Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Former Governor of Osun state and ex-interim Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, yesterday narrated how Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as he then was, the presidential candidate of the party at the time, promised to pick Bola Tinubu as his running mate in the 2015 election.
Chronicling the events that led to the eventual selection of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Akande, in his autobiography, “My Participations”, published by Gaskia Media Limited, disclosed how Buhari who was then under pressure to drop the former Lagos governor, later reneged on the agreement.
In the book which was launched in Lagos, the octogenarian also took a swipe at the trio of Ayo Adebanjo, Olu Falae and Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, coming short of accusing them of selecting themselves to represent the Yoruba people during Goodluck Jonathan’s National Conference because of what he termed “generous allowances.”
Akande stressed that despite the pledge to make Tinubu his vice presidential candidate, Buhari later faltered, saying that he only said that he wanted the former Lagos governor to “partner with him.”
But the politician admitted that at the time Buhari was under enormous pressure, especially from some northern governors who insisted that a Muslim-Muslim ticket arrangement was a no-go area.
He revealed that it would be the second time that Tinubu would be getting very close to becoming a vice presidential candidate, noting that the first time was in when Atiku Abubakar, who was then contesting as president later chose Ben Obi.
Akande confirmed that Tinubu was instrumental to the emergence of Osinbajo as running mate to Buhari after he was formally dropped and asked to submit three names from the South-west from which Buhari would pick one.
According to the book, Buhari at a point during the formation of the APC started to admire Tinubu for his business acumen and his ability to organise people, key features that got then candidate Buhari close to the APC national leader.
“In April 2014, I was in Abuja when Buhari called me and asked me to persuade Bola to run with him. Governor Masari was the one who came to call me. When I followed him into Buhari’s private lobby, Bola Tinubu was already seated there.
“So, when Buhari tabled the matter, I cautioned them that this must not get out beyond the four of us. ‘How could he be talking of a running mate when he had not secured the ticket?” I mused.
“I thought such information, if leaked to the general public, might affect the conduct of the party’s congress at the presidential primaries, if not its choice of candidate. I thanked Buhari for thinking so highly of our friend.
“Bola later told me that Buhari’s emissaries had been coming to him, but he tried to dodge the gesture and not to show interest. We agreed that we would reopen the matter when Buhari had secured the ticket,” he explained.However, he expressed surprise that thereafter, when Buhari became the party’s candidate, things changed, with former APC chair, Odigie Oyegun, who was supported by Tinubu to become chairman of the party, asking for names from the geopolitical zones from where Buhari will pick his running mate.
“He said it was from this list that Buhari would choose a running mate. I objected. I turned to Buhari. ‘General, where are you choosing your running mate from?’ He answered, ‘The South-west.’ ‘Oh! I didn’t know,’Oyegun said. He apologised.
“I didn’t know why Oyegun made that proposition and at whose behest. As the chairman of the party, maybe some people pushed him to do that,” he noted.
Akande continued: “Then, I called Buhari aside. ‘Is our arrangement still standing?’ I referred him to our discussion in April. He said yes! “
According to him some members of the party eventually agreed that a committee should be set up to search for Buhari’s running , a move himself and former Governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiohmhole, opposed.
“Adams Oshiohmhole , then Governor of Edo State, stood up and said we were being dishonest. He said he was a serving governor and many of those in the Elders Committee had been governors.
‘’Did we set up a committee to give us our running mates?’ He asked. ‘It is not fair!’ He further said what we were pushing was a dangerous act and that we should allow Buhari to choose his running mate. So, we left,” he narrated
Akande stated that he later came to know that some people constituted themselves into a group, called the Northern Interest Group, and they prevailed on Buhari not to allow a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
According to him, it was the following day after the Elders’ Committee meeting which was deadlocked, that Buhari phoned Tinubu to give him three names from which he would pick a running mate.
“We were all in Abuja and Tinubu rushed to me with this information. He wanted to know whether the understanding we reached with Buhari had changed. I called Buhari and he told me he now needed three names from us. I was angry with him.
‘‘General, this was not what we agreed upon,’ I said in annoyance. ‘You are changing our agreement?’ He knew I was getting angry. He said he was under pressure from some governors from the north, including those who were Muslims. I told him the slot belonged to the South-West and among the Yoruba, religion is not a factor in leadership,” he said.
Akande added: “Oshiomhole was surprised about the narration. ‘If indeed you promised to make Asiwaju your running mate, it would not be fair to renege,’ he said. Buhari now said he never meant it that way. What he meant originally was that Tinubu should partner with him.”
