It is no longer news that the vice-president, Professor 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). 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 a 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 all through his decades of political struggle, will the “son” prise away from his hand? For both men, who are of the same Yoruba ethnic group, shall we witness a situation of “it is either the rat eats the beans or it spills it”?
The story of two prostitutes in the bible was used to demonstrate the uncommon wisdom God gifted King Solomon: One, 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 be 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 if falsehood runs ahead 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 volunteer to make the kind of sacrifice that the truthful prostitute made? It appears none of the two is ready to toe that line! Therefore the battle line appears drawn already even before the day of actual battle. Supporters of both men are at daggers-drawn as allegations to and from rent the air.
Traitor! Ingrate! Treachery! 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 him, struggling with him for the same coveted stool! Between Tinubu and Osinbajo, who is indebted to whom? Or is this a case of otun we osi; osi we otun? There are 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, 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 the search, it is appropriate to repeat here the note of warning already sounded by some Yoruba elders: Quoting ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the ambition of Tinubu and Osinbajo is not worth the blood of a single Yoruba person! Thus, both men and their supporters must not set the South-west on fire. Many of those not old enough to witness or understand the Wild, Wild West political crisis of 1961/62 at least witnessed that 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 to 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 is, the Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment; he had 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 may 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 who has the other side of the story to express them here. We are the apostles of Chairman Mao Zedong when he 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. “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 is 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 Good luck 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. He asserted that Alake and I, having served in his cabinet, could attest to the great works he did as attorney-general during Asiwaju’s administration as Governor of Lagos State. He also reasoned that the second major factor in favour of Osinbajo was the fact that he was a strong Christian and one that he was already a 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 to which 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 already waiting to see him from different parts of Nigeria.
“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 that, 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 ponder seriously. Let us stop here. It is not all clothes that can be spread out to dry in the sun!”
This is a story with many Acts and Scenes, many plots and subplots with major and minor actors, each playing his part and leaving the stage for others. It’s also like an elephant in the room, with each observer describing the animal from his or her own vantage position. There is another story of how one-time Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, now Minister of State for Health, ex-Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, would have clinched the job ahead of Osinbajo but for a critical “mistake” of unbridled loyalty to Tinubu, which he reportedly made. Somewhere in this labyrinth lies the truth!