By Tunji Bello
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 legitimize 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 awash with false stories of 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, October 3, 2016, Nigerians were fed with half truths by the author, Professor 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 All Progressives Congress (APC), at the party’s presidential primaries at 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, ostensibly, heading towards Asiwaju’s house in Ikoyi. Asiwaju must have called him too for that task that could be explained underneath. 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 APC Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Professor Yemi Osinbajo 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 him 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 Goodluck 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 to his aversions 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. He foreclosed that scenario as no longer possible. 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 are also jostling for same position reiterating the need for the Southwest to get it as a must. Asiwaju audaciously told us that left for him, and if he were to pick anyone, he would suggest Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
That Osinbajo, apart from being a brilliant legal luminary is also a committed progressive democrat. And having been married to late Obafemi Awolowo’s grand-daughter, it would not be a problem selling him to the old political establishment of southwest for acceptance. He asserted that Alake and myself having served in his cabinet could attest to the great works he did as attorney general during his, 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 is a strong Christian being that he is already a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). In the long run, Osinbajo’s nomination was well received by all of us at that meeting and Professor Osinbajo was asked to start detailing with us, further strategy sessions to which he brought out his laptop and we all commenced a brainstorming session.
The rest of the discussion was to strategise 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 finish until about 9.00pm when we returned to Asiwaju’s residence in Bourdillon. By the time we returned to his house, there were 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 the president was deployed to create a make-believe story that puts the society at a disadvantage in 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, it might be taken as a given that the role of all active participants in the exercise would be correctly recorded. But surprisingly and painfully too, such an avenue was used to create an historical distortion of facts. If a political adversary had done that, one would not have been disturbed. This is because at the end of the day under such circumstance, the goal is usually to create a make-believe story that puts the society on the wrong side of history.
But 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, it might be taken as given that the role of all active participants in the exercise would be correctly recorded. But surprisingly painful is the fact that a historical distortion of facts is coming from an unexpected quarters at this early stage of progressive politics. It becomes more of 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 reverberating 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 dried in the sun.
Editor’s Note: Tunji Bello is the Secretary to Lagos State Government.