The first Secretary to the Alhaji Lateef Jakande-led Lagos State Government, Chief Olorunfunmi Basorun, speaks to ENIOLA AKINKUOTU about the debate over Yoruba leadership and other political issues
You were a top member of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s party, the Unity Party of Nigeria. Do you agree with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s argument that there can never be a Yoruba leader?
The Yoruba leader now, without doubt, is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and there are many reasons for this. The leadership of the Yoruba, whether political or otherwise, is based on who has advanced the interest of the Yoruba the most in recent times and Tinubu has done this. Firstly, he has fought for the interest of the Yoruba people. He helped Kayode Fayemi to get his governorship bid back in Ekiti in 2010. In the same year, he helped Rauf Aregbesola to get his governorship mandate back in Osun State.
He helped Olusegun Mimiko get his governorship mandate back in Ondo State in 2009. He even helped Adams Oshiomhole in Edo as well. That shows that his interest transcends personal preferences. In the political arena, he graduated and moved to ensure that Nigeria became virtually a two-party state. Because of Tinubu’s effort coupled with others’, the APC was born.
He led various others to ensure that the party did not die. Before the merger of the party, there was a quarrel between President Muhammadu Buhari and Rabiu Kwankwaso, who was then the Kano State Governor. Tinubu brought both of them to the table of reconciliation and settled it and the party emerged. That party, the APC, is in power today. The party now rules 22 states out of 36 in Nigeria and also produced the President. This shows Tinubu’s achievements in politics.
Even look at the South-West. Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State were in different parties before 2011. Tinubu brought them into his party and they are now running a second term in their respective states.
During the last elections, Yoruba contributed 2.433m votes to Buhari’s presidency where Buhari got 15m. That constitutes about 16 per cent of Buhari’s votes and this kind of thing had never happened before. Even when Obasanjo was made President, he didn’t get more than one million votes in the South-West and in terms of percentage, it was insignificant. And in the process of negotiations, Tinubu got the position of the vice-president for the South-West. I cannot point to any other Yoruba leader today that has struggled for the Yoruba like Tinubu and succeeded.
But When Chief Obafemi Awolowo was named as the Yoruba leader, it was an unanimous decision by all notable Yoruba leaders at the time. Why is Tinubu’s own controversial?
By our age, one should assume that we knew what happened then. There was a lot of confusion after the second coup and there was a meeting. Awolowo gave two conditions. He said the army’s occupation of Lagos must end and that if the Igbo were compelled to secede, the South-West would go. These two statements, in the face of guns, encouraged those present at the meeting to proclaim Awolowo as the leader of the Yoruba that time. The environment then was different from the one that Tinubu is living in now. I am not saying that Tinubu is the same as Awolowo but they lived at different times. Chief Awolowo did many things based on the needs at that time. He built the first stadium in Nigeria, the first television station, the first to introduce free health and free education. These were the needs at that time and many people loved him but those who didn’t love him were many. Apart from Adisa Akinloye, after the second coup in 1966, could anybody from Ogbomoso pronounce Awolowo as the leader of the Yoruba people? No. Because they were still bitter about the way Ladoke Akintola died. So, those who are generalising and looking at the view of Awolowo’s supporters as the general mind of Yoruba people, forget that the Yoruba people never went in one direction. As we are talking about Tinubu now, there are some who hate him and do not hide it. But when you talk of Yoruba leadership, there will be the first among equals, and what I am saying is that Tinubu is the first among those who are carrying the Yoruba banner very high.
But Awolowo said there cannot be a Yoruba leader during the period of partisan politics but there can be a cultural leader. Are you saying that we can have a Yoruba leader now?
There are cultural leaders such as traditional rulers but on the issue of politics, there must always be a leader who can stick out his neck and fight for his people. Awolowo once said that a day will come when the masses in the North and South, Christians, Muslims will come together as a force for progress and unity and kick against rigging, corruption and that is what we are facing now. And we are happy that one of our own in the South-West is carrying out this prediction of Chief Awolowo. Why should he not be the leader of the Yoruba for now? Whether it is political leader or anything we want to call it, who has achieved what Tinubu has achieved?
