May 22, 2010

How Obasanjo Conned Afenifere, AD Governors – Bisi Akande, AC Chairman

Chief Bisi Akande

Says;  *Atiku’s exit is a relief
*Afenifere leaders were dishonest
* AC just beginning its own  merger talks

When you conduct an interview with an angry former state governor who was “conned” by a former President of Nigeria, a fellow Yoruba, what do you expect?
Bisi Akande, the former Osun State governor between 1999 and 2003 on the platform of an atrophying Alliance for Democracy, AD, but who today is National Chairman of the Action Congress, AC, can talk. But how do you stop a man who continues to provide invaluable never-before-heard information?
In this interview, Akande discloses, for the first time, how former President Olusegun Obasanjo dragged the leadership of the Yoruba body, Afenifere, including the late Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Olanihun Ajayi, to the floor of comic gymnastics only to leave them for dead.  Obasanjo not only outwitted them, he conned them out of five state governorships (Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo), leaving only Lagos State, for obvious political and commonsensical reasons.  But that was not all Akande spoke about:  He talked about the recent failed mega party moves and says the AC was never a part of the earlier merger talks. For him, the exit of Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the AC to his original Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is a big relief. Besides, he talks on the perceived offence of the late Chief Bola Ige and his assassination; how the case was eventually bungled and who to hold responsible; the crisis in Lagos State between Governor Raji Fashola and his legislative arm; how Bola Tinubu survived Obasanjo’s onslaught of 2003 and many more.  Take a sampler of what Obasanjo did to Afenifere leaders: “Obasanjo refused to sit down.  He greased their ego.  Obasanjo said ‘I can not sit and talk to Papa Abraham Adesanya; I must stand up; I must respect him.”
And when Obasanjo started showing signs of repudiating the agreement he had with Afenifere, the leaders went back and got this:
“We went to invite the Awujale of Ijebuland, we went to invite Bishop Gbonigi, we went to invite Bishop Ladigbolu and asked some of us who are leaders to meet with Obasanjo and we met with Obasanjo again.
“Obasanjo who said he would not sit down to talk to Papa Abraham Adesanya was unfazed this time around.  He simply laid down there on his couch, sleeping, and he was no longer going to compromise”
. Excerpts:

By Jide Ajani , Deputy Editor, & Anthonia Onwuka

Your political party, the Action Congress, AC, seems confused.  You were recently reported to be involved  in merger talks with the possibility of coming out with a mega party but suddenly some of the leading lights in your party jumped ship and decided to move on, what happened?
It is not right to say that my political party, the AC, was involved in merger talks with other political parties.  And if that would be true, it would just be true within the last one week.

I don’t agree.  It was public knowledge and the talks had been on for months but there was no denial regarding the reports in the media that a mega party was in the making with the involvement of AC?
Let me explain. It was a group of people, politicians, they called themselves mega, who invited us to come on board and we told them that we were not interested.  The reason is that we do not believe that any other political party in this country is more mega than the AC.  So, we never answered them.

Then came another group of people who called themselves National Democratic Movement, NDM.  They wrote a letter to me.

The letter was signed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, General Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa.  The three of them signed the letter which they sent to me and tried to invite my interest in what they said they were doing.

Honestly, my reaction was that I should take this letter to my party since I am the chairman; and I did go.  I called the elders of my party and I read the letter to them, explaining that this is a letter I got from a body called NDM, and I asked ‘what do I do with this letter’.


My party said the letter was addressed to you and it is your own business, don’t involve us in it.  As leader of the party, I wouldn’t be expected to and I wouldn’t attend such a meeting.  However, some members of my party were attending the meetings of the group, not because my party believed in the merger, you know, but some members of my party which included, at that time, Turaki Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Usman Bugaje, Tom Ikimi, Ben Obi and may be one or two others, were attending the meetings of the NDM.

We were waiting for them to come back with ideas of whatever they think we should do. But what we decided when we went to our party was that whatever ideas these people bring back to us, our party would not change its own name and it would not change its own logo because we of the AC do not believe that any other party is going to be more mega, if there, indeed, is going to be any mega, than the AC. We even felt the word mega sounds arrogant and it started with the PDP and it led them to make so many mistakes and we don’t want to belong to that type of thing. So, we went back to our National Executive Committee, NEC, and agreed that we would not dispense with our name and we would not dispense with our logo.

