The cliché that whoever rides a jolly trip on the back of a tiger, should prepare to see himself or herself eaten by the beast, played out in Lagos State between the incumbent Governor Akin Ambode and his political master Senator Bola Tinubu, a political heavyweight of many parts – former Senator, former two term governor of Lagos State and the ‘Jagaban’ (leader of warriors – same as Asiwaju in Yoruba). The past week featured a twist in the politics of that state when out of the blues a rift between the two politicians emerged with potentially apocalyptic portends for them and their common political party – the ruling All Progressives (APC). As was reported widely in the media, trouble between them erupted when Tinubu single handedly decided to deny Ambode the opportunity of a second term in office as the governor of Lagos State. To effect the agenda Tinubu reportedly sponsored a rebellion in Ambode’s camp by sponsoring one of the latter’s appointees – a three-time commissioner in Lagos and the boss of the Lagos State Property Development Corporation, LSDPC, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to run against the incumbent for the office of governor, in the 2019 general polls. Speculations on the behind-the-scene developments which led to Sanwo Olu picking the governorship nomination forms were accentuated by the presence of one of Tinubu’s die-hard followers Mr James Odumbakin, during the collection of nomination form by the former.
By the last count, it took an armada of political heavyweights comprising President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, some APC governors and even the Oba of Lagos, His Highness, Rilwan Akiolu, to wade into the fray before a seeming truce was procured between the two estranged bed-fellows. Even at that no one is sure of whether the Jagaban’s angst has been stayed and Ambode forgiven. For indeed if Tinubu’s antecedents of clinical finish for any of his targeted, unwary political opponents are to be considered, the last may not have been heard of this matter. Whoever is in doubt should simply flashback to some of the past, turf battles he has engaged in especially with the former Governor of Lagos State and now Minister of Power, Works and Housing Raji Fashola, President of the Senate Bukola Saraki, and most recently the former National Chairman of the ruling APC Chief John Oyegun.
Not a few Nigerians will recall Tinubu’s role in vitiating the effectiveness and final ousting of Chief John Oyegun from office as National Chairman of the APC, with regular heckling of the latter. Earlier than Oyegun, was his less than surreptitious enterprise of spawning the cycle of turbulence, which dogged the entire life of the Eighth National Assembly, through his spirited opposition to the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the President of the Nigerian Senate. The fallouts of that misadventure are still haunting the National Assembly till date.
In the same manner of seeking nothing less than total control of any terrain he finds himself in, did he impose himself as an incubus on the administration of Fashola as his successor in office as Governor of Lagos State. Incidentally Fashola’s present position as Nigeria’s Minister of Power Works and Housing may have served as his tacit escape from the strange hold of Tinubu. Invariably, the yoke of the Jagaban’s overbearing disposition in Lagos politics was inherited by Ambode, Fashola’s successor. The present tiff between Tinubu and Ambode could therefore be easily traced to the latter’s breach of some term of servitude to Tinubu. And given Tinubu’s antecedents of serving any of his political opponents a measure of clinical attrition, Ambode will do himself a great service by considering any gesture of rapprochement from Tinubu as a Greek gift. For as the African proverb says “only a mad or foolish man will wait until his head is cut off before querying any man who passes behind him with a cutlass”.
Incidentally the Tinubu factor is not only manifesting redoubtably in the circumstances of individual potentates whose roads are his. Indeed, a more profound theatre of action where it is playing out and may continue to do so is the cosmos of the APC itself, where the man enjoys a personality cult status as the ‘unconstitutional leader’ of the party. It is undeniable that given the prominent role which he played in the formation of the APC – from the amalgamation of legacy smaller parties in 2014, and the electoral fortunes that trailed such a dispensation, Tinubu clearly qualifies for special commendation and spoils of political victory. Yet to concede to an individual unconstitutional leverage on the party’s fortunes, functions and structures as part of his or her share of the spoils of political victory, is a different kettle of fish. As far as official reckoning by the APC is concerned Tinubu is the party leader – note, not one of the party leaders.
This grammatically poignant use of the article ‘the’ (Party leader) in referring to Tinubu confers on him a seemingly untouchable status of a political leviathan who is beyond any extant sanction in the APC Constitution, just in case he turns otherwise. In effect he is provided a license to act as even the owner of the APC – especially in Lagos State. Already several prominent stakeholders in the Lagos chapter of the APC are vehement on the position that only Tinubu can determine any major happening in the party. Hence the recent power show by him against Ambode may not have a strange origin.
Expectedly, the APC hierarchy seems to be comfortable with such a democratic anomaly, just because such may help secure power for the party in some contemporary circumstances. This is even as its inherent potential to distort the party’s democratic credentials is not lost on anybody. For as the cliché goes “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Needless to state therefore that Tinubu’s exercise of unbridled authority, only needs the passage of time to manifest its more insidious and invidious sides with respect to the power structure in APC.
In a world where two captains cannot run a ship the APC is presently operating the anomalous situation of three captains driving its operations. These are namely the President Muhammadu Buhari, the elected National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, and the loose cannon – Bola Tinubu. Like it was for the party in 2015, when it won power in the general polls, and failed to structure itself adequately, so it is going into the 2019 polls with a compromised organizational structure.
The burden it will pose for Nigeria if it wins or loses power will be more significant for the country than it will be for the party itself. For then the party bigwigs would be enmeshed in a vicious power struggle for internal control of the structure to the detriment of the country. The big show will be whenever the Tinubu factor will prove recalcitrant to a Buhari in power and in office. That will be the day.