As Time Magazine Recognises Tinubu…

Nigeria’s President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was last week named one of 100 influential people in the world in the latest edition of Time Magazine. Considering his political journey and evolution, Tinubu’s recognition was after all not a mean feat, Adedayo Akinwale writes

Nigeria’s President-elect, Bola Tinubu, alongside United States President, Joe Biden; King Charles III and Ghanaian-born, Nigerian-based sculptor, El Anatsui; named among Time Magazine’s most influential personalities in 2023.

Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared the winner of the 2023 presidential election held on February 25 ahead of his rivals, after polling 8,794,726 votes.

Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world accords recognition to people “for changing the world, regardless of the consequences of their actions”.

According to Time magazine’s citation on Tinubu, winning an election in Africa’s most populous country is no easy feat. But it noted that Nigeria’s newly elected leader has had nearly two decades to prepare.

“Called Jagaban, or ‘leader of the warriors’ by his supporters, the now 71-year-old ran in a presidential election for the first time this March. His campaign slogan, “It’s my turn,” was a nod to his role as a long-time political power broker. Tinubu helped restore the country’s democracy in 1999 after fighting military rule and then served two consecutive terms as governor of Lagos.

“But Tinubu’s win with the ruling APC came in a fraught election and by a slim margin over Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. It was the first time Nigerian voters contended with a third-party candidate, and many discontented young Nigerians yearning for change pinned their hopes on Obi.

“Marred by allegations of intimidation and vote rigging, the outcome of the ballot is being challenged in court,” the magazine stated.

However, it added that Tinubu now faces a litany of crises in a fractured nation, including deep-rooted corruption, religious insurgencies, and shortages of cash, fuel, and power in a crumbling economy. But Tinubu seems aware of his inheritance: “(Nigeria) is one country and we must build it together,” Time quoted him as saying in his acceptance speech.

Be that as it may, Tinubu’s emergence in the just concluded election was not a fluke. He has been around for some time. He knows the game. Even his opponents alluded to the fact that he was a master strategist when it comes to the game of politics.

As a politician of repute, he has a lot of enemies and at the same time, he has a lot of admirers. To some, he is a good leader and he belongs to the class of progressives politicians. To others, his firm grip on Lagos state is the major reason why they can’t buy the former governor of Lagos for a penny. And no matter what, they cannot relate in any way with his style of politics.

In spite of the fact that some do not admire his leadership style or the kind of politics he plays, Tinubu’s contributions in and out of government to the country’s political development are monumental unlike other candidates in the just concluded elections.

For instance, when the country reeled under the weight of military dictator, General Sani Abacha, Tinubu was among those who galvanised the progressive segment of the ruling class to float the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) in 1994.

NADECO, forging a strong partnership with other civil society groups, became torn in the flesh of the Abacha regime. The movement led by frontline First Republic politician and elder statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro, and peopled by many activists who took refuge abroad, became the arrowhead of the anti-military struggle in Nigeria

The manhunt for NADECO members by the Abacha junta saw many activists including Tinubu fleeing the nation while some were killed by the killer squad of the late military head of state.

Following the return of civilian rule in 1999, Tinubu became the governor of Lagos state.

He constituted a cabinet made up of some of the brightest minds from different parts of the country. He also put in place a master plan for the development of the city which successive administrations have followed, even though with some modifications.

The development of the master plan has given birth to Eko Atlantic city and Lekki Industrial Zone, which now hosts the Dangote Refinery, the second largest in the world with a capacity to refine 650,000 barrels of oil per day, and the Lekki Deep Sea Port, among other projects

While in the saddle as Governor of the Centre of Excellence, Tinubu grew the Internally Generated Revenue of the State, reinforcing its position as the 5th largest economy in Africa.

During the 2003 general election, Tinubu became the “last man standing” after the five other governors in the South-west –Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti elected on the platform of the then Alliance of Democracy were edged out of the political game.

The ouster of the AD governors in the South-west was perfectly executed by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration.

Nevertheless, Tinubu alongside other leaders of the AD formed Action Congress. Through the new political platform, Tinubu fought back to reclaim the South-West states. The party later extended its tentacles after Adams Oshiomhole became the governor of Edo state. Though, that was after Oshiomhole’s mandate was retrieved at the Court of Appeal in 2008.

Subsequently, in 2010 Kayode Fayemi won his second term election as the governor of Ekiti state, while Rauf Aregbesola retrieved his mandate through the court and became the governor of Osun state.

Also, in 2011, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Abiola Ajimobi won governorship elections in Ogun and Oyo states respectively. This completed Tinubu’s conquest of the South-west and he became the godfather of the region.

After winning the South-west, Tinubu’s party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) formed an alliance with other political parties including the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) led by General Muhammadu Buhari, a faction of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and the new Peoples Democratic Party to form what is now known as APC.

It was through the platform of APC that Buhari won the presidential election in 2015, defeating an incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, after three failed attempts. Buhari contested in 2003, 2007, and 2011, and lost all before the alliance.

In February 2022, when Tinubu commenced his race to the Presidential Villa, by informing President Buhari about his ambition and his desire to step in his shoes without stepping on his toes.

Expectedly, it wasn’t a smooth sail, during the ruling party’s preparation for its Special National Convention where the party’s presidential candidate would emerge, Tinubu’s quest to replace Buhari took a dramatic turn.

When the plot against him thickened, Tinubu while in Abeokuta, Ogun state openly declared that it was his turn to assume the leadership of the country.

Barely 24 hours to the party’s presidential primary, the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdulahi Adamu told the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party during a meeting that the President had picked the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, as his preferred candidate.

However, his announcement met stiff resistance from other members of the NWC who insisted that all the presidential aspirants must be allowed to go to the field in a free, fair and transparent contest.

Amid the debacle, the APC northern governors issued a statement after their meeting in Abuja backing the transfer of power to the South and also asked aspirants from the northern region to withdraw.

Also, a few weeks into the presidential election, the federal government insisted on implementing the naira redesign policy that threatened the victory of the party. The policy, it was believed, was targeted at Tinubu.

Against this background, the governments of Kaduna, Zamfara, and Kogi States dragged the federal government before the Supreme Court following the decision of the federal government to ban the use of old naira notes effective February 10, 2023, as part of the Naira redesign policy.

Despite all the challenges thrown at him, Tinubu sailed through and eventually emerged as Nigeria’s president-elect. No doubt Tinubu has a date with destiny as he prepares to assume the leadership of this country come May 29, 2023.

For what it is worth, the president in-waiting has paid his due and for this reason, being named as one of the most influential people by the Time magazine did not come as a surprise for some of his admirers and those that belong to his political family.

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