In two years, Nigeria will be going to the polls once again to decide who would be at the helm of affairs of the country for the next four years. The last time Nigerians went to the polling unit in 2019, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari faced strong opposition from a former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He won and secured a second term in office for himself, flying on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party that broke the jinx and defeated the incumbent party back in 2015.
As the 2023 Presidential election looms, one may begin to wonder, “Who would it be? Who would control the helm of affairs?” A couple of names might pop up owing to rumours and statements in the past. Some of the popular names that are on the lips of Nigerians for the next election are Yemi Osinbajo, Rotimi Amaechi, Nasir el-Rufai, Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Tambuwal, Bukola Saraki, Peter Obi, and surprisingly, Former President Goodluck Jonathan who seems to have won the admiration of Nigerians again.
Although these people mentioned above are political heavyweights, one name resounds more than the others mentioned, and that name has been linked a lot to the Nigerian Presidency come 2023. That name is none other than Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
A brief history about Tinubu
Tinubu, though born in Osun state, hails from Lagos state and was a former governor of the mega-state from 1999 to 2007. He started his political career as a senator representing the Lagos West constituency, a position he served in only briefly due to the volatility of the military regime in the third republic. When democracy was given a chance in 1999, Tinubu, popularly known as the Asiwaju of Lagos, contested for the position of governor, and he won. This was a position that cemented his name in Nigerian politics and even earned him the title “The Godfather of Lagos and Yoruba Polity.”
Even though Bola Ahmed Tinubu left office in 2007, his influence in the politics of Lagos is still evident and the three governors of Lagos after him all had his blessings and endorsement.
In 2011, agitations against the ruling party, PDP rose, and many other parties coalesced to put out the ruling party. While the plan did not work in 2011, it worked perfectly in 2015. Muhammadu Buhari defeated the incumbent – Goodluck Jonathan – at the polls. Ahmed Tinubu, as a national leader of the APC, was at the forefront of that battle in kicking PDP out of power.
Often touted as a Kingmaker, one may wonder if it is time for the Kingmaker to be King. If you ask Tinubu himself, he might be dismissive of the idea. He has regularly shied away from answering such questions. Last year, he made a statement, “To those who have been actively bleating how the President’s actions and the NEC (National Executive Committee) meeting have ended my purported 2023 ambitions, already you have assigned colorful epitaphs to the 2023 death of an alleged political ambition that is not yet even born.” Thereby suggesting that he does not have any ambition towards the 2023 Presidency.
Even with his constant denial of his ambitions, many groups are already endorsing him as their candidate. On the 27th of March, The APC Chieftain arrived at Kaduna to chair the Arewa annual lecture. Abdullahi Yanshana, a former Kano lawmaker said, “95 percent of the votes from Kano in 2023 will be in favor of the national leader of the APC”.
Experts in Nigerian politics also consider him the strongest candidate to run for the APC. No one in the party has more political network than Tinubu and this is what sets him apart from other candidates. Since leaving the Lagos state government house in 2007, Asiwaju has cemented his name in national politics.
A salient question now would be: Are Nigerians going to choose Tinubu should he indicate interest? The answer to this is a bit tricky. If you are aware of how Nigerian politics work, you will notice that the presidency is usually rotated between the North and the South. Should a Northerner be President, a Southerner would be Vice and vice versa.
The success of Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the polls in 2023 is dependent on the person he chooses as a running mate. There are rumors of him running alongside the current Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. That is a grouping that is not just disastrous but one that would fail woefully.
Why Tinubu’s running mate matters?
Nigerians vote along tribal lines. A south-south coalition would fail because the North would feel unrepresented. A north-north coalition will also fail because the south would feel marginalized. It does not matter if the two candidates from one region have credible resumes.
What the Jagaban of Lagos needs to do is to find a candidate from the North and partner with him. Atiku Abubakar is still a formidable candidate and might also contest for the 2023 Presidential elections. It would be in Tinubu’s interest to choose a candidate from the North, else the whole northern votes might just fall in for Atiku Abubakar and the hopes of the presidency will dash.
There are possible northern politicians that Tinubu can pick a running mate from. There is the incumbent governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir el-Rufia, or the governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello. If the case of a northern running mate is settled, the odds will be in his favor.
Where problems may stem from is in the APC, a party in which he is a National leader. Currently, the APC camp has been involved in a slight scuffle over leadership in the party. The National Working Committee of the APC was dissolved by the National Executive council. And this committee dissolved by the NEC was where Tinubu had his major allies.
Adams Oshiomole, who was the National President of the APC was also relieved of his duties. Currently, there are two factions within the APC: The Tinubu and Oshiomole faction and the Nasir el-Rufia and Rotimi Amaechi faction.
Ironically, his greatest opposition is from his own household. But if he can surmount the challenges and internal conflicts within the APC, Tinubu is a strong contender for the seat of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria.