Against all odds, 71-year old Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in as the 16th president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in May 2023. The veteran politician and erstwhile godfather of Nigerian politics started his political career in 1992, as a Senator representing Lagos West district.
And oddly enough, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is noted never to have lost any key position he contested for. And this is in spite of having to face heavyweight and well-grounded political opponents, some of them his former mentors.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Date of Birth
March 29 1952
5 ft 2 Inch (1.6m)
Source of Wealth
Business and Politics
The Journey from Childhood: Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Beginnings
The available records of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s childhood journey are often questioned by critics. Many details of his actual childhood and education are surrounded by controversies bordering on their accuracy. But it is officially stated that Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu was born on 29th of March 1952.
His actual state of origin is also inconclusive, as some critics insist he comes from Osun State and not Lagos. But it is widely known that he was born into the family of Abibatu Mogaji, celebrated trader and late Iyaloja of Lagos. That same ‘Iyaloja’ (Controller-general of traders) post has long been taken up by Tinubu’s daughter, Fọláṣadé Ojo-Tinubu.
So far, it is stated that Chief Tinubu attended both St. John’s Primary School (Aroloya, Lagos) and Children Home School (Ibadan). Details about his secondary education are not clear. However, he is said to have proceeded to the United States. He studied at Richard J. Daley College (Chicago), then moved to Chicago State University. In 1979, he graduated with degree in Accounting.
Tinubu: His Career as an Accountant
Bola Ahmed Tinubu worked as an accountant in the USA, before returning to Nigeria. He was employed by renowned accounting firms of Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, and GTE Services Corporation. He continued his promising career journey by joining Mobil Nigeria in 1983 as a treasurer. Subsequently, he rose up the ranks to become an executive director.
Tinubu and Nigerian Politics: Where It all Started
In 1991, Chief Tinubu joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP). It was on that platform that he contested for Senator seat to represent Lagos West, and won the post in 1992. The era of prominence for the staunch politician began from this point.
Tinubu openly supported the winner of the annulled presidential election of June 12, 1993, namely Chief M.KO. Abiola of the SDP. He became a key member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a group formed to uphold the legitimacy of the June 12, 1993 elections. Thus he became a target of the military regime, particularly during the dictatorship of General Sanni Abacha a few years later. Tinubu was forced to go into exile while he kept up the struggle; until General Abacha died in June 1998.
Thereafter, General Abdulsalami Abubakar took interim control of the Presidency. Abdulsalami embarked on releasing the political detainees of the Abacha regime from detention, while he strove to return Nigeria back to civil rule. That move paved the way for the return of Chief Tinubu and other political exiles into the country.
Subsequently, Tinubu continued his active involvement in the transition to democracy – under the umbrella of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) party, NADECO, and Afenifere. At that time, these three political bodies wielded strong influence in the politics of southwest Nigeria. Thus, Tinubu was eventually nominated for the governorship of Lagos State, and he enjoyed the massive support of the Afenifere leaders.
Unfortunately, he was pitted against his former mentor, Prince Dapo Sarumi of PDP (who practically helped him into the senatorship seat in 1992). Tinubu went ahead to win the governorship seat of Lagos State in 1999. His relationship with Sarumi never truly recovered.
The Rise of the Political Godfather
Discord erupted in the ranks of both AD and Afenifere, which also affected Chief Tinubu. It happened that out of the six AD governors of southwest Nigeria, only Tinubu managed to secure a second term in office. All the other governors lost their re-election bids to opposition PDP governors in 2003.
Thus, Tinubu completed two terms in office from 1999 to 2007 (having re-contested and narrowly won). In the years that followed, Bola Ahmed Tinubu gradually positioned himself as a strong voice and kingmaker in the politics of Lagos State. He acquired the reputation of influencing the choice of virtually every other governor of the state following his tenure.
That reputation did not entirely sit well with many people. Certain political observers insisted that he used many crude, even unethical means to control the state.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Presidential Ambition
Soon after the 2003 elections, the AD split into two factions. Tinubu belonged to the faction of the AD that evolved into the Alliance for Democracy (AC), led by Bisi Akande. While Afenifere had split into three factions by the time Tinubu left office in 2007. Tinubu continued to deploy his resources to uphold whatever was remaining of his factions in the AC, and the former Afenifere. The influence of the AC having been weakened, affected their chances to contest and win the presidential elections for many years.
Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler of Nigeria from the core North, entered into the presidential race from another party. But he failed three times in succession over the years. Eventually, Buhari and Tinubu struck an accord, which united political players from the North and Southwest. Thus by contesting under the unified umbrella of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari finally won the presidential seat.
Chief Tinubu used his influence to secure a stronghold amongst the leaders of the ruling APC. Backed by that support, he worked his way to secure a presidential ticket towards contesting for the 2023 presidential elections.
His frail health was heavily questioned; so also were his business dealings, and the gaps in his background. But the ‘Jagaban’ of Borgu (a traditional chieftaincy title he acquired) muscled his way through opposition and many controversies nonetheless. He so clearly visualised, spoke and used his full political will, until his ‘Emilokan’ mantra became a reality. Muhammadu Buhari subsequently remained in power for two terms until he handed over to Tinubu, in 2023.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu: His Net Worth
Findings on top African online sources place Tinubu’s net worth at 4 billion US Dollars (as of 2023). His wealth was sourced from a combination of private sector investments, and his political career.
The journey of Bola Ahmed Tinubu into Nigeria’s presidency can best be described as a lesson in political mastery. He has been challenged again and again by his electoral opponents (in the persons of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi), and several other unrelenting personalities. Tinubu nevertheless managed to fulfil his ambition, and secure his place.
He has demonstrated extraordinary focus and willpower in more than 30 years of navigating the political landscape of Nigeria. Nigeria would have done far better to have more of such persons to resolve its many challenges.
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