From among the Yoruba nation, no one is currently as influential as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is; not even former President Olusegun Obasanjo who backed a candidate in the just concluded presidential election against Asiwaju’s candidate and lost. Among the pantheon of great Yoruba leaders, Bola Tinubu is mentioned in the same breath as the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and with more political victories likely in the future for Tinubu, he may very well eclipse the great Awo.
If the South West of Nigeria were to be likened to a forest, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu would be not just the tallest Iroko tree but also the only one in that forest. His sagacity and political savvy is legendary. His reach is ubiquitous and the devotion of his followership to him is almost trance-like. So potent is his political machine, war chest inclusive that he is influential beyond the South West of Nigeria and is undisputedly the national leader of the ruling party in Africa’s most populous and arguably, most important nation Nigeria. With this in mind, and after considering the numerous betrayals of trust he has suffered at the hands of friends, allies, mentees, and beneficiaries of his goodwill, the Swedish proverb “Don’t saw off the branch you are sitting on” is a timely memo to serve the Yoruba nation as a whole.
In the wake of the just concluded 2019 general elections in Nigeria and the positioning already taking place towards the 2023 elections, two things are immediately evident. One is that if not for the feisty efforts of Bola Tinubu, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have swallowed up the South West and the gains of the last four years would have been lost as well. The second is that if the South West is to have a formidable chance at clinching the presidency in 2023, the region’s interests will best be championed by the Jagaban Borgu himself.
In the last four general election cycles in Nigeria spanning from 2007 when his own tenure as Lagos State governor came to an end, Bola Tinubu has backed the winning horse in the presidential race. Of course, this string of successive presidential victories are not the product of chance but are a testament to Tinubu’s uncanny ability to pull off electoral victories even in the face of seemingly inevitable defeat. What transpired in the run-up to the 2019 presidential election is particularly demonstrative of the Bola Tinubu magic. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who had joined Tinubu to support and secure the victory for Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, withdrew his support for Tinubu’s man in the 2019 election. Some commentators had predicted doom for Tinubu and attributed his success with Buhari in 2015 as solely Chief Obasanjo’s doing. In fact, President Buhari’s other handlers had hijacked the man’s campaign and shut Tinubu out. Things quickly fell apart in their hands and they came back, tails between their legs to the Jagaban and let him steer Buhari’s presidential campaign. Even when things looked unsure and it seemed that a defeat was inevitable, Tinubu’s hands steadied their ship and at the end of the day, they roundly trounced the PDP in the presidential election.
Men like outgoing Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun and current Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu who had previously been beneficiaries of Bola Tinubu’s help also went against the man in the run-up to the 2019 election. Particularly distasteful was Ibikunle Amosun’s method of opposing Bola Tinubu, the national leader of his party. The show of shame witnessed in Abeokuta during the presidential campaign, which saw Amosun’s men stone President Buhari and other leading members of the APC, is one that was unprecedented in the annals of Nigeria’s political history. In a fitting response by karma, Amosun’s candidate lost the Ogun State election to Tinubu’s man. Rotimi Akeredolu was also made to eat humble pie, as he was unable to deliver his state to Buhari and the APC in the presidential election. As the APC takes stock of its wins and losses in the 2019 elections, the credit will definitely be given to Bola Tinubu by those in the know of how critical his role was to salvage a win for the party. Incumbent Vice President Yemi Osibajo will be celebrating his birthday in Abuja soon and it is believed that the occasion will also double as an appreciation of Asiwaju. Intense lobbying and jostling is already going on for invites to the event. It is believed that many within the APC and especially those from the Yoruba ethnic stock who have remained loyal to Tinubu are pushing for him to succeed Muhammadu Buhari as President in 2023 and it seems the movement is gaining momentum. If it does happen, it would be a fitting reward for the man’s wisdom and exquisite political leadership at the regional and national level.