In withdrawing himself from consideration on the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu described it as a patriotic duty and personal contribution towards rescuing Nigeria from the clutches of poverty which he said the ruling administration had plunged the country
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
HIs statement of withdrawal termed “I serve the nation,” followed the dithering procrastination of General Muhammadu Buhari in announcing his running mate. Ahead of yesterday’s formal proclamation of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as the running mate, the political landscape had been enraptured by the keen interests by the nation’s geopolitical interest groups in positioning themselves for the vice-presidential position.
The interest followed the bounce received by Buhari after last Thursday’s convention of the APC when the opposition party for the first time became the first political party to be seen as really threatening the hold of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on the presidency.
It was no surprise that presidential aides including Dr. Doyin Okupe and officials of the ruling party went on the offensive after the APC came out united behind Buhari after the convention. Buhari is bringing to the fray a near universal reputation for personal integrity and a reputation of having reclaimed the country’s integrity from bandits – two issues that are presently dogging the PDP controlled Federal Government.
So, following his emergence, the matter of balancing the ticket became an issue of great consideration. It was especially so given the impression created by his political rivals in the past of Buhari as an Islamic extremist even if no one had faulted him beyond his normal obligation to his Islamic faith.
Following his victory and as acknowledged by Tinubu yesterday, Buhari gave the APC national leader, the right to bring a running mate. It was a tempting offer, Tinubu said.
“There came a time during the course of the events when our Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari offered the Vice Presidential slot to me. Being a normal human being, I was deeply moved and honored that he would consider me for the position. Being a patriot, I had to weigh my potential candidacy in all of its dimensions,” Tinubu said yesterday.
Associates of the APC leader disclosed that Tinubu was really tempted and sought to bring himself forward for consideration despite his Islamic faith, but many of the associates it was learnt dissuaded him. Even outside his inner political circle, there were many others who also stoutly resisted the suggestion of a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
It was such an offering many feared would be interpreted as the real Islamic agenda of the APC and capable of deflating the global agenda of defeating the PDP. A number of serving governors involved in the Buhari project were said to have confronted the idea headlong and thereby incurring the wrath of the political leader.
But Tinubu had his limitations on names to project from the Southwest. Those who otherwise who could have fit into the religious permutation were whispered as political associates who could not be trusted once in power. Prof. Yemi Osibanjo who was third in the names proposed by the political leader was, however, said to have been initially dismissed by Buhari as not weighty enough to attract political sympathy.
However, that consideration was clearly ignorant of the importance of structure and the power of the influential flock of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCH where Osibanjo is a senior pastor.
Tinubu was, however, able to press that Osibanjo with the backing of the Tinubu machinery could turn into an asset. Besides with tens of millions of congregants looking up to their senior pastor on the ballot, Buhari was undoubtedly able to look beyond the electoral weight to the religious weight.
But putting the country’s political options on the balance of religion is one idea that Tinubu ruffled at in his withdrawal statement yesterday.
“I ask you to remember that too many Christians and Muslims are poor. Most of all, I ask you to remember that the true religion of the PDP is poverty, APC come to bring prosperity to the people. Please vote for that.”
Some critics of the APC leader were quick to allege that the choice of Osibanjo was proposed to weaken Buhari and allow the PDP to return to power. But such insinuations were bereft of rational reasoning and did not consider the words of Tinubu in his withdrawal statement.
Pledging his determination to ensure the success of the Buhari – Osibanjo ticket, Tinubu said: “This is a time for cohesion and an overriding sense of mission.
We must defeat the foe before us and resist all temptations intended to entice us to fight among ourselves.
“I sincerely commit myself to the rescue agenda of General Buhari and Professor Osinbajo.”
“I declare to you, I will work and dedicate myself so that our ticket succeeds and wins the 2015 election — not for his good, not for my good, not even for the party’s good but for the good of the nation we inhabit.”
Tinubu has since his secret political alliance with Buhari delivered almost faithfully. He has so far shown no reason to be doubted.