In the Yoruba monarchical system, a kingmaker can never become king. Any kingmaker who attempts to become a king risks committing suicide.
By tradition, kingmakers come from a lineage that does not produce kings just as princes who can become kings can never be kingmakers. The essence of this demarcation in responsibilities and functions is to ensure transparency and honesty in the selection of a king without bias.
In many parts of Yorubaland, at the passing of a king, the kingmakers come together to pick from princes from different ruling houses entitled to the throne after consultation with Ifa.
But a Yoruba man, who is now the President-elect of Nigeria after the 25th February presidential election, Bola Tinubu, appears to have transmuted from being a kingmaker to the king himself.
Mr Tinubu, the City Boy from the country’s commercial nerve centre, Lagos, appears to have broken with tradition as the new leader of Nigeria, which is completely at variance with the long-held tradition in Yoruba cosmology that a kingmaker never becomes king.
His latest win perhaps underscores why he is sometimes described as ‘akanbi,’ an unusual child, especially by his core admirers like the Fuji maestro, Wasiu Ayinde.
To be clear, Mr Tinubu, a former two-term governor of Lagos State on the ticket of the defunct Alliance for Democracy, is neither a Yoruba prince nor a kingmaker as far as the history of his known lineage is concerned. But he has been a political kingmaker, a term loosely associated with politicians who help others – usually their associates and mentees – to acquire political power, first for the benefit of their group and then for the larger interest of the society. They are also called political godfathers in some local parlances.
At the last count, as a kingmaker, he installed quite a handful of political kings, especially in the southern part of the country and was also one of those who supported the election of Muhammadu Buhari to become president. Mr Buhari, a retired military general, had contested three times and failed, before the historic election of 2015 which saw him defeat the then-incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, of the PDP.
As a kingmaker playing on the topsy-turvy political firmament of the country, it has not been a rosy tale of successes in Mr Tinubu’s adventures and exploits alone. He has also recorded major losses with some kings he installed or helped to install later turning against him in their own quest for emancipation or to build their own independent kingdoms.
In the beginning
After the return to civil rule in 1999, as one of the political returnees from exile, who were interested in political offices, Mr Tinubu won the ticket of the defunct AD and later defeated his closest rival, Dapo Sarumi of the PDP, by a wide margin in the governorship election
He secured his reelection in 2003 as the last man standing in the Class of 1999 AD governors following the PDP tsunami that swept away the other five governors in the country’s South-west region. He defeated the candidate of the PDP in the election, Funsho Williams, a defector from the AD, whom he had defeated to clinch the AD ticket in 1999.
The AD governors, with the exception of Mr Tinubu, had reportedly entered into a pact with then President Olusegun Obasanjo to allow him to win handsomely in the presidential election of 2003 in the geopolitical zone while they retained their seats as governors for a second term.
The AD governors who went with the PDP-engineered wind of change in the region were Olusegun Osoba of Ogun State, Bisi Akande of Osun State, Adeniyi Adebayo of Ekiti State, Lam Adesina of Oyo State and Adebayo Adefarati of Ondo State.
How Mr Tinubu survived the landmine believed to have been planted by Mr Obasanjo who wanted the South-west to be railroaded into the PDP fold remains a classic lesson in the art and act of political manoeuvring and eternal vigilance as the ultimate gateway to freedom.
He remains the first civilian governor of Lagos State who won two terms in office and finished them. The first civilian governor of the state, Lateef Jakande, could not serve out his second term which he secured in 1983 on the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria. He was swept out of office by a coup that ushered in the military administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
His first gig as kingmaker.
At the end of his tenure in 2007, Mr Tinubu influenced the election of a relatively unknown and politically inexperienced Babatunde Fashola as his successor in office against many odds stacked against him
Mr Fashola, a lawyer, had served as Mr Tinubu’s chief of staff and was on the verge of returning to private law practice, according to him, when the man fondly called the Asiwaju of Lagos tapped him for the most exalted seat in the state of aquatic splendour. This was much to the consternation and surprise of many party dignitaries who felt Mr Fashola would be a hard sell for them to retain the state given his relative obscurity in the political circuit of the state.
After corralling him to win the ticket of the Action Congress, which later metamorphosed into ACN, as a consensus candidate, Mr Tinubu also went all out to install him as the governor of the state. Mr Fashola polled 599,300 to beat his closest rival, Musiliu Obanikoro of the PDP, who got 383,000 votes in the election.
Mr Fashola arguably proved his mettle and sealed the lips of critics. He won the hearts of many doubters and committed to his gubernatorial duties with a studied passion and the dedication of an impassioned workaholic.
Mr Tinubu, reported to have some issues with Mr Fashola, had no alternative than to back him for reelection in 2011 for a second and final term in office.
