• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Can a kingmaker become king?

Can a kingmaker become king?

In April 2007, on the eve of the presidential election, President Olusegun Obasanjo was interviewed by the Financial Times. The interviewee asked a question about Obasanjo never really wanting to quit but “to remain present behind the scenes, anchoring the new government and influencing it.”

Obasanjo answered in his characteristic manner drawing on local wisdom: “In my part of the world we have a saying that the kingmaker is the first that the king kills. But it is only an unwise kingmaker that will allow the king he has made to kill him. Because if you have made a king, as soon as the king is on the throne you run. And it should be that the king will say, eh, where is he gone, I need him?”

Regardless, Obasanjo did not heed his own wise counsel. He tried to influence the government and got shoved aside. He has been literally fighting with every occupant of that office since then with mixed results. In like manner, virtually all other kingmakers in the Nigerian political space have fallen victims of the sword of those they made kings. Except one.

That is why the received wisdom in Nigeria is that kingmakers should be content with their roles and not attempt to be kings themselves. But Mr Tinubu wants to buck this trend

Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not only managed to remain a powerful kingmaker, he has also built a formidable political empire in Lagos and has extended his suzerainty and influence to other parts of the South West and the country at large.

From the modest position of being rewarded with the governorship ticket, in 1999, of the AD, an ethnic party, mainly for his services to NADECO during the days of the dark-goggled dictator, Sani Abacha, the Asiwaju of Lagos or Jagaban, as he is popularly called by his admirers, has not only presided over the dismantling of the Western region’s gerontocratic system or, at best reliance on elders for political directions but has equally built from scratch a formidable political structure that has given him total control of the politics and governance structure of Lagos from which he has extended his influence to other states.

Building the so-called structure involves skillfully keeping all successive kings (read governor state governors) and elected and appointed officials on a leash and permanently answerable only to him.

That way, he has been able to maintain control over the state’s finances. A company that provides tax advisory services – Alpha Beta Consulting – and with links to Tinubu has been providing tax advisory services to the Lagos State government in exchange for more than a quarter of the state’s entire generated revenue.

Naturally, he became the toast of politicians and it wasn’t long before they came calling seeking alliances to either retain or capture power in the centre. Rumours had it that he entered into one with Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 that enabled the latter win the presidential election at the time.

However, any possible deal between them broke down shortly after as Tinubu spearheaded the coalition of regional parties that formed a new and formidable political party (the All Progressives Congress) that finally sacked Jonathan in 2015 and made history as the first opposition party to defeat an incumbent in a presidential election in Nigeria.

That electoral victory and the fact he delivered the South West to his party cemented his reputation as an uncommon political operator, strategist and kingmaker.

In 2015, he sacrificed his ambition to become vice president because he was counselled that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would not sell. He has waited patiently, given the incumbent all the support and cover he could muster. But now he wants to be president in 2023.

Read also: Why should Nigeria be led by Tinubu? (2)

The snag, however, is that neither the president, who Tinubu helped to the office twice, nor the vice president, who Tinubu nominated to the position in his place, are keen on Tinubu’s candidacy.

Mr Buhari, in his characteristic manner, has kept his cards very close to his chest neither publicly encouraging nor discouraging Tinubu’s ambition. The vice president, as I opined a fortnight ago, fancies himself doing but must butt heads with his godfather to become president.

Mr Tinubu’s candidacy, though is not without controversies. Like all kingmakers, the process of securing vast influence and power is not always straightforward and may involve some shady and dirty deals along the way. That is why the received wisdom in Nigeria is that kingmakers should be content with their roles and not attempt to be kings themselves. But Mr Tinubu wants to buck this trend.

There is uncertainty about his real age, educational credentials, and even criminal records. In 1993, he forfeited nearly half a million dollars to the United States Treasury Department after being linked to a drug trafficking and money laundering ring. Just some weeks ago, Mr Tinubu was forced to begin an out-of-court settlement with one of his erstwhile partners at Alpha Beta Consulting, who had sued him for edging him out of the company they both formed.

Mr Tinubu claims he is 70 years old but appears too fragile for comfort. He has been in and out of United Kingdom hospitals of late treating various unspecified ailments. Videos of him recently suffering from incontinence and hand tremor make for uncomfortable viewing.

Regardless, the onset of senility in Mr Tinubu is undisguisable. While speaking to some of his supporters recently, he made an incorrect assertion that their permanent voter’s cards (PVCs) have expired and they need to go register again.

At another event, he attempted to provide a solution to insecurity in Nigeria. His plan? Recruit 20 million youth into the army and feed them with corn and cassava.

Earlier in the pandemic, he suggested that the government print more naira notes to cushion the effects of revenue shortfall. Well, that is what Mr Buhari and the plaint central bank have been doing over the last seven years and the naira has depreciated by over 300 percent.

While Tinubu and the other aspirants for the presidency keep campaigning, Mr Buhari has kept a studied silence, choosing instead to tighten his grip on the ruling party.