My Dear Tunji Abayomi:
It is said that to err is human. By your letter to me, it seems that you seek to remind me that I am human. Of this I am constantly reminded. I know I have made my share of mistakes. But my progressive inclination remains firmly rooted. However, by your pained and inaccurate letter, you have proven that you are human too. You have been a friend and will continue to be. Thus, I can dispense with needless formality so that we can get to the crux of the issue. Your career is that of a lawyer and activist. I appreciate all that you have done in the pursuit of a more just and democratic Nigeria. However, your letter to me is an impetuous display unbecoming a man of your status and a man seeking the highest leadership position in his state. And as a lawyer, you well know that one cannot seek equity without having done equity. In writing the letter, you appear to have been bitten by a bug that often blinds the objectivity of a man.
You have been bitten by an ambition that you fear you shall not be able to realize. In your pursuit of office, you have sought my support and influence. When you sought that support, you thought it proper and democratic to do so. If I had signalled my support for you, I am sure that you would never have written this letter alleging that I was undermining the democratic will of the people. You would have been pleased with me, I suppose. However, because that support has not been forthcoming, you fear that the support you wanted may now go to a rival candidate. In your judgment, my support for you would have been democratic. Should I support another, then that same support is now to be considered dictatorial and unfair? Frankly, dear friend, I do not see the objectivity in your analysis or the merit in what you claim as your injury.
If you seek a person’s support, you cannot in good conscience turn around and object that such support should never be given to another person. Your position is more undemocratic and unfair than what you accuse me of. Your words attack me for being undemocratic when in reality your heart attacks me for not giving you what you want. I have participated in elections for decades for myself and others. Some have been won. Some lost. Never, however, have I asked a friend for support than condemn for giving the very support I sought of them to another person. To do so is not to stand on principle but on bruised pride. You said I seek to deny your democratic right. It is you who seeks to grab mine. If not mistaken, I believe I am a member of the APC. I have a right and duty to support the candidate who I believe will best represent the party. What your letter is really saying is that if I don’t support you, I should keep my mouth shut. You complain of a purported meeting I had to discuss the coming primary in Ondo.
Do you deny me and other APC members now the right to assembly and talk. Had you heard that the meeting had anointed you, I doubt you would have written the first word of the letter you sent to me. But here I want to give you and others a clear assurance that you may rest more at ease. I reserve the right to support any candidate I wish because no one has the right to take this away from me. However, I will also do everything in my power to ensure the primaries are free and fair and that there will be no undue influence on the process. The candidate who can garner the most support and votes will win. Since its inception, the APC has run the cleanest and most transparent primaries in the history of this nation. The just-concluded primary in Edo is further evidence of this. My dear friend, I leave you free to run and win the primary. If you do, I shall congratulate you and support you in the general election. However, you must respect my rights as well and leave me to my own conscience to support who I will support. And to show interest in whom I wish. I also need to correct what appears to be a mistaken impression on your part about the 2015 election.
Your letter seems to indicate that it was on your advice that I backed President Buhari. You assume too much credit and should be more guarded in your assertions. As a veteran in the political arena, I do not make important decisions lightly. I make final political decisions and calculations on my own after deep reflections and consultation with many people from many perspectives. I can assure you, dear friend, that I trust my own political counsel more than yours and that I have numerous other advisors whose advice I weigh more than yours. After all had you so much influence over me in the presidential election, it would mean you surely should have greater influence over me when it comes to the primary in your state. I do appreciate your passion and concern for the welfare of the people. Yet, you are not the only one who feels this.
The love of the people is not exclusive to you, Tunji. My entire life has been devoted to the betterment of the people and of this nation. Lagos is a much better place because of what we have tried to do, and I pray that it will be better still. Many worked hard and long and sacrificed much, even more than you, to bring in the new federal government. We did not do this as a sport but to improve the lives of the people. You need not lecture me about the plight of the people. Their right to a better life is what motivates me. I do not doubt your love for the people and this nation. Yet, you have no right to doubt mine for you do not love these people and this place more than I do. Of that, I can assure you. I am a democrat. I am ready to for the chips to fall where they may after and open and fair primary in Ondo. Instead of welcoming this, it appears you are afraid of it. Instead of fighting me who is but one man with no vote, you should be fighting for votes and support. Your letter to me was woefully misplaced and inappropriate. Still, I wish you the best and may democracy and the people’s will prevail above all else.
– Asiwaju Bola TInubu
Below is Dr. Tunji Abayomi’s letter to Asiwaju Bola TInubu
Dear Asiwaju Tinubu,
THE TONIC OF DEMOCRACY IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO CHOOSE THEIR LEADERS
The ignorant may not actually know our relationship. We share the struggle for democracy which conjured regard for the independent right of our people to vote and to make leaders over themselves. So close it seems, is the relationship that as you once told me you were once approached by yet another old friend President Olusegun Obasanjo to convince me to work for him. Then and for a long time, at least up to 2004, when I decided to join the Political Party AD, I opted to be a go-between the poor masses, poor because they were in truth betrayed by leadership and the powerful few that control the apparatus of power in our land.
I have never hidden my appreciation for your political intelligence, accommodation of a different opinion, a great attribute you demonstrated when you accepted my totally separated and independent view, that in the struggle for the Presidency of Nigeria in 2015, when it came to winability, there was no substitute for President Mohammed Buhari.