Wouldn’t it be appropriate to call Obasanjo the Yoruba leader since he is the only Yoruba man to ever emerge as President?
He was President and he had greatness thrust upon him but he did not work for greatness. I took part in electing him because I was the founding chairman of the Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party. We went to him in Abeokuta and spoke to him when he just returned from prison but his first response was that he had become a born again Christian and had no interest in politics. So, he did not work to be President. Most of the Yoruba did not even want him. In the 1999 election, he was defeated at his polling unit. I took the pain to compile all the votes he got. He received about 1.1million votes in the South-West but most of the votes in the South-West came from Lagos. He got about 209,000 votes from Lagos. He got a few votes from other South-West states. As President, he performed to the best of his ability. But Obasanjo cannot match the intellectual capacity of Awolowo and Tinubu. So, Obasanjo is a chief and he is respected in Yoruba land but in the contemporary Nigeria today, Tinubu is the Yoruba leader. Even as President, Obasanjo was not called Yoruba leader at that time because he did not achieve anything on his own. It was a question of people helping him. Awolowo said this in the House of Representatives many years ago that some are born great, some achieve greatness while some have greatness thrust upon them. Tinubu achieved greatness while Obasanjo had greatness thrust upon him.
APC Lagos chapter Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe made the remarks Monday, while reacting to a publication in one of the national dailies where the writer urged President Buhari to “beware of Tinubu because he is a moral burden and a dent on his image”.
According to the party, “Our attention has been drawn to an article published on 2nd September 2015 written by one Dele Akin Rahman encouraged by his sponsors.
“Lagos APC condemns in strongest terms this calculated attempt to bring Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu down to their miserable level and to judge the consummate leader of men by their horrible and dubious standards.
“Before the 2015 Presidential elections our well-respected National leader Tinubu and President Buhari were subjected to vicious attacks and debilitating assaults just to bring them down but they failed woefully. President Buhari and Asiwaju BAT ran away with resounding and unprecedented victory on March 28 2015”
“Ever since then, Dele Rahman and his sponsors have been angry, frustrated, confused, humiliated, humbled, afraid and disgraced. Politically they have been decimated and relegated to the background, economically their business of stealing government money in billions has been checkmated and blocked and socially they have been ostracized and rejected by Nigerians”
“These fraudsters and morally bankrupt nonentities know that it is impossible for them to get to Asiwaju BAT’s intimidating, illustrious and glorious personality, so they resort to blackmail and character assassination to bring the sage, the colossus and the leader of men to the miserable level”
“It is obvious that these dying forces of evil are on a futile effort to parry their 16years of wreckage and who else to bear the brunt but a Tinubu who has come to personify a living nightmare to the dying PDP”
“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu remains a well-respected political figure in Nigeria, Africa and the world today and woe betide anybody who thinks in his wildest imagination that a strong and powerful image built for nearly 50years can be destroyed by the antics of a foolish constituency and men without honour”
Having fared woefully with the electorate, their game plan is to sow discord within the ranks of the party people had chosen to lead them. The PDP hopes to strike division in the APC, in that way weakening us and our ability to govern.
Apprised of their wiles, we in the progressive camp must be wiser still. We must not allow ourselves to be pawns in this cynical strategy. We cannot fall into their obvious snares for that would be embracing defeat when victory has already been won. It is our responsibility to govern as the people want. It would be to our detriment to fall victim to our opponent’s sly instigations by allowing ourselves to be utensils picking each other apart.
