A presidential aspirant and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Thursday, opened up on his role in the emergence of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) as the President in 2015.
The former Lagos State governor, while addressing the Ogun State APC delegates at the Presidential Lodge, Abeokuta, said Buhari, after losing 2003, 2007 and 2011 presidential elections, vowed not to contest again.
Tinubu, however said he went to Katsina to persuade Buhari to contest and subsequently supported him to win in 2015.
Tinubu also took a swipe at one of his fellow presidential aspirants in the APC, the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, saying he nominated him as Buhari’s running mate.
Tinubu said without him, Dapo Abiodun would not have been elected governor of Ogun State in 2019.
The national leader was accompanied by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo – Olu; his Kano counterpart, Umar Ganduje and former Borno State Governor, Kasim Shettima.
Buhari, who was Nigeria’s military Head of State between 1983 and 1984, first contested the Presidency on the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party in 2003 and lost to the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
In 2007, he lost to another PDP candidate, the late Umaru Yar’Adua. In 2011, he formed a new party, the Congress for Progressives Change, contested on its platform but lost to Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP.
In 2014, four political parties, the CPC, the Action Congress of Nigeria, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, merged to form the APC on whose platform Buhari contested and finally won 2015 the presidential election.However, there has been tension in the APC since Tuesday when the Buhari said he would pick his successor.
Also, there are indications that the party may settle for an aspirant picked by Buhari and may not go for an indirect primary at its convention starting on Monday.
One of Tinubu’s associates, James Falake, had in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday warned the party against adopting a consensus candidate, adding that aspirants should be allowed to test their strength through an indirect primary.
On Thursday, Tinubu, for the first time revealed how he assisted Buhari, Osinbajo and Abiodun to get their present posts.
Narrating the events that led to the choice of Osinbajo, Tinubu said Buhari wanted him to be his running mate, but a group in the party led by a former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, rose against him.
The former Lagos State governor stated after three defeats, the ex-head of state vowed not to contest the presidency again.
He said, “If not me that led the war front, Buhari would not have emerged. He contested first, second and third times, but lost. He even said on television that he would not contest again.
“But I went to his home in Katsina, I told him you would contest and win, but ‘you would not joke with Yoruba matters.
“Since he has emerged, I have not been appointed minister. I didn’t get a contract.
“This time, it’s the Yoruba’s turn and in Yorubaland, it’s my tenure.”
Referring to Abiodun in his remarks, Tinubu said, “This one sitting behind me here, could not have become governor without me? We were at the stadium, they tore all his posters. Even the party flag, they didn’t want to hand over it to him, I was the one who brought it.
“If he wants to meet God at the right place, he must know that he would not have become governor without God and me.”
Tinubu said when the APC was formed he wanted to contest the presidency.
He added, “Buhari wanted me to be his Vice President. He said because the first time he contested, he picked (Chuba) Okadigbo; flamboyant, catholic, but Nigerians didn’t vote for him (Buhari). The second time, he picked another Igbo, Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, Nigerians didn’t vote for him, that if he brought the Pope to run as his deputy, Nigerians would not vote for him, that ‘you, Bola Tinubu, you have six governors, you have never lost an election before, come and be my running mate.
“He knew all the calculations then favoured us. That was why he wanted me as his running mate, but I told him to let us build the party first. And when we finished building the party, we brought in people from the PDP. Saraki saw that those from the PDP would not get anything if Buhari, a Muslim becomes the President and me, also a Muslim becomes his deputy. He won’t become the Senate President and the Senate President could not also be a Muslim. That was how they started the campaign of calumny against me.
“And I told them that I had a candidate that is a Christan that I could nominate so that the party would not break. That was how I nominated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. I surrendered my right to him (Osinbajo).
“I was asked to submit three names, Yemi Cardozo, Wale Edun and Yemi Osinbajo, but I told them if I submitted three names, they would play a game. They may make it four and pick the fourth one. I gave them one name and that was Osinbajo.”
