An ardent follower or observer of Nigerian politics would no doubt, agree that Chief Ahmed Bola Tinubu is is a force to reckon with as far as Nigerians politics is concerned. He was the governor of Lagos State for eight years, from 1999 to 2007 under the umbrella of the defunct political party, Alliance for Democracy (AD), which later metamorphosed into the Action Congress, later known as the Action Congress of Nigeria, the ACN.
As the governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007, Chief Tinubu, also known as Senator Tinubu was said to have laid a very solid foundation for the economic and political development of the state. He was succeeded by Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), who as governor of Lagos State from May 2007 to May 2015, built on the foundation laid by his predecessor and benefactor, Senator Tinubu, to bring about the physical and socio-economic development visible in Lagos State today to everybody. This is however, not an attempt to say that the Federal Government of Nigeria did not contribute to the development of Lagos when it was the federal capital of Nigeria from 1960 to 1991. In the light of this therefore, it is imperative to take into consideration the developmental efforts and strides
made by the Federal Government of Nigeria whenever the issue of development of Lagos comes to the front burner.
There is no doubt that Senator Tinubu became very powerful as the governor of Lagos and even became more powerful after he had left office in 2007. It is important to note that he was the leader of the Alliance for Democracy and later the Action Congress of Nigeria, the two political parties that held sway in the South West region of Nigeria then. Chief Tinubu is today referred to as the Emeritus Governor of Lagos State by his followers and supporters. This goes a long way to show how powerful and influential he is in the politics of the South West region of Nigeria, the home of the Yoruba ethnic group.
As the political leader of the South West region or as a regional political player in the South West, it is not disputable that Senator Tinubu is the most powerful politician in that geopolitical area of Nigeria. It will not be possible to show how powerful and influential he had become in the politics of Yoruba land but it will suffice to present of few instances of his political exploits in the area.
Chief or Senator Tinubu as he is known was the only politician who was able to stop the former president of Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) from taking over Lagos State in 2007. In the 2007 general election that was conducted by Chief Obasanjo and, the then ruling political party, the Peoples Democratic Party took over government in the other South West states of Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo, except Lagos and this was made possible by Chief Tinubu. Lagos State under him survived when Obasanjo with held allocations meant for the state for political differences. It is also on record that Chief Tinubu created local council development areas as governor of Lagos State, against the provisions of the Nigerian constitution .He (Tinubu) was also was very instrumental financially, materially and morally in the legal battles instituted by the governorship candidates ACN against the PDP in the election tribunals in the affected states of the federation, and the ultimate outcome was the restoration of governorship mandates to governors Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
To further demonstrate how far reaching the political influence of Chief Tinubu had become in the politics of the South West, he is directly involved in the selection and appointments of governors, commissioner, special advisers and other political office holders in Lagos State and the entire South West geopolitical zone. A few instances would shed more light on this. He single-handedly chose his successor, in the person of former governor Babatunde Fashola and presented Mr Akinwumi Ambode, the current governor of Lagos state. His wife, Mr Oluremi Tinubu, is a two-term serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; his daughter is the Iya Oloja or Head of Market Women and Traders in the entire Lagos State. More so, many of the local government chairmen and councilors, state governors, state and federal law makers from the South West region of Nigeria occupied positions by virtue of their connection to and loyalty to Cheif Tinubu. Put succinctly, Chief Tinubu is the political godfather of the South West region of Nigeria and has done this very successfully since 1999 till date.
The formation of the All Progressives Congress, the APC, which is Nigeria's current ruling political party at the federal level and in more than twenty states of the federation, was largely credited to Chief Tinubu's effort. The APC is an amalgam of five or more different political parties or groups. They include the former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The APC came into being as an alliance aimed at wresting political power from the PDP, which was Nigeria's ruling political party at the federal level of government and in over twenty states of the federation from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2015.
With the coming of the All Progressives Congress into the national political terrain of Nigeria, Senator Tinubu moved from being a regional player in Nigerian politics into a national player. This is clearly indicated that he is now in the ruling party as against being in the opposition for sixteen years when he was a member of the opposition Alliance for Democracy and Action Congress of Nigeria. Chief Tinubu was not only the mastermind of the APC but he is said to have pumped in huge financial and material resources in the party. He was also very instrumental in breaking the ranks of PDP and in the negotiations that gave birth to the APC which subsequently saw his emergence as the National Leader of the political party. More so, he is said to have supported the emergence of General Buhari as the presidential candidate of the APC, taking into consideration that he (Buhari), would be a tough match for the then president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. The Vice President, in the person of Professor Osinbajo was also presented by Tinubu.
Now that Chief Senator Tinubu had moved from being a regional player in the South West to national player in Nigerian politics, the question is: How far can he go?
It is not news that the All Progressives Congress is being rocked by a leadership crisis over who becomes what and who gets what as far as national positions at the federal level and sharing of national cake is concerned. The crisis plaguing the leadership echelon of the new ruling political party in Nigeria has so far almost brought the affairs of government at the federal level to a halt and stopped the federal government from hitting the ground running as far as governance is concerned, for over two months after taking over power on 29 May, 2015. The various interest groups that formed the APC have not agreed on how to share the political gains of their election victory.
