Biography of Bola Ahmed Tinubu: The Unconventional Progressive

Explore the life, career, and controversies surrounding Bola Tinubu, a formidable figure in Nigerian politics. From his rise as the "Lion of Bourdillon" to his role as a political godfather, delve into Tinubu's net worth, wealth sources, impact and the 2023 presidential election outcome. Discover his achievements, flaws, and challenges as he navigates the complexities of leadership in a divided Nigeria.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Few figures in Nigerian politics have had as significant an impact as Bola Tinubu. A former Lagos State governor and the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Tinubu has emerged as a powerful political force.

Often referred to as the "Lion of Bourdillon" and the godfather of South-West politics, Tinubu's rise to prominence has been marked by admiration and controversy.

In this article, we will examine Bola Tinubu's life and career in greater depth, exploring his successes, flaws, source of wealth, net worth, and impact on Nigeria's political landscape.

Tinubu's early life and political beginnings

Bola Ahmed Tinubu was born in Lagos, Nigeria, on March 29, 1952. He hails from the Iragbiji royal family in the present-day Osun State. Tinubu's early years were marked by a pursuit of education and a passion for business.

After completing his primary and secondary education in Lagos, he studied at the Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, United States; he later moved to Chicago State University in 1979, where he graduated with a B.SC in Business Administration. 

Upon returning to Nigeria, Tinubu delved into business, establishing himself as a successful entrepreneur. However, his entry into politics would truly shape his future. In the late 1990s, He became actively involved in the pro-democracy movement, advocating for democratic governance and challenging General Sani Abacha's military regime.

Tinubu's family and personal life

Tinubu married Oluremi Tinubu, who formerly represented the Lagos Central senatorial district, in 1987. They have three children: Zainab Abisola Tinubu, Habibat Tinubu, and Olayinka Tinubu.

Additionally, he is the biological father of three children from previous unions: Kazeem Olajide Tinubu (October 12, 1974 – October 31, 2017), Folashade Tinubu (born June 17, 1976), and Oluwaseyi Tinubu (born October 13, 1985).

Bola Ahmed Tinubu with his wife Oluremi Tinubu

Rise to Power in Lagos

Tinubu's political career took off as Senator representing Lagos West in the Third Republic from (1992-1993). Continuing his political journey, in 1999, he contested and was elected as the Governor of Lagos State under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) party—his tenure as Governor was marked by bold reforms and transformative policies that earned him praise and criticism.

One of Tinubu's most significant achievements as Governor was his focus on infrastructure development. Lagos is a bustling metropolis with a growing population that desperately needs improved roads, transportation systems, and public services. Tinubu recognized these challenges and embarked on ambitious projects to address them. Under his leadership, Lagos witnessed significant improvements in its road net establishment of the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which made the transport system easier in Lagos.

Another area where Tinubu made a lasting impact on revenue generation is that he recognized the need to diversify Lagos State's sources of income and implemented policies that boosted the state's internally generated revenue (IGR). Tinubu's creation of agencies such as the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) played a crucial role in improving governance and revenue generation.

The landmark of Tinubu's achievement as Governor was the increase in Lagos State's Internally Generated Income, IGR. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria's Growth Rate of some states in Nigeria from 1999 to 2011, Lagos, 1999, when Tinubu became Govethe, the annual IGR was N14.6 billion. 

As published in a journal by the Research Academy of Social Sciences, While leaving office in 2007, Tinubu's increased Lagos IGR to N83.02 billion annually, a 468.63 per cent increase. 

The Power of the Godfather

While Tinubu's achievements as Governor of Lagos were commendable, his political influence extended far beyond the state's borders. Often referred to as a political godfather, Tinubu has been credited with the emergence of many political leaders in the South-west region of Nigeria. His ability to shape the political landscape and determine the candidacy of various elected officials has solidified his position as a mentor.

Former Osun State Governor and Immediate Past Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola affirmed Tinubu's king-making capacity while crediting his political success to Tinubu's mentorship. 

Aregbesola said this in July 2023 during a homage visit to the Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba (Dr) Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran, to mark his homecoming reception in Osun. 

The former interior minister said, "I must thank Bola Ahmed Tinubu for bringing me to be a commissioner in Lagos. Because from there, God continued to uplift me to where I am today."

Congratulating Tinubu after the Supreme Court declared him the winner of the 2023 Presidential Election squabble, the sitting Governor of Lagos State, Babjide San,wo-Olu referred to Tinubu as his Mentor and Leader.  

He said, "I congratulate my leader, mentor and president-elect, Asiwaju Bola, Tinubu, on this historic achievement."

Aside from the South West politician, a South East politician and former Governor of Enugu state, Sen. Chimaroke Nnamani also hailed Tinubu as a mentor. 

He argued that Tinubu's mentoring style was responsible for Lagos's success, adding that the former Lagos State Governor is NIgeria's greatest political leader and mentor. 

