By Richard Elesho
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu may well be the human version of the proverbial cat with nine lives. Only God knows how many mouths have pronounced him dead and for how many times! Perhaps, it was when the death wishes refused to materialise, that the traducers changed gear, to ruse his ‘premature return’ from an overseas journey.
Until his eventual return to Nigeria on Friday, 8th October, there had been at least two previous returns. For instance, on September 25th, Tunde Rahman, his Media Assistant had to rather antithetically issue a statement describing the rumoured return of his boss as “absolutely fake news.” He, however, assured that he would return “very soon and when he does, everyone will know.”
Indeed, even though a previously anticipated lavish reception was later called off, Tinubu’s return gave vent that a golden fish has no hiding place. Virtually all the media houses in Nigeria, from the traditional to the social, feasted on the ruling party National Leader’s homecoming. Many donated generous spaces to photographs and videos of the triumphal entry.
Tinubu has died many times, courtesy of the ever virile rumour industry in Nigeria. His enemies take him in and out of the land of the dead, with the ease of a genie! They completely ignore the traditional caution that “even when people fight, it shouldn’t get to the level of death.” Each time Tinubu travelled, stories will go round that he was seriously sick, undergoing surgery or dying.
This year alone Tinubu has died no fewer than three times. He died in February during his first trip abroad. In April, when he travelled to Saudi Arabia for Umrah, i.e Lesser Hajj, he also died there. Similarly, when he travelled to France around June, he was reported dead.
His travails have demonstrated over and again the words of elders that “a sick person may not be the one nearest to the corridors of death.” Issues of life and death are entirely in the hands of God, who dispenses them as he wills.
Asiwaju is among a very tiny tribe of leaders, dead or alive who have been lucky enough to read stories of their own passage. Dr. Nnamidi Azikiwe, first indigenous Governor-General of Nigeria and late Owelle of Onitsha did. Quite recently, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, former Governor of Kogi State also did.
But of the death rumours, the recent has been the most poignant. The former Lagos State Governor left Nigeria in July and was on medical tourism to France, United States of America and United Kingdom for about 75 days. He said he had an operation for a knee injury and several sessions of physiotherapy.
The death rumours at home festered, forcing his political associates and disciples to embark on choreographed visitations to the Tinubu on his sickbed. President Muhammodu Buhari, many Governors (past and present), lawmakers, and groups fell on one another to pay homage to Tinubu in his London home wishing him quick recovery.
Observers believe the visits also provided lush ground to discuss 2023 political things. In fact, one of the members of a National Assembly Caucus who visited him in London had inadvertently addressed him as “Mr. President.” Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, who described him as leader of the southwest, noted that the region was deferring critical political decisions for his input. He is now back.
The Jagabam of Borgu in Niger State, is not a pushover in national politics. For good or bad, he is perhaps, the most talked-about statesman in the country today. His ambition to succeed Buhari is well-known. Although he is yet to declare for the 2023 race, his foot soldiers have been unrelenting in selling the dream.
Two days before he came back, his supporters congregated in Lagos where they launched the South West Agenda for Asiwaju, SWAGA, formidable campaign machinery. All things being equal the Tinubu campaign train will premier in Abuja on 23rd October. That day a campaign office, reportedly located on Lake Chad Street in the highbrow Maitama District is expected to roar to life.
Yet, there is still a cloud of darkness around his manoeuvres. Is he running or will he end up anointing a candidate in the Presidential poll?
Asiwaju’s arrival should signal a game-changer in Nigeria’s preparations for the 2023 poll. He combines the wisdom of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, and the acceptability/ political savvy of Bashorun MKO Abiola, the late winner of the June 12, 1993 election. Any opponent that ignores him, does so at his or her own peril. Either as a friend or foe, Tinubu is like a rock of Gibraltar.
Based on his vast political structure across the country and his influence in how some public officials attained offices, many analysts have described the enfant terrible of Lagos politics as a kingmaker who wants to be king. His is like the arrival of a big cat in a room infested with rats. Now that he is back, the rodents may begin to take cover or simply disappear.
With a huge war chest and human capital in strategic places all over the country, the odds favour Asiwaju, at least within his APC. What we are not sure about is the unknown factor. Only God can stop him from realising his ambition. Whatever it may be!