Critics of Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, question his democratic credentials and sources of his wealth. Can he continue to exercise overbearing influence on the party anymore?
| By Olu Ojewale | Dec. 23, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE case looks isolated, but significant. After several months of political manoeuvring and open conflict between Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Opeyemi Bamidele, a member of the House of Representatives also from Ekiti State, the lawmaker has eventually renounced his membership of the All Progressives Party, APC, and joined the Labour Party, LP, on Sunday, December 1. The two politicians had been at loggerheads over APC’s gubernatorial ticket for the 2014 election in the state.
In his speech, Bamidele said he could no longer remain in the APC because pseudo-democrats, whom, he said had “consistently demonstrated extreme allergy to internal democracy,” had hijacked it. “To this extent, therefore, I, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, in conjunction with many notable leaders and members of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in Ekiti State, have resolved to seek membership of another progressive party with immediate effect rather than proceeding to register as new members of the All Progressive Congress, APC,” he said, adding: “While not attempting to undermine the APC as a newly-registered political party with progressive inclination, we make bold to say that the leadership of the APC in Ekiti State has, like a really upsetting tragedy, been hijacked by pseudo-democrats and reactionary elements who would stop at nothing to hold on to political power even when they have clearly been rejected by the masses.”
With tongue-in-cheek, Bamidele said he now looked forward to joining the LP, which he described as “a credible progressive platform of convergence for our individual vision and commitment to internal democracy,” to actualise his political ambition. The lawmaker, it was learnt, had wanted to go to the National Assembly as a senator, but was told by Ahmed Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, to go to the House instead because a more favoured person had been given the seat.
Although he did not say it, Bamidele, a former commissioner in Lagos State, was said to have incurred the wrath of Tinubu, leader of the APC, by insisting that he would contest the governorship ticket with incumbent Governor Fayemi. Sources said Bamidele actually introduced Fayemi to Tinubu and when he felt the governor might not be willing to allow him to succeed him in office, he decided to contest against him. But since Tinubu was not in support of his ambition, he had to dump the party. Reacting, Jide Awe, interim chairman of the APC in the state, said Bamidele was never a member of the APC, saying the party would not feel his exit. “Bamidele was a member of the ACN under the platform he was elected to the House of Representatives. His declaration for another party is good riddance to bad rubbish. We are comfortable more than ever with his exit.”
Analysts say the case of Ekiti State is one good pointer to what the new members from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who recently crossed over to the APC, may have to contend with in their new party. Now, the former rebels are the beautiful brides in the APC house. No doubt, a lot of analysts expect their experiences, ideas, money and not so pleasant baggage, to either sink or help push the APC to greater height. For now, the union looks a perfect match.
But first, the new imports may have to contend with the big ego of Tinubu, a major financier and leader of the party. Hitherto, Tinubu had been the one dictating the course of events and operational direction of the party. But with the likes of Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aliyu Wamakko, Murtala Nyako, Abudufatah Ahmed and Chibuike Amaechi, governors of Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kwara and Rivers states, respectively, getting involved, Tinubu may find his authority challenged henceforth.
Apart from that, except there is internal democracy, which has been absent in the party, the fledgling APC may erupt in crisis earlier than expected if nothing is done about it. According to sources, the crossing over by Wamakko to the APC was not without its moments of anxiety and intrigues because Attahiru Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto is the current leader of the APC in the state. Wamakko was his deputy until late in the second term of the administration when he resigned in 2006. Both Bafarawa and Wamakko were elected on the platform of the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP.
Having gone their separate ways, Wamakko was wooed by the PDP to contest the 2007 governorship on its platform. He did and won. Hence, the relationship between the two political leaders had been anything but cordial. Will Bafarawa accept Wamakko back with open arms and allow him to take over the machinery of the party in the state? There are indications already that Wamakko does not have to sweat in that regard because he is regarded as a better politician than his former boss. He also has in his camp, Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, who appears to be bidding his time before moving over to the APC. With Wamakko, Bafarawa and Tambuwal working together as a team, analysts say it will be difficult for Tinubu or any outsider to dictate the state of affairs in Sokoto State.
