Many government officials were taken aback on 13 August 2021 when pictures of President Muhammadu Buhari’s unscheduled visit to APC chieftain, Bola Tinubu, in London went viral on social media. Buhari, who had been in London for his usual medical check up, was not billed to visit Tinubu who had been in London weeks earlier and was recuperating from a surgery.
The visit seemed to cast doubts over a statement issued by Tinubu’s spokesman, Tunde Rahman, who dismissed talk of Tinubu being sick. Rahman even recalled how Tinubu had successfully performed the gruelling Hajj ceremony in Mecca months earlier. Nevertheless, Tinubu’s health was once again under the spotlight when he stood next to President Buhari with the aid of a walking stick.
The next day, Tinubu would issue a statement thanking Buhari for the visit. The President’s Spokesperson, Femi Adesina, clarified the visit, saying: “Yes, that meeting actually happened, but it is all about goodwill and best wishes.
“We know that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had been in London about the same time the President was there. We don’t believe what we read on social media, but we have read a lot about Asiwaju Tinubu’s health, so the President’s visit was a goodwill visit.”
Buhari and Tinubu’s Cold War
The President’s aide clarified that the visit was not proof that Buhari was supporting Tinubu’s supposed presidential ambitions. Before Buhari’s visit, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is also Tinubu’s protégé, had visited the former governor on August 4 but it was the President’s visit that sparked controversy.
This is down to the apparent ‘cold war’ between Buhari and Tinubu. Apart from an ongoing probe of Tinubu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Tinubu also seemed to have lost his grip over the ruling APC when the President sacked Tinubu’s ally, Adams Oshiomhole, as the national chairman of the party.
Despite the moves to clip the wings of the ‘Jagaban’ – as Tinubu is known – and his perceived relegation in the party, his London home has in recent time become a Mecca of sorts as several politicians including erstwhile foes have been going to pay homage.
A political magnet
On 25 August, Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; and his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, who both have a strained relationship with Tinubu also visited him and photos were splashed all over social media.
Similarly, two days later, members of the Lagos State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, visited the APC leader, with a photo caption that read, “Tinubu is hale and hearty.”
Tinubu’s estranged associate and former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, also visited the Jagaban on 2 September.
Other guests at Tinubu’s London home include the members of the Governor’s Advisory Council made up of top politicians in Lagos State; the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat, former APC Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, lawmaker, James Faleke, and several other politicians including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Such visits to Tinubu are not entirely new.
His home on Bourdillon Street in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State has always been a beehive of activities, attracting politicians from war and wide. It is where key decisions regarding appointments, endorsements and discipline are made. It is also normal for influential politicians to take photos with him in front of the lion statue located at the entrance of his home. This earned him the moniker, ‘The Lion of Bourdillon’.
In the past Tinubu would jet over to Europe to avoid some of the pressing demands of office. But with his prolonged stay in the UK due to his health, his London home now seems to have been transformed into Bourdillon as the saying goes, ‘If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain’.
And while the visits appear to be benevolent gestures on the surface, investigations by The Africa Report show that the photos being taken with Tinubu are being used by some politicians for ulterior motives.
A top politician in Lagos State who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said when some politicians return from London, they tell people that Tinubu has given orders that a certain candidate should be favoured in an appointment or election.
He stated: “Some of the politicians visit Tinubu for ulterior motives. They take photos with him in London and then circulate them on social media. They use the photos to brag about their supposed closeness to Tinubu. Subsequently, when we are having political meetings, these politicians start name-dropping. They tell people that Tinubu has endorsed them or someone and because many of us cannot go to London or contact Tinubu directly, we fall victim to these shenanigans.
“Even now that the APC local government congress is taking place, this is what is happening in Ifako-Ijaye local government and many other areas. It is saddening.”
Besides the political implication, many also see Tinubu’s prolonged stay in the UK as a bad omen ahead of the 2023 elections. This is because as a former governor of Lagos State he is entitled to free health care by virtue of the Lagos State pension law for ex-governors. If indeed he is in London at the expense of taxpayers, some have criticised Tinubu as following the footsteps of Buhari, who has spent over 250 non-consecutive days in London on medical tourism since he became President in 2015.
The way people are trooping to London to take photos with Bola Tinubu is a warning to Nigerians that if we repeat the mistake of 2015 and vote Tinubu in as President in 2023, we will have another UK based President…
Reno Omokri, a former social media aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, believes Tinubu’s prolonged medical visit to the UK shows that he is unfit to become the next President of Nigeria. But if elected in 2023, his presidency would much like Buhari.
Omokri, who has in recent time organised a series of protests to ‘harass Buhari out of London’ on several occasions, said: “The way people are trooping to London to take photos with Bola Tinubu is a warning to Nigerians that if we repeat the mistake of 2015 and vote Tinubu in as President in 2023, we will have another UK based President.
“And if that happens, I won’t do #HarassBuhariOutofLondon again. I will just say Nigeria deserves what she gets and enjoy the rest of my life travelling and relaxing. The fact that we are even considering a man who has been away for three months for an ailment that we do not know and are unlikely to know, is a sign that we have not suffered enough. We need a bit more suffering to reset our brains.”
‘Tinubu is not ill’
The Spokesperson for the APC in Lagos State, Seye Oladejo, told The Africa Report that name-dropping was not new in politics. He, however, said it was not true that Tinubu was giving out orders from London.
Oladejo further stated that Tinubu was not ill. He therefore challenged those in the opposition to visit Tinubu in London if they were in doubt.
“Asiwaju is not ill. He is hale and hearty. If the opposition think he is ill, let them pay him a visit in London to see things for themselves,” Oladejo said.
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