Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President-elect, contested for the nation’s number one top job three times and thrice he failed. However, in his fourth attempt, the party to which his opponent belonged adopted and unleashed a virulent propaganda: digging into his military records, discrediting him in the southern part of the country, a part that often perceived him as a Muslim fundamentalist and a brutal retired military man.

Buhari is, however, well liked in the north. But this likeness couldn't guarantee him victory in the elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011. This is despite the North’s massive population. Presidential elections in Nigeria, unarguably, can’t be won without crossing borders. A presidential candidate must have sweeping victories in the northern and southern parts of the country. This is where Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the APC deployed the winning strategy for Buhari's victory.


Regarded as a major force behind the formation of Nigeria’s strongest opposition party in recent years, Tinubu’s influence, which led to the opposition's victory, is a forewarning to future political opponents bent on underrating his stunts as a discerning political strategist.


I believe that Tinubu is futuristic. How else could he have foreseen the possibility of two political parties from the north and south teaming up to triumph over the incumbent at the polls? Genius, if you ask me. Blending the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was a move perceived by many as futile. An ambition that would spell another loss for whichever candidate the party would present as its flag bearer.

Tinubu encouraged the party to disregard the rejection of Buhari by those who disliked him when he emerged as the APC's candidate after the party's landmark primaries. Despite the slandering and mudslinging by the PDP, Tinubu was resolute. In particular, I admire his consistent optimism, gearing people to use their PVCs as the tool for deciding their new leaders. He exemplified the qualities of a leader who although might not have seen the future, but believed in its glimmer. He gave hope even when he wasn't sure if he had one.


Considering his losses in previous presidential elections, one would have panicked at yet another Buhari emergence but Tinubu stood resilient. Buhari's candidacy drew skepticism from the south (judging by his past, I presume)—both in comments and actions. The opposition seemed quite excited at his emergence. They must have envisaged another landslide victory for the PDP.

Tinubu sold Buhari to the south almost effortlessly. He exploited the incumbent's shortcomings, presenting APC as the only messiah that could salvage the country from its impending ruins. He was wise about it. Or else he would have been perceived as domineering and self-imposing. He exempted himself from the picture, yet was behind the frame. He didn't present his achievements during his time as a governor, but his efforts towards ensuring that AC as a political party changed Lagos for good. He sold Buhari with this mechanism, making the people see beyond individual, beyond past.

Tinubu's selfless efforts for the party during its campaigns cannot be ignored. Apart from the fact that he willingly gave out his personal assets to make the tedious process less discomforting, he also pulled along people that made the party nationalistic on the outlook. Astutely encouraging strong candidates to join the APC, there came a political party with members from every regions of the country.

Two regional parties were made a national party. Such feat. Although the President-elect may not have garnered votes from the south-east and south-west, all he needed was to have considerable high number of votes from the North and West. It happened. APC, he made it seem, is a party for all. He made it remain so even after the general elections showed a disparity in the people’s choice from the south-east and south-south.

Recounting Tinubu's efforts towards Buhari's victory at the just concluded polls is like tracing it back to how he started in politics. The process is rich in history and lengthy for narration. But the key achievements cannot be over-emphasized. Apart from the fact that he helped birthed a party that has successfully taken over the south-west today, he has also contributed to forming an opposition party that ousted an incumbent, first of its kind in the country's 16 years of democracy.

Tinubu, described by the Financial Times as Nigeria's Machiavelli, has indeed employed the Machiavellian principles that have so far helped him sail through the complexities of Nigeria's politics. He may have watched other people ascend the podium as victors in elections, as he once sailed through elections without much sweat, today he is highly celebrated as an achiever whose efforts have led to the triumph of the seemingly impossible.

In me, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a mentee and a political son.

NB: Basheer Tosin Ashafa is a social entrepreneur and real estate developer with a strong interest in the early involvement of youths in politics.