As the 2023 Presidential election draws closer, many Nigerians still wonder if Bola Tinubu can wield the same influence he had in 2015.
With three years to go, many have already begun projecting ahead of the 2023 general elections. In recent times, many names have been thrown out there, but one name that has sparked a lot of reactions is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Over the years, the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress has grown to become a godfather in the politics of the South-western part of Nigeria. He seems to have become a major player in national politics and it is now more of an open secret that he played a major role in bankrolling the campaign of Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate of the APC and his final emergence as the winner of the 2015 Presidential election.
Recently, a group who claimed to be disciples of the Jagaban Borgu, said that he deserved to be Nigeria’s President in 2023. This, they said, was because the former Lagos State governor remained a bridge-builder between the northern and the southern part of Nigeria. Another group who christened itself ‘Asiwaju Reloaded Ambassadors’ Nigeria’ flooded the streets with printed T-shirts, posters and other souvenirs in support of the alleged ambition of Tinubu.
Even though the aides of the former Lagos governor denied the activities of the group, they, however, failed to deny Tinubu's rumoured interest in the 2023 presidential election. When the APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole was confronted by journalists about Tinubu’s rumoured interest in the 2023 presidential election, for a man who always has a lot to say about politics and governance, he didn't dismiss the rumour, but only said it wasn't yet time to discuss the subject.
To highlight their support, Tinubu’s political allies, Adeseye Ogunlewe, Lanre Rasaq and Babachir Lawal have at different times expressed their opinions on how Tinubu will make a good president and run Nigeria effectively and smoothly, given his antecedents and pedigree.
As a core politician, it is obvious that Tinubu certainly has no plan to continue to hang on to the role of elder statesman and national leader of the ruling party. He has always been interested in the 'big cake' even before the party contested and won the 2015 election, as it was later revealed that Tinubu only stepped down his ambition to be running mate to Buhari, for now Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo because he is a Muslim and the APC didn’t think it was going to win a national election with two Muslims on its ticket.
Former Senate President, BukolaSaraki even revealed in early February of 2019 that his grievance with Tinubu stems from his (Saraki's) opposition of his Muslim-Muslim ticket idea in 2015.
Many have cried foul against the alleged interest shown by Tinubu for 2023, but the question begs, is he not a Nigerian eligible enough to aspire to be President? The #nottooyoungtorule advocates will claim that the man is too old and that Nigeria deserves a young president, but I'm sure in his defence, his supporters would like to remind us that the two major candidates of the last election are older than him.
Already, there are rumours of an alleged plot hatched by some second term governors and some immediate past governors of the APC to stop Tinubu's ambition. There are also reports that the plan to remove the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole is directly connected to the plot.
Tinubu’s ability to deliver for the APC, if eventually considered as its presidential candidate for 2023 comes to question. Even though he is considered a political monument in the South-west, how popular is he in the rest of the country? How great is his influence in the South-East, South-South and other parts of the country? Does he possess the type of clout that the likes of Atiku who, even though not from the south and not of the dominant religion in the region able to muster a remarkable amount of support.
There’s no doubt about Tinubu’s influence in the South-west. Over the years the Southwest political godfather has been able to place his proteges in many political positions. It is said that he has a knack for identifying brilliant minds and fertile brains, and the ability to nurture them to greatness. He has been influential in the installation of some southwest governors including Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state, Gboyega Oyetola of Osun state and Lagos governors who have served after him; Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode and Babajide Sanwo-olu.
Ordinarily, given Tinubu’s political clout, vast financial arsenal and relationship with top political bigwigs, it is easy to imagine him scoring high in an election, but the reality could be different. Other than Osinbajo, he could be pegged as the only man who can deliver the presidency to the South-west.
One other thing to consider is how great his reputation is? He may have achieved a lot when he was the governor of Lagos State, but several years after, I’m not sure Nigerians consider him a saint when the issue of corruption is being discussed. He is rumoured to have enriched himself with resources from the state, owning wholly or in part several thriving businesses and companies in Lagos.
Nigerians are yet to forget the presence of bullion vans at his residence in Bourdillon, Ikoyi, days leading to the general election. Following growing suspicion that the vans contained ballot papers or funds meant for bribing voters, all Tinubu could say was for people to mind their business, adding that he can keep his money wherever he wants since he was no government contractor. He had also boasted at one time, that he was indeed richer than Osun State and that Buhari did not have the kind of money he could steal.
No doubt, money is important in Nigerian politics, but from the last two general elections, we have seen that not those who necessarily had the biggest pockets and money to throw around won the elections. Tinubu has big pockets, but if he can muster the kind of support he has in the South-west to a national level remains to be seen.
Written by Victor Enengedi