With Mr Fashola’s reign over, Mr Tinubu also went for another relatively unknown figure, Akinwunmi Ambode, a former accountant general of the state, and installed him as the governor, having secured him the ticket of the APC in 2015 via an indirect delegate system of primary elections. He beat the likes of Obafemi Hamzat and Olasupo Shashore to win the APC ticket.
Mr Ambode did not, arguably, fail as governor in terms of good governance but was accused of not ”carrying party stakeholders” along in terms of patronage.
Mr Tinubu fell out with him and thus denied him a second term in 2019. Mr Ambode was replaced with Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is gunning for his second term as the candidate of the APC in the forthcoming 11 March election.
It is also on record that everyone who has become a senator, House of Representatives member, state house of assembly lawmaker or even a council chairperson in the state from as far back as 2003 had the approval of Mr Tinubu.
His strong grip on the political landscape of the state has also earned him criticism, hatred and scorn from those who believe he has turned the state into his personal estate and fiefdom, installing and removing kings at will.
Spreading tentacles beyond Lagos
As of the time, Mr Tinubu was working hard to install a political greenhorn, Mr Fashola, as his successor in 2007, he had also farmed out his erstwhile dependable ally and former commissioner for works, Rauf Aregbesola, to contest for the governorship of Osun State on the platform of the ACN.
Mr Aregbesola, a new entrant into the politics of Osun State as of then, contested the election against Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a retired army general who was seeking reelection for a second term on the platform of PDP.
Although INEC declared Mr Oyinlola as the winner of the election, Mr Aregbesola retrieved his mandate via the courts in 2010 and went on to do two terms in office. He left office in 2018 and was succeeded by Gboyega Oyetola, Mr Tinubu’s nephew.
Besides Mr Aregbesola, who is the minister of interior in the now lame-duck administration of Mr Buhari, Mr Tinubu also mobilised support for a former associate of his in the pro-democracy movement, Kayode Fayemi, a PhD holder in War Studies, to vie for the governorship of Ekiti State on the platform of the ACN in 2007.
Like Mr Aregbesola, Mr Fayemi only became the governor of the state after the court retrieved his mandate from then-governor, Segun Oni of the PDP in 2010.
Mr Fayemi failed to secure a second term in 2014 but made a stunning comeback in 2018 by defeating the preferred successor of the then-outgoing governor Ayo Fayose, Dapo Eleka, a professor.
In Edo State, Mr Tinubu also helped Adams Oshiomhole, a former national chairperson of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), to retrieve his mandate from Oserheimen Osunbor, who was initially declared as the winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election in the state. Mr Osunbor, a professor of constitutional law, was the candidate of the PDP in the election.
Mr Oshiomhole, who is now the senator-elect for Edo North, went on to serve two terms as governor and has remained a close political ally of Mr Tinubu till today, always on the side of the President-elect, generally fighting the same political battles
Mr Tinubu also extended a hand of fellowship to Olusegun Mimiko who was in the trenches in 2007 to retrieve his mandate from the PDP led by the late governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu.
Mr Mimiko was declared governor in 2009 following a court of appeal judgement in Benin City, Edo State. Mr Tinubu is believed to have helped facilitate the services of a forensic expert, Adrian Forty, whose forensic report provided a substantial basis for the nullification of the victory of Mr Agagu as declared by INEC.
Mr Mimiko and Mr Tinubu are no longer on the same political page. The bromance between the two did not last long.
The man popularly called the ‘Lion of Bourdillon,’ was also instrumental to the late Abiola Ajimobi becoming the governor of Oyo State in 2011 on the platform of ACN, a creation of the President-elect. They remained as political allies until the passing of Mr Ajimobi in 2020 from COVID-19.
Mr Tinubu also extended the same hand of fellowship to Ibikunle Amosun, who contested for the Ogun State gubernatorial seat in 2011 on the platform of the ACN. Mr Amosun, a chartered accountant, defeated Tunji Olurin, a retired general and candidate of the PDP, in the election.
Some kingmaking adventures failed
Mr Tinubu, a veteran of many political battles, also attempted to install Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, a senior lawyer, as the governor of Ondo State on the platform of the ACN in 2012.
Mr Akeredolu, SAN, who was relatively new on the political terrain of the Sunshine State, came third in the election that was won by the candidate of the Labour Party, Olusegun Mimiko, who was, by then, seeking his second term in office.
A former national president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Akeredolu eventually became the governor of the state in 2016, though without the support of Mr Tinubu, who supported another person, Segun Abraham, in the APC primaries won by Mr Akeredolu.
Mr Tinubu, however, supported Mr Akeredolu in his 2020 re-election bid after they had reconciled their differences. Little wonder that Mr Akeredolu was one of the chief campaigners for Tinubu in the 2023 presidential election.
Mr Tinubu in his quest to solidify his kingmaking bonafide also failed to make Lai Mohammed, his erstwhile Chief of Staff, the governor of Kwara State in 2003. Mr Mohammed, now information minister, vied for the governorship of the North-central state on the platform of the AD.
