For sometimes now, the rumour has been spreading like wild fire. The name on the lips of every politician these days, surprisingly, is not even that of the re-elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, or his opposition counterpart, Atiku Abubakar. The man everyone is talking about is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national leader of the ruling party, APC, and his rumoured 2023 presidential ambition. And if the strong momentum the rumour is gathering is anything to go by, then we can tell you that it is no longer a rumour, it is almost official now. Yes, you heard right, in a matter of time from now, the man popularly called Jagaban may officially declare his intention to run for the biggest office in the land and may possibly become the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2023.
As it is expected of a man of Asiwaju’s status, he cannot possibly be loved by everybody. This is not his own making, that is the way nature works all over the world. You do not rise to become one of the most politically powerful men to come out of the African continent and not make a few enemies along the way. But we can tell you for a fact that the man fondly referred to as the Lion of Bourdillon has far more friends and admirers than he has enemies. And one can imagine how distasteful his enemies must’ve found this little piece of ‘disturbing rumour.’
For the unwise among them, they might be quick to dismiss this story with a wave of the hand, thinking it is nothing but Asiwaju’s wishful thinking. But the wise know better. They know they have every reason to be disturbed. The word out there in political circles is that if you choose to underestimate Tinubu, then you’re doing so at your own peril. If you’re still doubting his massive political influence, then go to Jada village in Adamawa state and ask a certain Atiku Abubakar to share his experience with you. Or better still, knock on the door of the outgoing Senate President, Bukola Saraki, he is yet to recover from the APC Tsunami that swept him out of office in Kwara State. The entire ‘electoral coup’ that took place in Kwara State was the mastermind of the Master Political Strategist himself, Bola Tinubu, and his loyalists in the Kwara State APC.
What about the once upon a time Tinubu protege in Ogun State who dared to confront the lion, insisting he was ripe enough to become a kingmaker in his own territory? He forgot one of the cardinal Laws of the game -you do not trample upon the hands of the man that made you. Today, he has learnt his lessons. Today, he has no strong political friends anymore. All he has left to his name is his relationship with Mr President. Nearly every one of his loyalists has deserted him. Only bootlickers still mill around him with one eye on his pockets but are quick to rip him apart with their vitriol the moment his back is turned.
Without a doubt, this unexpected rumour making the rounds is music to the ears of those who admire Tinubu and respect everything that he has accomplished and stands for. His legacies are there for all to see. Tomorrow, when the complete story of the June 12 saga and the Democracy we are all enjoying today is told, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s name will be etched in pure gold. Even those who loathe him are well aware of the humongous sacrifices he made to see that the June 12 mandate given to the late business mogul and winner of the June 12 presidential elections, Chief MKO Abiola, was not in vain.
He (along with several others) risked his life and that of his family in the struggle for the actualisation of the democracy we have the liberty to witness today. While on exile for several years running away from the military junta at the time, Bola Tinubu threw everything he had into the struggle, including his resources and his freedom. Everyone who was part of the struggle then attests to the fact the Jagaban Borgu was one of the people they looked up to during those dark days for strength, inspiration and direction. It was only befitting that some years down the line, the people of Lagos State would show him profound gratitude by voting him into office as the 12th governor of Lagos State in 1999. He served Lagos for two glorious terms and within the period of eight years, while he was governor, Lagos State witnessed a transformation that remains unprecedented.
The state grew in leaps and bounds economically shortly after he assumed office. With only a meagre N600 million IGR at his disposal at the time he came into office, Asiwaju turned around the fortunes of Lagos State and today the state boasts of over N30 billion IGR per month. No wonder Lagos is ranked as the fifth largest economy in Africa and the most financially independent state in the country. That it appears Lagos is on an autorun today is to the ingenuity of Bola Tinubu. He has raised worthy successors who have continued to impress Lagosians by taking the fortunes of the state a couple of notches higher than they met it, bringing into fruition Asiwaju’s blueprint for a modern and Mega Lagos.
But beyond his unquestionable achievements as a former governor of Lagos State, perhaps Asiwaju’s biggest political feat remains that unprecedented victory he plotted for president Muhammadu Buhari at the 2015 presidential elections. Before then, Buhari had taken several shots at the presidency but failed. It was on his fourth attempt, with Asiwaju on his side this time, that he succeeded and power was finally wrestled from the hands of Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP who had been in power for 16 years. And at the expiration of his first term, the president went to the polls again, this time with a seemingly bigger opponent, Atiku Abubakar who was a former Vice-President of the federal republic. This time, the stakes appeared higher than they were in 2015, but Asiwaju was the Chairman of the APC 2019 Presidential Campaign Council and he didn’t disappoint. Today, despite all of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, president Buhari is sitting pretty in Aso Rock, re-elected and already hitting the ground for his second term. And the man is yet to stop thanking the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu for making that possible. The President has never hidden his utmost respect for Asiwaju.
It must be mentioned that Tinubu’s greatest strength remains the political structure he has built for himself which runs across the length and breadth of the nation’s political landscape. He has raised men and women of substance who are making exploits in different capacities of governance all over the country. And his philanthropy is legendary. It is often said that, if you are pauper and you get the good fortune of meeting Asiwaju one on one, that is the day you will bid poverty a final farewell in your life. He has transformed many lives and he is not slowing down yet. It is almost easy to see that the man enjoys a sense of fulfilment and gratification whenever he puts a smile on somebody’s face. It is no wonder therefore that there are calls emerging from different quarters asking him to take a shot at the presidency come 2019. From prominent members of the APC to ordinary Nigerians, the calls are coming in torrents. For some of these people, they feel Asiwaju has earned the right to become president of Nigeria as he is perhaps today regarded as one of the most outstanding of the men who fought for us to have true democracy today. They believe Jagaban Borgu has paid his dues. Some others who have no sufficient information regarding Asiwaju’s invaluable contributions to the actualisation of democracy in Nigeria hinge their position on the man’s phenomenal transformation of Lagos State. They argue that, given his experience and remarkable success as governor of a state regarded as possibly the most populous in the country and in the African continent, Asiwaju has the right pedigree to enable him run a country successfully. And with his recent incredible success at the recent general elections, helping APC to clinch most of the coveted positions up for grabs, including the presidency against all odds, many believe he deserves to be given a chance.
Interestingly, so far, as the calls for an Asiwaju for President 2023 continue to rise and the pressure continues to mount on him, the man at the centre of it all is yet to make the faintest move that will indicate any strong interest in the country’s coveted office. Some of the party’s prominent members have gone out of their way at different fora to encourage their leader to step out and take a shot at the presidency come 2023. T
he Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere led by Senator Ayo Fasanmi are solidly behind Asiwaju for president, and are ready and willing to give him the necessary backing should Jagaban decide to bow to pressure. Whether you love him or hate him, one thing nobody can take away from Asiwaju is the fact that not only has he earned the right to occupy Aso Rock come 2023, he is also eminently qualified to do so. His gargantuan achievements are there for everyone to see.
But the question remains, will Asiwaju bow to the pressure? Will he yield to the yearnings of those calling him to step up to the plate? Everyone is waiting. Everyone who knows the sort of transformation Asiwaju could bring to this country if elected president come 2023 is praying. But as it is, only Tinubu can decide what his aspirations will be, come 2023. And we shall be waiting…