The 70-year-old has won the presidency of Africa’s most populous nation by 8.8 million votes, according to the final election results.
Bola Tinubu, a political ‘godfather’ famous for his strategic agility and clout, has won a close race to succeed Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s next president.
Tinubu never hid his ambition to become Nigeria’s president, as the 70-year-old fulfilled his “lifelong” goal by winning the presidency of Africa’s most populous nation by 8.8 million votes, according to the final election results.
Despite lingering questions about his health and past corruption allegations, the two-time governor of Lagos will succeed Buhari, a former army general he says he helped rise to power.
His ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is facing allegations of electoral fraud in polls conducted Saturday and Sunday from its two main opponents. But election officials and the APC rejected those claims.
Often referred to by the title of the leader of “Jagaban”, Tinubu has spent years building his power base in Lagos into a nationwide network of contacts from Lagos market cooperatives and transport unions to political operatives.
But in a surprise poll result, rival Labor 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 stubborn leader, who campaigned under the slogan “It’s my turn,” was confirmed as the winner of the presidency.
Long period in power
Tinubu, a Muslim born in Nigeria’s Yoruba-speaking southwest, trained as an accountant in the United States and worked for several American companies, including as a treasurer for oil giant ExxonMobil.
He was a political activist before becoming a senator and later governor of Lagos State, which he ruled from 1999 to 2007.
Tinubu’s supporters point to Lagos’ successes and insist he can replicate them on a national scale. The city-state is generally the most viable economy in Nigeria. As a standalone country, it would rank among Africa’s top 10 economies by gross domestic product (GDP).
However, some critics say the pro-Tinubu narrative erased the prosperous policies of Lateef Jakande, governor between 1979 and 1983, which laid the foundations for today’s Lagos, which has grown from four million people three decades ago to 21 million today.
Described by his allies as an astute political strategist, he co-founded and funded the Alliance for Democracy, which later became the Action Congress of Nigeria, and subsequently helped form the APC.
He was instrumental in bringing APC factions together, pushing Buhari to victory in 2015 and ending 16 years in power for the rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Buhari’s election, the country’s first opposition victory, as well as his re-election in 2019, was partially attributed to Tinubu’s political influence.
Allegations of corruption
During his time in power, Tinubu controversies have also arisen around his financial dealings.
He is considered one of Nigeria’s wealthiest politicians and after leaving office he was charged with corruption, money laundering and managing more than a dozen foreign bank accounts. He has never been charged and denies wrongdoing.
On the campaign trail, PDP critics labeled him “wobbly, shaky and narcotics-ravaged”, a reference to health problems and a 1993 US lawsuit that referred to 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 consulting, hotels and real estate.
One critic described him as “a greedy politician” who has gobbled up large sources of income from Lagos.