Apparently anxious to divert attention from the many internal crises ripping the party apart and daily rendering it more and more vulnerable in the forthcoming 2015 elections, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has launched a mischievous and utterly misleading attack on the National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The PDP has seized on the recent fence-mending mission of the party leadership to Ekiti state to describe Tinubu as a despot bent on imposing a choice on the people of Ekiti.
Of course, there is neither rhyme nor logic to this baseless accusation. In the first place, what moral right has the PDP to accuse anybody of despotic tendencies? This is a party that wanted to impose a Chairman on the Nigerian Governors Forum in the person of Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State and when this failed, it suspended the winner of the NGF election, Governor Rotimi Amaechi from the party for enjoying the support of majority of his colleagues!
A party that ordered a sitting Governor not to seek re-election of a voluntary association like the NGF is now preaching the tenets of democracy to others. How ridiculous! This is a party that has made it so obvious that it is bent on harassing, intimidating and preventing anybody from challenging President Goodluck Jonathan for the PDP presidential ticket in 2015.Towards this end, members of its National Executive Committee (NEC) are removed and replaced at will. Its National Chairman, Alhaji BamangaTukur, remains in office against the will of majority of its NEC members all because of his willingness to manipulate intra-party processes in favour of Jonathan towards 2015.
All National Chairmen of the party since inception have all been imposed and removed at will by the presidency- Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbe, Vincent Ogbulafor and now Bamanga Tukur. The so-called National Conventions that produced President Umaru Yar’Adua and later Goodluck Jonathan were clearly manipulated to arrive at pre-determined outcomes despite the deceptive charade on national television. We can all recall how former Governor Timpre Sylva of Bayelsa state was brazenly prevented from asserting his right to seek re-election as the party’s governorship candidate while the favoured candidate of the presidency, Seriake Dickson, was foisted on the party and is today the Governor of the state. In Kogi state, aggrieved PDP candidates who were manipulated out of contrived governorship primaries are still in court seeking justice. We can go on and on citing instances why the PDP has no moral right to preach intra-party democracy to anybody.
But then, let us come to the substance of the PDP’s baseless allegation. How true is the claim that Asiwaju Tinubu is despotic and disdainful of democracy? In the first place, AsiwajuTinubu was not in Ekiti state in his personal capacity. He was on a delegation of the national leadership of the ACN, which included the National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, the leader of the party in Ekiti State, Chief Niyi Adebayo and a prominent member of the party from Ekiti, Mr Dele Alake among others.
The position forcefully articulated by Asiwaju Tinubu at the Ekiti parley was, therefore, that of the party. Again, the fact that the party leadership expended time, energy and resources to go to Ekiti to settle internal disputes and put its house in order towards next year’s election is indicative of a party that respects the electorate and refuses to take them for granted.
It shows that the party, despite Governor Kayode Fayemi’s outstanding performance in office, is approaching the next elections with all seriousness. And the logic of the ACN leadership is impeccable. Why do parties exist and why do candidates seek office? In a healthy democracy, the purpose is to fulfil the party’s manifesto and pursue the greatest welfare of the greatest number of the people. Now, if an incumbent is widely acknowledged as delivering on this mandate, why should a party dissipate energy on intra-party contests? Shouldn’t such energy be better saved to confront the opposition in the general election especially given the desperation of the PDP to regain a foothold in the South West? Is there no virtue in continuity when a government is delivering democracy dividends to the people the way Fayemi is doing in Ekiti?
The people of Ekiti are known to be fearless, independent minded and knowledgable. Nobody can push them around. Asiwaju Tinubu and the ACN national leadership spoke to the entire gamut of the state leadership of the party including members of the executive council, national and state legislators as well as local government councils and wards. Yet, there was not a single dissenting voice to the position of the national leadership from the large gathering of party members. Of course, we can understand the antics of the PDP.
The party wants the ACN to hold contentious primaries and go into the general elections as a divided entity. It will not realize this dream. The ACN is the party to beat across the South West and many aspirants will naturally seek to fly its flag for any elective office. Furthermore, the outstanding performance of ACN governments has further endeared the party to the electorate thus making its platform for electoral purposes even more valuable. The party leadership thus has a responsibility to carefully manage internal party nomination processes so that its tremendous success does not become a liability. This was evidently the reason for the party leadership’s mission to Ekiti.
Asiwaju Tinubu spoke for close to one and a half hours at the event but the media reported only a minute fraction of what he said and mostly out of context. The ACN national leader’s concern and passion for the cohesion and success of the party in the entire South West is understandable. It must not be forgotten that in 2003, Asiwaju Tinubu remained the only governor standing in the South West following the electoral blitzkrieg of the PDP. He could easily have chickened out, abandoned the progressive platform and succumbed to the ruling PDP.
The Jagaban did not take that easy and tempting option. He not only held on tenaciously to Lagos State but played a pivotal role in the current resurgence of the progressives across the South West. He can thus lay claim to a greater stake in the survival and strengthening of the party in the region than any other person. In any case, the people have greater trust in the judgement of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu than that of the thoroughly inept PDP leadership. When he was to vacate office in 2007, Tinubu expressed his preference for his Chief of Staff, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) to succeed him. The PDP then accused him of imposition and dictatorship. Lagosians, however, trusted his judgment and today Fashola is rated as easily the best Governor in the country. What happened at the federal level? Obansajo handed over to an intelligent but physically incapacitated successor who has been succeeded by a glaringly incompetent President Goodluck Jonathan. The difference is clear.
The PDP cannot pretend to love Honourable OpeyemiBamidele more than Tinubu or other ACN leaders. It is unfortunate that Tinubu’s reference to Bamidele’s ambition was completely reported out of context, perhaps not deliberately but because the media could not reproduce his extensive remarks in full. Asiwaju Tinubu had discovered OpeyemiBamidele’s potentials and had drawn him close ever since the latter was a student union leader. When Tinubu was elected to the Senate in the aborted Third Republic, he engaged Bamidele as one of his legislative aides on legal matters. Both Tinubu and Bamidele were in exile during the pro-democracy struggle against military dictatorship.
When he was elected Governor of Lagos State in 1999, Tinubu engaged Bamidele first as a Special Adviser in the office of the Deputy Governor and later Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development. He played a role in the appointment of Bamidele as Commissioner for Information and Strategy by Governor Fashola in 2007. At every point in time, Tinubu has played a positive role in the evolving political career of Opeyemi Bamidele.
If the Jagaban had not recognised Bamidele’s intelligence and competence, he would not have given him those responsibilities over the years.AsiwajuTinubu has never said that OpeyemiBamidele is not eminently qualified to be Governor. But there are scores of eminently candidates in the party equally qualified to govern Ekiti effectively and there can only be one governor at a time. If, therefore, Asiwaju this time around asks Bamidele to voluntarily shelve his ambition for now in the interest of the party, he is eminently qualified to do so and no one can accuse him of bad faith.
Indeed, Tinubu told the gathering in Ekiti that Opeyemi Bamidele was one of those who brought Dr.KayodeFayemi to the party leadership and strongly canvassed for his candidacy in 2007. He urged the Governor to draw Bamidele close and cautioned some of those close to Governor Fayemi to desist from creating any bad blood between the two men. The PDP should, therefore, concentrate on resolving its internal contradictions and stop meddling in matters that do not concern it.