•Dapo Abiodun,  Babachir Lawal, Saraki react

•I’m not surprised—Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere Leader

•I’ve deep respect for Buhari — Tinubu

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By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon & Ishola Balogun

YORUBA Elders, yesterday, defended Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu over comments that he deployed his political machinery to make General Muhammadu Buhari president of the country in 2015, saying the politician spoke out of anger.

General Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, Dr Olajide said: “He (Tinubu) expressed his opinion which he has a right to. But those of us outside their circle cannot know the veracity of his facts but I can imagine that he played a lot of role in ensuring that the present administration came to be. There is no doubt about that, he was influential in ensuring that we had what we have now. He played a lot of role and we should credit him with the roles he played. To me, it was not out of place but he did that a little bit out of provocation.”

Leader of the Pan-Yoruba Socio-Political Organization, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, said he was not surprised by Tinubu’s remarks.  “At this stage, I won’t react until after they have done their election. I won’t take part in the rigmarole between him and Buhari. I have warned him and Yemi (Osinbajo) to leave the APC. There is nothing that is happening that I am surprised about. If you will be honest, what is happening that I have not told you? When he came to me, I told him that Buhari was mocking and deceiving him and he is deceiving Buhari. There is nothing that is happening that surprises me, it is left for him to do the needful,” he said

However, former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki; and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, flayed Tinubu for the comment.

Asiwaju Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, and a front line presidential aspirant on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, reportedly said that he influenced Buhari’s emergence as president while addressing APC delegates in Ogun State, on Thursday. He also disclosed how he had to forgo the Vice Presidency for Professor Yemi Osinbajo to emerge.

I’m not an emperor — Abiodun

Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State also responded to the dressing-down by Tinubu that he would not have become governor of Ogun without Tinubu’s help.

Speaking at the meeting with delegates of the APC in Abeokuta on Thursday, Tinubu had said: ‘This one sitting at my back, Dapo, could he have become a governor if not for me? We were all in the stadium where they tore all the posters. Even the candidacy of the party, they didn’t want to give it to him.’

Responding to Tinubu on Friday, Abiodun said he was not an emperor and the position he holds is not a family inheritance. The governor said he would not abandon the promise he made to the people of the state, adding that he would continue to be fair and just in his dealings.

“I am not an emperor by any chance and this is not my family inheritance. I am holding this position in trust for all the people of this state and I have vowed to be fair, just and equitable and this is the solemn agreement I made between the Almighty God and myself.”

Vilifying North like this heightens our sense of insecurity, fear — Babachir Lawal 

Speaking on the issue, Babachir Lawal, who is supporting Tinubu’s presidential aspiration said: “Sometimes it is very difficult to support a Yoruba person in national politics if you are not one.  

They have a way of making you regret your support because they eventually make you seem like a traitor to your own people. Now all these comments about Bola’s Yoruba presidency and his support of Buhari without which Buhari would not have been president is bullshit.  

“He wasn’t the only one whose support made a difference. There were many others from all around the country and they are not bragging about it.  

“You may wish to know that all of us, Buhari supporters, are shocked and pissed off by Bola’s speech on this occasion. It is unlike him.  

“And this speech is massively trending in the North and being given a negative connotation as you can well imagine. I first read it this morning on an Adamawa group platform and the anger is palpable and all round.  

“Will Tinubu win Monday’s APC primaries without Northern support?  

“You would think Yoruba will resist the temptation of joining in the northerners-bashing game at this very critical time – the primary election is only three days away. It is unfortunate that Bola himself chose to join in this bashing game – choosing to speak in the Yoruba language and in Yoruba land  in a manner that seems to denigrate Buhari. I could vividly imagine the discomfort of all the northerners sitting beside him on that podium.  

“This appears to be the Abiola saga being replayed. Abiola won the election with majority of Northern votes but they took the brunt of the post-election protests that followed.

Just survey all the people that are doing more meaningful practical things to enthrone Bola as president and you will find that almost all are northerners while his kinsmen engage themselves in social media activism and Northern-bashing.  

“When Yoruba vilify the North like this, our sense of fear and insecurity under a Yoruba presidency gets heightened and in the end, pushes us to rethink our support for not only Bola but any Yoruba as president for that matter.

“Please, do not join our opponents to destroy our chances of clinching Monday’s primary elections.”

Nigeria bigger than Tinubu’s ambition, I acted in national interest — Saraki

On his part, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, in a statement by the Head of his Media Office, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, said when he opposed the plan to foist a Muslim-Muslim presidency on Nigeria in 2014 he acted in the national interest and believed Nigeria was bigger than anybody’s ambition, including that of Tinubu.

Saraki, who was responding to the speech by Tinubu in Abeokuta that Saraki and others opposed his desire to be running mate to President Buhari in the 2015 elections, noted that he will oppose any plan that causes a religious crisis in a multi-religious country like Nigeria.

His words: “When I and other leaders of the APC in 2014 stood against having a Muslim-Muslim ticket, it was not a decision targeted at any individual or group but one taken in the national interest. Asiwaju knows this and he is just being mischievous by presenting this decision as something aimed at stopping his ambition.

