Since the return of democratic governance to Nigeria in 1999, there are some names that come to mind once elections come around. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is one of those names as the institution serves as the electoral umpire in Nigeria and to a very large extent determines the outcome of elections across Nigeria. Along with INEC, one of the other names that enter national discourse as a key determinant of the swing of the pendulum of political power is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Called the Asiwaju, the Jagaban and the Lion of Bourdillon by many, it is a testament to how powerful an institution the man has become that alongside INEC, he is ranked that highly as a principal influencer of the outcome of elections in Nigeria.
Emerging from the South West as a leader in the mold of the iconic Obafemi Awolowo, Bola Tinubu has gone on to become a revered national leader even beyond being the national leader of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). For presidential candidates, winning in the South-West of Nigeria is crucial to winning the presidential election and time after time, we have seen the Bola Tinubu magic in delivering the region to men who became President. Goodluck Jonathan has been a beneficiary of the Tinubu magic in that regard. Muhammadu Buhari has also been a beneficiary of the Tinubu magic in that regard. Several governors, ministers and legislators, past and present have enjoyed political power courtesy of the Jagaban Borgu. Many men and women seeking his help undertake pilgrimages to his Bourdillon residence in Ikoyi, some camping for weeks just to get an appointment to see the leader. Even his enemies and rivals are careful not to cross him because somehow his relevance is so ubiquitous that there will be consequences for doing so in nearly every state in Nigeria. It is not for nothing that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is called The Lion of Bourdillon.
As it happens amongst lions where younger males often try to take over and drive off older lions from the pride after a while, so it happens in politics. Time after time, we have seen younger politicians try to upstage Bola Tinubu and seize turf clearly established as his territory. Some of these young lions are cubs Asiwaju sired or even fed and protected at various stages of their political growth. Unfazed by their betrayals and aware that the ability to forgive a slight is one of the hallmarks of a great leader, Asiwaju continues to expend his energy, financial resources, goodwill and even his health to look after the thousands of men and women he is politically responsible for. Even when some people tried to decimate his power base and cause a rift between Bola Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari, tried and tested wisdom has made even the President realize that to discard the Lion of Bourdillon would be foolishness with dire consequences.
It is somewhat ironic that those from within the South West who are looking to take him down risk setting their region back just as it happened when there was a rift between Obafemi Awolowo and his successor, Ladoke Akintola a few decades ago. It is this knowledge that makes Bola Tinubu overlook the antagonism he receives from within, be it from those complaining that he is imposing his anointed candidates on others or from those upset at how quickly he has pardoned and received disloyal returnees to his fold. One thing is certain. Regardless of the outcome of the 2019 general elections, the Jagaban is still the Lion of the South West and his influence is far from waning.