters sponsored by the group are visible in major parts of the state.
The Speaker in an interview recently said that Asiwaju is more than qualified to be the president of Nigeria if he decides to run in 2023.
The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, RT. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, is also using his position to mobilise the Conference of Speakers to support the presidential ambition of Tinubu.
The speaker is adorning strategic locations in Lagos West Senatorial District, with posters announcing his ambition and that of Tinubu.
It is a no-brainer that Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is backing the 2023 presidential ambition of his godfather and benefactor.
Sanwo-Olu and his Osun State counterpart, Isiaka Oyetola, who is a cousin of Tinubu, are expected to ensure their states fully support the project.
The lawmaker representing Guevara/Suleja/Tafa Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Rep Lado Suleja, recently addressed Tinubu as ‘Mr President’ when the Northern Caucus of the Green Chamber, led by Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, paid a get-well visit to the APC leader in London.
In fact, over 50 politicians, including President Buhari, governors, senators and House of Representatives members, visited Tinubu during his over three months stay in the United Kingdom for a knee surgery and physiotherapy.
However, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the current Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who succeeded Tinubu as governor of Lagos State in 2007, are two prominent godsons, who neither visited him in London nor have expressed open support for Asiwaju’s ambition.
Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, is another and this is believed to be as a result of his fight with Oyetola over the control of the APC in Osun State. While Fashola has not opposed Tinubu’s ambition, the rise of one of his protegees, Olajide Adediran (Jandor), who is the leader of Lagos4Lagos Movement, a group with the aim of ending godfatherism in Lagos APC, has raised doubts about the loyalty of the former Chief of Staff to Tinubu, who famously prayed that “may our loyalties never be tested” during his ministerial screening in 2015.
Osinbajo is seen as the major opposition to Tinubu’s ambition within the APC. It is believed that some loyalists of Buhari are more open to Osinbajo emerging as the presidential candidate of the APC in 2023.
However, if Tinubu scales the hurdles within his party, then the Lion of Bourdillon will have his old friend Atiku and the lieutenants in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to battle with in this game of throne.