“Let me make it clear that the decision to oppose the plans by some people to make APC present a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015 was in the national interest and I will take the same stand today, tomorrow, and any other day. My stance is based on the fact that such a ticket is not good for the unity of the country and will further accentuate one of our fault lines.

“Even Asiwaju Tinubu knows that I am a man who does not shy away from standing for what is right. He knows that I don’t follow the crowd and I take a stand based on my conviction of what is good for the country and what is not good for her. It is also obvious that I have paid prices for this stand.

“The opposition to a Muslim- Muslim ticket was not targeted at Tinubu or any other person. It was a decision that even all party leaders know helped the victory of the party and also worked for the unity of the country. That decision is not about self but national and collective interests. It is a decision which served the purpose of the people of Nigeria and I have no regret supporting it.”

Saraki also stated that after he was elected Senate President, Tinubu maintained an adversarial position against the Eighth National Assembly, initiated covert and overt measures aimed at undermining the federal legislature, and set the executive against the legislature.

I’ve high regard, respect for Buhari – Tinubu

However, Tinubu said his statement was misrepresented, adding that he has high regard and respect for President Buhari.

In a statement he signed himself, Tinubu said: We have entered the meat of primary season. Sensationalism and wilful inaccuracy tend to push aside truth during such moments. I make this statement so that truth and accuracy may have a chance. It is important that people truly know what I said and where I stand. Whatever view you have of me is within your right to make. But let it be based on truth and not on falsehood or reckless exaggeration.  

“There have been  gross misinterpretations in some sections of  the media  regarding comments  I made  on Thursday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. To a degree,  the erroneous interpretations  may be somewhat innocent  given  that  I spoke in Yoruba.  Those who do not understand the  nuances  of this richly layered and subtly language may have inadvertently yet erroneously missed the true meaning of what I said while attempting to translate my statement. Instead of weighing what I said carefully, they translated so quickly and thus inaccurately in an attempt to meet media deadlines. Of course, there are also those who knew better but they conveyed these inaccuracies because the sensationalism suits their political purposes. 

“Again, such propaganda and misinformation becomes daily fare in the heat of the political season. Let’s just state what needs to be stated. My opponents want to present a narrative that I made comments disrespectful of President Buhari in hopes that such a narrative would convince President Buhari to oppose my aspirations regarding the approaching primary.  President Buhari is an experienced and accomplished leader. I do not believe he will be taken by the tricks of such people.

“Let me also erase any doubt. My  respect and regard for President Buhari  as Commander-in-Chief of this nation and as a person are high and unfailing. I  shall  never denigrate him. I  certainly did not do so in Abeokuta.  We have been political partners for a long time and I hope that partnership continues well into the future. I would do nothing to jeopardize it. I believe our party is the best hope for the nation to right itself. I believe I have a future role larger than the one I now have.   I also believe President Buhari has a continuing and  important role to play even after his tenure as president is over.

“Indeed, I consistently  supported  the president and his administration. Even when the administration has come under intense criticism,  my feet have always been planted solidly in  defence  of the president.  The president personally nominated me to coordinate his re-election campaign in 2019.  He did this not because I opposed him or because I was indifferent. He did so, because I was firmly with him in 2015 and has stood firmly beside him ever since.

“When I publicly announced my aspiration to  seek the party nomination for the upcoming  presidential election, I stressed that my  strategic objective  was to build on the  foundation laid by  the Buhari administration. In fact, I believe I was the first aspirant to inform President Buhari of his presidential intention. It was a sign of the respect I have for him and his office. It is unthinkable that I would  asperse the leader of the party  for which I hope to be the next flag bearer. It makes no sense at all to do such an indelicate, unseemly thing.  

“In Abeokuta, I  spoke to the  unwarranted attacks  against  my person  that have been part of the campaign of others. I also recounted the history of the party for those whose memories need repair. There are many who had no role in the birth of the APC and in its many victories. Now that the party has climbed the political summit, they want to claim credit for something they had no part in.

“However, this cannot be said of President Buhari. I am proud of my role in the advent of the APC and its electoral successes. But President Buhari, of course, stands as the main driver of this success. He was elected president twice. He has borne the weight of national governance for seven years. Nothing can rival that. I would not dare belittle what he has done and what he has meant to the party and nation.       

“While I want this office, there are certain things I will not do and certain lines I shall not cross. I shall never belittle myself by denigrating the president or his office. I dare not seek an office and disrespect it at the same time.

“My aspiration to be President of Nigeria is  based on my want to serve the nation and not that I feel some personal entitlement to high office. Governance of this nation is a sacred and solemn duty.  It is neither to be given as a favour to someone who is unqualified nor should people be motivated by personal reasons to prevent the most qualified person from attaining the office. The wellbeing of over 200 million souls is at stake.

“Let us all realise this and act accordingly,  I only desire a level-playing ground for all aspirants and an adherence to stipulated rules and due process. If in  the  fairness of such a  process, I do not emerge as the party’s candidate, I  shall have no complaints regarding an honest primary and will  accept the  fair  outcome as a true democrat.”

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