Bola Tinubu, a Nigerian politician, has been known for his ability to exert power from behind the scenes, often referred to as a “godfather,” using his extensive patronage network to support candidates for office.
Tinubu played a significant role in supporting outgoing Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari in winning two terms in 2015 and 2019.
However, as Nigeria continues to face numerous challenges such as the rise of armed groups, a struggling economy with surging inflation, and cash shortages following a botched introduction of new bank notes, Tinubu's power and capabilities will be put to the test as he attempts to tackle these crises and improve on Buhari's lacklustre record.
Despite running on the party ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which Tinubu helped create, he recently distanced himself from the party at a weekend news briefing, stating, “I am not the party.” Tinubu pointed to his track record, particularly in Lagos, where he claims to have turned the city around from a state of chaos to one of order and progress.
However, critics argue that Tinubu's administration was marred by allegations of corruption, awarding lucrative contracts to loyalists, and employing “area boys” to intimidate opponents.
Tinubu, now 70 years old, has repeatedly brushed aside concerns about his health, despite appearing frail during some appearances, with his speech often slow and slurred.
His supporters argue that he is an effective administrator with a track record of selecting competent technocrats.
However, critics wonder whether Tinubu's expensive contracts, some of which are awarded to companies in which his close allies have a controlling interest, have provided the city with value for money.
Born in Lagos in 1952 to a Muslim family from the Yoruba ethnic group, Tinubu migrated to the United States in the 1970s, where he worked as a dishwasher, taxi driver, and night guard to fund his studies.
He graduated from Chicago State University in 1979 with a degree in business administration.
After working for U.S. consultancy firms, he returned to Nigeria in the 1980s and worked for the Mobil oil company as an auditor.
Tinubu's supporters credit him with improving Lagos' roads, trash collection, and other services during his tenure as governor.
Still, many Lagosians claim that the city remains deeply dysfunctional.
Additionally, Tinubu's support for Buhari, whose administration struggled to address Nigeria's economic and security problems, did not inspire confidence among the country's registered voters, totalling 93.4 million.
Despite criticisms and concerns, Tinubu's well-resourced campaign is expected to triumph in a country where the ruling party holds a significant advantage, despite strong challenges from Atiku Abubakar of the former ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the insurgent Labour Party.