Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, is a private citizen as he is not presently holding any public office. But his Duchess Mews, Portland Place, Central London home is fast turning to a destination choice for a section of politicians in Africa’s most populous nation. Of course, the reason for this is not farfetched.
The former Lagos State governor, who is one of Nigeria’s greatest political figures of the Fourth Republic, is currently staying in the UK over the past few months and like an elephant, there couldn’t have been a hiding place for him from his associates and non-associates alike.
Although Tinubu had on several occasions received and entertained visitors in his UK home, his current vacation, and stay in the house has been a subject of debate back home as issues have been raised over his health status.
Fondly called the Jagaban, the APC stalwart is one of the most talked-about Nigerians alive. Even before tones of voice about his yetto- be-announced 2023 presidential aspiration started renting the air, his acute strategic sense in politics and governance is one of the many standouts for him.
Since 2007 that he ended his second term as Lagos governor, Tinubu has not held an official position in government, but his influence national politics has grown. His style has always been to encourage the younger generation in politics and the likes Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, among others, owe their political success to him.
With his clout within and outside the ruling party, it was fitting for anyone to assume that he is next in line to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 especially if the APC shifts to the south.
This line of thinking, has, however, drew support and flaks in equal measures for Tinubu, who is a veteran of many battles. Though still silent, his formidable political network and associates have already given him a head start over many other contenders for the 2023 race.
A case in point is the Senator Dayo Adeyeye-led South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA), which has launched a campaign for the Lagos big man.
From the blues came overwhelming reports around July that Tinubu was sick, hospitalized and some even rumored his death. It got so tensed that the propagators of the narrative even reported a fixed date for the purported burial of the former Lagos governor using fake voice notes and pictures to advance their falsehood.
Of course, Tinubu, who is 69, is like every human and not infallible; he is also flesh and blood, susceptible to human frailty like illness and others. But those who had alternative motives used the Jagaban’s absence during President Muhammadu Buhari recent visit to Lagos to commission projects as an explanation of his indisposed state.
They also went further to fabricate stories that his health had deteriorated and was quickly flown abroad, hence, his nonappearance in the campaign train of his party, the APC, in the run-up to the July 24 local government election in Lagos State.
At another point, the rumour mills took their mischief to another level through a viral Whatsapp voice note stating that Tinubu died in the United Arab Emirates hospital, another said he was on a back to back surgery in the United States, just as others claimed he had contracted Covid-19 and had complications.
But Mr. Tunde Rahman, the Media Adviser to the APC leader had to come out to rebuked those peddling the news that his principal had been hospitalised in an American hospital.
He attributed the false report to the work of mischief-makers, stating that though Tinubu was presently out of the country, he was hale and hearty and would be back soon. He said, “Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is fine.
He is hale and hearty. He is not in any hospital. He has no medical problem that would require hospitalisation. Yes, he is out of the country at the moment. He will be back shortly.
“Anytime he travels out of the country, the next thing some mischievous people would say is he is sick, hospitalised, or has died. It is shameful that the perpetrators of this evil are not deterred by the fact that each time this fake news has been propagated, they have been proven wrong.” S
anwo-Olu first to visit, doused tension
Perhaps due to his proximity to Tinubu, Governor Sanwo-Olu was the first to pay a visit to his political leader in London. Interestingly, he did it at the most appropriate period that the supporters of the former governor needed clear assurances on the state of health of their principal.
Of course, the governor didn’t disappoint as he doused tension and ended unfounded rumours about Tinubu’s health condition. On his way arrival to Nigeria after the August 3 visit, the excited Sanwo-Olu said the APC National Leader is “hale and hearty” in London, the United Kingdom.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu said he made the trip and shared the photos with the APC leader to dispel the rumours about his ill-health.
James Faleke came calling too
Another early caller to the London home of Tinubu was the lawmaker representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, James Faleke. Faleke, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, visited his political godfather on August 11. The lawmaker is one of the protégés of Tinubu as he was pivotal to his (Faleke) emergence as the running mate to the late Kogi governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu.
