Femi Aribisala sounds like Nigeria’s Salman Rushdie. It seems Mr Aribisala is having endless sleepless nights over the person of Bola Tinubu and indeed the emergence of APC as another big political party in Nigeria. I believe that by standing on the side of the voiceless since 1999 till date, the duo of Buhari, Tinubu and other leaders of APC deserve the accolade of well-meaning Nigerians —George Kalu
ONE of the beauties of democracy is the latitude it provides the citizens to freely express their views on any subject under the sun. Such opinions are, however, expected to be factual, informative, rich and robust to raise the stake on political re-engineering.
They should be thought-provoking; to ask the right questions and make valuable suggestions in order to proffer likely solutions to current social and economic challenges. That, combined with the active participation of the citizenry as the main stakeholder in governance would serve to deepen the democratic culture. But when opinions are taken to ridiculous heights of over fixation on pull-them-down syndrome, especially those whose patriotic efforts have brought to bear the fruits of such democracy, it calls for urgent concern.
In the light of this, therefore, one cannot but question both the motive and morale of one Mr. Femi Aribsala who has chosen to cast aspersions and castigate every patriotic move Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has made to salvage the hole-riddled ship of state from sinking under. The other day, it was Aribisala and his tactless tirade over: What does Bola Tinubu really want? Now, it is another
self-serving vituperation over the unduly orchestrated Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket for the All Progressives Congress, APC. So sad, Aribisala and those behind beating the drums for him, think as if the people’s wishes and electoral value count for nothing.
Let us consider this, from Aribisala’s jaundiced viewpoint. “The prospect of a ticket with Tinubu as vice-president is already ensuring that the APC is badly in need of aspirin. An APC vice-president that is not Tinubu poses grave political danger to Tinubu. It means Tinubu has been sowing for somebody else to reap. If that person happens to be Yoruba, he or she could quickly become a contender for Tinubu’s much-vaunted position as the Asiwaju of South-West politics in Nigeria.”
If for anything else, by this statement alone Aribisala has exposed his vain and vacuous understanding of the political ideology, motivation and persona of the famed tactician and political strategist called Ahmed Tinubu. For the records, he was the last progressive politician standing, when the rigging machinery of the PDP bulldozed its way through the South-West geo-political zone, claiming in its dusty wake the states of Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti during the heady days of the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo-led PDP.
Back then, when Tinubu and his allies met at the residence of late Pa Adesanya in Apapa, Lagos to review the rather crude onslaught of the anti-democratic PDP, only Tinubu stood his ground; maintaining that it was not in the best interest of the Alliance for Democracy, AD or Nigeria not to contest the outcome of the fraudulent elections.
The PDP-led government had ensured that the governorship elections were the first to be conducted, with the obnoxious aim to use it ostensibly to influence the outcome of subsequent elections. And of course, to whip the so called ‘dissidents’ into line. Asiwaju it was who saw through the smokescreen and stood his ground, against the formidable reactionary forces.
With his unwavering moral support, candidates on the platform of AD who contested for the posts in the Senate, House of Representatives and various state House of Assembly in the South-West were able to clinch the desired victory and return to the hallowed chambers to discharge their duty to their people. Furthermore, Tinubu served again as the catalyst who galvanized the progressives to reclaim the lost states, such as Osun and Ekiti, even including Ondo that was saved from the clutches of the PDP and went to the Labour Party.
If Tinubu was a selfish politician, as Aribisala imputes in his highly opinionated essay, he would not have embarked on that messianic mission. All he wanted, and still pursues with unrelenting vigour is to ensure that indeed, the people’s votes count. That their wishes hold sway. That their choices are validated on the veritable platform of credible elections, as against foisting the wishes of a few greedy and self-serving politicians on the majority.
It, therefore, amounts to a grave insult to insinuate that Tinubu does not want another person to reap from where he has sowed. He knows he is not God, who has the power to determine who benefits from what. That is pettiness from a warped mindset. Perhaps, if Aribisala has an inkling of those whose lives God has used theAsiwaju to touch outside of politics he would not descend to the low level of thinking that all there is to life is money; or sowing and reaping. Until Nigerians stop thinking of politics as an avenue for self-aggrandizement instead of selfless service to the state we would not make meaningful progress.
And that also underscores the penchant of progressive parties for identifying the best of candidates not just from the South-West geo-political zone but across the Nigerian political spectrum for public service. Unknown to the likes of Aribisala, that clearly explains why Tinubu threw his weight behind the candidature of Aminu Tambuwal for the exalted position of Speaker, House of Representatives as against Mulikat Akande.