Speaking on why he is the best choice among other aspirants in the South-West, he said, “It is my time, I’m educated, I’m experienced. I have been serving you people for a long time,
bring me the presidency, it is my turn.
“When Atiku was being flogged out of the PDP by Obasanjo, he ran to me for help. I let him have the ticket. Nuhu Ribadu came to me and I backed him.
“If not for me that stood behind Buhari, he wouldn’t have become the president. He tried the first time, he failed, the second time, he failed, the third, he failed. He even wept on national television and vowed never to contest again but I went to meet him in Kaduna and told him he would run again and I will stand by him and he will win, but he must not joke with the Yoruba and he agreed.
“Since he became the President, I have never got ministerial slots; I didn’t collect any contract, I have never begged for anything from him, it is the turn of Yoruba, it is my turn.”
In his remarks, Abiodun who had earlier declared his support for Osinbajo’s candidature refused to endorse Tinubu.
He told Tinubu that delegates from the state would do “the right thing” at the convention.
Abiodun described Tinubu as a political warrior, serial winner and strategist.
When contacted on the telephone, Saraki’s Media Adviser, Yusuph Olaniyonu, stated, “We are not making any comment.”
Also attempts to speak with a Spokesman of the President, Garba Shehu, proved abortive as he neither responded to repeated calls nor a text message on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, five governors of the APC on Thursday met Vice-President Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa.
Although the details of the meeting were not known, the five governors were identified as Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa) and Abiodun (Ogun).
“The meeting was part of consultations ahead of the primary. We were trying to see those who would step down. Chances look bright for the VP,” the Presidency official said.
The northern governors in the APC are set to hold a meeting to pick a consensus candidate which may be from the North, The PUNCH has learnt.
This is just as Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is also the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum on Thursday, insisted that the APC must pick its presidential candidate from the South.
“The APC must work to retain power. We must rotate power to retain power!!! Rotate to the South. Shikena,” he declared
The PUNCH learnt that there were moves by some of the governors to settle for Senate President Ahmad Lawan or Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, who both come from the North-East and the North-Central respectively. These two regions have also not produced a democratically elected President before.
An aide to one of the northern governors said the emergence of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the Presidential candidate of the PDP had given impetus to the demand for the APC to also pick its candidate from the North.
He said, “The argument is that the North has the numbers. With Atiku also running, some of the governors believe only a northern candidate can win the ticket for the APC. The northern governors are expected to meet anytime from now to pick a consensus candidate. Many of them actually feel that in the spirit of fairness, the ticket should go to the South.
“However, some of them think otherwise. The refusal of the party to zone its presidential ticket has also left room for this scheming.”
On plans to re-open the sale of forms, the aide said, “It is just four days to the convention. I don’t see how they will re-open sale of forms, get 350 signatures and submit and be screened within such a short time.”
However, a Presidency official who wished to remain anonymous, said Buhari would not automatically accept candidates presented by the governors.
“The President has asked them to go and deliberate among themselves. By him doing this, it means he is not a dictatorial President. He will speak with different stakeholders including some of the brightest minds across the country that he can consult,” he said.
In a related development, supporters of Lawan led by the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu, urged Buhari to choose Lawan as the consensus presidential candidate of the APC.
Kalu, in a statement on Thursday insisted it is only cohesion and consensus among the regions that can produce a president for Nigeria.
He pointed out that the earlier Nigerians and presidential aspirants understand that no amount of money can buy the office of the president of Nigeria the better for everyone.
Kalu, who is representing the Abia North senatorial district in the red chambers stated that If presidential aspirants continue to throw in money, the majority of the delegates will collect the money but still vote according to their conscience.
He said, “If money can buy the office of the president of Nigeria, Late MKO Abiola could have bought it with extra change. If money can buy the presidency, former President Goodluck Jonathan could have bought the presidential seat in 2015.
“I urge President Muhammadu Buhari to consider giving Nigeria a man who can give the entire country a sense of belonging, fix our economy, secure all parts of the country, take education very seriously and protect his legacy.”