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Bola Tinubu, left, and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Photo: Courtesy Vanguard
By Yinka Odumakin
LOUIS XIV was King of France for 72 years and 110 days and became the most powerful French monarch who consolidated a system of absolute monarchical rule that endured until the French Revolution. At the peak of his maniac, he said: “L’Etat c’est moi”(I am the state).
I am not aware Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is given to so much reading to have come across Louis’ declaration but I once heard him making the same declaration as he got up from his seat and said “Eko fe lo sun”(Lagos wants to sleep). The embodiment of the current pathetic Lagos by the man who rode to power in 1999 largely on account of his association with NADECO abroad is an interesting study for some of us who are eyewitnesses to recent history.
It’s all coming back to me now from 1998 in a rush. Dr. Bunmi Omoseyindemi and I had led a group from the National Conscience Party, NCP, to join the Afenifere after the radical party we belonged to had taken a decision to boycott the 1999 transition programme without subjecting it to thorough debate. We were received at a rally in Oworonsoki area of Lagos by Leaders of the group such as Chief Ayo Adebanjo and late Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo had asked Omoseyindemi and I to go purchase nomination forms for the House of Representatives election but we told him we did not want to appear as position seekers and would want to build the party first. He commended our spirit and asked us to meet Alhaji Dawodu to assist him in organisational efforts. That was how we became regulars at his Western House office where we worked round the clock with Mr. Aro Lambo.
Alhaji Dawodu’s office became a place of voyage for the leading governorship aspirants under the banner of Alliance for Democracy, AD. After interface with them all,we concluded we should support Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu on account of his role in NADECO abroad. On our first meeting with him at his residence on Sunday Adigun, he introduced us to Rauf Aregbesola who was like the DG of the campaign.
I recall how I put together the first jingle Tinubu had on TV which I composed from one of the popular songs the struggle field which I had to work with Pat Nebo to record with Tinubu doing some voice over message as :
“This na the governor we don dey wait o (2ce)
This na the governor we don dey wait
Heeeeee Bola Tinubu(3ce)
This na the governor we don dey wait”.
I do not know if Alhaji Dawodu knew we were Tinubu-leaning as he donated us to the National leadership when panels were being put together to supervise gubernatorial primaries being conducted in December 1998 and we were posted to lead the team to Ondo state.
When we returned from Ondo, Lagos state was already scattered over dispute between the camps of Bola Tinubu and Funsho Williams. The AD Chairman in Lagos, Alhaji Dawodu already submitted the name of Funso Williams to INEC as he won the contest if results of all 20 LGAs were added.
But there was a lacuna. The guidelines used for the primaries stipulated that the electoral panel should cancel results anywhere violence takes place. And there were incidents of violence in four LGAs that were strongholds of Funso Williams and if they were cancelled Bola Tinubu was the winner.
Unfortunately for Williams, Dawodu submitted his name to INEC and disappeared. The Tinubu camp intensified protests and the Leaders of Afenifere looked into the matter.
Their decision was that in accordance with the rules they made,Tinubu won the primary if the votes from the troubled areas were removed and directed the Acting Chairman of AD, Chief Ayo Adebanjo to write to INEC and withdraw Funso Williams’ name.
It was this adherence to the rule that those who are not aware of what happened then use often to accuse Afenifere of imposing Tinubu on Lagos in 1999. It took six years after before I stumbled on the fact that the crises in those LGAs were contrived to deny Williams victory.
Tinubu won the elections but with a plan from day one to weaken Afenifere so he can replace the collegiate leadership Yoruba are used to with a caliph order in Yoruba politics.
His first deft move immediately he became candidate was to be the arrowhead of the group that stopped Chief Bola Ige from picking the AD Presidential flag for the 1999 elections at D’Rovans Hotel. But the moment elections were over, he moved to Ige’s corner when he started his rebellion against Afenifere. His strategy was to start filling the void once the schism in the group became unmanageable. Even when Ige was assassinated,he ensured that the empty coffin that was paraded all over Lagos as his remains was not allowed to stop at the Afenifere Secretariat,a group he was Deputy Leader of till he died.
I should not forget to mention the fact that the open split in AD was as result of the Dawodu-Tinubu feud in Lagos as it was the parallel congresses held by the two factions in Lagos that led to the AD holding parallel conventions in Abuja in 2000.
