Tinubu literally dictates the tune and members follow. From a distance, it seems that he demands total loyalty from his followers
“The Godfather’ changed the way gangsters acted.”
Last Tuesday’s governorship primary election in Lagos State in which incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode lost to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, an engineer, has again reaffirmed the grip of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the structure of the party in the state.
Tinubu literally dictates the tune and members follow. From a distance, it seems that he demands total loyalty from his followers while leaving them with the right to disagree with him if the need arises. But the truth is that those who had dared to slug it out with Asiwaju in the past soon realised they were not his match. They all got deep political bruises in return. And when it comes to the choice of who governs Lagos since he left office in 2007, he holds the ace. Ambode’s colossal defeat in the APC primary is a testament.
In the build up to the election, virtually all the people that have good influence on Lagos APC members queued behind Sanwo-Olu, from the Gubernatorial Advisory Council (GAC), which is the highest decision making organ, to 36 of the 40 state lawmakers and 57 chairmen of the local councils. One of the three contestants for the ticket, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, beat a retreat and endorsed Sanwo-Olu when he understood the body language of Tinubu and the handwriting on the wall.
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Tinubu watched from a distance as the events unfolded. But a day to the election, he issued a statement he personally signed where he endorsed Sanwo-Olu against Ambode. He chronicled Ambode’s sins in the statement, one of which was that he ignored the master plan for economic development that would improve the daily lives of Lagosians. The master plan, according to him, was developed roughly 20 years ago by a corps of dedicated and patriotic Lagosians, who put aside personal interests and rivalries to put their minds and best ideas together for the good of the state. That singular move cleared whatever doubts observers had about the direction the party was headed. Ambode’s defeat was imminent. But he (Ambode) was undaunted and maintained a bold face; he didn’t want to shy away from battle just because defeat was in the offing. Few days to the election, he declared that he was ready. But what was the outcome? He polled just 72,901 to Sanwo-Olu’s 970,851 votes. He conceded defeat hours after the National Working Committee (NWC) panel headed by Mr Clement Ebri officially announced the result. With the development, Ambode has joined the league of incumbent governors in the country that failed to get their party’s ticket to contest for a second term; and the first since 1999 to govern Lagos for one term.
His trouncing has, however, put bumps for Tinubu and his men on the road to the 2019 governorship election. First, they will need to reconcile Ambode’s supporters with the mainstream and reassure them of their continued relevance in the scheme of things in the party to avoid a backlash in the main election. Secondly, they would need to convince the electorate that they truly acted in the public interest, because as Tinubu acknowledged, “Ambode Akin, he’s doing well, yes; he hasn’t been a good party man.” Many Lagosians are asking: And so what? So, addressing these two issues will largely determine whether Tinubu will again shout eureka and further fasten his grip on Lagos politics or not.
Born on March 29, 1952, in Lagos, Tinubu holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. He had a successful career in the private sector before venturing into politics in 1992, when he was elected to represent Lagos West Senatorial District on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was one of the founding members of the National Democratic Coalition, a pro-democracy group that fought for the restoration of democracy and recognition of the results of June 12, 1993, presidential election. He went into exile in 1994 and returned to the country in 1998 after the death of the military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
In 1999, he contested for and won the governorship of Lagos State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He was re-elected for a second term in office in 2003. He is one of the brains behind the merger that gave birth to the APC. He holds the traditional title of Jagaban Borgu, which was conferred on him by the Emir of Borgu, Niger State, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro, in 2006.