So this morning, the Financial Times ran a headline hailing Tinubu as being the brain behind Jonathan’s loss at the polls. They called him the Nigerian Machiavelli. Also, when General Buhari collected his Certificate of Return from INEC affirming his victory, he mentioned Tinubu during his acknowledgement. So, who is this man? A man the opposition (how tables turn!) fears as much as they do Buhari.
He has been hailed as a master strategist. A man whose street cred is on fleek. Not many politician can boast o such- probably his protégé, Aregbesola. This man changed the face of opposition politics in Nigeria. But how did he do it? His emergence as the face of opposition proves that quality thumps quantity.
Regional politics still plays a huge role in Nigeria’s political affairs. After the 1999 elections, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) controlled the South Western region of the country the All Peoples Party (APP) controlled the Northern region while PDP controlled the federal. During the 2003 elections, AD fell for Obasanjo’s schemes and lost all their states except Lagos controlled by Tinubu. This marked the incursion of PDP into the southwest and subsequent demise of AD. This placed Tinubu and Obasanjo on a collision course. With just one state under his control, Tinubu forged on. In the heat of this, the President suspended the monthly allocation to the state- a move capable of wrecking the state. But that only served as a catalyst for building a self-sustaining Lagos. If Tinubu had fallen for Obasanjo’s antics, there might have been no credible opposition in Nigeria.
The state’s IGR went from hundreds million naira to tens of billions of naira. Tinubu held onto Lagos as if his life depended on it- and indeed his political life does. With the demise of AD, the Jagaban formed the Action Congress. It was on this platform that his erstwhile Chief of Staff, Babatunde Fashola, a relatively unknown man won the governorship election. The ascension of ‘Tunde Fashola to the Government House really was a masterstroke. He was hiterto unknown in the political scene but he performed to the extent that he was adjudged to be the best governor in the country and he became a reference point for performance.
During the 2011 elections, the party leveraged on Fashola’s popularity and clawed back the South Western states from the PDP, save for Ondo state. In all these, Tinubu’s handwriting was written on the party’s victory at the polls. Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states became ACN states. With this, the ACN was positioned as the major opposition party in he country. Though the party presented a candidate for the presidential election, it was so obvious that he was going to lose. The priority wasn’t the control of Abuja but taking over states in the region first. That would then serve as a launchpad for ‘assaulting’ the presidency.
Insatiable as ever, the next action is to drop the tag of ‘opposition leader’ & gun for the top. This isn’t going to be an easy task. The ruling party, PDP had been in power since the country’s return to civil rule and thus, has solid and widespread party structures. Heck! They paraded themselves as the biggest party on the continent. To defeat this giant, coalitions has to be formed. There has to be a united front to confront the ruling party. Hence, the formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC). A coalition of 3 parties- ACN, CPC and a faction of APGA. CPC was a party formed by General Muhammadu Buhari to advance his presidential ambition. Thus, there wasn’t any solid structure. The party was run basically on Buhari’s goodwill and popularity. The faction of APGA that joined the coalition was the one controlled by the Imo state governor. So, the main party in the coalition was still the ACN, under Tinubu’s tutelage. In fact, ACN’s party symbol was adopted as the new party’s symbol. The party presented Gen Buhari as its presidential candidate. Even though, he had contested and lost 3 times, General Buhari was still the party’s best shot at the presidency. He was a cult figure. Even during his loss in previous elections, there were some states he had under control. States that mattered in elections as they had huge population- Kano, Kaduna and Katsina. I daresay no politician in Nigeria has the appeal of Buhari. With Buhari as a front for the party and Tinubu pulling the strings in the background, the party launched a robust and intimidating campaign. Social media was on lock down, the street was active, the jingles on the radio and television were creative and running. Buhari was packaged as a brand- a movement. The campaign presented Buhari in a way he hadn’t been presented before. The party also capitalised on the ruling party’s misgivings. Even though, the people’s votes determined the ultimate winner, Bola Tinubu provided the platform. And then, on the last day of March, 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner.
One fact I find funny is that Tinubu doesn’t hold a defined role in the party. He’s referred to as the national leader or party chieftain, yet his influence dwarfs that of the party chairman. The Lion of Bourdillon, as he’s called, finally became the face of the governing party after more than a decade of being that of the opposition. I don’t think there’s anyone that understands Nigeria’s political workings like him. It’s even believed that he was behind the emergence of a relatively unknown Prof Yemi Osinbajo as the party’s vice presidential candidate. His emergence was really a well planned move as it swayed some undecided voters. Osinbajo was a commissioner during Tinubu’s time the governor. Tinubu is reputed give people opportunities. Fashola, Aregbesola, Osinbajo et al are people that had their first political bite under his tutelage. Loathe him or love him, even his greatest foe can’t deny his political mastery. With just one state under his control, he assiduously won back some states in the region before gunning for and winning the presidency. Even with that one state, he was really a thorn in the Federal Government’s flesh.
Meanwhile, this is my best pic from the celebratory pictures of Buhari’s victory. Her happiness is infections.