He said, "I can't help but feel that when Tinubu and his Transition Working Group began what will be remembered as Nigeria's largest political reform, which elevated Lagos State to one of the biggest economic centres in Africa, the majority of residents of Lagos State did not envision the city as it is today after living through three decades of military rule, during which they witnessed a crumbling health system, collapsing school buildings, poor social services, and the rest.

"The city boy substantially enhanced the lives of individuals who reside in Lagos State with his visionary reforms in the health, school, justice, works, and infrastructure sectors, which we have reviewed in the past weeks.

"Tinubu has guided numerous mentees from various states from political boyhood to political adulthood in his capacity as a political mentor. "A trait transformational leaders like Tinubu and the class of 1999 governors have. Tinubu mentees have gone on to hold various leadership positions in Nigeria."

Bola Ahmed Tinubu with Gbajiamila, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives

Further doting his colleague's political prowess, Nnamani named some of Tinubu's mentees who have gone on to become successful politicians. 

He said, “But we cannot discuss some of his mentees who he has nurtured from political boyhood to adulthood without mentioning our very own Anambra Son, Ben Akabueze, whom Tinubu influenced his appointment as the commissioner for economic planning and budget in Lagos state after seeing his achievements as the CEO of NAL Bank Plc, (now Sterling Bank Plc).

Ben Akabueze, a well-known chartered accountant through Tinubu rose through the ranks to become the Director General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Budget Office.

Currently serving as Nigeria’s Minister of  Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare of  Oyo  State served as Tinubu’s special adviser on media.

After eight years as governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, who also served as Lagos State commissioner for works under Tinubu, is currently Nigeria’s Minister of Interior. The philosopher king and consummate intellectual former  Governor of Ekiti state Kayode Fayemi will always come to mind.

Similarly, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, who was Tinubu’s chief of staff, before serving as Lagos State governor, is currently the Minister for Works and Housing, while the current governor of Lagos State  Babajide Sanwo-Olu, served as Tinubu’s commissioner for commerce.

Tinubu's first Chief of Staff and Commissioner of Lagos state then, Alhaji Lai Mohammed from Kwara state is currently serving as Minister for Information and Culture.

While The Right Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila, Current Speaker of the House of Representatives, was first elected to the House in 2003 courtesy of Tinubu.

Don't forget, our own Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, GCON, served as Lagos State attorney general and commissioner for justice during Tinubu's tenure. "

However, Tinubu's role as a political godfather has also drawn criticism. Many argue that his control over the selection process for political candidates undermines the principles of democracy and stifles the emergence of fresh and independent voices. His detractors accuse him of using his influence to consolidate power and promote loyalists within the APC.

One of those was his deputy, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, who claimed her life was in danger for refusing to support BAT during the 2023 presidential election. 

Ojikutu who was Nigeria's first female deputy governor said in a press conference on the 12th of April, 2023, "I came out before the election to say that if former Governor Bola Tinubu won the election, I, Sinatu Aderoju Ojikutu, will renounce the citizenship of this nation and I have my reasons. 

"When he won, people called me and said he had won, that he would not do anything bad to me. But I know this man and I have known him for over 20 years now, I know what he has done to me personally.

"So calling this press conference is also to show that I am personally endangered by the current situation. I am endangered, I have been ostracized, and humiliated in places where I should be honoured because of Tinubu not being at peace with me.

"The last thing before the election was when it came to me that he was saying am I still alive? When somebody mentioned my issue to him, I understood, he said, 'Is she still around?' What does that mean?

"What does he mean? I am alive, hale and hearty. Have they planned my death? Why should anybody be asking if I am still alive? Up till today, since I raised that issue in January, none of his associates I have talked to has gotten back to me and this is giving me a personal concern. Am I safe? And there are many people like that in my category.

"People have been saying that people do not like former governor Bola Tinubu but nobody has bothered to ask what of the people that Bola Tinubu does not like? It is a two-way thing," she said while calling in security agencies to provide security for her and her family." 

Tinubu's net worth is not a public record. Still, his first money-making opportunity came from his professional career in the United States, where he worked as an accountant for several American companies. 

This international experience was crucial, but his return to Nigeria marked a significant turning point. Joining Mobil Oil Nigeria, he began to navigate the corporate landscape of his home country. 

However, his role at Deloitte catalyzed his major financial breakthrough. While working on a project to set up an accounting and auditing system for a joint venture between National Oil and Aramco in Saudi Arabia, Tinubu received a substantial bonus of $850,000 before taxes. 

Tinubu revealed this in an interview on March 29: "At Deloitte and Touche, I chose to travel more than 80 per cent of my working years there. And that is because if staff chose to travel, they would make more money. After all, he would get travel allowances." Upon completing the job, he said, "When I returned to the United States, my employers gave me a huge bonus, which instantly turned me into a millionaire.