This brings me to recent developments in the Lagos political scene. Born of this motley stew is the recent gossip mongering that I have willfully instigated false and negative reports against former Governor Fashola to thwart him from being appointed to a major post in the Buhari administration. I want to declare clearly and categorically that these rancid attacks do not come from me nor do I endorse them. Neither my hand nor my heart are in these mean submissions. I deplore them. An attack against the performance of Governor Fashola is indirectly an attack against me and the edifice of achievement we have constructed in leading Lagos state out of a protracted time of stagnation and into an era of sustained progress and development.
Lagos is a much better place than when we came into governance in 1999. Each year, it has gotten better. With the APC at the helm, each subsequent year will be better yet. Babatunde Fashola has been an integral part of this improvement. He does not deserve the pillory. His record has been applauded and will continue to be when all this rumor mongering has died its natural and quick death.
I am proud to say that I played an instrumental role in bringing Governor Fashola into politics in the first instance. He served as my trusted chief of staff, performing excellently in that role. Due to his leadership qualities and diligent work ethic, I endorsed him for governor notwithstanding the stiff and vocal opposition of many. I am not ashamed of backing him. I believe the progress the state made under his administration has more than vindicated my endorsement.
Fashola, the present Governor Akin Ambode including myself are the products of a progressive political institution and its programmatic expressions. I laid the governance foundation and started the first lap, running as well as I could. I handed the baton to Fashola, knowing he would do the same. He did; he ran as well as he could. Now, he has handed to Ambode who is off and running as well as he can. We have achieved much in Lagos; but, we recognize as much as anyone that we have much more to do.
We also know that progress is fragile and easily undone while destruction is easily transacted but hard to undo. I for one am not the type to tear down my own house or to bring my enemy’s rubbish into it.
We must remember something. We have always governed Lagos state as an open forum where democracy and free expression were respected. Those who are against us were never placed in fear of the heavy hand of government descending on them even as they played funny tricks. We also must remember than in any democracy, a number of people will always oppose you no matter the quality of your performance. If an office holder has an approval rating of 70 percent, this means, in Lagos, roughly five million people dislike the person. Also remember the PDP is just recently out of office at the federal level and that it built a vast, unprecedented financial war chest to contest the elections. The residual of that war chest is still at work, buying media space to plant rumors in hopes of spreading discord through the APC. Thus, the enemy camp may be a minority but it is a large and well-funded one that knows its only chance lies in us attacking ourselves.
I for one will not bend to the artificial provocation of those seeking to tear at what we have painstakingly built over the years. In my mind, Governor Fashola and I are and shall always be political allies and fellow travelers on a vital journey; that alliance is unshakeable and our journey must not be interrupted. I would no more attack his character or his administration than I would attack myself.
I see this present moment as crucial to Nigeria’s future. The nation faces acute challenges of security, corruption and economic development. Our task is to create policies that bring prosperity, dignity and hope to all. Great change is in reach because we have progressive governments at the federal and state levels for the first time. With great change at hand, it would be a terrible abdication of our duty to allow agents provocateur to prompt us to suspect and toss dirt at each other at a time when we should be focused on building a better, more equitable nation and society.
I for one shall never allow myself to be a tool of a political enemy that has nothing good in mind for Nigeria. I for one will never engage in the intramural character attacks of which I am being accused. I stand for the unity of the APC and for the progressive purpose we serve. I will not be guilty of tearing down our progressive house, not a brick of it. That I vow to all.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is national leader the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Fani-Kayode, yesterday, on his Facebook page, said: “Things are getting messier by the day. My advice to Tunde Fashola is to go and make peace with his benefactor, Bola Tinubu, before it is too late. Other than that, he should prepare for a long war of attrition which may ultimately end in the destruction of them both.”
It will be recalled that shortly after the last general elections, on May 7, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, had confirmed that he helped settled a quarrel between the former governors.
However, speculations that all was not well between Asiwaju Tinubu and Fashola came to fore Tuesday, last week, when the mainstream of the state’s political class, abstained from the launch of three books on Fashola’s stewardship entitled: “The Great Leap,” “In Bold Print” and “The Lagos Blow Dawn” authored by Hakeem Bello, at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and Asiwaju Tinubu were not present at the books presentation.
