• Monday, May 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Where are these Tinubu’s yesterday men?

Still on the importance of the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President

…Osinbajo, Lai Mohammed, Fashola, Fayemi, Aregbesola, Ambode

While he held sway as governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007, Bola Ahmed Tinubu worked with select powerful individuals who continued to stick to him and with him even after he exited office.

Those men he discovered that time have gone ahead to become really big in the nation’s political space.

Read also: Tinubu’s scorecard not impressive, should adopt realistic approach – Johnson

Although he was not in office in the last dispensation under Muhammadu Buhari, a number of these men played major roles. Many of them, he facilitated their participation in the Buhari administration.

BusinessDay has, however, observed that a good number of them are no longer visible in the corridors of power, especially with their benefactor now in the saddle at the federal level.

In Nigeria, where politicians are never tired of leaving the political arena, no matter how well-made they have been from their past occupation of public office, it is curious then, that a good number of those who should ordinarily be seen calling the shots with President Tinubu are now not within shouting distance of the Jagaban.

These powerful yesterday allies of Tinubu include, Lai Mohammed, Muiz Banire, Babatunde Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola, Kayode Fayemi, Yemi Osinbajo, Akinwunmi Ambode, among others.

Perhaps, the first among these men is the immediate past vice president of Nigeria; Yemi Osinbajo who worked alongside Buhari, piloting the ship of the country for eight years.

During Tinubu’s eight years rule as governor of Lagos State, Osinbajo was the Lagos Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

Osinbajo was behind the success of Tinubu’s administration during the state government’s legal battles with former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

In 2014, when Buhari clinched the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a running mate was to be chosen from South Western Nigeria, many believed that since the idea of same faith ticket did not sell in the party at the time, Osinbajo was anointed by Tinubu to work with the former president. Although some versions of how Osinbajo emerged the Vice President had denied Tinubu the credit, many Nigerians have insisted that otherwise.

After serving with Buhari for the two terms of eight years, Osinbajo felt he should be the person to step into the office considering the experience he had gained. His ambition got bolstered with the zoning of the presidential ticket to Southern Nigeria by the APC.

But, Osinbajo lost the ticket to his mentor, Tinubu, in acrimonious circumstances with the latter eventually succeeding Buhari as Nigeria’s President after defeating other candidates in a keenly contested presidential election.

Osinbajo’s decision to contest attracted criticisms from supporters of Tinubu, who felt that his ambition was a show of betrayal of Tinubu.

He was conspicuously absent at Tinubu’s campaigns in the run-up to the general election in 2023.

Amid criticism from some sections of Nigerians over Osinbajo’s decision, Laolu Akande, spokesman of the former vice president, had said that his boss’ decision to contest the APC’s presidential ticket with Tinubu was in the interest of the public.

“What is important is that you take the step you want to take in the best interest of the people. Public interest is the overriding factor.

“People see him as a representation of a new Nigeria. All of these can’t be in place and he just walks away.

“He did what he needed to do and the party made the decision and he just has to move on after doing the right thing,” Laolu had said.

Although Osinbajo has not renounced his membership of the APC, he has taken a more back seat, more like, “sit down look” approach to what is happening in the country and the Tinubu’s administration since losing the presidential ticket.

It must be pointed out however, that six weeks after leaving office as Nigeria’s vice president, Osinbajo landed an international appointment as Global Advisor to Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP).

Announcing his appointment on X (formerly twitter) last year July, he had expressed joy with the opportunity to work at GEAPP.

Osinbajo wrote: “I am excited to announce that I have been appointed Global Advisor to Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet @EnergyAlliance.

“Together, we will work to unlock capital flows into the clean energy sector and boost Africa’s share in the global carbon market through #ACMI.”.

Akinwunmi Ambode: He is a former governor of Lagos State and was at different times the auditor general for local government, permanent secretary of the state ministry of finance and the accountant general of the state.

He was also part of the team that helped to raise the state’s internal revenue.

The increase in the state’s IGR helped Tinubu’s administration to survive the financial challenges caused by the seizure of the statutory allocations of the local governments in the state by the Federal Government.

But Ambode’s second term bid was said to have been frustrated by his political godfather, who described him then as a performing governor but a bad party man.

Tinubu replaced Ambode with the present Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who is serving his second term in office.

