A former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, has revealed how former President Olusegun Obasanjo truncated the ambition of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to become the running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari, who was the APC presidential candidate in 2015.
Oyinlola explained that even though Obasanjo was the last person to throw his weight behind Buhari’s candidature, having opposed the re-election of the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, he was eventually prevailed upon to support the former military ruler.
In an interview with Punch, Oyinlola, who was once the military administrator of Lagos State, pointed out that there was already an agreement between Buhari and Tinubu before 2015 that they would be presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively, a deal he said was initially hidden from most party members.
According to him, this development led to some uneasiness in the party as they feared that a Muslim-Muslim ticket could cost the APC victory in the election, given the near-equal population of Christians and Muslims in the country and the sensitivity that surrounds religious issues in the country.
Before the 2015 elections, political parties always ensured their presidential candidates and their running mates emerged from the two dominant religions, with the only exception being the MKO Abiola/Babagana Kingibe candidacy on the platform of the Social Democratic Party in the June 12, 1993 election.
Even though Abiola and Kingibe, who were the presidential candidate and running mate respectively, eventually won the election, it is regarded as a one-off scenario. The election was later annulled by the dictator’s regime, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Oyinlola explained that if not for Obasanjo’s intervention, the APC would likely have gone ahead with the Muslim-Muslim ticket and the party could have found it difficult to displace the government in power, mostly when all reservations that surfaced over the proposed Muslim-Muslim ticket had been dismissed.
He added, “The agreement was concealed from a good number of the party leaders until it surfaced after Buhari had got the ticket. Then the rumour came out and some of us felt danger was looming with the Muslim-Muslim ticket idea. To further add to our fears, General Buhari on one occasion said there was nothing wrong in the Muslim-Muslim presidential arrangement, saying after all he governed with Tunde Idiagbon.
“That statement made us know it (the Muslim-Muslim idea) was a fact. On two occasions, Bola (Tinubu) mentioned it in my presence that they agreed. If you recall one trending video back then, where it was said that Buhari had jettisoned what they agreed on, that is the room he was sleeping when Buhari was looking for the post.
“We then told Baba (Obasanjo). We told him that taking power from an incumbent government was a tough task and we must not give room for excuses and miss the target. We told him they (Buhari and Tinubu) were thinking of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. That was when Baba (Obasanjo) said people should not take the sensibilities of Nigerians for granted.”
He said after Obasanjo’s intervention succeeded in changing the decision, some people started spreading the news that Obasanjo frustrated the plan to make Tinubu the vice-presidential candidate.
He added, “After that (Obasanjo’s intervention), they started saying it in my presence that Obasanjo frustrated the plan to get Tinubu on the ticket for 2015 but I always acted as if I didn’t hear them. We then had a stakeholders meeting where the issue of the running mate was discussed again.”
In addition to Obasanjo’s input, Oyinlola said a former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, also cautioned against the Muslim-Muslim ticket, mainly because the party needed all the votes it could get from different parts of the country.
He added: “At the meeting, ex-governor Goje, rose and said in the northern part, there is a negligible number of Christians. He said the APC would need every vote to upstage the incumbent, so nobody should toy with the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket and everybody concurred. I think it was even Bola (Tinubu) that suggested that the matter should be taken before some leaders to resolve. But we never saw anything like that again.”
Meanwhile, Tinubu had said at the 7th annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium at Eko Hotel in Lagos on March 25, 2015, two days before the election, that he pulled out of the contest.
He had said: “They attacked General Buhari, saying he would not subject himself to a primary. He did and won it as our party held the most open and transparently honest convention in Nigeria. They said I connived and conspired my way into the VP seat. They lied so easily that it was the price I extracted from General Buhari to support his bid. If not, I would destroy the party on the altar of my ambitions.
“They were wrong. I pulled myself out of contention. The very brilliant and capable Prof. Yemi Osinbajo became our VP candidate. A man of integrity and impeccable character. Alas, this sent Jonathan’s henchmen into disarray. In the quiet of their private closet, even they could see enough through the darkness of their hearts to recognise that our ticket was so much better than theirs.”
Oyinlola, who was once the National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, also pointed out that before the 2015 presidential election, Obasanjo was not disposed to supporting Buhari’s candidacy due to the issue of performance.
However, he revealed that it took a delegation of prominent chieftains of the APC to visit the former President in his Ota home in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to appeal to him to support Buhari.
He identified the chieftains to include himself, former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; a former Governor of Lagos State, BolaTinubu and a former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who is a known ally of Buhari.
Oyinlola explained that even though Obasanjo was open to supporting anyone but Jonathan, having written him a letter to express his disappointment in his administration, he wasn’t convinced Buhari would deliver, which influenced his reluctance.
Oyinlola said: “The last person to accept Buhari’s candidature was Obasanjo and I say that one with every emphasis because I was involved. Yes, Baba (Obasanjo) had fallen out with Jonathan. His projection then was ‘any option but Jonathan’. That was his stand.
“Taking a look at those candidates from other parties, there was no other person we felt could handle the delicate governance of Nigeria better than Buhari among the contenders that time. That was why the choice of Buhari became the order.
“That, coupled with the fact that he had been at the helm of affairs in the country before under the military, so he has that edge over all others. But Baba (Obasanjo) was the last to subscribe to the idea. I can tell you that it took a team of Saraki, Amosun, Bola Tinubu, Kashim, Imam and myself, that went and bombarded Baba (Obasanjo) at Ota around 7am before he succumbed to our pressure.
“That day, he said Buhari that he knew would try in the area of military matters, but outside that, Buhari knows next to nothing; not economy, not foreign affairs and he has been proven right.”
Buhari had on January 13, during the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, led over 30 chieftains of the APC to Obasanjo’s Abeokuta home.
Some of the chieftains who accompanied Buhari include Amosun, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (now Vice-President), Tinubu, the then APC chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Senator Bukola Saraki and the pioneer interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande.
Others are Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora (now Minister of State for Health), Otunba Niyi Adebayo (now Minister of Trade and Investment) and Sharon Ikeazor (now Minister of State for Environment).
Buhari who spoke at the meeting described Obasanjo as a true leader who understood Nigeria’s problems. He also thanked the former President for appointing him as Minister of Petroleum which was his best appointment ever (as of then). He even begged Obasanjo to endorse him.