Tinubu saw in Tambuwal what was missing in Akande, who would be a quisling in the hand of PDP. That they share the same geo-political heritage was immaterial and mere base sentiment. The Yoruba race, well-known for political sophistication would always project their best of brains to the limelight.
Now, Aribisala should ask himself in good conscience what he would have done if he was in Asiwaju’s shoes and there is an open threat to democratic norms and values. Especially with Dimeji Bankole, then the Speaker House of Assembly promising Ekiti people that the military would be used to win election in that state during the controversial re-run governorship election in 2009. Would he have stood aloof, arms folded to allow the monster of impunity to plunder the land? The answer is his .
And that brings us to Aribisala’s gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the well-acclaimed victory of John Oyegun as against his man, Tom Ikimi. Said he: “ Tinubu needed to ensure that the APC chairman is not his new arch-enemy, Tom Ikimi, a known Atiku Abubakar man. So he shopped for a more malleable alternative. He finally settled on John Odigie-Oyegun, former governor of Edo State. But when the permutations were done, Odigie-Oyegun could not be assured of victory in a democratic poll. The answer, therefore, in typical Asiwaju fashion, was to truncate democracy in APC.”
Perception of political issues
Reading through this cheap assessment of a credible election that had even the PDP congratulating the APC makes mockery of Aribisala’s perception of political issues. Firstly, he has insulted the collective intelligence of other APC stalwarts by claiming they are dummies who could not choose between two candidates with clearly well-defined antecedents and opposite character traits. Secondly, and this is instructive, he has inadvertently given Tinubu the power of a demi-god before who others could never say “no”. That scenario cannot play itself out under a democratic dispensation, more so that of Nigeria’s vibrant polity in the 21st Century.
May we remind Aribisala that Tom Ikimi was never a democrat and even as an adept political chameleon cannot metamorphose into one overnight. What role did he play during the dark days of the NADECO struggle to emancipate the Nigerian nation and its good people from the iron grip of military despotism? That of an ignoble anti-democrat who chose to turn his back on the people and became deaf to their cries of anguish by dining with Abacha.
He, Ikimi it was again who practiced bolekaja diplomacy in the face of a clear injustice that triggered global outrage, when he openly supported Abacha’s death sentence on Ken Saro-Wiwa, acclaimed human rights activist and internationally recognized environmentalist, and the Ogoni-Four. No democrat would have justified and defended that type of brutal, barbaric and bestial murder of his people’s conscience and voice. For Ikimi to have assumed that Nigerians have so short a memory and would embrace his foray into party politics without questions betrays his understanding of the word, ‘democracy. And even Aribisala has the moral burden of acting as a megaphone to such a person.
‘Show me your friend and I would tell you who you are.’Perhaps, Ikimi’s people understand him far more than Aribisala does. For that reason they elected Chief John Oyegun, as against Ikimi’s candidate, Lucky Igbinedion, as their first-ever democratically chosen state governor. And why not? Oyegun has over the years remained a consistent and committed democrat unlike Ikimi who, more like an unprincipled politician pitches his tent wherever he feels the grass is greener and romances any government in power? Such a person does not have any moral authority to put himself forward for any elective post in the first instance. Leadership goes far beyond that.
It is mixed milieu of one who has vision in quantum; one with the capacity to feel the pulse and the pains of his people; one who has the courage to do right and the boldness to say ‘no’ to evil in all its shade; one with the compassion to right the wrongs bedeviling his people. Fortunately, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is blessed with all these character traits.
And as amply demonstrated during his struggles for democracy, his eight years qualitative leadership as the Lagos State governor, against all odds he is eminently qualified to lead this nation to greater heights. That he is from the South-West or a Muslim should not matter, should it? Of course not. What the citizens need at this critical moment of our troubled history are men and women who would frontally tackle the monsters of corruption, mass youth unemployment, insecurity, and the insidious culture of impunity to deliver the dividends of democracy at their doorstep.
As George Kalu rightly admonished: “Let Aribisala stop wasting his precious wisdom in producing such acidic and derogatory articles. We already know why he hates Tinubu with such passion and why he derides APC”.What should matter most to Nigerians now is quality leadership that understands their pains; that has a sense of direction and would salvage them from the clouds of cluelessness and storms of selfishness to the habour of our collective hope, for a better Nigeria.
•Sunday Dare is the Special Adviser on Media to Tinubu