The former Osun governor explained that he didn’t know what that meant because before they discussed the issue of Tinubu as the partner or vice-president’s ticket, a merger had been accomplished and they had already partnered.
“We were registered in July 2013, and he called me to prevail on Tinubu to be his running mate in April 2014. Buhari knew I was upset but we tried to manage the situation. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by all those pressures. We decided to let him go,” Akande said.
He insisted that once it became apparent that Buhari would be the presidential candidate, he was interested in making Tinubu his running mate.
“In our years of interactions and engagements, he seemed to have come to know and admire Tinubu.
“He constantly seemed to admire Tinubu’s business acumen; his courage in politics, his large heart, his native intelligence, his readiness to forgive those who have betrayed him but who now show remorse, his empathy for the under-privileged, his capacity as a tactician, and a strategist of the highest hue, his loyalty to the ideas of Nigerian unity and good governance, and his steadfastness to his friends,” he added.
According to him, without Tinubu, the “APC miracle” would have been more difficult if not impossible. “All these made Buhari to admire and respect him,” he said.
He narrated that what prompted the push for a Tinubu as vice president for the first time under Atiku was that anytime they said they needed money, Atiku would say “Bola please help us”.
“Bola (Tinubu) was the only one spending the money among us. The rest of us were poor. Tinubu also put all his energy and resources into the formation of the AC and we felt he deserved a spot on the ticket,” he wrote.
He also wrote about Tinubu’s frustration with the entire rigmarole, eventually opting to leave Abuja for Lagos.
“I don’t want to be part of whatever you are discussing now, ‘he said. ‘I don’t trust Buhari anymore! Even if we give him names, he may decide to go outside the list. So, let him choose on his own. He was unhappy with Buhari.
“I told him that was not the attitude to adopt. We were trying to toy with some names and I wanted him to participate in the discussion. After some time, Amosun, Aregbesola and I were considering some names. Then I decided to call Tinubu again.
‘We negotiated with Buhari in 2011 and gave him a name to choose instead of Pastor Bakare,’ I spoke to Tinubu on phone. ‘Who was that person?’ l asked.
‘It was Yemi Osinbajo,’ Tinubu declared. I asked Aregbesola to find out where Osinbajo was. He called him on the phone. ‘Yemi, where are you?
‘Don’t you know your case is coming up tomorrow?’ ‘l am in Abuja to argue your case.’ Osinbajo answered at the other end. ‘Which hotel are you staying?” Osinbajo told him.
“I got a blank sheet of paper and wrote Yemi Osinbajo on it. I instructed Amosun and Aregbesola to deliver that note to Buhari immediately. It was almost midnight. Then the two of them left.”
He continued: “I was waiting for Buhari to call me after he must have received my message. He did not. It was Tinubu who came to me at the wee hours of the morning. He was not in a good mood and was worried that Buhari might visit our efforts with bad faith.
“Let us go back to Lagos”, he said. Why? I asked. “Maybe Buhari has his own agenda,” he said. Even if we give him a name , he might not use the person. Maybe he just wants to use us for whatever his agenda might be.”
“I reassured him that Buhari will not disappoint us and that he would agree with our choice as the vice presidential candidate of our party,” Akande said.
Taking a swipe at the trio of Adebanjo, Ajayi and Falae, Akande said it was surprising that the elders could not find any younger Yoruba to send to the conference to represent the interest of the ethnic group.
“ They believed, even in their old age, that they were the only people who could have gone there. Sir Ajayi, who was close to 90 at the time of the conference, has since joined his ancestors. Chief Adebanjo celebrated his 90th birthday in 2018. Chief Falae is in his 80s. Note that Jonathan paid the conference delegates generous allowances.
“Chief Olu Falae, a trained civil servant, who after retirement became decorated into leadership by his former military bosses, has since been trying to blindly straddle Nigeria’s complicated politics,” he opined.
He characterised Adebanjo as a blank politically-minded leader who recognises readily and always that he never has what it takes to aspire for high political positions.
“He constantly harbours lumps of yellow hate-bile in his heart for any co-political leader with brighter chances for any major public office within or outside his political party,” he posited.
Akande further noted in the autobiography that the APC did not have ‘restructuring’ in its manifesto for the 2015 elections but promised to support devolution of powers from the centre to the States.
“It is therefore mischievous to place the responsibility for effecting restructuring on the APC or its presidency and not to appreciate that it would require deft negotiations among such members from different ethnic nationalities and constituencies or zonal and religious background before any political party or any ethnic nationality could successfully issue any fiat on the National Assembly to make laws on power devolution or on restructuring, whatever it might connote,” he argued.