Fellow Nigerians, let me start by quickly stating my admiration for the person and personality of Chief Tom Ikimi. As a celebrity reporter, Ikimi is every journalist’s dream. He’s charismatic, charming, lively, debonair, suave, oratorical, worldly, creative, affable and absolutely political. I’ve had the privilege of spending time with him at home and abroad and found him very warm and affectionate. Despite our sharp political differences in those days when I used to visit him, he never appeared an intolerant soul. He was too cosmopolitan to disallow a healthy debate. He never denied being overly conservative or adroitly capitalistic in nature.
Chief Ikimi could not have been otherwise. He’s a very successful architect. His profession thrives on uncommon creativity and some splash of eccentricity. I’m not sure if he still puffs his Havana cigars but I certainly recollect the vivid picture of the cigar-chewing fashionista. I was surprised when he sauntered from the conservative party of PDP to the relatively progressive party of ACN which later metamorphosed into APC. He was in fact one of the arrowheads that midwifed that miraculous birth. Many had dismissed the idea of such a merger as near-impossible but Ikimi and his team worked assiduously to make the impossible possible and they were well applauded for their brilliant efforts.
One would have thought the ovation received by the team would suffice and make them work harder on taking this hybrid party to the next level but the ways of our politicians are not the ways of ordinary mortals. In Nigeria, nothing goes for nothing. It is always a matter of what’s in it for me and my home. Tom Ikimi, who was Chairman of the bigger National Republican Convention over 20 years ago wanted to come back in 2014 as Chairman of APC. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was a young Senator over 20 years ago and a Governor as recently as seven years ago would love to run as Vice Presidential candidate to whomever in 2015. Chief Bisi Akande who was Deputy Governor to Chief Bola Ige over 30 years ago in old Oyo State and Governor of Osun State in 1999, returned as Chairman of ACN after and almost became a substantive Chairman of APC having been its interim Chairman. Chief John Odigie Oyegun was Governor of Edo State over 20 years ago and Vice Presidential candidate (to former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State under ANPP in 2011 and now Minister of Education under PDP in 2014) and is now Chairman of APC out of the blues.
I’m sorry if it sounds all confusing, intertwined and sticky like cobweb but such is the political incongruity we are saddled with in our dear beloved country. Nothing is as straight-forward as ABCD even if we all we all went through Primary schools and memorised it off-handed. I was shockingly astonished that APC never thought of handing over their party to modern, colourful, energetic and populist politicians or technocrats like Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Nasir El-Rufai, Demola Seriki, Nuhu Ribadu, Dino Menaye, Dele Alake, just to name a few, to run some offices at the national secretariat. I thought the world has moved beyond putting hard-core and possibly tired politicians to run a party that requires agile workaholics. Just imagine the aura, influence and instant recognition that would have accrued to the new party had a Bukola Saraki been made the Chairman of APC with his pedigree as former Chairman of the Governor’s Forum and a two-term Kwara State Governor. The Chairmanship of a political party is never a joke. The world is moving in modern directions and demands those who understand the new lexicon of Leadership. That is why the British Labour Party picked a young bachelor, Ed Miliband as its Leader. But APC could not identify its first eleven and put them forward. Today we are left with mostly unknown and lacklustre players in the field of play. That is the tragedy of its strategy.
The aborted bid of Chief Ikimi should not have been contemplated in the first instance. He should have remained a statesman to the end. The moment he attempted to run the race, he should have known anything could happen. Only one man can win in an election. I’m surprised that as a seasoned politician, he expected Senator Bola Tinubu to abandon his old allies and support him just like that. Politics is always about caucuses anywhere in the world. I don’t see what Tinubu has done wrong by supporting his own person for whatever reason. As a matter of fact, nothing precluded Tinubu himself from running. Tinubu as Chairman would have driven the fear of God into PDP. I shall come back to Tinubu shortly.
My epistle today is largely triggered by Ikimi’s recent long-winding and well-publicised gospel to God-knows-who. The epistle was clearly bitter and written to damage Tinubu and APC to boot. Ikimi started by stating his credentials, which I seriously enjoyed. He is a man who served himself, his nation and his God most meritoriously and fervently. He stated the reason he decided to abandon his conservative friends to join forces with members of the opposite camp. He worked actively with his new allies to form a new alliance as a counterforce to those hoping to foist a one-party State on Nigeria. All well and good up to then.
Chief Ikimi claims he abhorred the idea of a Unitary Government but yet exploded just because he failed to secure Tinubu’s blessing, and he’s willing to abandon the struggle and head back to where he came from and work for the establishment of that same system he claimed to loathe. I simply find this logic utterly cruel and ridiculous. As an architect, I won’t expect the great Chief to demolish his magnificent home just because a supposed mad man strayed into it.
I’m finally tired of all the attacks against the person of Bola Tinubu. Tinubu is far from being a saint but he has definitely contributed immensely to the Democracy we all seem to enjoy today. The man has wisely invested whatever he is said to have acquired on building solid monuments in the media, business empires and philanthropy, which most politicians have never been able to achieve.