But where did all this talk about merger take root?
Some time within the last six weeks, the NDM, to which the AC was not a part at all but to which some members of the AC joined on their own and not because the AC decided that they should, started disintegrating. At first, General Buhari left the ANPP and we thought at that time that he was coming to devote his time to the merger arrangement and we became happy and we thought that would soften the situation but as time went on, Atiku Abubakar also started making moves to go back to his PDP and at that point we said we can not go to PDP, because we do not believe in PDP.

Why don’t you believe in the largest political party in Africa?
Which party?  A political party, whose chairman is being arraigned for corruption, according to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC?  We do not have respect for such a political party because as far as we are concerned, PDP is a party of the dishonest and the thieves so we did not want to have anything to do with them so when Atiku Abubakar decided to go back to PDP, we felt relieved.

Yes, we felt relieved of Atiku Abubakar going to another party and thought that Buhari would devote his time to the merger arrangement but we don’t know, whether the military in him, made him think that he should leave the whole thing, only to tell the NDM, that he was going to the CPC, and that CPC was not ready to merge with any other political party but that the CPC was ready to have an alliance with any party that was willing. At that stage, the AC then resolved that the AC could start merger talks with other parties and also insisted that the NDM office should wind down and that we wanted to take over the NDM office and call it another name, May Opposition Group or something like that.
This was only agreed to last week (penultimate).  That was also why we went back to our own NEC to inform members that we must relax our conditions to pave the way for merger talks with other parties.

You said something instructive about Atiku Abubakar; that you were ‘relieved’ when Atiku Abubakar left the AC.  How do you mean because Atiku Abubakar is AC and AC is Atiku Abubakar?
Let me tell you what I meant. The AC is a party of the progressives and when Atiku Abubakar came to join the AC, we thought he was or wanted to become a progressive.  But since about a year ago we discovered that he was not comfortable among the progressives.  So, in other words, if he had become our person in power as president for instance, the result might have become what happened in Imo State, where you have Ikeddi Ohakim of the PPA becoming governor only to return to his PDP after using the PPA to become state governor. So, we felt relieved because it was possible, if Atiku had become President, Commander-in-Chief on the platform of AC, he could simply go back to his PDP.

But one of the things people see is that you people just talk and talk but you do not appear serious.  You people say PDP is the problem?
Yes, PDP is the problem.

Okay, why has it been difficult for you people to come together and fight this same PDP?
Selfishness; greed, as characters of individuals, have made it difficult for many parties to come together to confront the PDP? We’ve tried and we’re still trying.  We have discussed with the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.  We had even gone into an alliance with the ANPP before. We had even wanted to go into a merger with the ANPP before. We had even accepted to forget our name and bear ANPP. We had even agreed with them that we were going to forget about our symbol and use the corn as our symbol. We even designed and agreed to do a presentation of the corn as our symbol. But at the 11th hour, we were let down by ANPP.

You mean the AC was let down by the ANPP?
No, not this AC; it was the AD, then  ACD, PPA, we were working with ANPP and we all agreed that we would dissolve into ANPP but ANNP shocked us and said ‘no, we don’t want you as political parties but if you want you can come into the party as individuals. That was what led to the formation of the AC and even after forming the AC, we still felt we should form an alliance with the ANPP and we went ahead to attempt to form an alliance with ANPP, not knowing that Edwin Ume Ezeoke, the National Chairman of the ANPP, was an appointee of the PDP; not knowing that the governors of ANPP like Modu Sheriff of Borno and the one in Kebbi State, Adamu Aliero, were agents of the PDP in the ANPP. That was why the alliance was unable to work for the 2007 elections. But again, now, we want them, we are talking to them now, we have started that over a week ago but I wouldn’t be able to give you the details and we hope that now, the opposition can come together to fight the PDP. But we would require one thing of the ANPP, that it should purge itself of those PDP elements in its ranks.

Nigerians are watching you people with this shifty politics that you are playing:  first, Alliance for Democracy, AD, then, ACD, which I’m sure you may not know what it stands for.  I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about the defunct leadership of the AD and people are saying whatever has become the lot of those AD leaders is their fault because they sold themselves cheap to Obasanjo, particularly the state governors?

