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Bola Tinubu's divisive politics

If Bola Tinubu wins, would he be able to wield a broken country together, a country seriously fractured from North and South and between the Muslim-Christian divide by President Muhammadu Buhari? Not many people think positively because a house put together by divisive tactics cannot stand.

Bola Tinubu, APC’s presidential candidate is very ambitious. There is nothing wrong with that. He is a politician and politics runs on ambition. But political ambition that is narcissistic is ruinous. And this appears to be the kind of ambition that rules Tinubu’s life.

Tinubu’s early life is mired in deep controversy, a part of his narcissism. Apart from that he came back from the United States of America and worked in Mobil Oil, everything else about him is in the dark. It is not that Tinubu is from the moon, but it pays him to remain shadowy so that he could cultivate the image he wants for himself. He is the son of Madam Abibat Tinubu, the late Iyaloja of Lagos, and had a poor beginning, even though the Tinubu family and the motherhood he claimed had never known poverty. It pays Tinubu to make that claim so that he would benefit at once from the name built by that popular family and use that to divide Lagos. So, he is at war with Chief Bode George who has been shouting hard that Tinubu is “a-tohun-rinwa”, the derisive appellation of Lagos Yoruba for a Yoruba from the hinterland. While Bode George and others continue their derision, the name Tinubu has made clout for Bola with which he continues to win elections in Lagos.

Even with the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO formed by a national coalition of democrats, Tinubu was divisive. NADECO was formed to fight the military and compel the regime of late General Sani Abacha to step down and allow the winner of the democratic elections of 1993, MKO Abiola to step up as the elected president of the country. Though not one of the founders of NADECO, Tinubu who had reportedly courted the Abacha regime for a ministerial post quickly teamed up with NADECO when Abacha did not grant his request. At NADECO, especially the American branch of it, Tinubu won the heart of those founders, especially, the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, by supplying cash to those elders who fled the country for fear of being killed. In a foreign land where they knew nobody, Tinubu’s money came in handy. Chief Anthony Enahoro said Tinubu was supplying them cash, although they didn’t know where he was getting it.

Where Tinubu was getting the money has become a subject of speculation like many aspects of his life. Tinubu said he owned two petrol stations in Britain which has left many people asking how he could be funding stranded NADECO members who were in America with money made from two petrol stations in the UK. Whatever the source of the money, it got Tinubu the desired place in the heart of NADECO abroad so that after the death of General Abacha and their return to Nigeria, they asked Lagos State indigene, Funsho Williams who had been tipped for the governorship of Lagos State to step down for Tinubu. Funsho Williams’ generosity to accept the demand of these elders in NADECO was the undoing of the group and that of Funsho Williams himself who was later strangled in his bedroom with accusing fingers pointed at the ruling party in the state. Tinubu denied any involvement in Williams’ murder and to prove his innocence physically appeared at the house of Funsho Williams to pay condolences to the family of the late politician.

Thereafter Tinubu became the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD. He won the governorship election overwhelmingly because the AD was positioned as a Yoruba party that continued the policies and principles of the late Obafemi Awolowo. First, Tinubu began to position himself as a democrat because of his membership of NADECO where he had also positioned himself as a founding member both of which had been denied with evidence. It took Dele Momodu up till 2019 to discover that Tinubu is a dictator. Dele Momodu was the voice heard on Radio Kudirat, a pirate radio set up by NADECO abroad to fight the Abiola cause and named after the slain wife of MKO Abiola killed by secret agents suspected to be working for the late dictator, General Sani Abacha. Dele Momodu became convinced that Tinubu is not a democrat because of the way he humiliated Akinwumi Ambode out of office as governor of Lagos State.

Tinubu had single-handedly picked Ambode as he had single-handedly picked Babatunde Raji Fashola before him. Dele Momodu, a personal friend of Tinubu who also consider Chief Moshood Abiola as his adopted father, had approached Tinubu not to humiliate Ambode out of office but he rejected Momodu’s overtures. When Ambode was denied a second term, Dele Momodu saw the real dictator that is Tinubu. Momodu explained that to a Channel Television interviewer as the reason he parted ways with Tinubu and has decided not to campaign for him in the ongoing election cycle. Also, in the book written by the veteran journalist, Chief Olusegun Osoba, another NADECO member, Tinubu was not listed as a founding member.