After his inability to get a second term in office, Ambode left the political scene for a long time, before his successor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu made a move and brought Ambode back into the fold.

He used the 60th birthday occasion of his predecessor, Ambode, to make the reconciliation move.

Late last year, when President Tinubu returned from London to celebrate Eid-el-Kabir in Lagos before resuming his office in Abuja, Sanwo-Olu took Ambode to the President for reconciliation and reintegration of his predecessor into the political circle.

Ambode has since visited the President in Aso-Rock; however, many expect that he would be given appointment in the Tinubu’s administration soon.

There are insinuations that his names would be among the new ambassadors to be appointed by the president soonest. Multiple sources say Ambode is presently into private business when in the country.

Another key member of the Tinubu’s team currently missing in action is Rauf Aregbesola.

Aregbe, as he is fondly called by those close to him, worked closely with the Jagaban. He was very dear to him. They were very close for over twenty years. Aregbesola held sway in his political base of Alimosho “under Tinubu’s mandate.”

Tinubu had spread his tentacles beyond Lagos State and helped him to become the governor of Osun State. He single-handedly installed Aregbe in Osun as governor. But the extent to which he influenced his appointment as Minister of Interior under the Buhari’s administration, has remained controversial.

Aregbesola played a key role in Tinubu’s emergence as Lagos State governor, having worked as his campaign director and subsequently as Commissioner for Works for eight years.

The two politicians fell apart during Aregbesola’s fight with former governor, Gboyega Oyetola.

Oyetola eventually lost the 2022 poll to Adeleke of the PDP, the development that deepened the crises between him and Aregbesola, and the faceoff seems to have defied solutions.

Oyetola, now Minister of Marine and Blue Economy succeeded Aregbesola as governor of Osun State in 2018, but fell out with his predecessor as a result of a supremacy tussle over who determines what.

Aregbesola, despite being a serving Minister, had refused to be a part of the campaign for the Presidential bid of Tinubu right from the onset.

The former Osun governor has remained in political limbo since leaving office as Minister in the Buhari administration.

Close associates say Aregbesola is focused on his private business and prefers to rest after years of serving in public offices.

Another close political associate of President Tinubu who is not in any public appointment at the moment is former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola.

Fashola succeeded Tinubu in Lagos. But the extent of Tinubu’s influence in the “tripod” appointment he landed as Minister of Works, Housing and power, has remained a matter of debate.

Fashola has always pledged his loyalty to Tinubu even when there was doubt in some quarters and the former Minister campaigned actively for the victory of the President in the presidential election.

After the expiration of the Buhari administration, Fashola has always said he loved to take a break and had complained about the stress and demand it takes to work with President Tinubu.

Fashola stated that he would love to see a lot more youthful people being involved in the current administration.

The former governor of Lagos State said there are not enough offices for everyone to serve in the government, adding that Tinubu’s administration is birthing a new generation of leaders.

“I do not need a title to serve; the President can only appoint at least one minister, for example, from each state which he has done,” he said.

Is Fashola averse to events where Tinubu is promoted? By no means! For instance, in March, he was among the guests that graced the public presentation in Abuja, of a book ‘Beating all odds: Diaries and essays on how Bola Tinubu became president,’ authored by Sam Omatseye, chairman of the editorial board of The Nation Newspaper.

Kayode Fayemi: The former governor of Ekiti State has been a close associate of President Tinubu in the last two decades.

Fayemi stepped down for Tinubu during the presidential primary and directed the Ekiti State delegates to vote for him.

While announcing his decision to back Tinubu, Fayemi had said: “It is only in unity and cohesion that we can meet our destiny. I am stepping down for Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“Give me the honour to step down for my leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He is a democrat that I worked with. I am not doing this for any prize.”

However, to the surprise of many, Dele Alake, a close ally of President Tinubu was given the slot of Ekiti State. He is currently serving as the Minister of Solid Minerals Development.

Sources said that after the President’s victory, those loyal to him reminded him of the utterances and actions of Fayemi where they denigrated Tinubu and these were allegedly used against him.