"The bonus was $850,000 before taxes. My salaries were also being paid into the bank, and I was not touching them. At the time, my salary deposits in the bank had risen to about $1.8 million."

Tinubu's entrepreneurial spirit continued. He expanded his business ventures by importing rice and chemicals into Nigeria, showcasing his ability to identify and capitalize on lucrative market opportunities.

This was confirmed in the speech by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka during Tinubu's 5th Colloquium, an annual event held on his birthday. 

Furthermore, an early investment in Apple Corporation in 1980, as APC chieftain Joe Igbokwe claimed, positioned Tinubu as a dollar millionaire a decade before his political career as the Governor of Lagos State began.

According to an APC Chieftain, Joe Igbokwu, Tinubu was a millionaire in dollars 10 years before he became Governor. He said, "Any Nigerian smart enough to invest a mere N1.8 million in Apple Corporation shares in 1980 will be worth more than N10 trillion today."

This blend of corporate success, wise investments, and entrepreneurial ventures laid the groundwork for Tinubu's financial empire, demonstrating a keen understanding of business and politics.

Alleged Financial Assets

Tinubu's source of income is tied to his financial assets and alleged various investments, as tabulated below:

  • Media and Aviation: Allegations that Tinubu owns TVC, a Nigerian television station, add layers to his financial empire, though these claims are met with contention and lack definitive evidence. 
  • Real Estate and Inherited Wealth: In an interview with the BBC on December 6, 2022, Tinubu also attributed his financial success to real estate he inherited and subsequently transformed, drawing parallels with renowned investor Warren Buffet 810. 
  • He said, "I have an example of Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in America and the world. He started with stock buying and brokerages. I inherited great real estate, and I turned the values around. I'm not denying my wealth." 
  • Though Tinubu did not declare his assets, he maintained an unwavering commitment to distancing his wealth from his political career. He further emphasized this, declaring that he had not accepted government appointments or contracts since leaving office in 2007. 
  • "I was the most investigated, the most accused Governor in opposition up to, you know, for eight years, until 2007. And since I left the office, I've been there. I have not made any appointments, and there is no government contract," Tinubu said, defending his source of wealth during the BBC interview. 

Bola Ahmed Tinubu with other Nigerian politicians.

Flaws and controversies around Tinubu

Bola Ahmed Tinubu's political career and alleged wealth accumulation have been subject to intense scrutiny and controversy. Amidst allegations of corruption and fraud dating back to his tenure as Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu has consistently denied receiving money from the Lagos government's coffers, asserting his commitment to prioritizing security and economic recovery.

According to him, he is the most investigated and accused Governor, but he was never indicted. "Have they proven it? The World Bank and IMF have investigated the record in Lagos", Tinubu brags. 

Although dismissed, his financial dealings, in light of a 1993 charge by the United States Attorney for massive drug trafficking and money laundering, led to the forfeiture of $460,000 held in at least four of his accounts. 

The 2023 Presidential Election

The 2023 presidential election marked a pivotal moment in Tinubu's political career. As the candidate of the APC, Tinubu faced tough competition from Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Despite predictions favouring his opponents, Tinubu emerged victorious, securing 37% of the vote.

However, allegations of rigging and vote manipulation marred the electoral process, casting doubts on Tinubu's win's legitimacy. The opposition parties, particularly the PDP, raised concerns about the integrity of the election and called for an investigation into the alleged irregularities. The election's outcome has sparked debates about the future of Nigeria's democratic system and the need for electoral reforms.

Uniting a Divided Country

With his victory in the 2023 presidential election, Tinubu now faces the daunting task of uniting a divided country. Nigeria is grappling with numerous challenges, including insecurity, economic inequality, and ethnic tensions. As the nation's leader, Tinubu must navigate these complex issues and work towards fostering national unity.

Tinubu's ability to address these challenges will be closely scrutinized. Critics argue that his track record as a leader, particularly his tenure as Governor of Lagos, does not inspire confidence in his ability to tackle Nigeria's deep-rooted problems. However, his supporters point to his achievements in infrastructure development and revenue generation as evidence of his capacity to bring about positive change.


Accomplishments and controversies have marked Bola Tinubu's journey from businessman to political powerhouse. As the former Governor of Lagos State and the national leader of the APC, Tinubu has left an indelible mark on Nigeria's political landscape.

While his infrastructure development and revenue generation successes are commendable, his role as a political godfather and allegations of financial impropriety have drawn criticism.

The 2023 presidential election, despite its flaws, has solidified Tinubu's position as a key player in Nigerian politics. As he assumes the role of the country's leader, he faces the arduous task of uniting a divided nation and addressing pressing challenges.

Whether Tinubu can rise above the controversies and steer Nigeria towards a brighter future remains to be seen. Only time will tell if he can truly live up to the title of a progressive leader.