Those who often describe Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) as a master strategist surely know what they are saying. He exhibited the attribute last week when he stormed the book launch of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, one of the Afenifere leaders, in Lagos. Not many people know that all has not been well between Tinubu, and some of the leaders of Afenifere, like Chief Ayo Adebanjo and a few other elderstatesmen.
The age-long rift between Tinubu, who is the Jagaban Borgu and the Afenifere, leaders, who ran Alliance for Democracy (AD) dates back to 2003 when Asiwaju Tinubu was preparing for a second term. It was on the platform of AD that he came to power in 1999, but after his first term, the relationship between him and the Afenifere leaders became strained over the issue of Strategies and Tactics. By 2006, Tinubu and his faction within the AD moved on to form the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) because of irreconciliable differences and from that point onwards both Asiwaju and the Afenifere elders were no longer on speaking terms.
They didn’t like how Asiwaju dumped them after using them to get to power they murmured. Many elders intervened, all to no avail. Several peace meetings were called, but they failed to reconcile them, until last week when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu stormed the book launch at Habour Point in Victoria Island, Lagos to break the ice. Although, Asiwaju was not formally invited, he walked into the hall, midway.
Asiwaju had earlier sent his boys to size up the event and they had told him that there were a lot of political juggernants at the well attended book launch. Asiwaju, who was on his way to the airpot to catch a flight, asked his convoy to turn back and head for Victoria Island, venue of the book launch.
And once Asiwaju, dressed in a free-flowing blue Agbada, walked into the hall, the tempo and tenor of the event changed. The flow of event stopped for about 30 minutes as he greeted all the elderstatesmen and political juggernauts in the front row, after, which he went on to the stage to greet the author, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who was seated all alone. Chief Adebanjo was happy. He beamed with smile. Tinubu said he just breezed in on his way to Abuja. He went down the memory lane to recount how the celebrant’s incorruptibility and principled nature got him (Tinubu) the ticket of the Alliance for Democracy in 1999 and eventually, the Lagos Governor’s seat.
He said he regarded Adebanjo as his father, who taught him everything, including rebellion, adding that the elder statesman should regard him as a true-born anytime he disagreed with his positions on national issues. “I regard Chief Adebanjo a great leader. He is principled and highly-committed to the cause of democracy in this country. No matter what you say, you can’t but praise and honour him for his principled steps on issues regarding the country”.
“If you don’t understand him, you might say he is divisive, for advocating re-structuring. But what is the meaning of restructuring, if not true federalism? If not about freedom and opportunity for each federating unit, to come up with its blurprints, govern and promote the unity of the country? What is the meaning of restructuring, if not about resource management and opportunities for true federalism in any democratic setting?
“If not because of his honesty and integrity, I would not have become Governor of Lagos State, then. As the acting Chairman of the AD, he insisted that direct primary was the answer. He insisted that every registered member must participate in the primaries and when the result came, some people tried to manipulate it, altered the result, but Chief Adebanjo stood his ground and said ‘as the acting National Chairman of AD, the result of the free and fair primaries must be upheld.
“If he were to be a corrupt man, they were ready to pay him. If he were to be a corrupt national leader, he would have taken money and compromised that result. He would have submitted another name,” the former Lagos helmsman stated.
While describing the celebrant as a mentor and a father, the APC national leader explained that though he sometimes disagreed with Adebanjo on some issues, such disagreements were never personal, but borne out of principle.
According to him, “you are a mentor and a father, we sometimes disagree, but that should not come as a surprise; you taught me rebellion. So, if I go the other way, sometimes, it means I’m not a bastard. It is because I’m just emulating a good father.”
Extolling the virtues of Adebanjo, the All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said he regarded him as a great leader, who is committed to democracy. Tinubu, who strolled into the hall unexpectedly, told the audience that he was on his way to Abuja to attend his party’s meeting when he was informed that Adebanjo’s book launch was holding and he decided to be there, even if it was for only two minutes.
He described the celebrator as “a nationalist worthy of emulation. “He has been a father to all of us in politics; he is a man of principle, who is always ready to defend his position on any issue”, Tinubu said of the nonagenarian. He went on: “If not for his honour and integrity, I wouldn’t have been Lagos State Governor. He stood against rigging the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governorship primary in 1999. He insisted that direct primary should hold. And when the result came, some people wanted to manipulate the result; Adebanjo stood his ground that the result of the primary should be upheld. If he had been a corrupt leader, he would have taken money and my name would have been substituted.
“I respect you: you are a mentor to me. We can disagree. If you call me a rebel, you taught me the act of rebellion. If I go the other side, I am not a bastard, I have a good father. Please, continue on the path of integrity and honesty you are known for.
“You can’t but praise and honour him for his principled stance on restructuring. Restructuring means true federalism; there should be opportunity for each federating unit to govern according to its blueprint; it is about management of resources. I agree with Chief Adebanjo on this. We thank God for you and want you to continue to serve humanity in good health.”
Tinubu praised Adebanjo for standing firm for true federalism. “He (Adebanjo) stood for restructuring, which is true federalism; about freedom and about an opportunity for each federating unit to come up with their blueprint to promote the unity of the nation. I am with him on this; he has been a father to all of us in politics, and he is ready to pay the supreme price”.
“Ayo Adebanjo is a great leader, who was principally committed to constitutional democracy in this nation. You can praise and honour him for his stand on this nation,” he added. While describing Adebanjo as a great leader, who stood for restructuring, Tinubu narrated that if not for the honesty and integrity of the elder statesman, he would not have become the governor of Lagos State in 1999.
The APC national leader explained that it was Adebanjo, who insisted that the results of the Alliance for Democracy primary election, which favoured him, must be upheld even when others were trying to scuttle it just before the 1999 general elections.
“He insisted that every member of the AD must stand for primaries. He said the results of the free primary election must be upheld and that was in my favour. If he were corrupt, he would have collected bribe then as the Acting Chairman of Action for Democracy, but he stood his ground and upheld the primary election, which later made me the governor of the state.
“Though, we may disagree on some issues, he is my mentor, and he taught me rebellion, that means I am not a bastard,” he said.