The Anxious Dawn of Tinubu’s Turn Bola Ahmed Tinubu becomes Nigeria’s Seventh Democratically Elected President

While his opponents have petitioned the results of the 2023 election, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, famed ‘godfather’ of Lagos politics, takes over as the seventh democratically elected president of Nigeria. He inherits a country mired in social fractures, economic crises and unrelenting insecurity.

Sixteen years after he left office as governor of Lagos State, today Bola Ahmed Tinubu becomes the president of Nigeria. Officially, Tinubu’s journey to becoming president began in January 2022 when he met with the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari and informed him of his desire to run for Nigeria’s highest political office. For those who have been following his political trajectory keenly, it seems obvious that his interest in becoming president dates way before then as he had been building a political dynasty years before he formally threw his hat into the political ring.

Tinubu’s presidency extends Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, the political era that began in 1999 when, following years of military rule, Nigeria returned to democratic government. Since then, Nigeria has had four presidents: Olusegun Obasanjo who served two terms, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who died in office, Goodluck Jonathan who lost his second term bid and Buhari who became the second person after Obasanjo to serve as both military and civilian head of state.

Tinubu’s political journey predates his two-term governorship role: his political sojourn began in 1991 when he joined the Social Democratic Party. In 1992, he was elected to the Senate, representing the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived Third Republic (1992-1993). Tinubu was a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition in the period after the annulment of the 12 June presidential election. Following the death of General Sani Abacha in 1998, he joined the Alliance for Democracy and became the party’s governorship candidate in Lagos. The rest became history.

After the end of his governorship, he chose not to pursue a senatorial ambition as many of the outgoing governors in that period did. Instead, he focused on growing his party, the Action Congress, which later became the Action Congress of Nigeria. By 2013, when the party merged with the Congress for Progressive Change, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and some members from the All Progressive Grand Alliance to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), Tinubu had become a political godfather not just in Lagos where he seems to have handpicked all his successor but in the South West.

In 2015, his party, APC won the general election and Tinubu became the national leader of the party. While Tinubu did not occupy an official position in Buhari’s government, strategically, President Buhari appointed certain figures known to have worked with Tinubu in the past. For example, former vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, admitted that Tinubu selected him to be Buhari’s running mate—Osinbajo had served as commissioner for justice in Lagos when Tinubu was governor. Other politicians who worked with Tinubu in the past that made their way into Buhari’s government included Babatunde Fashola, Lai Mohammed, Babatunde Fowler and Adeleke Mamora.

After obtaining the APC nomination form, Tinubu had to ward off competition from his political protege, Osinbajo and other candidates to emerge as the party flag bearer. On 01 March 2023, following an election replete with ethnic profiling, electoral subjugation, violence and alleged corruption, Tinubu emerged as president of Nigeria. Many felt that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to deliver on its promises of providing a free, fair and credible election. It is on this premise that Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were swift to reject the outcome of the election and head to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. So far, none of the numerous petitions have led to a significant change in the trajectory of Tinubu’s inauguration. The latest judgement before inauguration day was delivered on 26 May 2023 where the Supreme Court dismissed the PDP petition challenging the alleged double nomination of Kashim Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate. According to PDP’s petition, Shettima had picked up a senatorial ticket for Borno Central but was ultimately selected as a running mate by Tinubu—a move PDP argued was grounds for Shettima’s disqualification from the presidential race. The court, however, ruled that Shettima dropped his senatorial nomination before his name was submitted as Tinubu’s running mate to INEC.

Members of the international community observed that the election was marred by corruption and violence. On 15 May, for instance, the United States announced that it has imposed a visa ban on Nigerians who disrupted the 2023 elections. Despite this, on 18 May, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, spoke with Tinubu a few days before the inauguration while US president, Joe Biden, announced a delegation that will attend the ceremony.

Although the election court cases are ongoing, many Nigerians do not have faith in the judiciary’s ability to overturn the presidency as precedence shows that since 1999, all election petitions have gone the way of the sitting president. Tinubu now has the uphill task of uniting a nation that is divided along ethnic and religious lines and mired in economic crises not helped by Buhari’s border closure and the consistent emigration of highly skilled citizens. During Tinubu’s campaign, he promised: ‘We can make Nigeria better, safer and more prosperous. We can educate our youths, feed our people, and put an end to fear. We can do these things. We can move you forward.’

Pointing to his performance as governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007, Tinubu’s supporters are optimistic that he can turn the fortune of the country around for good. Tinubu’s critics (young Nigerians especially), however, believe that Tinubu belongs to the old political order and is burdened with unresolved controversies surrounding his background, age, health and wealth

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