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Former Governor Bisi Akande of Osun State is a man of very few words. Although he has been in politics for over 30 years, he hardly grants press interviews or speaks on trending issues. However, three things he is known for are the constant smile on his face, his simple lifestyle and his deep closeness to All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, Bola Tinubu.
So close are Tinubu and Akande that in political circles, both men are usually regarded as one entity. Whatever one says is always interpreted as the opinion of the other. Also, every time Tinubu visits the President, he is always accompanied by Akande, a man who Buhari deeply respects.
Expectedly, when it was announced recently that Akande would be launching his autobiography titled, ‘My Participations’, many believed that it would dwell a lot on Tinubu who is now a frontline Presidential hopeful.
Also, since Tinubu has not published his autobiography, this recent book was deemed by many as a substitute.
The ghost of 2014
At the book launch in Lagos, Buhari spoke highly of the author. On Akande, the President specifically stated that as a “perfect public officer,” who has retained his ‘‘inflexible integrity,” in and out of public office, never accepting or offering bribes, he could go into the jungle with Akande.
The book, however, shows that Akande may not completely harbour the same feelings for Buhari whom he accused of double-crossing Tinubu in 2014.
The former governor in the book narrated how General Buhari, a serial election loser, had in 2014 sought Tinubu’s support in order to emerge as the Presidential candidate of the APC primary. According to Akande, Buhari promised to pick Tinubu as his running mate if he emerged winner of the Presidential primary of the APC.
An excerpt of the book reads, “In April 2014, I was in Abuja when Buhari called me and asked me to persuade Bola to run with him. Governor Masari was the one who came to call me. When I followed him into Buhari’s private lobby, Bola Tinubu was already seated there. So, when Buhari tabled the matter, I cautioned them that this must not get out beyond the four of us. ‘How could he be talking of a running mate when he had not secured the ticket?” I mused.
“I thought such information, if leaked to the general public, might affect the conduct of the party’s congress at the presidential primaries, if not its choice of candidate. I thanked Buhari for thinking so highly of our friend.”
The author said Tinubu ensured that Buhari defeated other Presidential hopefuls like Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Rochas Okorocha to emerge as the winner of the APC primary in December 2014.
He, however, stated that immediately after Buhari had won, the story began to change. Akande claimed that some northern groups pressured Buhari into dumping Tinubu because both of them were Muslims and it would be unwise for a Presidential candidate and his running mate to be of the same faith especially in a deeply divided nation like Nigeria which was facing an Islamist insurgency. Such a Muslim-Muslim ticket, they argued, could scare Christian conservatives in the south. Buhari eventually succumbed to pressure and called Tinubu to draw up a list of prospective Christian running mates.
Akande claimed that when Buhari was reminded of his promise, he responded by saying he only asked Tinubu to “partner” with him and not actually be his running mate.
The book further read, “We were all in Abuja and Tinubu rushed to me with this information. He wanted to know whether the understanding we reached with Buhari had changed. I called Buhari and he told me he now needed three names from us. I was angry with him. General, this was not what we agreed upon,’ I said in annoyance. ‘You are changing our agreement?’
“He knew I was getting angry. He said he was under pressure from some governors from the north, including those who were Muslims. I told him the slot belonged to the southwest and among the Yoruba, religion is not a factor in leadership. (Adams) Oshiomhole was surprised about the narration. ‘If indeed you promised to make Asiwaju (Tinubu) your running mate, it would not be fair to renege,’ he said. Buhari now said he never meant it that way. What he meant originally was that Tinubu should partner with him.”
Akande said he wondered why Buhari would try to distort the details of their agreement but later decided to let sleeping dogs lie for the sake of the party’s success. Eventually, Yemi Osinbajo would emerge as Buhari’s running mate.
While the book is a personal recollection of real events, some have questioned the motive and the timing of its release barely 14 months to the next election. The question on the lips of Tinubu supporters now is, ‘with Buhari failing to honour his promise to Tinubu in 2014, will he now redeem himself by supporting Tinubu to become the Presidential candidate of the APC next year?’ and ‘will Osinbajo, who is also nursing a Presidential ambition, put it in abeyance in order to support Tinubu who did the same for him in 2014?’
Some others have described the book as a distortion of facts and wondered why Akande, who was unjustly sentenced to 44 years in prison by Buhari’s repressive military junta in 1984 – before he was later set free – would continue to hobnob with Buhari for the mere sake of politics. This has been the argument of several notable Nigerian columnists who have continued to pick holes in the book since its launch.
Besides, Akande’s consistent claim that Tinubu was ready to be Buhari’s running mate further reveals that the Lagos godfather sees nothing odd in two persons of the same faith running on a joint Presidential ticket in 2023 despite the nature of Nigerian politics and this could provide further insight into what to expect ahead of the next poll, analysts say.
But speaking to The Africa Report, Bosun Oladele, who is the Secretary of Southwest Agenda 2023 (SWAGA 2023), one of the major groups rooting for Tinubu, said the book was not written in a bid to draw sympathy for Tinubu.
As regards the timing of the book, Oladele stated, “The question one should ask is are there any lies told by Chief Akande in his book? If there are lies, those who feel so are free to respond. But if he has said the truth, is there a time or a time limit within which somebody must say the truth?”
Oladele said although the book revealed some of the sacrifices made by Tinubu in 2014, the APC leader did not need the book to help him to gain support. He further stated that he was sure that the Lagos godfather would emerge the APC candidate next year not because of sentiments but because he was the most qualified.
“I want to sincerely believe that the reason Tinubu deserves the ticket can never be based on sentiment but the time tested qualities that he has. Part of these qualities was what made Buhari President of Nigeria.
“That is why Buhari and the APC will give the ticket to Asiwaju. Of course, the President has a role to play but party members have a larger role to play and they are already playing their role based on conviction. I don’t believe getting the ticket will be based on sentiments or emotional blackmail but sound judgment,” Oladele said.
Not everyone agrees with Oladele’s characterisation of the book.
Speaking to The Africa Report, Ayo Adebanjo, who is the Leader of Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said he would provide a detailed response to the book on Thursday.
The 93-year-old Adebanjo, who Akande accused of begging Tinubu to buy him a house, said the book was an attempt to discredit some Yoruba leaders who were seemingly opposed to Tinubu’s Presidential ambition.
“You will hear from me on Thursday. I will debunk everything with evidence. He is doing all this because of Tinubu,” he said.
Earlier in an interview with local media, he described Akande as Tinubu’s lackey.
Adebanjo said, “He is a pathological liar. His colleague, Akinfenwa, in his book said that is who he is. And those of us who know him also know. He is just an apron string of Tinubu.
“He is too junior for me to be commenting on. I signed his papers to be governor.”
Adebanjo further stated that Tinubu, Akande and others had “sold out the Yoruba race to Muhammadu Buhari all because they want Tinubu to be President.”
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