Tinubu presidency: The kingmaker is now the political king

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Bola Tinubu, the president-elect (Left), and Mohammed Buhari, the president(Right)

After his remarkable political journey as a Senator, governor, and influential figure in Nigerian politics, Bola Tinubu, the President-elect, will be inaugurated today as the fifth democratically elected President since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.

Today, Bola Ahmed Tinubu will officially take on the role of the 16th President of Nigeria. Widely recognized as Jagaban, a leader of warriors, Tinubu has always been open about his aspiration to govern the nation. Embracing his conviction and the honor bestowed upon him by the Emir of Borgu in Niger State, he firmly believes that power is not handed out easily but earned through hard work and dedication.

In 2022, despite being advised to continue his role as a kingmaker, Bola Tinubu boldly declared his intention to succeed President Buhari, whom he had played a significant role in bringing to power. Unwavering in his determination, he stated that it was time for him to ascend the throne, as his ultimate ambition and life’s achievement was to become Nigeria’s President.

Having embarked on his political journey in 1991 as a member of the Peoples Democratic Movement, led by the late Major General Shehu Yar’Adua (retd.), Tinubu is no stranger to the world of politics. Despite facing criticism from many quarters, his extensive experience and astute understanding of Nigerian politics and tactics have worked in his favor. While details about his early years remain relatively unknown, Tinubu, now 71 years old, has remained one of the most influential politicians from the political landscape of the 1990s.

Following a period of studying abroad at Chicago State University and gaining professional experience at Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, and GTE Services Corporation in the United States, Tinubu returned to Nigeria in 1983 to further pursue his endeavors on home soil.

In 1992, Bola Tinubu was among the group of politicians granted clearance by former Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, to participate in elections. He successfully ran for the position of Senator representing the Lagos West constituency during the short-lived Third Republic, which lasted for only 22 months.

During his tenure in the Senate, Tinubu took on the role of leading the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, Appropriations, and Currency. His active engagement and contributions during this period have earned him recognition as one of the most involved senators of that time.

In 1993, when former military dictator General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 12 Presidential election won by the late Moshood Abiola, commonly known as MKO, Tinubu was among the prominent Nigerians who vehemently opposed the injustice and Babangida’s attempt to perpetuate himself in power. Tinubu actively participated in peaceful protests against the annulment and held press conferences to condemn Babangida’s actions, adding pressure on him to step down.

Despite Babangida setting up an interim government led by civilian Ernest Shonekan, Tinubu, along with other activists, insisted that Abiola should be installed as the President. However, on November 17, 1993, Sani Abacha overthrew the interim government in a bloodless military coup. Abacha’s regime became increasingly ruthless, suspending the 1989 Constitution and establishing a full-fledged military government. The national and state legislatures were dissolved, elected civilian governors were removed from office, and political activities were banned.

In early May 1994, Abiola, who had campaigned under the theme “Hope 93,” announced his intention to form a “Government of National Unity.” Shortly after, the formation of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) was announced. Comprising politicians, retired military officials, and pro-democracy figures, NADECO aimed to coordinate and unify various pro-democracy factions, focusing on four main demands: the military’s departure from political office, the installation of Abiola as president, the holding of a sovereign national conference to discuss the country’s future, and the restructuring of the nation along truly federal lines.

Abacha’s proposal to hold another election for the constitutional conference faced strong opposition from members of NADECO and former lawmakers. They held secret meetings and issued statements urging the dictator to relinquish power to Abiola.

On June 1, former Senate President Ameh Ebute publicly declared the senators’ decision to reconvene. However, the following day, Tinubu, Ebute, several senators, and members of the House of Representatives were arrested without charge and detained for weeks. They were accused of committing treasonable offenses against the state, with Tinubu specifically facing allegations of planning to bomb the Ejigbo NNPC depot. After enduring humiliation from the security agencies, they were eventually granted bail by the court.

Due to threats to his life, Tinubu fled the country but returned to Nigeria following General Abdulsalam Abubakar’s handover of power to a democratic government. Upon his return, Tinubu joined the Justice Forum, a political platform for progressives in Lagos, and became a prominent member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Supported by NADECO, Afenifere, and citizens, he emerged as the AD’s candidate for the Lagos State governorship.

In a landslide victory, Tinubu garnered 814,000 votes, defeating the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and the candidate of the All Peoples Party. He won 19 of the 20 local councils and secured a second term, despite opposition from then-President Olusegun Obasanjo. While other AD governors failed to secure a second term, Tinubu continued to exert political influence in Lagos and the South-West region.

However, his dominance in Lagos politics and the South-West has drawn criticism and scrutiny from political opponents who question his background, educational qualifications, integrity, and overall political career. His control of Lagos remains a contentious issue for those who hold animosity towards him.

In his pursuit of the presidency, Tinubu formed an alliance with retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who had previously lost several elections. This alliance between Buhari’s northern bloc of the Congress for Progressive Change and Tinubu’s southern bloc of the Action Congress of Nigeria led to the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and resulted in Buhari’s presidential victories in 2015 and 2019.

In early 2022, Tinubu announced his intention to run for the presidency, revealing that he had informed Buhari of his decision. However, he faced numerous challenges and obstacles. Buhari, whom Tinubu had supported in becoming president, did not offer an endorsement or support. Furthermore, the chairman of the party endorsed another candidate, adding to the difficulties Tinubu faced. Despite these setbacks, the intervention of APC governors and stakeholders provided some relief. Tinubu eventually secured the party’s ticket, but his choice of a fellow Muslim as a running mate faced criticism from the Christian community and posed a significant challenge to his electoral success.

However, winning the APC presidential ticket was not the final internal hurdle for Tinubu. He faced unexpected challenges due to Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele’s naira redesign policy, which led to a cash crisis across the country. The fuel scarcity that ensued further hampered businesses and posed a threat to the February election, creating a headache for Tinubu. Some elements in the presidency were rumored to be opposed to his ambition, and these issues, whether rightly or wrongly, were attributed to President Buhari. Although the CBN and the Presidency denied targeting Tinubu with the policy, the influential South-West politician, in an outburst in Abeokuta, Ogun State, alleged that it was designed to frustrate the electorate and prevent them from voting for him.

Speaking in Yoruba, Tinubu declared, “They don’t want this election to hold. They want to scuttle it. Will you allow them? They have started coming up with the issue of ‘no fuel’. Don’t worry, if there is no fuel, we will trek to cast the vote. If you like, increase the price of fuel, hide the fuel or change the ink on the naira notes, we will win the election. We will use our PVCs (permanent voter cards) to take over the government from them; if they like, let them say there is no fuel, and we will trek there (polling booths).”

Despite the challenges of fuel and naira scarcity, the 2023 Presidential elections took place on February 25, 2023. Despite technical and logistical issues during the polls, Tinubu secured a decisive victory, garnering 8.7 million votes. He achieved over 25 percent of the votes cast in 30 states, surpassing the constitutional requirement of 24 states. The Independent National Electoral Commission declared him the president-elect on March 1, 2023. However, following his victory, Tinubu and his running mate, Shettima, faced a series of lawsuits filed by opposition parties disputing the election’s outcome.

Despite the opposition to his victory, Tinubu will be sworn in as Nigeria’s 16th President at Eagle Square, Abuja, today. The challenges he faces to his ambition of leading Africa’s largest country remain to be seen, as he aims to revive the hope that was shattered by the military in 1993.

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