Tinubu is often credited with the attributes of a King Kong and I’m sure the man himself enjoys the unsolicited appellation and coronation. I really don’t know how one man can wield so much power and none of the several Draculas in his party would be able to confront him. No one should blame Tinubu for the timidity of his co-travellers. I know Tinubu fairly well. I virtually lived and operated with him in our exile days. He’s a man who enjoys healthy debates. He’s a master thinker who’s brave enough to match his thinking with action. He and Lt. General Alani Akinrinade stood out in the fight against military tyranny in Nigeria. They spent themselves blind and did not shirk from selling off their properties in their pursuit of democracy and justice in Nigeria. Tinubu gained the upper hand against most of his contemporaries because he was ready to gamble his entire life for the sustenance of civil rule in our country while others played safe.
I’ve had cause to disagree with him in the past and he never took it personal against me. One of such occasions was when I challenged him for not supporting the candidacy of Tokunbo Afikuyomi and I blasted him in a newspaper interview. He invited me over to his house in Ikoyi. He wondered why I was kicking against his support for Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola and I replied that I was never against Fashola who was also our friend and saw me anytime he came to play soccer in Ghana; but I was opposed to the way he led Afikuyomi on when he could easily have told him of his choice. I realised one secret about Tinubu that night. Contrary to the allegation of being bullish, he finds it hard to hurt any of his close lieutenants. It is this coyness that gets him into constant trouble; the inability to boldly and openly say No to people.
The second and most recent disagreement I had with him was when rumour came out that he was plotting to be a Vice Presidential candidate to General Muhammadu Buhari. Once I confirmed that it was a credible speculation, I wrote an article against a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015 for the following reasons. One, most of our mutual friends was opposed to it but none could tell Tinubu not to try. This is the problem with our people who are mostly waiting on Tinubu for a favour now or/and in the future. Those who can talk are those who expect nothing. Two, a Muslim-Muslim ticket is presently inconceivable with the current religious configuration and conflagration in our country. Even if the ticket has the chance of winning, we should be sensitive enough to balance the religious equation.
Three, I believe a slot must be automatically given to the South-South region that lays the golden eggs for all of Nigeria. It would be wicked and dangerous to remove President Jonathan and also selfishly take away the number two position from them immediately. If the clamour is that North has been deprived of its number one position by the accident of the death of President Yar’Adua then the same argument holds true for the South South who would thus be deprived of the number two position by the providential accident that is the Presidency of Dr Jonathan. Also, the tenuous permutation that the Yoruba would not vote unless there is a Yoruba man on the ticket is self-serving and debatable. What makes my position even more compelling is the fact that the Yoruba are always champions of equity and fair-play. How can Obasanjo spend eight years as President and another Yorubaman comes out of the shadow as Vice President eight years after?
Tinubu never complained. He took the public missive to heart like a true democrat, made wider consultations and decided to shelve his ambition for the sake of his party and the nation. Unlike his traducers Tinubu has a great empathy for Nigerians and Nigeria. He has always been willing to sacrifice his personal ambition for the sake of the development of democracy and the future of his country. That he wields tremendous power and influence in whatever party he has midwifed in this political era goes without saying. Yet, he has never sought to be Chairman of such a Party. In 2011 he saw the wisdom in eventually plumbing for the candidature of Nuhu Ribadu whom he thereby rescued from political oblivion rather than pursue his ambition to be Vice President or even President. Even if he dumped Ribadu for Jonathan, he’s said to have seen that Ribadu was not accepted by his people and thus opted for a minority candidate.
It is amazing that it is to Tinubu that all those who demand justice and equity turn when they have been oppressed and abased by the PDP. However as soon as they obtain that which they seek they immediately turn against their benefactor and rush headlong back into the arms of their abuser. Tinubu’s has been a thankless job but it is the measure of this remarkable man that he continues to open his arms wide to embrace all those who seek justice and equity not only because of his love for democracy but also in true spirit of a man who adheres to the holy injunction to love his fellow man as himself. The list of those who have benefitted from Tinubu’s legendary largesse to retrieve their stolen mandate or seek retributive justice for perceived wrongs yet subsequently turn around to betray him is lengthy and is like a Who is Who of Nigeria.
It is said against him that he imposes candidates on his Party and is despotic and nepotistic. However, it is only fitting that someone who has deployed such huge and significant personal resources to the cause when others have shied from doing so should at least be allowed to influence the selection of those who would guide and lead that cause. This is particularly more so as he has had the singular opportunity of observing most of the contenders firsthand because of his ability to sacrifice his time and person and travel far and near to meet with party members and interact with them. None of those who fault him have remotely done a fraction of what he has done in this regard and if truth be told his choices have always been quite successful. Governors Fashola, Adams Oshiomhole, Abiola Ajimobi, Rauf Aregbesola, Ibikunle Amosun, and Kayode Fayemi; Aminu Tambuwal and Abike Dabiri, to mention a few, have been particularly outstanding.
Tinubu’s monumental work to further ensure the future of democracy in present day Nigeria is most laudable and he should indeed be dubbed ‘Defender of the Faith’ and encouraged to do more.
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