The APC is made up of several political blocks or camps, with each owing political allegiance or loyalty to its former political party rather than to APC as a party. It is a party that is full of opposition groups within itself. This crisis has pitched leaders of the various camps in the party against one another. For now, regarding the sharing of political positions so far, the former CPC has produced the president of Nigeria in the person of President Buhari: the Vice President is from the former ACN, Senate President Saraki Olusola is from a faction of PDP that joined in forming the APC and same is the case for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara.
The crisis in the APC became public knowledge when the national leadership of the party revealed in a meeting of the party leaders that it had chosen some persons from the party who had been endorsed as the 'sole candidates' of the party in the legislative election that would result in election of key or principal leaders of the national assembly of Nigeria, that is, the Senate and House of Representatives. This unilateral decision by the 'so-called' national leadership of the APC to impose principal leaders of the national assembly was resisted by Senator Bukola Saraki, who together with his friends, known as APC Senator Elect of Like Minds, worked out of the meeting of APC national leadership in protest that the party leader lacks the power to impose leaders over the national assembly.This was the immediate (not remote), or at least open cause of the crisis that has so far rocked APC for weeks and almost tore it apart.
As has been demonstrated earlier in this piece, Chief Tinubu was and is still the political godfather of the South West or Yoruba land. A cursory look at some of his political exploits in the region has been carried out. It is true that he has dictated and controlled the politics of the South West with little or no opposition from the region largely due to his political investment in the politics of the region. The Saraki and Dogara camps in the APC alleged that the attempt to hijack the leadership of the national assembly was orchestrated by Chief Tinubu and have accused him of trying to 'pocket' Nigeria's legislative arm of government. I do not wish to comment on this as it is all part of the intrigues and intricacies considered to be normal in Nigerian politic.
With the movement of Chief Tinubu from being a regional political player to a national player, one is tempted to assume that he had it in mind that he was going to be the new godfather at the federal level of government. Many may not subscribe to this view but one is tempted to postulate this hypothesis in view of the consideration that the overriding interest of any individual in politics is the fulfillment of his personal interests and ambitions. Chief Tinubu, just like any other persons that have invested politically in the emergence of the President and other political office holders in this APC government did not do so because of benevolence or their love for such political figures in positions of authority today. They did it because of their own political interest and saw such such investment as a means to their own political ends.
It will not be illogical or out of place to contend that Chief Tinubu had calculated that as the national leader of the APC he would be the godfather of the president and other political office holders in this government. This could well be appreciated more when one takes into consideration the fact that he supported Buhari through the election campaigns and was even the one behind the campaigns. It is not possible to talk about his financial investment in Buhari but one may reasonably assume that he would have put in huge financial resources in Buhari's political venture and the APC as a political party and that now should be the time for him to reap the 'benefits or gains' of his political investment.
The first political or leadership litmus test faced by Chief Tinubu as a 'godfather' supposedly was his alleged attempt to impose Lawan as Senate President and Honorable Gbajabiamila as Speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives. This was vehemently opposed by Saraki and other of his loyal senators in the APC as well as other lawmakers in the House of Representatives. With the support of the PDP, Senator Saraki became the Senate President while Honorable Dogara emerged Speaker of House of Representatives against the wishes of Tinubu and some other leaders in the APC. The emergence of Saraki and Dogara as leaders of the Nigerian National Assembly was a big defeat to Chief Tinubu and his supporters who had wanted and still want their preferred candidates to head the leadership of Nigerian legislative arm of government.
The crisis rocking the APC continues to rage and is taking a very dangerous dimension as we speak. It has prevented President Buhari from forming an executive cabinet to assist him in running the affairs of government and has also slowed down governance. Many persons in the other camps continue to point accusing fingers on Tinubu for being behind the crisis in the party. I however, find it difficult to accept this as it would tantamount to a mono-causal pattern or mode of analysis. For me, the inability of the various camps and groups in APC to dump their selfish interests for national interest is responsible for the crisis. However, there is no doubt, that Chief Tinubu, having invested heavily in the APC would have preferred a situation where he would play a lead role in the party and by extension, Nigerian politics especially as it has to do with who gets what and who takes what. Put succinctly, Chief Tinubu would have preferred a situation where his loyalists occupy key legislative and executive positions in this current federal government and dictate to them what to do and what not thereby using the APC as his political empire to actualize his political goals and ambitions. Unfortunately, however, Nigerian politics is full of political bigwigs and actors who hardly agree or reach consensus on national issues due to their own selfish national interests.
Can Chief Tinubu play his role of godfatherism in Nigerian politics like he did and still does in the politics of the South West? How far can he go as national player as against being a regional player? Can he achieve or actualize his expectations for committing so much in the APC? These questions and many more become imperative in view of the fact that he had committed so much into the APC and also bearing in mind that Nigeria politics is not South West politics. It is full of political titans who have been in the game even before Chief Tinubu ventured into politics. Only time shall tell how far he can go as a national player or actor in Nigerian politics.