President Buhari’s surprise visit
President Buhari made a surprise visit to Tinubu just nine days after Governor Sanwo-Olu came calling and allaying any fear of terminal illness about his political godfather.
The President’s visit was a rude shock to many especially as he (Buhari) was in London at the time for a medical check-up after attending the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education in the UK. The pictures of the visit were shared on social media by presidential aide, Bashir Ahmad, and in the photos,
Tinubu was seen leaning on a walking stick as he posed for a shot with the President. However, the President’s visit turned the table around and reared up different assumptions and narratives from Nigerians and supporters watching the two leaders in Queensland.
The first of the assumptions was why would the President visits Tinubu in UK and not the other way round? Those who held this view opined that the call by the Commander-in-Chief suggests that the former governor was in a worse state of health to get such a visit.
Some others also read political meanings to the gesture, both for and against. A section averred that the President just gave an endorsement to Tinubu ahead of 2023, while others saw it as political
tact to show Nigerians that the former governor is not too fit to lead the country in 2023 especially from the pictures where he was seen holding a walking stick during the visit. For some other Tinubu’s supporters, the haste at which the pictures with the President was released to the public speaks loud of unexplained motives.
They queried that since Governor Sanwo-Olu and Rep. James Faleke had also visited before the President and there was no sight for any walking stick, why was the picture of a walking aid swiftly displayed?
But not willing to join any of the conspiracy theories, Tinubu thanked the President, stating that “the visit was a friendly and welcome one that underscored the considerate and caring personality of our nation’s President and Commander-in-Chief.
“By this gesture, Mr. President has, again, demonstrated his personal thoughtfulness and humility; defying the erroneous commentaries peddled by his critics. “Once again, Asiwaju thanks President Buhari for taking the time to visit him and wishes the President nothing but the very best as his administration continues to govern and lead the nation.”
Also clearing the air on any sinister motive on the part of the Presidency for the visit, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the visit was not a show of support for the former Lagos State Governor ahead of 2023 presidential election.
“We know that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had been in London about the same time the President was there. We don’t believe what we read on social media, but we have read a lot about Asiwaju Tinubu’s health, so the President’s visit was a goodwill visit.”
Banire kills two birds with one stone
Not many people saw the visit of the former National Legal Adviser of APC, Muiz Banire to Tinubu coming, especially with the perceived no love lost relationship between the erstwhile allies.
Banire was the fourth high-profile party chieftain to visit the APC leader as he recuperates in the UK. Banire, a former Commissioner under Tinubu, visited the APC Leader on August 18, thereby dousing speculations of crisis between the duo.
Expectedly, his visit to Asiwaju Tinubu, generated a lot of shock in the system, that many of the former governor’s supporter commended his large heart. However, Banire wrote in his weekly column,
“For those who think I have animosity towards Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and, therefore, found this display of love and respect for him as a source of worry, I express my heartfelt sympathy and hope they find an alternative source of income other than politics.
“Thus, when I was in London last week to attend to sundry issues and I learnt that the Jagaba was recuperating in London, I had no choice than to pay a visit to him, remembering that I had shared many moments of love and vivacity, notwithstanding the current prevailing atmosphere of disagreement on how to run a party.”
Ex-Borno Gov, Shettima, hits London for ally
Former Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima also visited the National leader of the APC, Tinubu in London on August 18. Shettima, who is now a senator was captured in a photo with Tinubu.
He currently represents Borno Central District in the National Assembly. The former Borno governor was accompanied by Hon. Usman Zanna, Borno’s Kaga/Gubio/ Magumeri representative in the House of Representatives.
While serving as governor, Shettima named an estate in Maiduguri after Tinubu as a mark of honour for liberating the people of Borno State from the hands of a ‘tyrant’ who wanted to hijack the APC.
Anywhere Fayemi goes, Akeredolu follows
Seen as a tag team with benefits and responsibilities, the duo of Ekiti and Ondo state governors, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, also paid a visit to Tinubu in London on August 25. Tinubu’s media aide, Tunde Rahman shared a photo of the governors with the APC leader on Instagram.
