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(Published in the “ON THE LORD’S DAY” column in the Sunday Tribune newspaper of Sunday, April 24, 2022).
It is no longer news that the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is in the race to succeed his boss, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) as president. After a period of what some called dithering and prevarication but which to others was a period of sober reflection, astute consultations and strategic timing, Osinbajo eventually threw his hat into the ring, thereby ending all speculations about his political future. Since then, there has been a war of words between his supporters and those of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the emeritus governor of Lagos State and presumed National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Recall that Tinubu was the very first big fish to announce his intention to contest after, also, a period of flying kites and testing the political waters. Once Tinubu declared, the topic then became will Osinbajo also declare for the same office? Will presumed godson challenge his godfather into a do-or-die battle of political relevance? The food that the “father” desires, will the “son” make an effort to snatch? The prize that the “father” had worked his arse out for in decades of political struggle, will the “son” prise from his hand? For both men, who are of the same Yoruba extraction, shall we witness a situation of either the rat eats the beans or he wastes it?
Remember one of the prostitutes in the biblical story that was used to demonstrate the uncommon wisdom God had gifted King Solomon: The prostitute who, out of carelessness, killed her own child in the night but swapped it for the living child of her colleague before daybreak? When Solomon decreed that both the dead and living child be split into two equal parts and shared for the two mothers, the rogue-prostitute expressed satisfaction while the true mother cringed at the thought and chose, instead, that the liar have the baby. Is it not said that even if falsehood runs ahead for a million years, truth will catch up with it in one day? Truth, they say, will out no matter what and blood will speak. Was that not how Solomon discovered the true mother of the living child while the liar paid dearly with her life? (1 Kings 3:16-28) Between Tinubu and Osinbajo, who will make the sacrifice that the truthful prostitute made? It would appear none is ready to toe that line. Therefore, the battle line appears drawn already between the two, even before the day of actual battle. Supporters of both men are at daggers-drawn already as allegations to and fro rent the air.
Traitor! Ingrate! Treachery! Dictator! Slave driver! Who helped who? Who made who? Who climbed on whose back? The godson denies the godfather and the godfather says he does not have a son old and audacious enough to dare and struggle with him for the same coveted stool! Between Tinubu and Osinbajo, who owes who a debt of gratitude? Or is this a case of the left and right hands washing one another? There are many stories and counter-stories of how Osinbajo became VP. Did Tinubu make him? Was Osinbajo Buhari’s independent choice? Out of the many names that have now been bandied about in the media as having had a hand in the VP-ship of Osinbajo, which is the truth and which is pure and unadulterated “fabu”? If politics is war by other means as some political theorists posit, then, the first casualty in politics, as in war, is truth. So we may have to search for the truth of how, when, and why Osinbajo became VP as if searching for a needle in a haystack! While we continue that search, it is appropriate to repeat here the note of warning sounded by some Yoruba elders: Quoting ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the ambition of Tinubu and Osinbajo combined is not worth the blood of a single Yoruba person! The two and their supporters, thus, must not set the South-west on fire. Those of us who were not old enough to witness or understand the Wild, Wild, West political crisis of 1961/62 at least read about them and or witnessed the “Operation Wetie” of 1983, especially in the old Ondo State. There must be no repeat performance of the Awolowo/Akintola feud in the South-west!
Still, the discussion must continue! It is better to jaw-jaw than war-war! Eye-witness and written accounts are very reliable sources of history. This is why I am printing here again today an eye-witness account of who did what between Tinubu and Osinbajo. The eyes that claimed to have witnessed it all were those of Tunji Bello; Tunji was – and still is – in the thick of it all as far as Lagos politics is concerned and can actually speak as an eye-witness. He was, and again now is, the Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment; he had also been the Secretary to the State Government. Besides, he is an accomplished and respected journalist – an editor of editors – who understands and respects the journalism dictum of ‘facts are sacred.’ Nevertheless, allowance must be made for those who will see Tunji as a partisan – and rightly so – because of his affinity with Tinubu. Therefore, the opportunity is hereby extended to anyone with contrary opinion or the other side of the story, as we say, to express them here. We are the apostles of Chairman Mao Zedong who said: “Let a thousand flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.”