Muiz Banire: Long before the 2023 general election, Banire seemed to have left the Tinubu political fold. He was many things in politics in Lagos under Tinubu’s “mandate.” He used to be one of the closest political allies of President Tinubu. He was a commissioner in his cabinet for eight years. However, the relationship broke down when Banire aspired to be governor of Lagos only to discover that his political mentor, Tinubu had a different idea. Tinubu supported another Ambode and Banire was left in the cold.

Unlike others not comfortable with the approach of the party leader, he went on to particularly grant an explosive interview that diminished the stature of political patron.

At some point, Banire was the legal adviser of the APC. In 2018, Banire was appointed the head of Assets Management Company of Nigeria by President Buhari, but was replaced by Edward Adamu after implementation of the new AMCON law by Buhari. The law states that the chairman of the corporation must be a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

During his screening in the Senate for the AMCON position, the three Lagos senators vehemently kicked against his nomination.

Although, he had made moves to resolve his differences with Tinubu in recent years, sources say the relationship between Banire and President Tinubu can no longer be compared to what they had in the past.

For many, it is not a surprise that he was not appointed into any position in the Tinubu’s administration.

Speaking during attempts to remove former chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu, the former APC legal adviser had said that the disgruntled members of the NWC were most likely responsible for Adamu’s resignation instead.

Banire had said that the former chairman, Adamu and former national secretary; Iyiola Omisore’s resignation might have been forced rather than voluntary.

Lai Mohammed: The controversial former Minister of Information in the Buhari administration for eight years was also the chief of staff, Governor’s Office during Tinubu’s first tenure.

With Tinubu’s support, he left to contest the Kwara State gubernatorial election in 2022 and was trounced by Bukola Saraki.

He later became the spokesman of the Action Congress (AC), later Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

The Kwara-born politician was an influential figure in the formation of the APC especially helping to establish the party’s foundation in his home town of Offa.

But today, the man, who many Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry because of his caustic utterances that most times pandered to propaganda, is nowhere to be seen near the President.

It is no more news that the relationship between the two politicians broke down long ago, precisely in 2014 during the search for the running mate of Buhari, who had already emerged as the APC presidential flagbearer.

It was learnt that Mohammed, a key figure in the APC, opposed Tinubu being the running mate to Buhari then.

He argued against what would have been a Muslim Muslim ticket, saying it may work against the party’s chances in the election.

Matters between the two political associates got worse in 2015 during President Buhari’s search for ministers to fill his cabinet.

The president, it was also learnt, had conceded the position of Minister of Information to Tinubu. The former Lagos State governor then nominated Dele Alake, a former Commissioner for Information during his tenure as governor. Alake, who is now Minister of Solid Minerals Development was also the Director of Strategic Communications of the APC’s Presidential Campaign Organisation in the 2015 election.

They, however, disagreed with Tinubu over the choice of Alake instead of Lai Mohammed and decided that Lai should be given the job based on his contributions to the success of the APC at the general election.

The two political heavyweights did not settle their disagreement leading to up to the 2023 general election where Tinubu picked the APC’s presidential ticket, amid opposition among some key cabinet members in the Buhari administration.

They had wanted someone else to emerge the presidential candidate; however, they were outsmarted by Tinubu.

Mohammed never publicly backed the presidential bid of Tinubu, a decision that did not come as a surprise to observers.

In fact, Mohammed was missing throughout the presidential campaign and even did not attend Tinubu’s campaign in his state of Kwara.

Shortly after leaving office in May last year, Mohammed took a new role as the managing partner of Ballard Partners, an international lobbying firm.

Ballard Partners, a renowned government relations firm based in the United States, announced its expansion into Africa with the opening of its first office in Abuja, Nigeria.

Mohammed is serving as the managing partner for the Abuja office and oversee the firm’s satellite office in Lagos, and the nation’s financial centre.

Another key member of Tinubu’s team missing now in the corridors of power is Ben Akabueze. In 2007, he was appointed the commissioner of budget and economic planning by the Tinubu administration and was reappointed by the Babatunde Fashola administration till 2015.

He was first appointed as a special adviser planning to President Buhari, and later redeployed and appointed as DG Budget, June 10, 2016, with his tenure elapsing by June 10, 2024.

Although, he is not known to be a partisan politician, he was not seen during the campaign for the presidential election of TInubu, but many believe that he was obviously working behind the scene for his mentor’s victory. A very calm gentleman, Akabueze is said to be presently managing his consulting firm.