The same kind of synergy will also be required in other states such as Kano, Kwara, Adamawa and Rivers states to avoid crisis. In Kwara State, dislodging the late Olusola Saraki’s political dynasty is not going to be easy. Bukola Saraki, former governor and currently, a senator, appears to have the state in his grip. It was Saraki who appointed Ahmed, the current governor, as his successor in 2011. Saraki and Ahmed combining forces will be a formidable team. Hence, it would be difficult for anyone to dictate to them how to run the state.
This fact was made clear by Ahmed prior to the time they joined the APC. He told the APC delegation on a visit to the state that “given the prevailing political structure in Kwara, only Dr. Saraki, a serving senator, could determine the next move of the PDP members in the state.” The people of Kwara State, he said, belonged to a political dynasty and would not give away the structure at any cost. “It is an existing structure for the past 40 years with assured election winning machinery… We are one big family here, under a political structure inherited by our leader Dr. Bukola Saraki. He has given all of us joy and comfort that he can lead us well,” the governor said.
It may also mean that for Dele Belgore, a scion of the Belgore family, governorship candidate of the defunct ACN in the 2011 election, joining hand with the Saraki will be a better way to go for now. Belgore has been the leader of the APC in the past two years and now, it looks inconceivable to expect Governor Ahmed to play a second fiddle in the state. Hence, for peace to reign in the party, Belgore will have to work with the Saraki dynasty, which for now, controls the state. With such a formidable team, observers say it would be very difficult for Tinubu to seek to control the party machinery in the state.
The retired generals in Adamawa State are no pushovers either. The military esprit de corps is expected to bind Governor Nyako, a retired vice admiral, and Mohammed Buba Marwa, a retired brigadier general, together now that they are in one party and no longer at loggerheads to fight for the soul of the state. Until now, both Nyako and Marwa had been in opposite camps and after the bitter gubernatorial election contest of 2011, it took a while for the APC leaders to reconcile them. Marwa, is the current leader of the APC in the state, but sources say he would not mind relinquishing same to Nyako for the opportunity to contest the 2015 governorship race. With such an agreement in the bag, the two generals can now join forces to deal with their common enemies in the PDP. A source said a combination of Nyako and Marwa in the state, while former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku is also not favourably disposed to the ruling party, is a sure win for the APC. But will the national leadership of the party allow the generals to consolidate their authority?
According to analysts, using the same formula of controlling affairs of the states from the centre as it was done by Tinubu in the ACN, would not augur well for the party as the combination of Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the PDP, and Bonnie Haruna, former PDP governor of the state, is regarded as formidable enough to upset the apple cart.
The fortune of the APC is expected to be greatly enhanced only if Kwankwaso would work amicably with Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of the State, and his political foe. The APC machinery in the state is in the hands of Shekarau. Kwankwaso, as an incumbent governor, lost to the retired teacher in 2003. The current governor of Kano State had to wait for Shekarau to finish his two-term tenure before venturing back to contest the office. Kwankwaso later defeated Shekarau’s protégé in the 2011 governorship election to return to the office.
The national leadership of the APC initially made a mistake by approaching the governor without the consent of the Kano APC leadership. But having realised the mistake, it quickly corrected itself by sending a delegation led by Odigie Oyegun, former governor of Edo State and a chieftain of the APC, to tender an apology to Shekarau. Oyegun, in company of notable leaders, was in Kano on Monday, November 18; he used his visit to debunk rumours that the leadership of the APC wanted to handover the party to Kwankwaso. “Let me emphasise here that under no circumstance did the national leadership undermine the APC and its leader in Kano, Mallam Shekarau. The reason is very obvious; one is that Kano is important to us, it is significant to the APC.”