Titled: “How Tinubu nominated Osinbajo”, Tunji Bello first published his views on October 7, 2016. Read on: “NOTHING strengthens deceit more than silence. And on an occasion like this, one often wonders why some people twist events and history in order to legitimise a mission. While ruminating over why this should be, it is not impossible to embark on introspection by thinking out so many possibilities that politics is replete with. This line of thought is informed by laughable events of the last few days.
“The news media have become agog with false stories as to how Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came to be. During the launch of a book: Muhammadu Buhari: The challenges of leadership in Nigeria, a biography on President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Monday, 3rd October, 2016, Nigerians were fed with half-truths by the author, Prof. John Paden, on how Osinbajo became the Vice President of the country. I don’t know how the author came about his story but he totally got it wrong because what he wrote basically was based on falsehood that reeks of deliberate misinformation and mischief.
“I know how Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu picked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo because I was part of the process that midwifed his nomination. In mid-December 2014, it was a Saturday morning after President Muhammadu Buhari had been picked by the All Progressives Congress (APC), at the party’s presidential primaries at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos. I received a phone call from Asiwaju to see him that morning. On my way to his house, I discovered that a car at a reasonable distance was that of former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dele Alake, who was also heading towards Asiwaju’s house in Ikoyi. Asiwaju must have called him, too.
As soon as we arrived, Asiwaju quickly asked us to join him in his car as we headed to a Guest House. At the Guest House, the former All Progressives Congress (APC) Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Prof. Yemi Osibajo and one renowned pastor joined us. At the meeting, Asiwaju related to us the urgent need to pick a vice presidential candidate for the APC. He advised that we immediately discard the idea of his being nominated for the vice presidential slot as it was no longer possible to pick a Muslim-Muslim ticket. This, he reasoned, made sense if, indeed, we were to be realistic in our bid to defeat President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 election. He reasoned that what was important and imperative at that time was to look for a good Christian nominee to complement President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I remember Baba Akande responded that he would still have preferred that Asiwaju should be the running mate since it had been done before. Baba Akande was obviously referring to the MKO Abiola/Babagana Kingibe nomination. Asiwaju responded by distinguishing the political equation then from what was before us at that point in time. We all voiced our opinions and at the end of the day, it was resolved that we had to get a Christian candidate. It was at this point that Asiwaju reminded us to be fast in coming up with an option because he felt other geographical zones were also jostling for the same position, reiterating the need for the Southwest to get it as a must. Asiwaju audaciously told us that, left to him, he would suggest Prof. Yemi Osinbajo: That Osinbajo, apart from being a brilliant legal luminary, was also a committed progressive and democrat. And having been married to the late Obafemi Awolowo’s grand-daughter, it would not be a problem selling him to the old political establishment of the Southwest. He asserted that Alake and I, having served in his cabinet, could attest to the great works Osinbajo did as attorney-general during his (Asiwaju’s) administration as Governor of Lagos State. He also reasoned that another major factor in favour of Osinbajo was the fact that he was a strong Christian and pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
“Osinbajo’s nomination was well received by all of us at the meeting and Prof. Osinbajo was asked to start detailing with us at further strategy sessions; he brought out his laptop and we all commenced a brainstorming session. The rest of the discussion was to strategize on how to contain other likely opponents from the Southwest zone before proceeding to Abuja to battle other regional zones in the coming nomination. The meeting did not end until about 9.00pm when we returned to Asiwaju’s residence (where we met) about six serving governors from different parts of Nigeria waiting to see him.
“What is particularly sad now is that the book launch of President Buhari was deployed to create a make-believe story that puts the society at a disadvantage of history. One would have thought that now that the progressives, through an uncommon alliance in 2015, created an upset by defeating, for the first time in the country’s history, the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), it might be taken as given that the role of all active participants in the exercise would be correctly recorded. Surprisingly, and painfully too, such an avenue has been used to create the historical distortion of facts.
“If a political adversary had done this, one would not have been disturbed, but surprisingly and painfully, this historical distortion of facts is coming from unexpected quarters at such an early stage of progressive politics. It becomes a matter of concern when a renowned intellectual writes a book and begins to redefine events in his own way by abashedly evading facts that are bellowing in the public space in order to re-create a world of make-believe for his audience. Sincerely, such an act understandably becomes a matter to seriously ponder about. Let us stop here. It is not all clothes that can be spread out to dry in the sun!”
Like I said, counter views and opinions are welcome!
● Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, BOLAWOLE was also Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Westerner newsmagazine. He writes the TREASURES column in the New Telegraph newspaper and the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.