The Loud Silence of Tinubu’s Associates
Since the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Bola Tinubu, signified his interest to contest for the presidency in 2023, many of his known key associates in the South-west have remained silent over his ambition, Vanessa Obioha writes
The tempo of political activities in Nigeria was raised when the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu declared what he described as his life-long ambition to contest the next presidential election in the country.
Since the former Governor of Lagos State unveiled his plan to aspire to become the fifth democratically-elected president of Nigeria in this present democratic dispensation, he has received endorsements from all parts of the country. Tinubu’s declaration of interest to occupy the presidential seat did not come as a surprise to many political analysts. Those who have been following his political strategies easily connected the dots. Even before he publicly revealed his ambition, groups such as the South-west Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA), led by former Senator Dayo Adeyeye, had begun to roll the drums. When he went to inform President Muhammadu Buhari of his intention, he also told journalists that becoming the President of Nigeria was his life-long ambition.
However, there has been a deafening silence from many of his erstwhile political associates from the South-west, who once took every word he spoke as the gospel. Ever since Tinubu, who is revered as a kingmaker in the South-west, threw his hat to the presidential ring, the leading lights among his associates in the geo-political zone have declined to endorse or oppose him.
Considering his wide influence in the zone and the array of political bigwigs among his associates, Tinubu’s announcement to run for presidency was expected to have been greeted with fanfare, with his strong allies singing his praises to the high heavens. But the reverse is the case as his political allies appear to be watching the political developments before taking sides. Those who are expected to swim or sink with him have decided to either sit on the fence while developments unfold or oppose him behind the scenes.
It is believed that some of his associates also want to taste power and therefore would prefer that he remained the oil that would lubricate their smooth transition to power. After all, since he left the governorship seat in Lagos State over a decade ago, he has played the role of godfather so perfectly, churning out governors, and ministers. He also contributed significantly to the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 by rallying other political bigwigs to deliver about 2.5 million votes from the South-west to support the votes of Buhari’s traditional 12 million followers.
Tinubu has consistently maintained a tight grip on Lagos State, playing a pivotal role and continuously determining who gets what, when and how in the state. He was instrumental to the emergence of the current Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola as the governor of the state from 2007 to 2015. He also anointed Fashola’s successor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. He also stamped his authority in the state when he frustrated Ambode’s second term bid, describing him as a performing governor but a bad party man. Tinubu replaced Ambode with the present Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu whose fate on the issue of second term will also be determined by the former Lagos State Governor.
Tinubu had also spread his political tentacles beyond Lagos State. He was responsible for the emergence of Governor Gboyega Oyetola in Osun State. During one of his recent consultations over his presidential ambition in the South-west, he had revealed how he helped the likes of the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola to become Osun State governor. Aregbesola played key role in Tinubu’s emergence as Lagos State governor, having worked as his campaign director.
Tinubu had also recalled how he supported the incumbent Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko to retrieve their mandates.
“I helped Mimiko get his mandate through court after two years that he was elected. I helped Fayemi get his mandate after three years. It took Aregbesola three years and 10 months to get his mandate. We have helped many people like that.
“We helped Buhari sack them (PDP). We supported him to complete his eight-year term and I have told him I want to succeed him. He said I should go ahead, that is why I came to seek the support of the traditional rulers,” Tinubu reportedly said.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was also the Lagos Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during Tinubu’s administration. Osinbajo was behind the success of Tinubu’s administration during the state government’s legal battles with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. Ambode, who was at different times the Auditor General for Local Government, Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Finance and the Accountant General of the State, was also part of the team that helped to raise the state’s internal revenue.
The increase in the state’s IGR helped Tinubu’s administration to survive the financial challenges caused by the seizure of the statutory allocations of the local governments in the state by the federal government.
However, none of the aforementioned has publicly declared support for his presidential bid and their body language has not suggested that they will do that any time soon. Aregbesola’s recent outburst over the second term ambition of Governor Oyetola was a strong indication of the bad blood among Tinubu’s allies.
His only strong ally, who voiced out his reservations about presidential ambition was the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu. Ojudu however did not toe the mudslinging path but simply argued that his preference for Osinbajo was a matter of principle.
Others have remained silence, sitting on the fence or working behind the scenes to truncate his ambition.
One wonders why those who had worked together with him in the past under a mutually beneficial arrangement have turned their backs on him. While some political analysts have accused some of his allies of betraying him, other analysts have blamed the attitude of his allies on his alleged overbearing attitude and style of politics.
Now that he has declared his interest in the presidency, many of his well-trusted allies are fighting for personal survival and many not want to sink or swim with him any longer.
Tinubu took the bull by the horns when he dared his disgruntled allies and announced his aspirations. However, if his quick declaration was to make his allies with similar ambition to shelve their dreams, then this objective is far from being achieved.
It is believed that more aspirants will emerge from the South-west. Osinbajo’s undeclared ambition is already ruffling feathers in his camp.
Tinubu’s influence on the political landscape has fetched him a massive followership in the South-west. It is likely that anyone who leaves his camp may not be really missed because there are thousands of people who can fill their space. But the rate at which his political associates turn their back on him and move on is a cause for concern.