While acknowledging the role played by Shekarau in the merger which gave birth to the APC, Oyegun said: “He played a key role in what the APC is today. There is no way that the party will throw away what it knows and what it has. Four of our national leaders that included Bola Tinubu, Bello Masari, Yusuf Ali and myself met Shekarau at his private residence in Abuja to apologise to him and we requested that we visit his supporters in Kano to appease them.” Oyegun was accompanied to the state by Abdul-Aziz Yari Abubakar, governor of Zamfara State, Aminu Bello Masari, former speaker of the House of Representatives, and Yusuf Ali, former national chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
“I want to emphasise it here that the national leadership will never turn its back on the APC leadership in Kano. No state will be undermined by the party because our struggle is to wrest power from the PDP,” Oyegun said. In his response, Shekarau thanked the leadership for accepting its mistakes and making amends. “I have no option than to accept the apology for the party to move forward. Our door is open; we are not against anybody joining the APC because we have no ill feelings,” he said.
Suleiman Kawu Sumaila, deputy minority leader of the House of Representatives from Kano State, also expressed disappointment that the national leader of the party did not consult its members in the legislature before speaking with Kwankwaso. Sumaila said in an interview: “It is totally unjust to ignore us and start talking with Kwankwaso without engaging us. Nobody in Kano politics can bulldoze us and think that he can influence votes. If you have money or think that you’re somebody, go and practise somewhere but not in Kano.”
The legislator cautioned the APC leadership not to fall victim of what has happened to the PDP. “The party is almost brought down because of the injustice, impunity, imposition and other undemocratic tendencies. Therefore, we’re avoiding it in APC. You cannot fight injustice somewhere and bring it to another place. You cannot go and preach free and fair elections somewhere, then you’ll come and impose it elsewhere and think that people will respect you,” Sumaila said.
That, indeed, should be a strong warning to the five governors who have pledged their loyalty to the APC and the leadership of the party as well. Will the development make Tinubu a better democrat or will he still seek to control the party machinery like his personal estate?
For about three months that he was away on medical vacation, the APC was also on vacation. There was no attack on federal government policies. But no sooner had Tinubu stepped on the soil of Nigeria in October, the party came alive with its activities grabbing newspapers’ headlines. Since then, Tinubu has taken members of the party leadership on tour of almost every part of the country. It was during such visits that he was able to persuade five of the renegade governors of the PDP and some leaders of the party to join the APC.
It is not so difficult to know why Tinubu’s influence is so enormous in the APC. His power stems from his party being the senior partner in the new merger arrangement. The ACN, where he was the de facto national chairman, controls six states. It is followed by the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, which has three states, while the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the governor Rochas Okorocha-led faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, have one state each. The imbalance has helped Tinubu to have his way in appointment of some key officers to retain top post in the running of the APC affairs. Thus, Bisi Akande, former governor of Osun State, and former national chairman of the ACN, emerged as its interim national chairman. Other key members of the defunct ACN holding important positions in the APC are, Tom Ikimi, national vice-chairman, South-South; Niyi Adebayo, national vice-chairman, South-West; Lai Muhammed, interim national publicity secretary and Muniz Banire, legal adviser.
From the ANPP are Annie Okwonkwo, national vice-chairman, South East; Tijani Tumsah, interim national secretary; Salisu Fagge, vice-chairman, north-west; Shaibu Musa, interim national financial secretary among others. From the CPC are Aminu Masari, former speaker of the House of Representatives, who is the interim deputy national chairman, North; Abdullahi Aboki, a retired army general, national vice-chairman, North Central and Nasir el-Rufai, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, interim deputy national secretary.
Although Tinubu has not declared his interest in any elective position, he is expected to play a major role in whoever eventually emerges as the party’s presidential flag-bearer. Besides, Tinubu’s influence in all the six states controlled by the former ACN, has also given him an edge against anyone that may want to undermine his grip on the party. The financial resources from the six states are said to be the live-wire of the APC.