Although, represented by a former Commissioner of Education in the state, Prof. Tunde Samuel, Asiwaju Tinubu, lauded Fashola for his success in office saying; “We are happy about your success in office and we believe the sky is your limit.”
If Tinubu supports the right person, I’ll support the wrong person, says Gani Adams.
According to punch, Adams stated that his disagreement with Tinubu was beyond politics.
According to the OPC leader, Tinubu’s animosity towards him started in 2011.
He said, “We had some people who left our group because he was financing them to break it (OPC); they couldn’t break it, so they left. We continued to address the issue; even in the media, people were asking what I had with Tinubu, but they couldn’t find any reason. I decided that if I didn’t tell the whole world, my life and integrity would be at stake.
“That was one of the reasons that I decided that if Tinubu goes to A, I will go to B. Somebody who has been working to block my progress for the past seven years; if I support him to be in power, he will do worse. Even though he is supporting the right candidate, I will go for the wrong candidate.”
According to Adams, even within the leadership of the APC, some people were wondering why Tinubu would not leave him alone.
He said, “When I asked around, people told me what he was hammering on was ‘he (Adams) attacked us during the election.’ Did I use thugs to attack him? Is there any report in any police station that the OPC attacked the APC because of the Peoples Democratic Party?”
Adams said he had warned his members not to engage in any violent protests against any APC member prior to the March 28 presidential election. According to him, a day to the March 28 presidential, he had rained curses on his members openly on the Eledumare festival grounds in Ijora.
“I told them that anybody that would allow the APC to attack the OPC would not die well. I said, ‘Now, we are supporting Jonathan as our candidate. But that does not mean we are thugs of the PDP and that does not mean we are members of the PDP. Go to the polling booth, vote, and go back.’
“The late Gani Fawehinmi, stopped representing my group because of Tinubu. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo hates me with a passion because of Tinubu. The former National Vice Chairman, PDP, Bode George could not trust me because of Tinubu. The late former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, before he died, could not trust me because of Tinubu. At a point, Gbenga Daniel was sceptical about me because of Tinubu,” he said.
Saraki is one of the gladiators in the clash of egos and wills that followed the Senate leadership election on June 9 and subsequent appointment of principal officers.
The Senate President had earlier visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo to help him beg President Muhammadu Buhari.
He also reportedly met with the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, on the same matter.
During the week, some emissaries sent by Saraki met with President Buhari and sought forgiveness for the Senate President for acting contrary to the dictates of the party.
The emissaries included Senate Leader Ali Ndume, Senator Kabiru Gaya, Senator Adamu Aliero, Senator Danjuma Goje, and Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
A report in a national daily on Saturday also said the emissaries apologised to the President for the individual roles they played in the crisis.
However, sources in the party told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that the emissaries also had a brief to meet with the party’s national leader and former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu.
Many within the party see the crisis as a battle of wills with Buhari, Tinubu and some party leaders on one side of the ring and the Senate President and his backers on the other side. One of the prominent APC leaders that is believed to have backed Saraki is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
But sources told our correspondent that Saraki, of recent, had made strenuous efforts to meet and appeal to Tinubu to sheathe his sword.
Our correspondents report that Saraki’s olive branch to Tinubu may mark a turning point in the crisis as the Senate President, before now, had insisted that he would not ‘beg’ the APC leader.
But the sources added that Saraki might have changed his position when all his efforts to get President Buhari to forgive him for his defiance to the party and move on.
It has been widely reported that Buhari has refused all entreaties to host the Senate President at the Presidential Villa since the controversial election in the senate. The President had also said the leadership of the senate should tow the party line.
Two APC officials who spoke to our correspondent yesterday shed light on Saraki’s last two attempts to reach out to the APC national leader. They said that one attempt occurred three weeks ago while the other took place on Thursday in Abuja.