As soon as Tinubu became governor of Lagos, he entrenched himself firmly in the state. He frustrated Kofoworola Akerele who was nominated for him by Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, as deputy governor and forcibly enthroned officers of the state assembly. When Akerele could not endure the shabby treatment meted out to her, she resigned. That was the first dagger of Tinubu at the heart of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba political group whose members were also in NADECO. Tinubu was now on his own, rampaging and taking these elders of the Yoruba to the cleaners in many actions. With Afenifere divided, Tinubu formed his own party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. The ACN was the effective death of AD, the political platform of Afenifere. Afenifere also could not stand as one group, especially after the death of its strong leader, Abraham Adesanya. A leadership tussle ensued after Chief Reuben Fasoranti was nominated as the leader, which led to a splinter group under Chief Ayo Fasanmi, now late. The death of Fasanmi united the Afenifere again.

Chief Fasoranti about two years ago appointed Chief Ayo Adebanjo as the acting leader. Ayo Adebanjo has been actively supporting the candidacy of Peter Obi, a presidential candidate of the Igbo stock. His reason, supported by his Afenifere faction was that it was the turn of the Igbo to be president. Many Yoruba had seen his backing for Obi as having the potential for healing the perpetual rivalry between the Igbo and Yoruba which in many ways was affecting the imbalance in the power configuration in Nigeria and allowing the North to dictate the pace of things. But the recent visit of Tinubu to the residence of Chief Fasoranti has again thrown a spanner in the works and divided the Afenifere for the third time.

Asked why Afenifere allowed Tinubu to divide it again, a younger member of Afenifere, told this reporter that Tinubu did not visit of his own volition, but that he was invited by a group. He rejected claims that the meeting that was held in Fasoranti’s residence in Akure was organised by Afenifere but a coalition of all Yoruba groups. The source said the group had requested for a meeting with Chief MKO Abiola in 1993 when he was invited to address them at Owo, Ondo State. On why they did not invite Peter Obi, the candidate of the Labour Party, he said they did not have to because he is not Yoruba, but he knows Obi will not be denied an opportunity if he decides to address the group.

But easily the hands of Tinubu could be seen in the whole affairs. Some affirm that his foot soldiers have been at work since Chief Adebanjo began to drum support for Obi and since former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a prominent Yoruba denied support for Tinubu when he visited him at his house in Abeokuta with the same large retinue of some Yoruba leaders. Prominent at the Akure meeting with Chief Fasoranti is Senator Dayo Adeyeye who formed an organization named the Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju, SWAGA, and has been moving around all the traditional rulers in the Southwest even before Tinubu announced his intention to run. Sola Ebiseni, secretary-general of Afenifere, who said he was born into Afenifere because his father was a baale, Yoruba traditional ruler over small areas, and that Afenifere started as a meeting of the kings and baale, said the meeting was a blessing in disguise for Afenifere because the group that splintered and indeed was rude to Chief Fasoranti had gone back to him in Akure to repent and seek reconciliation. He said Chief Ayo Adebanjo is still the acting leader and that Afenifere is not divided.

Even if Afenifere is made stronger by the visit of Tinubu to Chief Reuben Fasoranti in Akure, it is very clear that Tinubu has once again introduced tribalism into the current contest. At first, he divided the nation into Muslim/ Christian when he chose to run with a fellow Muslim from the North. He also divided the Church when he addressed a group that called itself Northern Pentecostal Bishops, a group the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, denied. If Bola Tinubu wins, would he be able to wield a broken country together, a country seriously fractured from North and South and between the Muslim-Christian divide by President Muhammadu Buhari? Not many people think positively because a house put together by divisive tactics cannot stand. Whatever took Tinubu to the top position will have to be applied over and over to maintain him there.

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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