Tinubu’s influence goes beyond the party politics. He still holds sway in Lagos where he nominated Governor Babatunde Fashola as his successor before leaving office in 2007. His power over Lagos State was in display on Tuesday, October 29, when Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, his daughter, whom he appointed to succeed Abibatu Mogaji, his late mother, as Iyaloja-general of Nigeria, was being inaugurated. All major markets in the state were closed to allow traders to attend the coronation ceremony held at the palace of the Oba of Lagos.
The coronation ceremony was also part of the activities to commemorate the 70th birthday of Riliwan Akiolu, the oba of Lagos. At the installation proper, Akiolu advised the new Iyaloja or head of markets, to be diligent and committed to the service of humanity. He said the position was important to the development of market activities in Lagos State and Nigeria at large.
Of course, a good number of people were not happy about the overbearing influence of Tinubu who is generally seen as having used his vantage position in Lagos to buy up all choice lands and businesses in the state. For instance, the former governor acquired First Nation Airways (formerly Bellview Airlines) in 2010 and shortly after, ordered for three new aeroplanes from the US to beef up the fleet of the airline. The cost of one aircraft was put at $85 million or N13.6 billion. The planes were delivered in early April 2011. For no explicit reason, the airline folded up last year. His critics have queried where Tinubu, who was never known to be a millionaire before he became governor could have raised the several billions to pay for the aircraft.
But Tinubu’s business does not start or end with the First Nation Airways. He owns a lot of properties in Lagos, which opponents allege that he had used his position as governor to appropriate. Some of them include the N14 billion Ikeja Shopping Mall, near Alausa Lagos Secretariat; Oriental Hotel; Renaissance Hotel, Agidingbi, First Nation Airline, Vintage Publications (publishers of The Nation newspapers), TV Continental, Radio Continental, Lekki Toll Services, Eko Atlantic City, among many others. Besides, Tinubu was said to have acquired an expansive plot of land within Alausa, few meters away from the Governor’s office, which was allocated as a residential area before the residents living in the place were evacuated and the buildings in the area demolished.
Segun Oni, national vice-chairman of the PDP in the South-West, a few months ago, asked Nigerians to query Tinubu on how he came about his wealth. “Nigerians should ask how a man who was governor for eight years with a fixed salary and allowances could have acquired so much money to buy almost everything in Lagos and stop insulting our sensibilities with nonsensical talks which are only aimed at covering up their non-performance and looting of treasuries in the States under their control. What Nigerians demand from them are explanations as to the reckless and obscene appropriation of properties belonging to Lagosians by Bola Tinubu and his stupendous wealth which is at the expense of tax payers in Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Oyo and Ogun States,” Oni said.
Indeed, Tinubu’s power extends to Osun, Ekiti, Oyo and Ogun states, where his party holds sway. In fact, when the mandates of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria were stolen in Edo, Osun, and Ekiti states, Tinubu mobilised legal forces to the states to help the candidates. He also helped Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party in Ondo State, to wrestle the mandate from the PDP by paying its legal fees. Mimiko was said to have resisted the pressure to move to the ACN in appreciation because he could not agree with the overbearing nature of Tinubu, who wanted to dictate everything about how to run the state to him.
It is believed that even though Fashola is the governor of Lagos State, Tinubu still runs the state. This is because Fashola is not politically inclined. But when he saw that Fashola could be used to run the affairs of the state, he picked him despite the stiff opposition within the party and ensured his election on the platform of the then Action Congress. But when Fashola tried to be assertive sometimes in 2010 by insisting that contract awards in the state should go through due process, he incurred the wrath of Tinubu. In no time, the former governor threatened to dump him politically when he dropped a hint that he was looking for Fashola’s successor in 2011. The former governor said that he did not have any anointed candidate for the position, adding that the party would unveil its flag-bearer after a vibrant contest by the aspirants. “I am not a pastor, neither do I have any anointing oil but what I know is that when the time comes, the governorship aspirants would be given an opportunity to go to the primary election to test their political stance,” Tinubu said.
