By Gbemiga Ogunleye
A couple of weeks ago, on April 29th to be precise, I sent a message to my friend of over two decades, Richard Akinnola, complaining about a news report credited to the Vice- President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to the effect that Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, nominated Osinbajo as the Vice-president.
For the uninitiated, Akinnola is a respected journalist, celebrated human rights activist and an influentual social media influencer.
Presently, he is at the forefront of the campaign for his friend, the Vice-president, to be the President of Nigeria.
I told Akinnola to advise his friend to stick to stick to his usual refrain: that it would be a disservice to the nation if he doesn’t contest for the Presidency and to emphasise his experience and expertise.
I also told him that the VP could leverage on the fact that he wouldn’t have to learn on the job if he elected.
Crediting Aregbesola, a man who had just thrown Tinubu, his benefactor, under the bus with is nomination as VP was a low, I told my friend.
As was his wont, Akinnola promptly responded, said what the VP said was that Aregbesola notified him of his nomination not that the goatee- spotting Minister nominating him.
Even then, he agreed with me that the VP ought not to have said that and promised that he would tell the VP.
It is in the light of incidents like this that we should situate Tinubu’s outburst of Thursday, when he met the Ogun State All Progressive Congress, APC, delegates on Thursday in Abeokuta.
At the meeting, an angry Tinubu had said without him and God, the President, the VP and the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, wouldn’t be holding the positions they are holding.
Those close to Tinubu say it’s not in the character of the man to talk in that manner. But that the Jagaban of Borgu had been pushed to the wall by those bent on frustrating him within the APC.
They say it is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that the Jagaban of Borgu, who has campaigned in more states than all the presidential aspirants in the APC is the man to beat. Therefore, the man couldn’t understand why obstacles are deliberately being put on his way.
They allege that the President deliberately encouraged serving Ministers to enter the race to frustrate Tinubu’s ambition.
The idea of a consensus arrangement is also a ploy to screen Tinubu out.
The attempt to draft former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, were also cited as attempts to frustrate Tinubu out of the presidential race.
Tinubu sympathisers also allege that, picking John Odigie Oyegun, a former chairman of the APC, who doesn’t see eye to eye with Tinubu to chair the APC’s screening committee was another attempt to throw spanner in the wheels of the Jagaban’s presidential ambition.
To make matters worse, was the President’s address to the APC Governors, shortly before he travelled out to Spain, that he be allowed to choose a successor, since the APC had a policy where the Governors had a hand in choosing their successors.
It is in this light, Tinubu’s supporters argue, we should situate the Jagaban’s outburst on Thursday.
Come to think of it, if a man is pushed to the wall, what do you expect him to do?
All Tinubu is asking for, say his admirers, is a level-playing field where all aspirants are allowed to test their popularity.
Come to think of it, have critics bothered to ask why the Jagaban had to put Dapo Abiodun in his shoes?
For God’s sake, Abiodun has a right to throw his weight behind his preferred candidate but he has no right to distort history.
As Asiwaju rightly pointed out, Abiodun’s predecessor, Ibikunle Amosun, a fellow APC man didn’t want Abiodun and wanted his protege to succeed him but it was Asiwaju who threw his weight behind Abiodun and ensured his emergence as Governor.
Indeed, when the APC presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari came to campaign in Abeokuta, he urged the party supporters to vote him as President but that they were free to vote for anybody in the other elections.
He didn’t campaign for his party candidate, Dapo Abiodun.
Buhari did this because he didn’t want to offend his friend Ibikunle Amosun.
Furthermore, according to those close to the Asiwaju, Dapo Abiodun had been avoiding receiving the Jagaban.
Each time the Jagaban informed him of his plan to come and campaign to the Ogun delegates, Abiodun always found an excuse to discourage the Jagaban.
It’s either he wouldn’t be in town or he was indisposed.
To add insult into injury, when the Vice-President came on his campaign trail, he publicly credited the Vice-president with his emergence as Governor.
That was too much for the Jagaban to take, hence his outburst .
Those who accuse the Jagaban of having a sense of entitlement, forget that he wasn’t talking to the country. He was addressing his party men (and women), reminding them of how much he has sacrificed for the party.
He reminded them that but for his sacrifice the President Buhari wouldn’t have achieved his ambition.
As a human being, it is natural for Tinubu to expect Buhari not to be antagonistic to his ambition, even if he would not support him.
Thrice Buhari tried to be Nigeria’s President.
Thrice he failed until Tinubu went to him and the rest, as they say, is history.
Those who are against Tinubu’s ambition make a song and dance of his so-called baggage.
Pray, which humanbeing doesn’t have a baggage? Which humanbeing hasn’t done something he or she is not proud of?
But they conveniently forget the man’s role in the attainment and sustenance of democracy.
But for the Jagaban, there would have been no opposition party in Nigeria.
He, it was, who ensured that there was a platform to challenge the behemoth PDP during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo.
By challenging the Federal Government in the court on many occasions, he ensured the enthronement of federalism in the country.
He formed the Acton Congress, AC; he formed the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, to democratise the political party space and ensure the plurality of opinions in the country.
To demonstrate his selflessness, he gave the presidential ticket of the parties to Northerners: first Atiku Abubakar and later, Nuhu Ribadu.
Thanks to the Jagaban, he retrieved through the courts the stolen mandates of Governors Segun Mimiko in Ondo; Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti; Adams Oshiomhole in Edo and Raufu Aregbesola in Osun.
He achieved this by flying into the country, one Adrian Forty, probably the world’s best forensic evidence expert.
Of course, at his expense.
So, if the man says he has paid his dues and insists he deserves the presidential ticket of the party he helped form, is that asking for too much?
If attempts are being made to deny him the opportunity of testing his acceptance among his party men (and women), should he keep sealed lips?
When those he had assisted with his God- given talents and resources decide to stab him at the back, should he offer his belly to them in return?
The man is human.
•Ogunleye, former Provoost Nigerian Institute of Journalism, is also a lawyer