In 1999, the entire South West was under the control of the Alliance for Democracy, AD. When we were approaching the 2003 elections, I told my boss, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, to give me the authority to take over the South West from the AD for the party. He gave me the approval. My effort during that election resulted in our party taking over the states except Lagos State. And the reason was that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and I came a long way from the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and the PDM. I felt I should leave Lagos for him. In fact, I could easily have taken over Lagos, but I did not. I have since regretted my decision; please, my sisters and brothers in the party, I want you to forgive me for taking Lagos out of that arrangement.“
-Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in Lagos on 3rd September 2018.
Until Atiku detonated the above bomb in Lagos recently, the lie Tinubu spinners had put out was that he became the “last man standing” in 2003 in the South-West because of some sagacity and that he broke ranks with Afenifere over the alliance with Obasanjo. But those of us who are aware of what happened know that the monkey has no special skill beyond the fact that the trees are close to each other.
The sacred truth is that the deal to have electoral pact with the PDP in 2003 was brokered by Tinubu who had planned to run as VP to Atiku in 2007 under the then ruling party. The discussion started during the convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos in 2002 where Tinubu kept the company of President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was during the event that he agreed to arrange a meeting with his colleagues-governors.
The meeting held at Dodan Barracks in Lagos and the governors agreed to work on a pact to give the President the support he needed in the South West just as they advised him not to allow Local Government, LG, elections nationwide so it would not hurt his delegates at the PDP convention as his party would not win in the Southwest.
The governors who had taken control of the AD as of this time merely came to inform Afenifere of their decision. They reported all their discussions with the President and the fact that they advised him not to conduct elections. Papa Adesanya like a General whose troops had moved in a direction decided not to follow another route. He decided to follow up on the briefing by negotiating terms for the pact which included free and fair election and restructuring of the polity.
While the deal was in the making, Tinubu gathered through Atiku that the deal would cost the governors their seats and quickly bailed out but this bird did not tell the other birds that a stone was coming. That was how he remained the only surviving AD governor.
The former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Lam Adesina was not a happy man with Tinubu in the last days of his life over this and other issues. I recall when he came to meet the elders of Afenifere in Lagos late in 2003 and asked to leave early enough to be able to get back to Ibadan on time. Chief Ayo Adebanjo had told him to either be Tinubu’s guest for the night and that would he say he did not have a house in Lagos. Alhaji Adesina responded with a tinge of anger “God will not let me sleep in Tinubu’s house. I don’t have a land in Lagos not to talk of a house. Tinubu promised to give me a land but he kept asking me for passport photographs until I told him I was not going to the photographer again. This is somebody on whose behalf I asked the Principal of Government College Ibadan to keep all crucial files of the school in my office for three years. I have returned the files on the eve of my departure .”
Immediately after indirectly sending his colleagues to political Siberia and weaning himself off the influence of Afenifere, Tinubu commenced his empire building project by sending protégés to the other South West states and Kwara for the 2007 governorship elections. Nearly all posted out were either his aides or recruits under his Action Congress, AC.
His ambition had become very clear at this stage that it was a negation of collegiate leadership the Yoruba are known for that he was trying to replace with an Emperor reign. Realising what his project meant for the Yoruba on the long run, a group of Yoruba Patriots and Nationalists approached Chief Bisi Akande in 2010 that we needed an audience with Tinubu.
A little about Chief Akande
After the 2003 elections, we had erroneously thought that Chief Akande was placed to provide leadership in Yorubaland at some point given his performance in office and ideological clarity with a tinge of intellectual underpinning. He authored a book on restructuring with an understanding of our issues. I drove to his home in Ibadan regularly and we travelled abroad together on a few occasions to meetings with Yorubas in diaspora.
When we approached him to complain about the strangeness of Tinubu Leadership Academy to Yoruba values, he agreed to seek an appointment with him. He soon got the appointment and we agreed to meet in his house before proceeding to Bourdilon. We articulated all the issues and we moved.
On our delegation were Hon.Wale Oshun, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, Mr. Tola Mobolurin, Prince Oye Oyewumi, Mr. Demola Oyinlola, Mr. Adedeji Zacch among others. On getting to Tinubu, we met Professors Segun Gbadegesin and Ropo Sekoni with him. It became a chatting session as we sat down.
It was when Tinubu was planning the Ambode treatment for then Lagos Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fasola whom he railed and railed against. He said he was not going to allow him a second term as he blocked all the drainages he made for himself before leaving office with droplets now coming to him while Fashola’s own channels were flowing in torrents. He added that he had now seen the thief who can steal better than THE thief. I cut in at that stage to remind him that he told me in 2006 when he was going to foist Fasola on the party that he managed all his assets while he was in exile without a penny missing and he replied, “I was just marketing him then”.
Prof. Sekoni pleaded with him to sheathe his sword and allow Fasola to run for a second term. He added that Tinubu should know that he is the elder in the dispute with the greatest responsibility to bring amicable resolution.
Tinubu looked at Prof. and said he reminded him of the case of a widow who lost her husband and people were coming to commiserate with her over the tragic loss.The first group to come were elderly and that after all the commiseration they ended by asking the lady to try and eat something as starving herself would not raise her dead husband. They took their leave after sometime. Then came her peers who also went through all the rituals of comfort. They prayed for the repose of the soul of her husband and ended on a note of plea that she should eat something in order not to injure her health. Tinubu threw the audience into laughter when he ended the story by saying that the widow asked her peers “What did you bring for me to set when you were coming ? ”
After about two hours of chatting, I went to Chief Akande to remind him we had yet to get to what brought us to Tinubu and he asked me “What is that ?” I was shocked and he lost me forever that day. I got up and announced to Tinubu that we had a reason for coming and reeled out our articulated points. Mr. Mobolurin adumbrated the points. He cut in and flared up “I am not holding any meeting again. I cannot be spending my money for rebuilding Southwest and people will come here and insult me. All my mates have high rising buildings all over the place but this is the only house I have in Lagos because we are spending all the money for politics .”
We left Tinubu that day and it was clear that what we were trying to build had crashed. I also knew that the Tinubu machinery had triumphed and would be there for a while.
But I was also convinced it would not last forever as the foundation was not in sync with our ancient landmarks.
Eventually, Tinubu who had vowed that Fashola would not do a second term allowed him when he realised he was going to be demystified if he moved openly against him then because he did not prepare the full Ambode package for him. Fashola had been left to build influence within the party and in town though the political structure was still essentially Tinubu’s.
Tinubu and Fasola played cat and mouse relationship in the latter’s second term but the cracks were papered over. It was when Fashola’s successor was to come that the daggers were drawn again. Fashola had planned to have a successor which would have meant setting Tinubu’s “factory ” on fire. But the Emperor moved with all his might and checkmated him by handing Akinwumi Ambode the ticket.
Tinubu had learnt from his mistakes with Fashola and vowed that whoever he must make Governor in Lagos must not develop his own character and he must manipulate him well so that taking him out would not be a problem. That was why Ambode who had a frosty relationship with Fashola and a civil servant came handy as a cashier, not necessarily a Governor.
I stated last week that Ambode did not appear a governor on the three occasions I met him in Tinubu’s company.
That waits till the concluding part.
Yinka Odumakin is the National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin is married to Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, a women’s rights activist.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.