One of those being touted to succeed Fashola was Adeyemi Ikuforiji, speaker of the House of Assembly. Ikuforiji, at a point, fuelled the speculation when he told journalists of his readiness to slug it out with Fashola. He said: “My people said that it is high time I contested for the number one seat in the state because I have every right to do so under the 1999 Constitution. So, the onus is on me to do what my people want me to do since I want to represent them. Like I said some days ago, I am eligible to contest for any post and I want to categorically tell you that I will contest for the governorship seat in next year’s election unless my party says I should go for Presidency but what I know is that I am contesting to become Lagos State governor in 2011.”
Reacting to a national newspaper’s attempt to compare Tinubu’s administration with Fashola’s, a livid Ikuforiji, during one of the House sittings, said: “Nobody can be compared with Asiwaju in the world because he is an outstanding hero of our time. He laid a solid foundation when he was the governor of Lagos State and without such a foundation, the present administration led by Fashola couldn’t have achieved anything.” At a point, there was a serious move to impeach the governor. But Fashola’s performance had endeared him to all and sundry. Sensing that the move might attract public sympathy, the House dropped its plan.
When it had become apparent that Tinubu was going to sponsor another candidate to contest against Fashola, the PDP started making an overture to get him to run on its platform. Fearing that there might be protest votes against any other candidate of his choice, Tinubu reasoned that it was better to stick with Fashola. Little wonder, all political appointees of Fashola are vetted by Tinubu including those who have served as his deputy.
This is, no doubt, a blot on Tinubu’s democratic credentials. Bode George, former deputy national chairman of the PDP in the South-West, does not believe that Tinubu is a democrat. Speaking in an interview, George queried such claim by the former governor: “Bola Tinubu has been manipulating, has been cheating, through Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC….Tinubu has no respect or regard for the electorate. He doesn’t have any respect for them. Because he believes, whether the people vote for them or not, they would rig themselves into power. They would write results. But, that must change. We do not want to have a variant of the Arab Spring here. I am saying it now, loud and clear,” George said.
According to the PDP stalwart, Tinubu must be suffering from ‘Affluenza,’ which he described to mean “an incurable malady which makes the pathetic sufferer to pursue blind, greedy, desperate and infectious craving for acquisition after acquisition.” Apart from Tinubu’s crave for power, George, said the APC leader’s “can never stop the craving for unnecessary endless accumulation of wealth. He does not know what is enough. He glorifies wealth in place of the Almighty God. This is the dreadful disease Tinubu is suffering from.”
He accused him as someone who stole the city hall, and the real enemy of the people of the South-West. “The enemy is the Iragbiji upstart who seized the local government Secretariat at Glover Street in Ikoyi. Our collective enemy is the greedy man who bought the old Nurses House, the Falomo shopping complex, the Lagos state Polytechnic property at Ojota, stretches of acres at Lekki, the old Strabag yard at Alausa, the innumerable beach front properties long owned by the people of Lagos state, the billion naira Queen’s Drive mansion, the illegal Lekki Toll Gate, the First Nation Airline, the strings of media conglomerates, the Vault and Garden Cemetery, the vast Estates on the shores of Oniru beach , the endless choice hotels and high-rises, the shopping Mall in Ikeja and Lekki, and many great assets of our people. This Iragbiji man has stolen with maniacal desperation. That is the real enemy we must chase back to Iragbiji,” George said.
Kolade Olalere, former PDP member in Oyo State, said it was disheartening that governors were taking instructions from Tinubu, whom he accused of dictating everything about the running of government in the South-West. “All the contracts in the South-West must be vetted by Tinubu before being given out. Do you call such a person a democrat? Definitely, no!” He also made reference to the Lagos State university school fees which jumped from N25,000 to N250,000 per session. “These are the people who call themselves progressives. There is nothing progressive in what they are doing but to deny the common man of university education,” Olalere said.
But Odinaka Ngige, a lawyer, does not believe that Tinubu is a dictator. In fact, he said the former governor has been behaving in a democratic manner. Contrary to what people must have been saying, Ngige said: “While he was away, the party was waxing strong because the party members cut across the different states of the country and all the geopolitical zones were sufficiently and efficiently working and were also represented. This is to show the world and other parties that the APC is not a one-man party because when its founder was not there, activities were going on as usual until he came back into the country.”
