Although he was all gay and smiling in pictures that went viral last week when he visited President Muhammadu Buhari in London, many Nigerians looked beyond the photo-ops to continue their favourite rumours about the “Jagaban”. I would soon come to the pet gossips but let me quickly admit I have never met Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in person. But he clearly belongs to Nigeria’s politics hall of fame and so whether you have met him or not, the fascination is there all the same. You are engrossed with his fearless campaign sound bites that drove out a ruling party; those large probing eye, the sphinx-like smile and his unique style of politics. Even his personal story reads like some Harold Robbins thriller when viewed from the standpoint of his lowly start in life and how he is now the ultimate Berlusconi of the nation’s power firmament. Yet, folks still say things behind him.
First, many idle talkers believe he is not in good terms with the president (not the president of his town union but that of Nigeria. I thought I should clarify that). Now, I don’t know how loose talkers got round to this but you need to sit with some “pundits” who would regale you with the tales of how both men intensely hate each other. There are experts, who would analyse the beef for you if you cared to hear them out. According to the tale, trouble started when Tinubu wanted to corner the VP position for himself but was denied the honour by the number one citizen. Everything went down the hill after that, they said. Personally, I don’t agree with this view. I mean, I would rather be the National Leader of a party than occupy any position within the cabinet. Now, I’m not denigrating the office of the number two citizen (by the way, do you know your number in the citizen profile of the nation? Just a thought). I believe Tinubu, given his deft calculations, is exactly where he wants to be in the scheme of things.
Another rumour is that the whole national leader thing is what is at the bottom of the rift with the president. The private talk here is that both men are caught in a battle of supremacy. Is the national leader bigger than the president? Especially a president your money contributed in installing? Again, I don’t agree there is problem there. I have seen pictures of the two giants. Unless I have illusions, I think I see the president often humbly acknowledging the national leadership status of Asiwaju. Tinubu too, often shows all the proper signs of respect to the Commander-in-Chief. Yet the rumour moguls persist that the duo often silently clash over all sorts of things to do with control of the power space.
One school of thought believes Tinubu is currently sponsoring a media blitzkrieg of criticisms of the president’s performance, using proxies. They point to editorials from The Nation’s newspaper and the incendiary columns of Uncle Sam Omatseye, among others. Now, this one is confusing me because, yes, Tinubu owns the paper but does he also control its editorial contents? I’m not trying to defend anyone but I can vouch for the independence of that medium. And, honestly, for those who know my dear Uncle Omatseye, he is not someone who can be dictated to. And even the Asiwaju has said this much in self-defence. Tinubu believes some people just want to come between him and the president to cause confusion. Watchers believe some smart politicians with an eye on the next election year are worried about the collabo between Jagaban and Bayyajidda.
By the way, is Tinubu aware that many believe he is behind the travails of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki? I don’t think I’ve ever heard Tinubu comment on this but this is one of the commonest private talks. The promoters of this view believe the whole crisis started when Dr. Saraki opposed, again, Tinubu’s emergence as Vice President. I still hold that Tinubu couldn’t have canvassed for this almost redundant position. He vigorously campaigned on the trail, knowing the current VP was going to occupy the office. So, at what point did he want the thing for himself? Walahi, someone has to convince me beyond reasonable doubts for me to believe this. But my friends who hold this notion said it makes perfect sense for Tinubu to be behind Saraki’s tribulations. They point out to the drama where Senator Remi Tinubu refused to accord Saraki the courtesy of a handshake after he was sworn in. Saraki himself, without mentioning names, suggested who was persecuting him. But here is my confusion: If many agree Tinubu is behind Saraki’s ordeal, why then are some people saying President Buhari also wants Saraki out? By any logic, the enemies of Tinubu should be the president’s closest pals now if it is true the two don’t like each other? Then there are talks that Saraki is actually checking Tinubu to safeguard the president’s interest. It is befuddling. What should we believe now? Presidential spokesmen have continued to distance their boss from the affair.
This would interest Tinubu, but there are private talks that he is at war too with his protégé, the three-in-one minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola. I know Tinubu has denied this but when we gather in our little corners some people still like this piece of rumour. Tinubu affectionately said the other day that Fashola was one of his success stories. And, dear readers, I believe the Asiwaju. Because, another thing we like to say about him is that he is a builder of men and women. The theory is Tinubu has the Midas touch and loves to turn everyone he meets to gold, the late MKO Abiola-style. Apart from Fashola the other gold include: Osinbajo, Fayemi, Abike-Dabiri, Ambode and all the governors of the South West apart from Ekiti and Ondo states, FIRS big gun, and a host of others – people he built up from the scratch with his stupendous wealth.
We sometimes argue that Tinubu is richer than many other politicians of his generation. The rumour feeding this notion is that Asiwaju runs the states under his control like some personal business since, it is held, he practically sponsored them to power. Now, many have no proof of this but trust people with gossips and believing them, as if they are gospel truths. Lagos State is heavy in this line of rumour with many believing Tinubu has the C of O to the state. Someone even swore that the state has been registered at the Corporate Affair Commission. Yet, no one would show you the document. Tinubu, it is widely believed, is also fanning out of the South West in raising surrogates around the country that would support his dreams.
Question is: what are these dreams?
I hate to think Tinubu looks forward to running Nigeria some day. Nothing is wrong with such an ambition. Some kingmakers sometimes cross over to run the show themselves. It is often not a successful transition to make, as Donald Trump is now discovering each day. Yet, it could be that Tinubu just wants to be in charge while helping, as a patriot, to build the Nigeria of his dreams. He clearly loves democracy for which he went into exile at a time and, from foreign lands, joined in promoting civil rule at home.
If I ever meet him in person I would like to ask the colossus whether he is truly happy with the way things are today. And whether he is a fulfilled man at last.