Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Senator Bola Tinubu may not be in good stead to win his last pitched battle for the Nigerian presidency. He may be hampered by age, a baggage of corruption allegations and rumoured terminal illness
There is no doubt that former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is one of the most talked about Nigerians alive. It is not impossible that long after his death, Tinubu may still be the subject of interest to many including the hoi polloi and the increasing number of persons all over the country who are sitting on a comfortable rung on the ladder of influence and authority, through his benevolence. That is why Tinubu should not die like a mere mortal. At this point in time, that is, arguably the only factor that can guarantee his elevation into the pantheon of the all-time greats; like Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Alhaji Lateef Jakande. I know that any attempt to draw a comparison between Tinubu and Awolowo/Jakande will annoy a good number of people; who think it may be demeaning to these late Nigerian leaders.
Tinubu’s death should not be passed off as pedestrian news. It should be wrapped in all the magic and charm that will sustain an enduring spell of exaggeration. Till today, many still swear that at certain times of the year when the nights are illuminated from a full moon, an uncluttered image of Awolowo can be seen with the lunar light raising his two fingers in a victory sign, as if mocking a world that denied him of the Nigerian presidency, which he wanted badly; even for one day. That is the kind of stuff that should be wrapped around Tinubu when he is gone to be with His Maker; astonishing stories that will challenge the incredulous. It is already happening, anyway. In the aftermath of the EndSARS protests, the strongman of Lagos politics was rumoured to have “ran” to France. At the same time, he was also in Lagos. There were videos and photos of him purportedly in the European country. So, recently when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu posted pictures of himself and the APC National Leader in a bid to dispel gossip about Tinubu’s health, his evidence was not strong enough to permeate the first layer of targeted hearsay.
In this era of photoshop and lip-sync, Sanwo-Olu and Tinubu’s Media Aide, Tunde Rahman may not need to shout themselves hoarse, admirers of the APC National Leader love him passionately; just as those who hate his guts despise him fiercely. Trying to explain any circumstance involving Tinubu may not change anything. It is what it is; unfortunately so. How do they hope to convince those who believe that Tinubu “owns more than half” of Lagos? How on earth is that possible? They call him a ‘clever thief’ because some of the things they claim are his; like The Nation Newspaper, Oriental Hotel and Continental Broadcast Services, owners of TVC and Radio Continental can’t be traced to him at the Corporate Affairs Commission. To many he is a compassionate outlaw, who gives freely from what he is rumoured to have acquired illicitly.
People like former military governor of Ondo State and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Bode George are riled by his audacious claim to indigene of Lagos when in fact his roots have been traced to Osun State. Of late, his “kingdom”, which used to cover the entire Western region, has shrunk badly. The emergence of Young Turks like Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; who has tacitly refused to yield an inch of his state to Tinubu’s control has dented the APC National Leader’s reputation. Of course, he is yet to recover from backing the wrong horse in 2020 Governorship election in Edo State, where he was forced to beat a retreat with the vehement and hostile chant of ‘Edo No Be Lagos’. At ‘home’ in Lagos, ‘insurgents’ like Fouad Oki and Abdulazeez ‘Jandor’ Adeniran and his Lagos4Lagos Movement are increasingly giving Tinubu sleepless nights.
Anyone who has weathered the kind of political storm that Tinubu is constantly faced with will naturally fall sick; and that is considering the fact that his age is in dispute. Is he 69 years, as he claims or in his mid-70s, according to his detractors? From 1999 when he had to battle the ‘Babas’ in Afenifere, who constituted the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He was elected Governor of Lagos State on the ticket of the AD. But Tinubu had plans which did not quite align with the vision of the AD hierarchy, who queried his dominance of a political vehicle that he was accommodated and rehabilitated in. The elders of Afenifere/AD could not comprehend his overnight wealth and influence when he was ‘begging’ them for the governorship ticket, a little while ago. Right before their eyes, Tinubu had transformed to the ‘Lion of Bourdillon,’ to be worshipped by anyone who wanted to move up the ladder of Lagos politics. It was inevitable that he broke away and formed the Action Congress (AC).
Every lion has a lifespan; even the human lion that lives at Bourdillon in Ikoyi-Lagos. Many will argue that the Lion of Bourdillon does not have the strength and the speed to go after a quarry. Slowed by age, a baggage of corruption allegations and rumoured terminal illness, Tinubu, is not in good stead to fight and win his last pitched battle; the quest for Nigerian presidency. The array of enemies lined up against him, including those of his kith and kin, are formidable. But they don’t call him Jagaban for nothing. He can be trusted to spring a surprise from his famed cap, emblazoned with an artistically designed figure ‘8’. Some critics who are willing to give him a chance may be reluctant after the somewhat disastrous tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari who lies more on a hospital bed in foreign countries than sit behind his desk at Aso Rock Villa. The thought of another perennially sick president is not an option, at all. This is one of the factors that makes the idea of a Tinubu presidency a hard sell.
While Tinubu himself has not expressly said he will run for the presidency in 2023, the closest admission he has made publicly is the recent statement that he will make up his mind after the APC National Convention. But his associates like Senator Dayo Adeyeye, the National Chairman of the South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA) are not tip-toeing about their plans. The hid and seek game is close to an end, Tinubu has to throw his ‘figure 8’ cap in the presidential ring. This is the battle of his life; the battle he stepped aside from when he rejected the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo because of the alleged belief the holder of the title is prone to mysteriously and untimely. The late supposed winner of the June 12 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola was an Aare Ona Kankanfo. He died in the bid to actualise his mandate. For Tinubu, the quest for the Nigerian presidency may just be worth dying for. The legend of the Aare Ona Kakanfo beckons on Tinubu. Go Tinubu! Go, die like a man!
A Tinubu in Aso Rock will combine the rambunctiousness of President Olusegun Obasanjo and the wheeler-dealer attitudes of an Atiku Abubakar. He has the courage to get things done. And even if he does not know what to do, he is street wise enough to identify the person who will deliver excellence on the job.
A veteran of many political battles, one virtue that both foes and friends of Tinubu agree on is that he is an excellent talent scout. He has an uncanny ability to identify the right person for the job. He has consistently managed to secure good managers for the affairs of Lagos; that is conceding that he holds all the aces for the choice of Lagos governor.
Those who are blaming Sanwo-Olu for taking time out to visit his ‘ailing’ political godfather do not know what they are talking about. Think about the Lagos governor’s alibi, ‘photo no dey lie’. The meaning of that photograph with Tinubu runs deep. So, you think Mr. Governor is so idle that he will travel all the way to London for a photo opportunity? And Tinubu is not a celebrity neither is Sanwo-Olu a bemused fan who wants a memento from his idol. This is an arranged opportunity to take a photograph of a politician who can determine his political future. Ask ex Lagos governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Tinubu can be devious and unforgiving, just as his vast well of bounteousness never runs dry.
A Tinubu in Aso Rock will combine the rambunctiousness of President Olusegun Obasanjo and the wheeler-dealer attitudes of an Atiku Abubakar. He has the courage to get things done. And even if he does not know what to do, he is street wise enough to identify the person who will deliver excellence on the job