He cited the political situation as an example, saying: “The Anambra party group was holding its meetings and the south east zones were busy registering its members. The registration of candidates in Anambra State was done in his absence. It’s a fallacy for anyone to say that the party was not moving when he travelled. Tinubu is not a dictator but a complete democrat because he is the best thing that has ever happened to the people of Lagos State and the South-West zone. He has been a senator, a two-term governor and he also championed the Abiola fight during the annulment of the 1993 presidential election. We can also see that Fashola, Lagos State governor, who is his product, is the best governor in the country now. Most of the present South-West governors were once in his cabinet either as a commissioner, special adviser or others.”
Achike Chudi, public affairs analyst, admires Tinubu for his political prowess. “Whether you like Tinubu or not, the truth remains that you must admire him in one way or the other because if you talk of opposition party or politics in this country, the only person, to a large extent, is Tinubu. He is the only person who has been able to amass resources from whatever means and has been able to use the resources to constitute a formidable opposition against the PDP-led government. He has fought against the ruling party and to a very large extent he has succeeded in putting the PDP away from the South-West. And you cannot blame Tinubu for that because they say that charity begins at home. He has been able to make some serious progress in the polity of the South-West,” Chudi said. The public analyst does not see the former governor as a dictator either. Rather, he sees him as a man who has amassed wealth for the purpose of fighting political heavyweights oppressing the masses.
“Tinubu as a person, one must praise him for his ability to amass wealth to fight the PDP and constitute an opposition party to a large extent. But there is always the other side of it. People would always ask how he got the wealth he is using to finance political activities. But he is not alone and if that is the case then, I can tell you that virtually every prominent political actor in the country is guilty. All of them have been involved in the same process,” Chudi said.
Tinubu, 61, was born on March 29, 1952, in Lagos. He attended St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos, and Children’s Home School in Ibadan, Oyo State. He later went to the US in 1975, where he studied Accounting at Chigago State University, graduating in 1979. But his political career began in 1992, when he was elected to the Nigerian Senate. After the results of the presidential elections of June 12, 1993 were annulled, Tinubu became a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, which mobilised support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of the June 12, results. He went into exile in 1994 and returned to the country in 1998 after the death of General Sani Abacha which ushered in a transition to civilian rule. He became governor of Lagos State on the platform of Alliance for Democracy, AD. However, he abandoned the party in 2003 to form the AC, on which platform he was re-elected governor.
Now as leader of the APC, Tinubu is expected to look and act beyond his current status as a leader in the South-west. He has to meet dreams and the aspirations of teeming supporters of the party, including the former leaders of the ruling party who have joined forces with him. This is even more so because, while defending his reasons for abandoning the PDP, Amaechi said, among other things: “We are concerned that our well-being is not central to the leadership of the PDP. We do not find this satisfactory. We have, therefore, decided that it is in our best interest that we move to a party that shares the hopes and aspirations of our people and realises and recognises our right to exist and be treated as equal partners in our democracy.”
Like Amaechi, Nyako told reports in Yola, the state capital, that the five governors had to leave the PDP because the party had disappointed Nigerians with its act of impunity, injustice and lawlessness. He said given the state of the party, he did not believe that it would be possible for any decent man to continue to remain in a political party that promotes lawlessness. “Posterity will judge people who are using their position to torment others and we should be thinking of how to improve our nations in terms of providing quality education for our children and infrastructure rather than these political wars that are taking us nowhere,” the governor said.
But given Tinubu’s antecedence, will the former PDP leaders be treated as equal partners in the APC? That is one question that may not be easy to answer. But political analysts hold the view that since he left office as governor, democratic credentials of Tinubu have been a suspect. Can that reading be right? Time will.
Reported by Anayo Ezugwu and Chinwe Okafor