Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu (born 29 March 1952) is a Nigerian accountant, politician and the president-elect of Nigeria, he served as the Governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007 and Senator for Lagos West during the brief Third Republic.
Tinubu spent his early life in southwestern Nigeria and later moved to United States where he studied Accounting at Chicago State University. He returned to Nigeria in the early 1980s and was employed by Mobil Nigeria as an accountant, before entering politics as a Lagos West senatorial candidate in 1992 under the banner of the Social Democratic Party. After dictator Sani Abacha dissolved the Senate in 1993, Tinubu became an activist campaigning for the return of democracy as a part of the National Democratic Coalition movement. Although he was forced into exile in 1994, Tinubu returned after Abacha’s 1998 death triggered the beginning of the transition to the Fourth Republic.
In the first post-transition Lagos State gubernatorial election, Tinubu won by a wide margin as a member of the Alliance for Democracy over the Peoples Democratic Party‘s Dapo Sarumi and the All People’s Party‘s Nosirudeen Kekere-Ekun. Four years later, he won re-election to a second term over the PDP’s Funsho Williams by a reduced margin. Tinubu’s two terms were marked by attempts at modernizing the city of Lagos and his feuds with the PDP-controlled federal government. After leaving office in 2007, he since played a key role in the formation of the All Progressives Congress in 2013. Long and controversial, Tinubu’s career has been plagued by accusations of corruption and questions about the veracity of his personal history.
Early life and education
According to affidavits, Tinubu was born on 29 March 1952. His mother, Abibatu Mogaji, was a trader that later became the Iyaloja of Lagos State. He attended St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos and Children’s Home School in Ibadan. Tinubu then went to the United States in 1975, where he studied first at Richard J. Daley College in Chicago and then at Chicago State University. He graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting.
Disputes over his age, educational qualifications, and name emerged throughout his political career due to conflicting documents and statements from Tinubu himself. While there are unsubstantiated rumours that Tinubu was born with a different name to a different family in modern-day Osun State, the main controversy was sparked by discrepancies in certificates Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission. Documents submitted ahead of running for governor in 1999 falsely stated that Tinubu attended Government College, Ibadan for secondary school and Chicago State University records had his birth year as 1954, not 1952; in response, Tinubu claimed Tokunbo Afikuyomi– who was then a senator- accidentally falsified the 1999 submission and the university had simply made an error. The controversy was reignited in 2022 when documentation submitted by Tinubu to INEC for the presidential election was released, revealing that he did not state the primary or secondary school he attended in contradiction with previous sworn forms and public statements.
Early career and ties to drug trafficking
Tinubu worked for the American companies Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins, & Sells, and GTE Services Corporation. After returning to Nigeria in 1983, Tinubu joined Mobil Oil Nigeria, and later became an executive of the company.
During his time in the United States, Tinubu was noted for his suspiciously high income before being investigated by federal authorities; eventually his assets were frozen in 1993 as a result of a court case asserting that the American government had “probable cause” to believe Tinubu’s American bank accounts held the proceeds of heroin dealing. He would settle with the government and forfeit about $460,000 later that year. Court documents and later reporting on the case revealed that Tinubu had served as a bagman for two Chicago heroin dealers in the early 1990s.
Early political career
His political career began in 1992, when he joined the Social Democratic Party where he was a member of the Peoples Front faction led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and made up of other politicians such as Umaru Yar’Adua, Atiku Abubakar, Baba Gana Kingibe, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Magaji Abdullahi, Dapo Sarumi and Yomi Edu. He was elected to the Senate, representing the Lagos West constituency in the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic.
After the results of the 12 June 1993 presidential elections were annulled, Tinubu became a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition, a group which mobilized support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of Moshood Abiola as winner of the 12 June election. Following the seizure of power as military head of state of General Sani Abacha, he went into exile in 1994 and returned to the country in 1998 after the death of the military dictator, which ushered in the transition to the Fourth Nigerian Republic.
In the run-up to the 1999 elections, Bola Tinubu was a protégé of Alliance for Democracy (AD) leaders Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Adebanjo. He went on to win the AD primaries for the Lagos State governorship elections in defeating Funsho Williams and Wahab Dosunmu, a former Minister of Works and Housing. In January 1999, he stood for the position of Governor of Lagos State on the AD ticket and was elected governor.
Governor of Lagos State
After he assumed office in May 1999, Tinubu provided multiple housing units in Lagos for the poor. During the eight-year period of being in office, he made large investments in education in the state and also reduced the number of schools in the state by returning many schools to the already settled former owners. He also initiated new road construction, required to meet the needs of the fast-growing population of the state.
Tinubu, alongside a new deputy governor, Femi Pedro, won re-election into office as governor in April 2003. All other states in the South West fell to the People’s Democratic Party in those elections. He was involved in a struggle with the Olusegun Obasanjo-controlled federal government over whether Lagos State had the right to create new Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) to meet the needs of its large population. The controversy led to the federal government seizing funds meant for local councils in the state. During the latter part of his term in office, he was engaged in continuous clashes with PDP powers such as Adeseye Ogunlewe, a former Lagos State senator who had become minister of works, and Bode George, the southwest chairman of the PDP.
