I don’t know Mr. Tinubu. I have never met him, but I have slowly come to admire him over the last 2 years. Now, I believe that hands down, he is the most astute politician in the country in this current political dispensation. A review of his political choices over the last 16 years simply leads to only that conclusion.
As a disclaimer, a lot of what I am putting down in this article is pure conjecture from an hyperactive mind built around a number of seemingly auspicious coincidences that have brought Mr. Tinubu to the pinnacle of his wildest dreams. It goes as follows: What if Mr. Tinubu, after winning the 1999 elections in Lagos State, desired political power at the centre? What if the central part of that plan was a realisation that Nigerians would vote for a competent political leader with a strong performance record and that he was uniquely positioned as the leader of the largest state by GDP to seize power at the centre, stemming from that same performance?
What if Tinubu then proceeded to a build a workable leadership structure in Lagos State built around having technocrats competently govern and transform the business of the State while he ran the political structure? To finance the long game, a sizeable war chest was built from providing perfectly legitimate contractual services to Lagos state. This was the first step in a longer game plan that led to the gradual acceptance of Tinubu’s political network across the South West.
I have always wondered how Mr. Tinubu survived the purge of Action Congress governors in 2004 when the whispered agreement with the then President Obasanjo on voting for him at the national level and him leaving them alone at the state level led to most governors letting their guards down and all being swept out of office apart from Mr. Tinubu. What if Tinubu survived because he was smart enough to have deconstructed what Obasanjo was planning to do and because he refused to sleep with his eyes closed? Smart right?
What if 4 years later, he suspected Obasanjo was going to repeat the 2003 rigging which led to the blowout victory for Mr. Yar’Adua and he prepared for this eventuality by cultivating the judges that would decide the gubernatorial cases across the country, especially the Court of Appeal justices? It seems overly fortuitous that the Appeal Court gave the Action Congress four states (Edo, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo) via their decisions (though the rigging by PDP was obvious).
What if in 2011, Mr. Tinubu saw the possibility of achieving his political agenda by entering into an alliance with Mr. Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change that would have created a credible alternative to the ruling PDP? When that alliance did not materialize and shrewdly comprehending that based on all computations, his party going alone couldn’t conceivable win, he chose an expendable candidate, Mr. Ribadu, whom he later sold down the river to Mr. Jonathan’s PDP for a significant sum of money, adding to the war chest, which he is now using to fight the same Mr. Jonathan.
What if all the machinations of the previous four elections crystalised in 2011, when after the election Mr. Tinubu saw that Mr. Buhari was more open to the possibility of a new alliance? Now, with a fighting chance, Mr. Tinubu has consistently been on the front foot. First, he midwifed the birth of the All Progressives Congress through the merger of disparate parties. Then, he worked strenuously to crystalize the defection of PDP legislators and governors into the new party, soothing egos, placating alliances and allocating monies. The APC congress was a defining victory for the APC flag bearer, Mr. Buhari, but the victory would never have happened if the primaries did not hold in Lagos and the delegates were not directly under Mr. Tinubu’s thumb, because Mr. Atiku, another contestant, spread his largess around aggressively before voting commenced, and in the old Nigeria, this would have secured victory for him.
What if after Buhari’s victory, he used the threat of putting himself up for the Vice Presidency position as a stalking horse to get Mr. Osinbajo accepted by everyone for that position? A move which completely negated all PDP’s plans to paint Buhari as an islamist and also split the important Christian vote.
What if, way ahead of the APC primaries, he saw the need for a coherent general campaign strategy and he got the consultant firm of AKPD Message & Media to help craft the campaign strategy, including the pictures of Mr. Buhari wearing suits and playing with his kids, which has led to a significant shift in perception of the Northern candidate. What if all the way along this political journey, with the destination firmly in hand, Mr. Tinubu has schemed and planned and seized all available opportunities to undermine the PDP and booster the chance of taking power at the centre?
Then, even if just 50% of the above postulations are true, it would make Mr. Tinubu the supreme pragmatist and opportunist of this political dispensation and quite rightly the political grand chess master of Nigeria.
Oluwafemi Akinfolarin, a Lawyer, writes from Lagos.