Bola Tinubu, a political “godfather” famed for his strategic deftness and clout, has won a tight race to succeed Muhammadu Buhari as the next president of Nigeria.
Tinubu never hid his ambition to be president of Nigeria as the 70-year-old fulfilled his “lifelong” goal by winning the presidency of Africa’s most populous nation with 8.8 million votes, according to final election results.
Despite lingering questions about his health and past corruption allegations, the two-time Lagos governor will succeed Buhari, a former army general he brags of helping put into power.
His ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) faces accusations of electoral fraud in polls, that took place over Saturday and Sunday, from its two main opponents. But electoral officials and the APC dismissed those claims.
Often referred to by the chieftain’s title of “Jagaban”, Tinubu has spent years building his Lagos power base into a nationwide network of contacts from Lagos market cooperatives and transport unions to political operatives.
But in a surprise result from the polls, rival Labour Party candidate Peter Obi won in Lagos State – Tinubu’s traditional bastion of support.
“You win some, you lose some,” Tinubu said of the result, urging his supporters to remain calm.
Days later, the tenacious leader, who campaigned with the slogan “It’s my turn”, was confirmed as the winner of the presidency.
Long stint in power
A Muslim born in Nigeria’s Yoruba-speaking southwest, Tinubu trained as an accountant in the United States and worked for several US companies, including as a treasurer at oil giant ExxonMobil.
He was a political activist before becoming a senator and later governor of Lagos State, which he governed from 1999 to 2007.
Tinubu’s supporters point to Lagos’s successes and insist he can replicate them on a national scale. The city-state is by and large the most viable economy in Nigeria. As a standalone country, it would be among Africa’s top 10 economies by gross domestic product (GDP).
However, some critics say the pro-Tinubu narrative erases the welfarist politics of Lateef Jakande, governor between 1979 and 1983, who laid the foundations of today’s Lagos, which has swelled from four million people three decades ago to 21 million today.
Described by his allies as an astute political strategist, he co-founded and financed the Alliance for Democracy, which later became the Action Congress of Nigeria, and then helped form the APC.
He was instrumental in bringing together APC factions, pushing Buhari to victory in 2015 and ending 16 years in power for the rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Buhari’s election, the first opposition victory in the country, as well as his 2019 re-election, was partly attributed to Tinubu’s political influence.
Controversies around Tinubu have also arisen around his financial dealings during his time in power.
He is believed to be one of Nigeria’s richest politicians and after leaving office he was accused of corruption, money laundering and operating more than a dozen foreign bank accounts. He was never charged and denies wrongdoing.
On the campaign trail, PDP critics labelled him as “wobbly, wonky and narcotic-devastated”, a reference to health concerns and a 1993 US court filing that cited a “drug-related seizure of property” from his US bank account.
The source of his wealth is unknown but he has interests in a number of business ventures, from media and aviation to tax consultancy, hotels and real estate holdings.
One critic described him as “a greedy politician” who has gobbled up major sources of revenue from Lagos.