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 Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), 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 one of our correspondents, 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.
This development, according to him, 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 religion issues in the country.
Prior to 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 regime of the then dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Meanwhile, speaking further, 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, especially 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 us felt danger was looming with the idea of Muslim-Muslim ticket. 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 to 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 excuse 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, especially 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 up and said in the northern part, there is 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 ever held 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 clearly enough through the darkness of their own hearts to recognise that our ticket was so much better than theirs.”