On Monday, 29th March, the city of Kano, North-West Nigeria, was agog with the 12th Bola Ahmed Tinubu Colloquium, an annual ritual to celebrate the birthday of former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Colloquium, initiated 12 years ago by a group of loyalists of the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was a colourful gathering of notable dignitaries who attended both in person and virtually, including President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, state governors, ministers and a couple of foreign presidents, including George Weah of Liberia.
This year’s edition, no doubt took a life of its own, starting first with Tinubu at the weekend delivering a lecture at the Arewa’s annual lecture, a strategic move, seen by many as a demonstration of his growing acceptance by the Northern establishment and an indication that his rumoured ambition to succeed President Buhari in 2023 may after all be real and gaining traction.
Though the APC chieftain, who did a yeoman’s job in wrestling power from the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has not come out to formally declare his ambition to run for the presidency, he has not also denied it while his ‘body language’, has spoken louder than words to the effect that an ambition is truly in the pipeline and being currently actively nurtured.
But some Nigerians are of the view that if the flurry of activities by associates of the former governor, with the launching of the Bola Tinubu support organisations across the country, all geared towards the 2023 presidential contest were considered as the handiwork of overzealous associates and supporters, the wild receptions and jubilation with which he was welcomed to Kaduna at the Kaduna Airport and on the streets of Kano, have more than confirmed that Tinubu is not just eyeing the presidency but has a well oiled support base working across the country.
Tinubu’s 69th birthday also attracted glowing tributes from the high and mighty, starting from President Buhari, who eulogised the party leader for his contribution to the development of the country, describing him as a patriot and statesman.
A statement by Femi Adesina, Buhari’s spokesman read:
“President Muhammadu Buhari joins the governing party, All Progressives Congress, and its teeming members in congratulating Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on his 69th birthday, March 29, 2021, sharing the joyous occasion with the former two-term governor of Lagos State, whose acumen and influence continue to resonate round the country and beyond.
“The President rejoices with the ‘patriot and statesman’ on the 12th colloquium, an intellectual gathering to commemorate his birthday, that had over the years turned into a veritable opportunity for discussing topical national issues, and harnessing ideas that will move the nation forward.”
On his part, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan said: “A leader of leaders, political strategist and astute administrator, Asiwaju Tinubu has in three decades of active roles in the politics of Nigeria impacted many lives and greatly contributed to improving the polity”, while his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege, praised Tinubu as working for the growth of Nigeria’s democracy.
“Without question, you have written your name in gold. You have devoted your life to public service with extraordinary courage, resilience and tenacity of purpose. We appreciate your patriotic commitment to nation building”, Omo-Agege said.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Tinubu’s unrepentant ally and Speaker of the House of Representatives, hailed Tinubu as living a fulfilled life others must emulate.
“The Jagaban of Borgu kingdom means many positive things to different people. To some, he is an emancipator; to others, he is a great philanthropist. Yet, to some people, Asiwaju is a rallying point, a unifying pillar. His democratic credentials are unrivalled. His philanthropic activities transcend borders. To the Asiwaju, life is nothing without touching the lives of people”, Gbajabiamila said glowingly of his leader.
The ruling party, APC, in a statement by its National Chairman Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, said Tinubu is not just a man of excellence but a true democrat and a great leader.
“As a leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is passionate about the future of the people; as a developmental democrat, he is a proponent of due process and rule of law. His humble and humane disposition made him a great philanthropist. The APC family is proud of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s many achievements”, the ruling party said, while the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), said the governors elected on the platform of the APC “will always continue to look up to you (Tinubu) for inspiring guidance.”
On his part, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, one of the beneficiaries of Tinubu’s political leadership in the South-West, described him as a distinguished Nigerian and a reliable leader.
“Asiwaju Tinubu’s ability to identify, nurture and engage talents is unequalled. His life has been a testimony of human capital development in an unrelenting struggle for a better life for the people,” the Ekiti Governor said, while the Northern Governors Forum described Tinubu as an accomplished politician and seasoned administrator, whose strides in the nation’s socio-political landscape have remained outstanding.
The NGF also described the former Lagos State Governor as a politician, statesman, and patriot, who exemplifies vision, dexterity, and versatility in the course of nation-building and national dialogue, adding that he is a bridge-builder, who has continued to work for the unity, peace, and progress of Nigeria, as well as consistently offering wise counsel toward addressing national issues.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Tinubu’s latest beneficiary in the Centre of Excellence, also has kind words for him, describing him as a visionary leader and a rare mentor with exceptional abilities in various areas of human endeavours.
He also credited his mentor and benefactor as a political pathfinder, nationalist and detribalised Nigerian, who has contributed in no small measure to the socio-political and economic growth of Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole.
“As pathfinder, Asiwaju charted the developmental trajectory of modern Lagos, raising the bar of governance and public service in the State and indeed, Nigeria.