Now Asiwaji, friendship must of course be based on mutual respect. You have visited my original house in Okeagbe just as I have often visited your home in Lagos. In 2013 when my son got married, you stood by me. In the same manner on several occasions when men rose against your honour I raised a bastion to defend you. But my character is to stand on truth, offer sincere opinion to my friends unconcerned by the prestige of office or the character of personality. My understanding of friendship is to stand on something instead of falling for everything. And I believe in the many years past some have come to appreciate my preference for respect instead of love.
There is yet another product of conscience which your illustrious rich and exalted life has demonstrated – a non-conformist generosity that has lifted so many people up.
There are, however, certain principles which I believe form elements of democratic government which I think you often violate. Considering that you fought for democracy, I wonder why it has become a normative.
In 2007, I ran for Governor of Ondo State. You would recall that you invited me to your House in Bourdilon to break the news to me that certain leaders of the Party had picked a candidate for us in Ondo State.
You invited me, I think, the only Aspirant for the purpose to appeal for my support and understanding for your decision. The first question i asked then was who were the leaders who chose a candidate for our people without the input or the breadth of even the deaf and dumb of Ondo State?
Unconvinced by the responses, firm and total in my commitment to the democratic rights of our people, I made it clear then, that I could not and will not support your decision as I considered it wrong in principle and violative of the rights of citizens and that of the people of Ondo State.
In taking my stand against the procedure of picking a friend to represent our Party in the 2012 electoral contest I stood on the principle that I believe will advantage the common citizen’s right, that is the right to constitute government over themselves by their votes.
The sinews of national development, politics and in particular economy, had excluded the common man in Nigeria since 1960. Tormented by the grave denials, wants and ultimate desperation, all of which are symptoms of uncaring poverty foisted on our people by poor leadership, people like us, children of the “MEKUNNU” decided to fight for a most fundamental right, that is, the right of the common man to vote for the construction of leadership.
Now, our people have no houses in Victoria Island or Maitama, no land in Dubai or Johannesburg, no private jets or jetty. They don’t even have the money to sink boreholes to get mere water or to buy good food. They have no passable road from home to farm or from farm to home. Their children have no worthwhile access to basic education or well-being. But if, we thought, we can win for them the right to vote, and through their votes, to raise good government and bring down bad government, then, they can change their misfortune under leadership, that, in our land, has often been corrupt and pitiless, to evolving hope, substitute their despair for possibility and long unrealizable desires for reality. The strength of our abnormal determination to win democracy against the terror of military rule, a determination that led us to multiple jail terms, was actually defined by this organic vision. You were, to some extent, part of that struggle to win for the people their right to vote, to make and create leadership. It was certainly our hope then and now that this right will neither be adulterated nor polluted by abuse of influence or money by leadership. Since 1960 the present Federal Government that you clearly helped to bring about makes the very first time, the votes of our people would effectively count in raising government.
I am greatly disturbed that the political oligarchy in charge of power in our Nation, having taken every wealth of the people for themselves and their offsprings appear determined to buy, with the people’s money already embezzled by them, the only valuable political asset the people have – their voting right.
When we see for example, what is going on in the National Assembly among the constituency of political leaders that make up the Assembly we see how unfortunate our people truly are. A Senator is alleged to make over N29,479,749 per month as against N18000 made by the common man he represents. Thus it will take not less than 1,638 years of hard work for the common man’s labour to acquire the annual worth of a Senator. In once case that came to my attention a Governor spent N1,000,000,000 for the first year anniversary while a woman he governs over begged helplessly for N200 to buy “pure water” for her daughter to go to school the next morning. In spite of these abnormal indifferences, corruption prevails over the land among political leaders to the helpless and hopeless desire of the common man.
As a prominent leader in the past in the struggle for the undiluted and unpolluted right of the people to vote, I had hoped you will ALWAYS allow the due process of voting to control political struggles. Indeed this was the essence of our 3 hour dialogue and disagreement when you and perhaps others placed over the people of Ondo State a candidate that was not chosen by us or for us through our votes in the Governorship Election.
With regard to the present struggle or contest for governorship in Ondo State, whether some of our party leaders came to you to choose for them as some have alleged or you invited our leaders on 31.7.2016 as some have averred, what we expect a democrat to do was to respect the right of the people to choose their leaders through and unduly influenced free and fair primary electoral process. My deepest disagreement with you, which has arisen on many occasions in the past years, inspite of much respect for your contributions to National development, have grown from my perception that in your high station, you are doing too little to honour the end of our struggle for democracy, which, as I see it, hangs on that cardinal right of the ordinary people to vote or be voted for or the need to ensure that government of the people, by the people and for the people, instead for the leaders and actually prevail and triumph in our land.
When votes don’t make decisions in a democracy the masses become victims of their leaders who take advantage of their poverty and despair to exercise illimitable and unlimited power over public wealth. You can see this in the tragedy of wealth and poverty under the last Federal Government. For me, out of stubborn effort in struggle, I became what I am so that I can speak my mind even to my friends. I became what I am so that I can speak my mind even to my friends. As I verily believe that without dutiful regard and respect for the right of our people to make government, change that enhances hope will NEVER triumph in Nigeria.
You have sacrificed much for democracy, committed much of your time, energy, wealth, will and worth to it. You can only be truly honoured when you respect and raise her ideals one of which is the right of our people to choose their leaders. You can only be truly honoured when you respect and raise her ideals one of which is the right of our people to choose their leaders. You can only be diminished when you wrong democratic ideals and due expectations.
I desire, as a friend, that you retrieve or at least reduce your tendency to dictate the end of democratic struggles which is what I see in the diction to the people of Ondo State of a particular candidate before the August 27, 2016 All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship Election Primary.
Please kindly do accept assurances of my highest regards.
OLATUNJI O. ABAYOMI (DR)