DR Tunji Abayomi’s epistles to Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the All Progressives Party (APC) in exercising his right to endorse Olusegun Abraham may have come and gone. But its noteworthy that not a few of the everyday people (considering their reactions to Abayomi’s letter on the social media), observers of politics and its pundits found the missives in bad taste, if not misguided. Abayomi’s letters (most especially the first one) did not only attempt to redefine and refashion political endorsement, that age-old, time-tested and internationally acceptable political tool that the National Leader rightly exercised to support the aspiration of Abraham for reasons best known to him, since there’s no disputing the fact that he knows virtually all the major aspirants in many ways than one in their contestation for the APC ticket.
It was not the first time that Asiwaju had exercised his right to endorse. In 2015, Asiwaju endorsed the aspiration of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in the wake of the presidential primary that had been adjudged to be the most free, fair and transparent primary election in Nigeria in recent memory.
But Abayomi would rather that Asiwaju, a national political colossus and a huge stakeholder in the South-West politics sits back and allow an aspirant who may be fronting for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or someone who has no interest of the party that gave him the ticket at heart, to trash it at the poll. Because Asiwaju has always operated with uncommon resolve in areas where other political titans fear to even contemplate, let alone tread, what others see as his somewhat unconventional approach to politics has almost always produced, and continues to produce high-achieving governors, among other public officials.
As much as one is wont to see Abayomi’s open letters to Asiwaju as mere politics that no one should lose any sleep over, its negative effects has not only begun to manifest on that all-important cohesiveness of the party, but it may yet be used as a basis to float another political party after the primaries to which some of the aspirants who never wished the party well in the first place would defect.
With Abayomi’s letter, one can also infer that the stage is already set to substitute an endorsement for imposition by the fifth columnists within the party after the primary, regardless of its authenticity and credibility.
This is the more reason it’s extremely important that one must not relent in shouting from the rooftop even if the voice cracks and becomes hoarse in the process that members of this progressive party must subscribe to the highest level of discipline. They should channel their legitimate grievances to the appropriate official channels rather than resort to self-help. It’s against this background that the pathetic incident at the state secretariat of the party must be investigated and sanctions applied to anyone found culpable in that madness no matter how highly placed in the party.
Perhaps Abayomi’s letters has brought into the fore the contending issue of the rights and privileges of the leadership of the party vis-à-vis that of its members that needs to be interrogated and settled once and for all.
Although it may not have been explicitly stated, Abayomi’s disposition may not be unconnected to what may have been his belief that the leadership of the party may have inadvertently subsumed its rights within that of its major stakeholders in its state chapters, most especially when it comes to who becomes the party’s standard bearer when aspirants go into the field in their individual capacities to expend their energies and financial resources on delegates to increase their chances of winning at the polls. This mindset may be fundamentally responsible for most of the intractable frictions that had always existed between political parties and their resource-endowed members in the country.
While it may be understandable that members who have not only been individually responsible, over time, for the financial up-keep and the general sustenance of the party in their localities, but were also encouraged by the leadership to seek the party’s ticket for their political ambitions to feel that the party should be beholden to them, Abayomi, should be reminded that recognition is fundamentally vested by the nation’s constitution on the party rather than the individual regardless of the extent of his investments in the party.
The court verdict in the death of the governorship candidate Abubakar Audu in Kogi State should have given political actors with this mindset reason for caution until this is finally adjudicated by the Supreme Court of the land. It is therefore reasonable to infer presently that delegates are ‘employees’ and their votes the ‘property’ of the party regardless of the financial inducements by the contestants that may have influenced their votes. Thus the leadership reserves the prerogative to endorse any of its members without distractions and acrimony so long as a level-playing field is provided all contestants under the free, fair and transparent mechanisms.
The other unfortunate component of Dr Abayomi’s letters is this political machinations in which those that had always disdained Asiwaju for whatever reason had capitalised on Abayomi’s salvo to whittle down Asiwaju’s political influence and rising stock in the South-West and by extension the nation.
Having displayed such unfortunate outbursts just because one man decided to endorse an aspirant, which has now been changed into “imposition” not by the opposition PDP, but by major political actors within the party, one should be extremely worried.
Odere is a media practitioner.