It was that crisis patch Chief Adesanya was managing in the group till the 2003 elections.The group was able to put some temporary truce in place in all other five states for the elections except in Lagos. It was at the last minute that a deal was offered for Tinubu to return for second term and keep 60% of the remaining elective posts and allow the Dawodu faction fill the remaining 40%. A three – man committee made up of Chief R.Fasoranti, Gen. Alani Akinrinade and my humble self were sent to Lagos to implement the decision.I went to Tinubu before our sitting to persuade him not to disgrace Papa Adesanya around whom there were already loud whispers of indulging Tinubu as he truly loved him even when he disliked some of his ways. Tinubu told me he did not understand Arithmetic and that the proposal was undemocratic. When we eventually met the two factions at the Airport Hotel for a whole day, he came and bluntly refused to implement the decision. I remember this incident a few days back when he called the meeting of the so-called Governor Advisory Council to order a Governor it should be advising to withdraw from the gubernatorial primary of APC in Lagos because Akinwumi Ambode is a captive and not a free Governor like he was when Afeifere handed him the ticket in 1999. I have met Ambode only on three occasions and all in the presence of Tinubu and the indignities he went through all made me pray to God not to be that type of governor in my life. I will narrate them next week.
Talking of the love Papa Adesanya had for Tinubu, I would just give one instance. Months into Tinubu’s tenure. a scandal broke out around him that he did not attended any of the schools he listed in his resume: from St John’s Primary School, Aroloya in Lagos through Government College, Ibadan and University of Chicago. The scandal broke out shortly after then Speaker of House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari had perjured by submitting a fake certificate from University of Toronto in Canada and was forced to step down. The media was celebrating the scandal and just a sentence from Afenifere against Tinubu then would have done him in.
I recall vividly being in the office of Senator Adesanya with the late Rev. Tunji Adebiyi when an old man with all grey hair and beards dressed in immaculate white dress with white shoes walked into his office and we had to excuse them. When he left, we went back to meet the Leader and he was in a pensive mood. He told us what the old man told him: “Abraham,you have to disown this boy (Tinubu) now” and that he said to the oldie that “a person who builds a wall does not pull it down.” He said the man got up to leave and said: “You will regret not doing so”.
The scene played in my mind in the last inactive days of Senator Adesanya as the last major outing he had before he went down was over Tinubu.
Afenifere had decided to meet all former AD governors who lost in the 2003 elections and Tinubu who survived the Tsunami largely on account of his close relationship with Atiku.
We held meetings with his five former colleagues but Tinubu refused the invitation until January 2, 2004, when Senator Adesanya called me that Senator Ayo Fasanmi had persuaded Tinubu to come for the meeting on the 4th at his Apapa residence. I informed all that was supposed to be at the meeting.
On the appointed day, only Senators Adesanya, Fasanmi, Tinubu and I were in Apapa. Tinubu came and Pa Adesanya told him all the grievances against him. He responded to the effect that he accepted Adesanya as his father and Leader but he would not have anything to do with his colleagues again. Papa told him that saying he would not relate with his colleagues amounted to repudiating his leadership.
As we rounded off the meeting Sir Olaniwun Ajayi called Pa Adesanya that they were waiting for him at the Afenifere Secretariat for the meeting scheduled with Tinubu. He asked if I did not tell them that the meeting would hold in his house to which he responded that all his colleagues were received at the secretariat. As Papa could not get his driver, he asked me to drive him to Jibowu to meet his colleagues.
When we arrived there, it was the late Chief Wumi Adegbonmire who fired the first salvo that they were sorely disappointed that Papa would indulge Tinubu once again by moving his own meeting to his house and meeting him in their absence.
Sir Olaniwun Ajayi asked me to excuse the meeting at a point with Senator Adesanya telling me to wait for him. I said I knew he had no way of getting home without me.
When they were through with the meeting, I joined him in his office and I saw tears dropped off his eyes as he said to me: “Wo bi Tinubu se so mi di alaimose bayi “(see how Tinubu has turned me to somebody who does not know his left from his right). I drove him back from Jibowu to Apapa and we did not utter a word. He suffered stroke a few days later from which he did not recover till he died. Whenever I reflect on his last days, I always remember the admonition of the Wise Old One: “Disown this boy now or you will regret it”.
….To be continued.