“Emi lo kan – it’s my turn”. With a clear statement in his mother tongue Yoruba, Bola Tinubu campaigned for the presidency in Nigeria. On Wednesday, the national electoral commission INEC declared him the winner and designated president in the country of 200 million people on the Gulf of Guinea, succeeding Muhammadu Buhari.
Accordingly, the candidate of the governing party APC and former governor of the state of Lagos received a total of around 8.8 million votes – a clear lead over the strongest competitors Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. According to the electoral commission, the further requirement of at least 25 percent of the votes in at least two-thirds of the states has been met.
From the oil business to politics
Tinubu itself is based in the Nigerian business metropolis of Lagos. There he was born in 1952 into a Muslim family of the Yoruba ethnic group, which is most prevalent in south-west Nigeria. He financed his studies in the USA in the 1970s with odd jobs as a dishwasher, taxi driver or night watchman.
With a degree from Chicago State University and several years of professional experience, Tinubu returned to Nigeria, where he initially worked as an auditor for the oil company Mobil Oil (now Exxon Mobil). Tinubu only discovered politics for himself in the 1990s. When Nigeria finally embarked on the path to democracy in 1999 after a checkered history, the businessman was elected governor of the important state of Lagos.
Pulling the strings in Lagos and Nigeria
In that post, he developed a style of indirect influence, using his vast network of connections to help political candidates win. The nickname of the “godfather” stuck. Even when Muhammadu Buhari secured the presidency in 2015 and again in 2019, the backing of the wealthy Tinubu may have played a role. It is said that since he stepped down as governor in 2007 he has always backed the winning candidate.
In the heart of the affluent district of Ikoyi lies Bourdillon Road. Here Tinubu has his residence. Little is known about where he got his money from. The businessman holds shares in companies ranging from media and aviation to tax consulting, hotels and real estate. When a money transporter was observed driving onto his property in the middle of the 2019 election campaign, Tinubu commented: “I keep money wherever I want.”
Discussions about Tinubu’s suitability as a problem solver
Tinubu’s financial transactions repeatedly brought him criticism. He was accused of corruption and money laundering, he was accused of illegally keeping more than a dozen foreign accounts – but there were no charges. Tinubu himself always denied any blame.
The 70-year-old’s health was also a topic of conversation during the election campaign: his sometimes frail appearance and slurred speech gave rise to rumors that he might not be up to the task of president. Here, too, Tinubu vehemently disagreed. There had been similar discussions time and again about the outgoing President Buhari, who spent months in London for medical treatment during his first term in office and who also occasionally gave the impression of being unaware of current developments.
Muhammadu Buhari (centre) is resigning from office after two terms in accordance with the constitution
When the newly elected President takes over the leadership of Nigeria in two months, he will not be able to afford such a break. A number of problems are urgently waiting to be solved: In addition to the great uncertainty in all parts of the country, there is a currency crisis, massive shortages of fuel and electricity and endemic corruption to combat – problems to which Buhari has had no answers in eight years as president has found.