“Governors Akeredolu and Fayemi when they paid a call on Asiwaju Tinubu in London…this Wednesday,” he wrote.
Ordinarily, much meaning should not be read to the visit but the silent but notable rivalry between Fayemi and Tinubu especially over the APC presidential ticket in 2023 made it an attractive headline. Fayemi, who has Akeredolu’s support is believed to be the most serious potential rival to Tinubu’s 2023 presidential aspiration.
The Lagos Assembly train
Led by its speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, who is also a strong ally of Tinubu, members of the Lagos State House of Assembly also paid a visit to the national leader of the APC on August 27.
The Assembly’s delegation also have Temitope Adewale, chairman of the House committee on Transportation; Nureni Akinsanya, chairman of the House committee on Physical Planning and Urban Development; as well as Sylvester Ogunkelu, chairman of the House committee on Overseas Investments and SDG. In a statement,
Speaker Obasa said they had lengthy discussions with Tinubu on issues of ‘national importance’, and that the leader was “his jovial self ”. “Asiwaju remains amazingly passionate about Nigeria.
He is hale and hearty. We had a lengthy discussion about developments in the country; he was in high spirit, cheery, witty as usual and remains optimistic about the progress of the country,” Obasa said.
Lagos moved to London
Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Kadri Hamzat, led a team of state officials to visit Tinubu on August 29. Also with Hamzat during the visit was the Chief of Staff to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Tayo Ayinde.
The Deputy Chief of Staff to Lagos State Governor, Gboyega Soyanwo was also present.
The Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Education, Tokunbo Wahab was also on the delegation and they all took photograph with Tinubu. The Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Drainage and Water Resources, Engr.Joe Igbokwe, took to his social media page to eulogised the picture which he captioned, “Our men in London with our own leader, the Asiwaju of Africa.”
London reunites Amosun, Tinubu
Former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, and Tinubu, used to be the best of political allies, but, interests, perhaps, created a wedge between them and since then, it has been a cat and mouse relationship.
So, it was an astonishing sight when the face of the senator was seen in pictures beaming with a smile while sitting beside his estranged political associate in London.
In the run-up to the 2019 governorship election in Ogun State, it is believed that Tinubu and Amosun fought proxy political battles, which eventually favoured the APC National Leader through Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
No doubt, the September 2 visit also comes in a political package as Amosun is reputed to be Buhari’s closest associate in the Southwest. How this will pan out is left to be seen.
GAC’s solidarity to London
The delegation of the highest decision-making body in Lagos State, the Governor Advisory Council (GAC) also visited Tinubu to confirm his health status, describing him as being in perfect health and that he will be back soon in the country.
The delegation which was received by the APC National leader himself in his home in the UK disclosed that he was in happy to receive them The leader of the delegation,Senator Anthony Adefuye confirmed that Asiwaju is hale and hearty. He debunked the rumour flying all over that he is not in good condition.”
In Asiwaju normal style they cracked jokes about the rumour of his health status.”, he said The GAC members that accompanied Senator Anthony Adefuye are Mr Wale Edun and Mrs Idiat Adebule former Deputy Governor of Lagos State.
Nigeria’s No 4 visited on September 4
House of Representatives Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, also made his way to Central London to visit his political godfather, Tinubu, who has been out of the country for a while. The speaker, who took pictures with the APC national leader, is one of the closest and those who owe their political journey credit to Tinubu.
Gbajabiamila once described Tinubu as the only man he knows in Nigeria, dead or alive, that eats, drinks, walks, sleeps politics 24/7, 365 days.
The nation’s number 4 citizen was recently, alongside the three senators representing Lagos State at the National Assembly, appointed as members of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC),which has Tinubu as the apex leader.
Clearly, the influence and pedigree of Tinubu has once again come to the consciousness of all and sundry, but whether this is a clear sign of what is to come in 2023 can only be answered by time.