Why Tinubu acts the way he does

April 14, 2019
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Each time President Buhari and the APC mark up a major victory, masterplanner Tinubu hardly gets some credit. But all that is grist to his mill

By Olusegun Elijah

APC national leader Bola Tinubu takes his word seriously as a politician.

And many who observe his politics are quick to add he’s also a strategist. That makes every move he makes loaded with meaning—real, implied, or exaggerated.

So when he told the APC every senator must fall in line under the party as the ninth Assembly rolls in, he’s just being strategic. He has an eye on the long-term, the big picture: a NASS under control of the party, its leader and President Muhammadu Buhari, its chairman and Tinubu’s man Adams Oshiomhole, and its national leader and black-hat technician Tinubu himself.

It was in a similar fashion he laid it in the line last year—for Lagos Gov. Akinwumi Ambode—that the state APC didn’t want him for a second term.

It all appeared a party thing, initially. “Ambode is a good governor, but he’s not a good party man,” Tinubu said as the decision heated up the APC stronghold in the southwest.

The governor probably made himself fair game. He was said to have been running a one-man show, ditching the party elders and other groups that worked for his victory in 2015.

Tinubu apologists were expected to spread this theory, and his fans, to swallow it.

But his critics would have none of it.

Spearheading a partisan putsch against Ambode to abort a return, Tinubu, many believe, was, as always, focused on something bigger than the governor’s second term, the long term: a Lagos where whoever he installs as governor will always keep their head down, or else they lose it in their first term in office.

To prove their points, some analysts would refer to the friction between him and his successor and godson Babatunde Fashola when he wanted to come for a second term.

Fashola was lucky, though. He got away with it.

But that would never happen again. Not when a rookie governor wanted to be a hero

So when Ambode got above himself in his first four years, he had to lose his scalp.

The wrangling that followed, before the 2019 guber primary in the state, made many conclude Bourdillion’s strategy now is to ensure no governor spends two terms in Lagos. They believe it’s a precautionary move to lick into line anybody that wants to play the hero, and sidelines the kingmaker.

If this permutation of the Lagos politics analysts has some logic to it, then the handwriting is clear on the wall. Gov-Elect Babajide Sanwo-Olu has just four years to spend.

He has denied it was part of his bargain when he was fished out to replace Ambode. “I didn’t sign a deal with anyone,” fired back during a TV interview in the run up to the March election. “At any rate, there is only one term of four years on the INEC form, so it will be up to the people of Lagos State to determine whether I deserve another term, based on my performance.”

Sanwo-Olu can deny it as much as he wants. But the circumstances that ushered him into the Alausa office, and the religion-colored politics of choosing his running mate Femi Hamzat are strong enough evidence Tinubu, again, had figured everything out.

And a term, by all moral or political standards, is due Ambode’s successor.

The outgoing governor is a Christian, a factor that worked in his favour in 2015. His fellow Christians across the state threatened to support the opposition candidate Jimi Agbaje if the ruling APC would not present a Christian candidate. They argued that since the state was created over half a century ago, no Christian had ever governed the world’s fifth largest city.

And when it happened that Ambode made it, eight years were certain. But, as things stand now, the two terms might not necessarily become his for the asking; they are for Christianity, the faith of about seven million of the 21 million people in the state.

In other words, Sanwo-Olu will be completing the second half of the Christian eight years. After that, by 2023, the dial of Lagos political clock moves to the Muslim. Sanwo-Olu, hopefully, will be a good party man, and won’t rock the boat.

Dep. Gov. (elect) Hamzat might have been positioned for this. He was actually plucked from Abuja, under Power Minster Fashola, his mentor. That was also strategic. It was, one, to draw Fashola into working for Sanwo-Olu; and, two, many argue, it was to prep a suitable Muslim for a takeover in 2023.

Hamzat, along with the like of Muiz Banire and others, has been contesting the party ticket , since Tinubu left office—with Fashola in 2003, and Ambode in 2014. He has not just been lucky enough. But he wouldn’t break rank, or begin party-hopping, like Agbaje, or form a rebellious clique within the APC, like Banire.

And that got Hamzat some back rubs.

Had he had the clout, Fashola, a Muslim, would have brushed aside religion, and made him his successor in 2014.

By reason of his faith, the deputy governor might ease into Alausa in 2023, without breaking a sweat. He will be there for his own term—the one term Tinubu has put on Hamzat’s head.

It’s the bigger picture.

That is what many—Sen. Ali Ndume and others resisting his position on Sen. Ahmed Lawan becoming Senate president, and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker—have failed to see.

And the biggie, at the federal level, is the one in which Tinubu may likely be the focal point: the 2023 presidency, for which the southwest is already flexing.

His ambition won’t be popular with many Nigerians now—because they can’t see the picture. Or because they deliberately put on the blinkers.

By the time they will hear the penny drop. Jagaban will almost have settled in at Aso Rock, accomplishing his mission, as he mostly does.

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