Relations between Tinubu and deputy governor Femi Pedro became increasingly tense after Pedro declared his intention to run for the gubernatorial elections. Pedro competed to become the AC candidate for governor in the 2007 elections, but withdrew his name on the eve of the party nomination. He defected to the Labour Party while still keeping his position as deputy governor. Tinubu’s tenure as Lagos State Governor ended on 29 May 2007, when his successor Babatunde Fashola of the Action Congress took office.
Illegal operation of foreign accounts
In April 2007, after the general elections, but before the governor-elect Babatunde Fashola had taken office, the Federal Government brought Tinubu before the Code of Conduct Bureau for trial over the alleged illegal operation of 16 separate foreign accounts.
Appropriation of Lagos funds in buying shares in Econet
In January 2009, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission cleared Tinubu and governors James Ibori of Delta State and Obong Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State of charges of conspiracy, money laundering, abuse of office and official corruption in relation to a sale of Vmobile network shares in 2004. In March 2009, there were reports that a plot had been identified to kill Tinubu. The Alliance for Democracy called on the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, to conduct a thorough investigation. In September 2009, however, there were reports that the British Metropolitan Police were investigating a transaction in which the Lagos State government made an investment in Econet (now Airtel). Tinubu said the transaction was straightforward and profitable to the state, with no intermediaries involved. The Federal Government rejected a request by Britain to release evidence needed for further investigation and prosecution of the three Nigerian ex-governors in a London court.
Political godfatherism and hooliganism in Lagos state
Tinubu has been widely perceived as the “Godfather of Lagos”. His role in pulling the strings of the mega city-state was exposed in The Lion of Bourdillon, a 2015 documentary film highlighting Tinubu’s political and financial grip on the city-state. Tinubu filed a ₦150 billion libel suit against the producers, AIT, and the documentary stopped airing on 6 March 2015. Nonetheless, antecedents such as his overbearingness on successors such as in December 2009, when there were reports that Fashola and Tinubu had fallen out over the issue of Fashola’s re-election in 2011, with Tinubu preferring the commissioner for environment, Muiz Banire. And a similar scuffle in 2015, over Fashola’s successor pitting Tinubu against him who threw his full weight behind Akinwunmi Ambode, who later succeeded Fashola and was himself ousted from office by Tinubu replacing him with incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Use of bullion vans to influence elections in Lagos state
In 2006, Tinubu worked on convincing the erstwhile Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar to become the flagbearer of his party, the Action Congress. Atiku who was a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) then had fallen out with his principal at that time Olusegun Obasanjo over his ambition to succeed the former as president. Tinubu offered Atiku the chance to cross carpet to his party, offering him the slot of his party’s presidential candidacy with the condition that he, Tinubu must be Atiku’s running mate. Atiku declined the proposition and instead chose a running mate from the South East in the person of Ben Obi. And although Atiku still went ahead to contest the election on Tinubu’s platform in the forthcoming elections, the PDP still won in a landslide with Tinubu barking up the wrong tree.
In 2009, following the landslide victory of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the April 2007 elections, Tinubu became involved in negotiations to bring together the fragmented opposition parties into a “mega-party” capable of challenging the then ruling PDP. In February 2013, Tinubu was among several politicians who created a “mega opposition” party with the merger of Nigeria’s three biggest opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP (nPDP), a faction of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party – into the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In 2014, Tinubu supported former military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari, leader of the CPC faction of the APC – who commanded widespread following in Northern Nigeria, and had previously contested in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 presidential elections as the CPC presidential candidate. Tinubu initially wanted to become Buhari’s vice presidential candidate but later conceded for Yemi Osibanjo, his ally and former commissioner of justice. In 2015, Buhari rode the APC to victory, ending the sixteen year rule of the PDP, and marking the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate.
Tinubu has gone on to play an important role in the Buhari administration, supporting government policies and holding onto the internal party reins, in lieu of his long-held rumored presidential aspiration. In 2019, he supported Buhari’s re-election campaign defeating the PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar. In 2020, following an internal party crisis which led to the removal of Tinubu ally and party chairman Adams Oshiomole, it is believed the move was to scuttle Tinubu’s presidential prospects ahead of 2023.
2023 Presidential Campaign
On 10 January 2022, Tinubu announced his intention to run for the President of Nigeria to President Buhari, this was the formal form of announcement from him.
On 8 June 2022, Tinubu won the presidential primary of the ruling All Progressive Congress scoring 1,271, to defeat Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Rotimi Amaechi who scored 235 and 316 respectively.
Tinubu is a Muslim. He is married to Oluremi Tinubu, the current senator of the Lagos Central senatorial district. Tinubu’s mother, Abibatu Mogaji, died on 15 June 2013 at the age of 96. On 31 October 2017, his son Jide Tinubu had a heart attack while in London and was later confirmed dead.