Well, I would rather not agree because the matter is neither here nor there. When we lost our national chairman, in the person of Ambassador Jolly Tanko Yusuf in 1999, we asked Ayo Adebanjo to act, but we felt that by the time the presidency was conceded to Chief Olu Falae, we said it would not be right for a Falae to be the presidential candidate and then Adebanjo should also at the same time be the chairman.

So, we said Adebanjo should step aside so that Mamman Yusuf would take over the party as chairman so that the subsequent election into the national executive of the AD, we would properly sort things out. It was that convention that brought about the emergence of Abdulkadir, who happened to be an agent of the PDP because that zoning arrangement specified the national chairmanship should come from the north. Abdulkadir was able to get all the leadership of AD from the north. When we then asked them to present their choice, the northern leaders of AD insisted that it must be Abdulkadir and because this was democracy, it was zoned to their region; we couldn’t do anything about it because they said he was the one they wanted. That was how that happened:  How PDP sponsored Abdulkadir to come and head the AD.

It is convenient to say what you have said now but there are those who would not agree with you 100%.  The AD governors met with Obasanjo and we were made to believe that a deal emanated from that meeting?

Obasanjo approached us.  He called us for a meeting. He wanted us to work together but we told him instantly that we could not give him any answer but that we had to go back and inform our fathers in Afenifere, under the leadership of Papa Abraham Adesanya and we went to our leaders and informed them. Papa said we should go back and meet with Obasanjo and discuss it, that is, the leadership of Afenifere and the state governors were to go back and have a meeting with Obasanjo.

But our leaders warned us and insisted that when we get there, no state governor should contribute to the discussions with Obasanjo; that we should just sit at the meeting and listen to the discussion but that we should not make any in put; that we would be allowed to sit in but we shouldn’t make any input.

I, Segun Osoba, Niyi Adebayo and Adebayo Adefarati were called to be on the team.

What of Bola Tinubu and Lam Adeshina?
They were not involved in that meeting. Then we had Papa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Cornelius Adebayo and Senator Femi Okurounmu., Ayo Adebanjo and Olanihun Ajayi.  We were warned that only Okurounmu should present the position of Afenifere and that, may be, if there was need for any back up, Cornelius Adebayo should back it up but that none of us the state governors should talk.

But why did they say the governors should not talk?  At least, it was the governors Obasanjo invited for talks first?
The reason was that we were being suspected. They thought that we, the state governors of the AD had had a deal with Obasanjo before coming to inform the Afenifere and that probably we could say things to guide the discussions or set the tone.  But we were there and we discussed.

So, how did the meeting go?
Obasanjo first tried to promote the ego of the Afenifere leaders. When he wanted to talk to us, he got up but as he was about addressing us we said he should sit down that he was the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian nation.

But do you know what Obasanjo did? Obasanjo refused to sit down.  He greased their ego.  Obasanjo said ‘I can not sit and talk to Papa Abraham Adesanya; I must stand up; I must respect him. That was how Obasanjo started playing up the ego of our leaders.

We demanded four things: National Conference; Proper handling of the Census; Restructuring of the country; and Electoral Reforms.

Obasanjo agreed in toto.  He started using Senator Femi Okurounmu as witness.  He said, ‘Oh! don’t you know I have been working on this? Don’t you know that that is also what I want for this country’?

He said all the things we were asking for were very simple things; he said those things were his own ideas, too; he said they were simple things to be done. But deep down in my mind, I knew Obasanjo was deceiving us.

He was deceiving you?  What did you do?
And as soon as I left the place, I just wanted to go to my house and pray to my God and beg him on how this deceit would not work on our leaders. But before we linked the Ogun Gateway Hotel in Otta, the convoy of cars was signaled to stop that we should all head for Gateway Hotel.

How did you know Obasanjo was deceiving the Afenifere elders?
I have been in politics longer than Obasanjo. I believe in developmental politics, Obasanjo does not.
I am more experienced in politics than Obasanjo.  When Obasanjo was still a soldier he didn’t play it clean;  he played it rough. The highest election I ever contested, was the governorship of Osun State and I never spent up to N50,000.00 of my money to contest that election.  But Obasanjo came with the syndrome of buying of power, paying money to buy position.  So we do not play the same type of politics. But as he was talking that day, I knew he was deceiving us because they said we should not talk I just sat there.