“Three weeks ago he tried to get across to Tinubu through one of his aides. Of course, the aide couldn’t have arranged the meeting. Tinubu’s disposition to the matter is well known,” the source said.
The APC national leader, sources said, had told some of Saraki’s emissaries in the past that the senate leadership should toe the party line.
Another source said the last attempt took place during the week when the APC senators, who met with the President at the behest of Saraki, also tried to get across to Tinubu. A source close to Tinubu said while the former Lagos governor was aware of the move, his position on the matter had not changed.
The source stated that Saraki needed a long-term strategy to pacify the aggrieved party leaders, adding that the Senate President’s is perceived as haughty by some of these leaders.
“It is a surprise that he is reaching out to Tinubu. Saraki has no respect for Tinubu. He is contemptuous of him. During meetings he refers to him contemptuously as “Bola”. In fact there was a time that Tinubu wanted to explain a point to him and he shut him up,” the source said.
The source may have alluded to the cultural norm in Tinubu and Saraki’s Yoruba ethnic group where an elder is not addressed by his first name. Tinubu is 63 while Saraki is 52.
But the source close to the APC leader insisted that the national leader had no ‘ego problem’ with Saraki.
“Tinubu’s take is that the senate should toe the party line. It is not a personal problem at all. If it were a personal problem, the President won’t be reacting the same way.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Lai Mohammed told one of our correspondents on Saturday that the APC believes in party supremacy.
He said, “I can’t comment on the story you are asking me about. However, the APC has made its position on party supremacy known.”
The spokesman for the Senate President, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, could not be reached on Saturday night. Calls and a text message sent to his line were not responded to.
The party asked George to keep quiet for now and continue to lick the wounds inflicted on him by the defeat his party suffered at both the National and the state levels in the just concluded federal elections.
APC State Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, yesterday, said George like the Lagos PDP Chairman, Tunji Shelle was woken up from a chronic hallucination after suffering a devastating defeat in the hands of APC.
“Why is Bode George finding it difficult to believe that the game is over for him in Nigerian politics talk less of Lagos State? Who will tell Bode George that nobody takes him serious again in matters of Nigerian politics? Who will persuade Chief George to quit politics now in his own interest?
“Did he know that the President has full knowledge of his dubious activities in Lagos during the campaigns? Chief Bode George spoke about the cost of projects in Lagos, but the question is this: what does a hut builder know about Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge? What does this carpenter know about gold?” What does this failed politician know about good governance and service delivery?” Igbokwe stated.
Fayose, in a statement issued on Thursday by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, noted that his government was destroying the legacies of huge debt, unpaid salaries, white elephant projects, bad governance and corruption left behind by Fayemi’s government.
He spoke in reaction to the ex-governor’s interview in some dailies where he stated that “his legacy was being destroyed”. Fayose claimed that no responsible government will sustain a legacy of over N86 billion debts that were incurred on projects with no direct bearing on the welfare of the people.
He insisted that it was necessary for Fayemi’s negative legacies to be destroyed, and that, “even in the APC, his legacy of betrayal of Senator Bola Tinubu, the man who made him governor is being destroyed.
“Today, Fayemi has been ostracized by those who assisted him to office because he has betrayed all of them, including Tinubu.
“Never again shall Ekiti be governed by those who will borrow billions of naira to plant flowers and create comfort for themselves alone”.
Fayose, who asked whether his predecessor want the present government to sustain “the legacy of serial betrayal of his benefactors”, said: “If he served Ekiti and its people well, why was it that he was roundly defeated in all the 16 local councils in the state in the 21 June, 2014 governorship election and his party was also defeated 16 to 0 in the presidential, National Assembly and House of Assembly elections?
“Even his own party men described his electoral defeat as the worst in Nigeria.”
