Backstory: How Tinubu and Obanikoro’s relationship went sour over Lagos governorship battle

by Tolu Omoyeni

Former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro recently sat with PUNCH newspaper in an interview that has gone viral in the nation’s political sphere and is set to define the power play in the forthcoming elections.

Although Obanikoro, a former PDP governorship aspirant in Lagos in 2007, answered questions on his ordeal with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), his contributions to the alleged Ekiti election rigging, his reconciliation with APC stalwart, Bola Tinubu and more importantly, his rumoured defection to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Obanikoro’s reconciliation with Tinubu, which according to him was facilitated by Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos plays perfectly into the rumoured narrative that he is jumping ship. Yes, Obanikoro artfully dodged all the interviewer’s attempt to get him to admit he is now with the APC but tying his loyalty to the ailing PDP to the Supreme Court’s decision on Ali Modu Sheriff’s leadership of the party may be where the real answer lies.

But why is Obanikoro’s peacemaking with the Jagaban of Lagos such a big deal?

Last week, a measure of buzz was generated when Musiliu Obanikoro joined a delegation to present the staff of Lagos masquerade, Eyo to Tinubu in his Ikoyi home. He joined the party of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, former deputy governor, Femi Pedro and House speaker, Mudashiru Obasa for the presentation.

The Obanikoro/Tinubu feud dates back to 2006, a time when two major parties, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the PDP, were in an aggressive power tussle in Lagos. A power tussle so hot it claimed the life of then PDP gubernatorial candidate, Funso Williams. Years before this though, Obanikoro had served as the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture in Tinubu’s first 4-year tenure as Lagos governor.

After his stint as Commissioner in 2003, Obanikoro went up the ladder for a senatorial position under the AD umbrella. He had plans to succeed his mentor, Tinubu as governor in Lagos but the Asiwaju had other plans. Other plans that birthed the emergence of Babatunde Raji Fashola, the then Chief of Staff as the candidate of the Action Congress (AC), the result of the metamorphosis of AD.

As Obanikoro said in his recent interview with PUNCH, “Asiwaju Tinubu is my leader, my elder brother and I respect him a lot“. This must have been why he felt betrayed and disgraced and made a defining political move that fully swerved the narrative for his relationship with his mentor, Tinubu. Obanikoro defected to the opposition party, PDP and on its platform ran against Tinubu/Fashola as Lagos state governor but he lost.

The duo have been in a war of more than words since then and Obanikoro has failed at every attempt to reclaim Lagos from the Jagaban, the most recent being in 2014 when he lost the opportunity to run for the seat at the primaries level to Jimi Agbaje.

Obanikoro has faced a myriad of trials in his 10-year stay at the PDP and although he claims his reconciliation with Tinubu is hinged on personal interests rather than political ones, he may just be ready to reemerge on a clean slate and who better to form alliance with than the man who holds the key to the city: Asiwaju Tinubu.

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