“A cheerful giver who cares about the welfare of the people, Asiwaju personifies tolerance and humanity. The story of Nigeria’s democracy cannot be told without the name of the Jagaban Borgu written in gold. Thousands are today direct beneficiaries of his political benevolence”, Sanwo-Olu said.
Not done, Sanwo-Olu hit home direct, when he said: “As you march on to a higher pedestal in life, may The Almighty go with you every step of the way and may you accomplish more in the service of our dear country and humanity”, in apparent reference to his quest for the presidency.
Tinubu’s ambition to occupy the highest office in the land, though not officially proclaimed by him, may be a forgone conclusion, as everything seems to point to the fact. What is, however, not yet known are his chances, first in securing his party’s ticket and second, in getting the nod of Nigerians at the general election to be their president.
On the face value, the APC ticket should have been given to him but the current realities within the party, especially in his home zone of South-West, point to apparent ground swell of opposition, and he may as a result of that face a stiff opposition, even from among his trusted allies.
Among such associates and former allies allegedly opposing his ambition from the South-West are the Ekiti State Governor, Fayemi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, a position that has given him national prominence and former Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who is a serving Senator.
In a recent television interview, Fayemi parried questions on his rumoured presidential ambition, choosing to go spiritual by saying God will reveal what he has for him in due course, while in another breath, he said there is no politician that will not be excited with the prospect of becoming president.
While Fayemi has failed to deny his potential opposition to his benefactor, Amosun, who has been unusually quiet lately, is believed to be actively banking on his famed closeness to President Buhari since their days in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), for the actualisation of his ambition.
Also, within the South-West is a greater form of opposition to Tinubu’s ambition, with a growing followership. This group include both the young and the old, especially those who are yet to forgive him for the role he played in bringing the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to power, seen by them as the worst thing to have happened to the region.
Leading this group is the Yoruba social-cultural organisation, Afenifere, whose leaders have consistently vowed to oppose and work against Tinubu’s ambition to become president. For them, they have every reason to oppose the former governor, who they accused of selling Yoruba people to the Hausa/Fulani.
Among this group are also younger elements in the region, some of whom are supporters of Yoruba self-determination groups, agitating for Oduduwa Republic. For these younger elements, Tinubu is only wasting his time, as they insisted there won’t be election in 2023, especially in their ‘Oduduwa Republic ‘.
These group also has an axe to grind with the APC National Leader, accusing him of criminal silence in the face of the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen in the region, while others dismissed his late coming statement on the herders crisis in the zone as a mere exercise in political correctness.
These anticipated bottlenecks notwithstanding, there is a growing army of supporters within and outside the South-West that are ready to go to any length for Tinubu. For these growing tribe of supporters, Tinubu will not just contest, but will also win conveniently.
Veteran Nollywood actor, Prince Jide Kosoko, in a chat believes there is no other person as qualified as the APC leader, in terms of experience, goodwill and foresight.
“I have known the Jagaban and related with him for several years and one thing I can conveniently tell you is that he is in a class of his own. He stands out in everything, and you cannot fault his commitment to a great and prosperous Nigeria.
“He is a man who is not blinded by tribalism, a Nigerian through and through. That’s the kind of person the nation needs and that’s what he is. If election for the presidency is conducted today, Tinubu will be a man to beat”, the Lagos prince said.
Speaking further, the veteran actor, who is a known associate of the former Lagos governor, dismissed those mouthing opposition to Tinubu’s ambition as armchair critics, who are only envious of him.
“Take your time to reflect on who are most vocal in their opposition and you will discover that none of them has the kind of pedigree and track record or performance and service to the nation except their constant negative opposition and criticism of everything that catches their fancy. Here, we are talking of a man with visibly identified achievements both in life and politics, a man widely identified as a leader, mentor, a strategist and an achiever. No one should lose sleep over their toxic comments,” Kosoko said.
The new leader of the Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, however has a different view of Tinubu’s ambition, as he believes the former Lagos State governor is merely engaging in a wild goose chase. According to him, Tinubu is only deceiving himself if he thinks President Buhari will handover to him.
“I have said it openly before and I would say it again that Buhari is deceiving Tinubu and Tinubu is deceiving Buhari. I’m an old man and I’m a funeral candidate already, so quote me. If Tinubu contests the primary in APC today, he will fail.
“When I say Buhari is fake and he has a private agenda, I know what I’m saying. He wants Fulani to take over and that was why he allowed them to come in. When we ask them about the herders killing people, they would say they are foreigners.”
The Afenifere leader however called on Tinubu and others to retrace their steps and queue behind the demand for the restructuring of the country.
“All of them were Afenifere before they broke away. It was on the Afenifere platform that Bola Tinubu, Bisi Akande, and the others were elected as governors.
“I have always told them, from Tinubu downwards, that it’s better they save themselves speedily. I’m talking to all of them, that in the interest of Yorubaland and the country, they should get out of the carcass they call APC. I made a public pronouncement that they were a conglomeration of incompatibles. It’s on record. I said it then and I’m still saying it now; if they don’t save themselves early enough, then they are ready for a disaster.”