The Governor stressed that it was shameful for Fayemi, who left two months’ salary and four months cooperative and union’s deductions from workers’ salaries as well as pensions and gratuities unpaid, to be talking about his legacies being destroyed.
Fayose wondered: “did Fayemi leave behind any positive legacy in Ekiti?
“When Fayemi became governor, he chose to close down two universities established by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, government of Segun Oni and abandoned the Oba Adejugbe General Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, claiming that the state could not fund more than one university.
“The same Fayemi, who said Ekiti had no money to fund more than one university preferred to take N25 billion bond to plant flowers that never germinated up till now and build a new governor’s lodge, civic centre, pavilion and execute other irrelevant projects.
“Furniture alone, in the N3.3 billion governor’s lodge that he built for himself and his wife cost N604.9 million and Fayemi wants such legacy of profligacy to be sustained in Ekiti?
“We are sorry to tell him that we won’t sustain such legacy of waste.
“Even vehicles bought for traditional rulers and political appointees, his government did not pay and uncompleted Oba Adejugbe General Hospital and State Pavilion were commissioned with fanfare.
“Today, Ekiti State is under the yoke of debt, courtesy of Fayemi’s mismanagement of the state resources and what we are destroying are those legacies of mis-governance he left behind.
“One bad news that we must however tell Fayemi is that we won’t only destroy his legacy of misgovernance and betrayal in Ekiti, we will also make sure that economic devourers like him will never taste power in the state,” the statement concluded.
Apprehension yesterday gripped political stakeholders in Lagos State ahead of today’s launch of three books chronicling the stewardship of Mr. Babatunde Fashola as governor of Lagos State between 2007 and 2015.
The apprehension follows the perceived political rivalry between the camp of Fashola and his erstwhile political godfather, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, himself, also a former governor of the state. The political unease was compounded upon last week’s assertion b
y Fashola that he would not allow himself to be dragged into the mud by those who want to fight like pigs.
However, a third force within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC it was gathered yesterday has pushed the leadership of the party to convene an emergency state caucus meeting tomorrow where the unfolding issue between the camps of the two former governors is expected to be discussed.
Ahead of today’s book launch it was learnt that activists in the two camps were working to use the occasion to score political points. While some were working to frustrate the book launch as a way of projecting what they claim as Fashola’s political incapacity in the state, the former governor’s loyalists were working to counter the move.
“They are planning but they will not succeed,” an associate of the immediate past governor told Vanguard on telephone yesterday.
Associates of Tinubu were, however, indignant yesterday that they would not honour the book launch, alleging that the immediate past governor had not shown enough respect to his erstwhile political benefactor.
“A man that has not seen it as wise to visit or thank his master since he stepped down from office, why should we be there,” a close associate of Tinubu said yesterday.
His assertion was, however, countered by a Fashola associate who disclosed yesterday that Fashola’s repeated efforts to speak with Tinubu since the handover had been impossible.
“Tinubu is not picking his calls, so those people saying that Fashola has not visited Tinubu simply do not know what they are talking about, they just don’t know,” the Fashola associate said.
Meanwhile, the frosty relationship between the two camps is set to worsen upon assertions of imminent plans by the new authorities in Lagos to prosecute those involved in alleged hike of contract figures during the immediate past administration.
Normally dependable sources told Vanguard yesterday that officials involved in the award of the contract of the N78 million upgrade of the website of the former governor are among those to be prosecuted.
The three books to be launched today include The Great Leap, a book written by Mr. Hakeem Bello, who served as Special Adviser on Media to Fashola and two others co-authored by Dapo Adeniyi.
The other two are: In Bold Prints: Thoughts of Babatunde Fashola and Lagos Blow Down: West Africa’s First Controlled Demolition.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo joined APC National leader Bola Tinubu and other APC chieftain to attend the funeral service for the mother of Senator Adeleke Mamora in Ijebu-Ife in Ogun state today August 8th.
More photos after the cut…