In its lead story of Wednesday, December 13, the Daily Sun newspaper reported that President Muhammadu Buhari may have decided to pick a top leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as his running mate if he decides to contest the 2019 presidential elections. Citing unnamed ‘competent sources’ within the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), the report claimed that the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has indicated his desire to retire to full time ministry at the church where he has been a pastor for several years. Consequently, according to the newspaper, Buhari plans to pick Tinubu as his running mate in 2019 as the latter is perceived as the only one capable of mobilizing the South West behind the President, which is very crucial in a situation where the South- South and South-East may most likely vote solidly for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For this kind of very sensitive story to be credible, it ought certainly to have been corroborated by reliable sources within the APC, the camp of Asiwaju Tinubu as well as the offices of President Buhari and Professor Osinbajo. It was not. This column has no business speculating about the motives for the story. Such an enterprise is immaterial and unproductive. But the implications of the report are obvious. It is capable of poisoning relationships within the APC, setting contending tendencies within the party against each other and driving them further apart while making it more difficult for the party to evolve from the 2015 election-winning coalition it was conceived and actualized as into an organizationally cohesive and ideologically coherent political entity.
Ordinarily, it should be the internal business of party members whether they are able to achieve intra-party harmony or not. But the institutionalization of a stable, viable and resilient party system is a necessary condition for the strengthening and consolidation of the country’s evolving democracy. Political parties are too central and critical to our political process for their affairs to be considered the internal business of party members alone. This is why both the APC and PDP, their current shortcomings notwithstanding, must be assisted to overcome their weaknesses, strengthen their internal structures and processes, overhaul and sanitize their organizational values as well as continuously define and refine their ideological orientation. The effort, energy and resources that went into their formation as potentially viable and durable political structures must not be allowed to go to waste. Yes, several parties will continue to legitimately exist in our multi-party system. But we cannot be eternally creating new party coalitions and alliances if democracy is to be strengthened and stabilized in Nigeria.
It is a good thing that the Asiwaju Tinubu media office has vigorously and pungently denied the Daily Sun report. The statement issued by the office in response to the report makes it crystal clear that having endorsed and supported Professor Osinbajo’s nomination as Vice-Presidential candidate to Buhari for the 2015 election, there is no looking back for Asiwaju. It is a matter of honour, decency, credibility and integrity. Demonstrating that Tinubu’s backing for Osinbajo stands resolute and constant, his media office succinctly asserted that “Asiwaju Tinubu and the people of the Southwest have absolute confidence and are exceedingly proud of the excellent job Prof. Osinbajo is doing as Vice President of Nigeria”. On what basis, therefore, this implies can anyone logically, morally and justly deny Osinbajo the right to continue in his present role if Buhari is the APC’s choice to fly its flag in 2019?
Even then, the Daily Sun story raises some pertinent issues, which deserve to be examined. First, it reflects the perception of a so-called frosty relationship between Buhari and Tinubu, which is just thawing. Is there any basis for this? Does Tinubu have cause to entertain any grouse against Buhari as insinuated in some quarters? I don’t think so. Tinubu’s pivotal role both in the formation of the APC and the electoral triumph of the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket is universally acknowledged. This is a historic feat. For one, it has brought the progressives of the South-West to the mainstream of Nigerian politics at the centre for the first time in the country’s history. Even though the process may be slow and protracted, it places the region at a vantage position to exert pressure for its long desired deepening of federalism in Nigeria.
Again, apart from the Vice presidency, in the APC administration citizens of Yoruba extraction head key Ministries of the federal government including Finance; Works, Power and Housing; Solid Minerals; Information and Culture; Telecommunications and Health. This is in addition to no less than two dozen other persons, Yoruba and non-Yoruba, today playing prominent roles at various levels in various critical agencies and offices in the Buhari administration who were talents spotted by Tinubu as governor of Lagos State, encouraged to go into politics or appointed into public office on merit. This should certainly give Tinubu a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment as it confirms his genius as a talent hunter and inspirational leader capable of discovering and nurturing leadership potentials.
Furthermore, the Daily SUN story raises the recurrent specter of the role of religion in the country’s public life. For, it insinuated that the fictional 2019 Buhari/Tinubu ticket was in pursuit of the agenda of foisting a Muslim-Muslim ticket on the country. All too often, opportunistic politicians and other individuals and groups stoke religious fears, suspicions and acrimonies in pursuit of their selfish partisan and pecuniary interests. For instance, the federal government’s recent obtaining of Sukuk bonds worth N100 billion for developmental purposes was ridiculously condemned by some religious groups as an attempt to Islamize Nigeria! We must work assiduously towards transcending this unsavoury situation whereby unscrupulous elements exploit base religious sentiments to divide Nigerians and set them against each other.
It is instructive that President Buhari, an ascetic and fervent Muslim and Vice President Osinbajo, an ardent Christian and pastor are working so closely and effectively together to lift Nigeria to higher socio-economic, political and moral pedestals. Both men are icons of ethical integrity, which demonstrates that elevated virtues are not the monopoly of any religion. Professor Osinbajo, a Christian, was appointed by Tinubu, a Muslim, as Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice of Lagos State in 1999. For eight years he served as the Chief Law officer of Lagos State and one of the most trusted, respected and influential members of the Tinubu administration. These kinds of example offer hope that religious prejudice, extremism and bigotry can ultimately not triumph in Nigeria. And as for the speculation that Professor Osinbajo plans to go into full time pastoral office rather than continue to offer public service, there can be nothing more nonsensical in my view. He is making much more impact on millions today by being a practical model and example of integrity in leadership.
Ambode transforms Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre
Yours truly could not believe his eyes when yesterday, at the Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, he beheld the brand new, radically modernized and totally transformed Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre from where the press corps that covers activities of the Lagos State government operate. Before the construction of the press centre by the military administration of General Mohammed Buba Marwa, journalists on the Lagos State government had to make use of a small, stuffy room in a block in one of the ministries. When he assumed office in 1999, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu named the edifice the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in honour of The News magazine’s journalist who was murdered by the security goons of the vicious Sani Abacha dictatorship. The structure was upgraded, rehabilitated and given a face lift at various times under the administrations of Asiwaju Tinubu and Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN).
What Governor Ambode has turned the edifice into is, however, something else completely. The conference room is equipped with the latest state of the art furniture, digital communication equipment and other facilities that provide an ideal and dignified environment for journalists to do their work. There is now a full scale, high tech, modern editing suite in the building to replace the one inherited by the administration. And the office of the Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Habib Haruna, would compete favourably with that of the CEO of a private sector multinational! This edifice once again demonstrates the governor, Mr Akinunmi Ambode’s commitment to the highest standards in the ongoing infrastructure revolution in the state of excellence. It also a reflection of the dynamism and efficiency of the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde and the Chief Press Secretary with the astute administrative back up of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Mrs. Kofoworola Awobamise.
On hand to witness the commissioning of the born again Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre by the representative of the governor, Prince. Rotimi Ogunleye, Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, were former Chief Press Secretaries, senior media executives and editors as well as representatives of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, Nigeria Union of Journalists and the International Press Centre. Once again, Lagos has shown the light for others to find the way. This is another feather to governor Ambode’s cap.
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