The same thing happened in 2011 when he tried to platform James Akpan Udo-Edehe to be the governor of Akwa Ibom State through the instrumentality of the ACN.
Mr Udo-Edehe lost to Godswill Akpabio, who was seeking re-election on the ticket of the PDP. The election was characterised by so much violence.
Mr Akpabio is one of the strong men who helped Mr Tinubu’s APC make some inroads into Akwa Ibom, a traditional stronghold of the PDP, in the just concluded presidential election.
Kingmaking beyond sub-national level
Mr Tinubu, who’s now the fifth president-elect in the Fourth Republic, has always had his eyes on the bigger pie at the national level but kept the card close to his chest while trying to build political bridges across the country’s divides.
In 2007, he offered succour to then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who had become a politically displaced person in the PDP after a prolonged fight with his principal, Mr Obasanjo.
Atiku was the presidential candidate of the ACN but posted a miserable performance in the election, which has been adjudged as one of the worst in the history of elections in Nigeria.
The eventual winner of the charade, Umaru Musa Yar’dua, candidate of the PDP, later said the election was heavily flawed.
Although Mr Yar’Adua, a former governor of Katsina State, acknowledged the flaw in the election, he nevertheless held onto the blemished mandate until he passed on in office in 2010.
Aside from Atiku, who incidentally came second in the election that transformed the kingmaker into the king on 25 February, Mr Tinubu also supported Nuhu Ribadu, a former anti-corruption czar, to be the presidential candidate of the ACN in 2011.
As projected by many bookmakers, Mr Ribadu, like Atiku, who is from Adamawa, did not do well in the election.
There were rumours that Mr Tinubu negotiated with then-President Goodluck Jonathan, the candidate of the PDP in the 2011 presidential election, thus contributing to the loss of Mr Ribadu.
Mr Jonathan went ahead to win the election in Lagos State. The only ACN state that stood by Mr Ribadu was Osun State, then under the leadership of Mr Aregbesola as governor.
Mr Tinubu also helped in installing Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011, though Mr Tambuwal was of the PDP then. He repeated the same role in 2019 when he helped to install his long-term political associate, Femi Gbajabiamila, as the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives. He reportedly played the same role in making Ahmad Lawan emerge as the Senate President in 2019
Sealing credentials as national kingmaker
For a long while, Mr Tinubu had the reputation of being a regional kingmaker despite his attempts to make a foray into the national hemisphere.
He eventually got the opportunity in 2015 when he contributed immensely to the victory of Muhammadu Buhari, who defeated a sitting president, Mr Jonathan, in a historic election, on the platform of the APC.
Before the main election, Mr Tinubu had acquiesced to the solicitation of Mr Buhari, a serial contestant, to form a pan-Nigerian party that could really challenge for power nationally. Their collaboration and the support of others eventually culminated in the establishment and registration of APC as a political party in December 2013.
Mr Tinubu threw everything into the ring in 2014 to ensure that Mr Buhari emerged as the presidential candidate of the APC ahead of the 2015 election. Mr Buhari emerged as a candidate and later won the main election, the first time a sitting president would lose in an election.
Mr Tinubu is also believed to have nominated Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law, as the vice presidential candidate of the APC in 2014. Mr Osinbajo was justice commissioner for eight years in Lagos, when Mr Tinubu was governor.
Mr Tinubu also provided support for Mr Buhari to win his second term in office in 2019 despite the alleged cold treatment the Buhari administration gave to Mr Tinubu, according to those familiar with the issues between the two.
The kingmaker is now the king
To those who are close to Mr Tinubu, his ambition all the while since he debuted his political career circa 1992 or thereabouts was to become Nigeria’s President.
Thirty-one years after the then debutant’s ultimate ambition, the kingmaker is now king, against all odds, starting from the obstacles that he survived to win the ticket of the APC.
Incidentally, the President-elect started his political career at about the same time the late MKO Abiola contested on the platform of the SDP to become president. That election was later annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, the then military head of state, when results were being collated and counted with Mr Abiola comfortably coasting to victory. Mr Tinubu had been elected as a senator for Lagos West on the platform of the SDP.
By some stroke of coincidence or fate, Mr Abiola’s deputy in the 12 June 1993 election was Gana Kingibe, a Kanuri, from Borno State. The Vice President-elect n the 25 February election is Kashim Shettima, also a Kanuri from Borno State.
READ ALSO: 2023 Elections: Four major factors that led to Atiku’s loss
While Mr Abiola, a business mogul, campaigned using ‘Hope ’93 as his mantra, the erstwhile kingmaker, who is now king, campaigned using ‘Renewed Hope 2023’. Now the nation awaits in bated breath for his kingship.
As the Yoruba people will say, history remembers both the king whose reign brought succour to the people and the one whose reign brought agony and pain. Mr Tinubu has a chance to determine how history will remember his time.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.Donate
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999