The meeting held in his Otta Farm?
Yes!  That was where the meeting held. So, when we were signaled by Adebanjo to stop and head for Gateway Hotel, I wondered whether there was going to be another meeting?  But because we did not want to deceive our leaders we obeyed them. Once we got inside Gateway Hotel, Adebanjo started rejoicing.  He started dancing, saying, ‘Obasanjo has become a born again man, he is going to be the saviour of the Yoruba race’.  But honestly, I did not like what was going on and I wasn’t happy. They wanted to feast us for lunch but I don’t eat lunch.  So I left them there. Before we knew what was happening, our leaders had reached an agreement with Obasanjo that we of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, should not go ahead and conduct the local government elections which were already scheduled for August 2002. Mind you, I had paid to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to buy the voters’ register, as some of my other colleagues had done.  I had bought ballot boxes, I had printed ballot papers, I was ready for the elections but our leaders in the parent body, Afenifere, said we should not go ahead and conduct the elections.

What was the reason they gave?
That was the only request Obasanjo put forward to them: that we should not conduct the local government elections in order for him to get delegates to conduct and win his primaries in the Peoples Democratic Party. In their constitution in PDP, local government chairmen were part of those to make the delegates’ list and that if we conducted the elections into local governments in the South West, there would be no delegates as local government chairmen to support him at the convention. That was why we were instructed not to go ahead. If I alone went ahead to conduct the elections, I would have been perceived as a bad Yoruba boy that I never listened to our leaders; and that could have led to the destabilization of the AD and I would have been blamed for it. Therefore, it is not true that the AD governors were the ones who sold out to Obasanjo; it is not true.

All that you have said appear a bit disturbing because the story out there and which many people have been made to believe is that the AD governors had a private and secret deal with Obasanjo and that the man simply outsmarted them?
It was the Afenifere leadership that destabilized the AD because they had a deal with Obasanjo and imposed that deal on us, the governors.

But if you had been allowed to talk, what would you have told Obasanjo at that meeting?
What I would have said, I did say it. ‘I said, Papa, Obasanjo has said it now, we should ask him what we should do and how we can work together to help him’. Obasanjo immediately cut in and said ‘yourself, Bisi, Cornelius Adebayo and myself and Segun Osoba can always meet, the modalities are not difficult to work out; leave all these elderly people out of it; we can just sit down, one or two days to work that out and discuss it and get it sorted out’.

The papas agreed to that. When he never allowed us to see him again, I went to Papa Abraham Adesanya and asked papa to get another appointment with Obasanjo.  We did have another meeting in the Presidential guest house in Abeokuta.  We met there.

We asked him about working out the modalities for the agreement but again, Obasanjo put an obstacle. He said he was on his way to Austria or somewhere like that.  He even asked one of his aides to remind him but he never allowed us to meet him any more.  He kept putting one road block or the other, one obstacle or the other. I still went back to Papa Adesanya and told him that ‘Papa, come and see:  this man has conned us.  Elections are around the corner and this man has abandoned us, we have left the local government elections undone, what do we do’?

So, that was how Obasanjo conned you people?
Wait, that was not all. We went to invite the Awujale of Ijebuland, we went to invite Bishop Gbonigi, we went to invite Bishop Ladigbolu and asked some of us who were leaders to meet with Obasanjo and we met with Obasanjo again. We met him in Otta but that time, Obasanjo who said he would not sit down to talk to Papa Abraham Adesanya was unfazed this time around.  He simply laid down there on his couch, sleeping, and he was no longer going to compromise.

How close to the elections was this?
This was just about three weeks to the 2003 general elections. So, all these our leaders knew.  Adesanya knew, Adebanjo knew, Ajayi knew what went down.  The Awujale is my witness, Bishop Ladigbolu was there, Gbonigi was there, and Obasanjo treated us in that manner and he knew that he was going to smash the AD and after smashing the AD, rather than call a meeting and review our loss, these leaders of Afenifere went on air to pronounce that the governors of AD had sold out in the elections. The moment I heard that ungodly statement, I never wanted to sit with them again and till today, I still do not want to sit with them; because they are very dishonest.

But you people can not be exonerated.  If you look back, most of the impunity which played out during the Obasanjo years started with that local government election that was not allowed to take place because the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria categorically states that there shall be democratically elected councils for local governments in Nigeria.  That was not allowed to happen and, instead, administrators were brought in?