*·Narrates how Bakare, Akeredolu’s names were pushed as possible VP contenders*
A National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of the principal actors that led the campaign to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 elections, Chief Bola Tinubu, has revealed that when he called Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to inform him that he had been chosen to be President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate to contest the 2015 presidential election, he (Osinbajo) was a bit hesitant.
Tinubu, who made the disclosure in the book, ‘Against the Run of Play – How an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria,’ written by the Chairman of the THISDAY Editorial Board, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, said Osinbajo was hesitant and asked him (Tinubu) to go and intimate the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
“He was a bit hesitant as he asked me to go and tell Pastor Adeboye. I replied by telling him that he needed to inform Pastor Adeboye himself, after all, there had been times when if we needed to see Pastor Adeboye, he was the one who facilitated it.
“I reminded him that since the final choice was not for me to make, I should not go to Pastor Adeboye until after the announcement of his name.
“So, Osinbajo went to meet Pastor Adeboye who reportedly told him, ‘if they offer you, take it’,” Tinubu said in the book which will be launched in Lagos tomorrow.
The book, which also delved into the circumstances that led to Tinubu being sidelined as Buhari’s running mate in the election, despite the prior agreement both men had reached when the APC was being formed that they would contest on a joint ticket, revealed that Senate President Bukola Saraki, other APC governors and senators led the charge to stop the pairing before the party’s presidential primary in Lagos.
“With the former Kwara State governor, Senator Bukola Saraki leading the charge, APC governors and senators agreed to meet with Tinubu to convince him that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would not work.
“At the meeting, Tinubu was non-committal, insisting that the issue of running mate should be discussed only after the primary.
To him (Tinubu), it was more important that the governors worked to ensure the emergence of Buhari rather than dissipate energy on who would become the running mate.
“Apparently unsatisfied, Senator Saraki as well as Governors Wamakko of Sokoto and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara decided to meet Buhari especially when they had feelers that he could announce Tinubu’s name as running mate the moment he was declared the winner of the primary, thus bringing about another fait accompli.
“The governors did a concise analysis of the situation for Buhari at the meeting. Each one told him about the Christian population in their states and how a Muslim-Muslim ticket would be perceived.
“They added that with such a ticket, it would be difficult to sell Buhari to get many votes from the North-central, a geopolitical zone that was then at play.
“The governors also stated that for the party to win, the running mate had to come from the South-west.
“Similar to Tinubu, Buhari made no commitment to them, but the governors were confident that they had driven the message home.
“But the former military head of state had come a long way and he was not prepared to gamble away what appeared to be his best shot at the presidency after his previous disappointments,” the book revealed.
It went on to narrate that the jostling for the post of running mate moved to Abuja once the primary was concluded, adding that while the names of Governors Rotimi Amaechi and Adams Oshiomhole were also being touted, many within the party hierarchy had decided that the position should go to the South-west.
The book added that in consulting on the issue, Buhari had visited former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar at his Abuja home on Sunday December 14, 2014.
“The former number two man pledged his support to Buhari but warned against picking a Muslim running mate, as that could jeopardise the aspiration of the party.
“On Monday 15th December 2014, Buhari called on Tinubu at his Asokoro residence in Abuja. It was not a pleasant meeting, according to those present.
“The APC presidential candidate explained why he could not go with a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
But Tinubu countered that the position was forced on Buhari by his (Tinubu’s) opponents within the coalition who were using religion as an excuse to edge him out.
“Buhari persisted and asked Tinubu to nominate three persons.
The South-west leader sent only one name: that of his former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo,” Adeniyi wrote in his book.
Reflecting on that episode, Tinubu in the book insisted that the campaign against him was orchestrated from both within and outside his party, though what hurt him the most was from within.
“What they (Saraki and others from PDP) did behind my back was wrong. We always do things as a group. By the time they joined, we were already too far ahead in our processes but we accommodated them.
“We agreed to take their state structures and subsume them into the party and they all had the opportunity to nominate the candidates of their choice for different political offices.
“But they went behind to instigate Buhari and some other people in the party against me on the pretext of religion.
That was not right. They were canvassing arguments that the Christians in the North would not vote for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“Nasir el-Rufai was also selling the same argument within the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) because at that point, he still wanted to have Pastor (Tunde) Bakare brought in as Buhari’s running mate,” Tinubu said.
Tinubu confirmed to the author that some PDP decampee governors and senators came to him on the eve of the primary to ask whether it was true that he had a deal with Buhari to run together, but he felt the timing and their motive were wrong.
“I told them that it was better to resolve such issues after the primary but they wanted to make it a condition for supporting Buhari which for me was very wrong.
“I told them I could not insist on this as a condition for my support for Buhari.
I felt that it was not right to hold Buhari hostage in this manner.
We thus canvassed hard for Buhari and threw our support behind him for the primary.
“I believe the support that we gave was fundamental to Buhari clinching the party’s nomination. Without that support, a different outcome would have been most likely,” Tinubu recalled.
The former Lagos State governor, however, did not elaborate on the two other options that he said were also on the cards: (Rabiu) Kwankwaso (then governor of Kano State) and Atiku, in that order. There were those who felt that Kwankwaso, being younger, would make a better choice.
As for Atiku, even though he was perhaps the most prepared for the job, there were many within the party who were not so keen on him.
Tinubu offered more insight on this: “After the primary, there were series of meetings with leaders like Chief Harry Akande insisting that I should be the VP choice. Others, for their own personal reasons, were saying I should not be the person, claiming a Muslim-Muslim ticket would not be accepted at a certain point.”
When it became clear that the opposition to him as running mate was too strong, Tinubu ruled himself out by releasing a public statement; but when Buhari asked for three names, he insisted on submitting only one.
“I told him that I would give him only one name that would not be mine, although I personally believed a Muslim-Muslim ticket could ensure victory.
“I backed out because I did not want to be depicted as causing a problem. I did not want foes inside and outside the party to use my name as a reason to sow division.
“I backed away from the position in order to offer Buhari a name I once raised with him in 2011: that of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo,” the former Lagos governor emphasised.
Tinubu then went on to recall Osinbajo’s reaction when he called him to inform him that he (Tinubu) had given Buhari his name as his running mate.
However, that was just the beginning of the drama, the book continued, because there was no certainty about whether or not Buhari would make the choice.
“In fact, there were indications that others were trying to steer Buhari in another direction that would repeat what happened in 2011.
“Acting contrary to the spirit of a harmonious union, these people believed that we would have no choice but to accept whatever came since the parties had already merged,” he said.
Tinubu faulted hardliner members of the CPC who “seemed to be advancing the names of Pastor Bakare and Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu. Pastor Bakare I could understand but how Akeredolu became a nominee from their side was shocking to me.
“I was later to find out that his connection to certain CPC figures predated his overture to me to become the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) candidate in the Ondo State governorship election in 2012”.
Having resolved that he had to make his position very clear to the CPC leaders who were close enough to Buhari to deliver his message, Tinubu said in the book: “I let it be known to some of the CPC people, ‘This is not a closed deal. Anything can still go wrong, so please don’t assume that you can just pick anybody as presidential running mate and we will support the partnership.
No, if Osinbajo is substituted for someone else, all bets are off’. I made that very clear.”
The high-wire act also left Tinubu with no option than to be on his guard.
He said: “Once bitten, twice shy, they say.
That explains why I did not attend the press conference. I did not want to be taken by surprise a second time in case another name other than the one I submitted was announced.”
In the end, Osinbajo’s name was announced by Buhari as the presidential running mate.