Ordinarily, Abimbola Adelakun is one of the engaging, perceptive and incisive columnists of The PUNCH newspaper. It would, however, appear that her awareness that she commands a not insubstantial readership sometimes goads her to tread in the realm of sheer recklessness, carelessness with facts, and embarrassing illogicality. This is certainly the case with her article of Thursday, February 22, 2018, titled, “Dear Senator Tinubu, Buhari has thrashed us all”. In the piece, Adelakun seeks to paint the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in the most uncomplimentary light, denigrate his personality and devalue his monumental contributions to Nigeria’s political development.
The columnist’s piece is pegged entirely on an alleged comment by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Asiwaju Tinubu’s wife, to the effect that she felt frustrated that her husband was “thrashed” by the Buhari administration that he had helped put in office. Nowhere does Adelakun demonstrate that Mrs Tinubu’s allegedly-expressed views represent the position of her husband. Or is this columnist who loves to pose as an advocate of women liberation insinuating that a woman cannot hold and express views autonomous of her husband? One would have thought that a more conscientious columnist with some degree of regard for her readers would have made the weighty statements she expressed on the basis of the various authoritative statements on the matter by Asiwaju Tinubu himself.
Adelakun states with magisterial ignorance that “Even a minimally-savvy observer of Nigerian politics would have figured that out that a palace coup has consumed the so-called Jagaban of the game.” By the way, Asiwaju’s Jagaban title is not so-called. It was legitimately conferred on him by the late Emir of Borgu. The columnist deludes herself into thinking that “Asiwaju Tinubu’s position in the All Progressives Congress is no longer what it used to be, and his profile as a master politician with a deft understanding of Nigeria’s political roulette tanked long ago”. Again, all we have here are mere assertions – absolutely no attempt to demonstrate them empirically or logically.
She writes that Asiwaju Tinubu has lost his relevance and clout in the APC and yet does not find her position ridiculous in the light of the fact that she admits that President Muhammadu Buhari chose the Jagaban as the best suited to bring about reconciliation and healing among aggrieved and mutually antagonistic individuals and groups within the party. Is that not a testimony to the fact that the man’s political sagacity, wide network and respect across different divides of the party are appreciated by the Presidency and the various individuals and groups within the party that have hailed President Buhari’s initiative in this regard? Almost every paragraph of the article drips with either outright falsehood or mischievous and misleading innuendo.
For instance, she claims that Tinubu was once “such a political force that could put his wife and children in offices without even a whimper from any of the voices that now complain about Buhari’s sin of nepotism…” This is fake news at its best. Senator Oluremi Tinubu contested to represent Lagos Central Senatorial District on her own merit; she was elected not just once but won a second term on the basis of her sterling performance in the upper legislative chamber. Again, is Adelakun suggesting that Senator Tinubu’s talents must be put in check and in chains simply because of her husband’s eminent attainments in politics? Is this “radical feminist” a closet feudalist after all? A great pity!
Nowhere does Adelakun expose her embarrassing ignorance of the dynamics of Nigerian politics than her puerile attempt to explicate the outcome of the 2011 presidential election particularly in the South-West. She verges dangerously on the fringes of libel when she insinuates that Tinubu was “bought off” by the Peoples Democratic Party to deliver his party, the former Action Congress of Nigeria, to former President Goodluck Jonathan at the expense of Buhari. Adelakun obviously realises this when she writes that “The account of Tinubu being “bought off” by Jonathan remained mostly speculative; just strands of historical possibilities reconstructed from both whispered rumours and the insight and clarity we sometimes achieve in the wake of events”. So, an eminent columnist of a highly respected newspaper predicates her supposedly authoritative postulations on “speculations” and “rumours”? This is a gross disservice to journalism.
The facts in the 2011 elections are not complicated for those whose minds have not been jaundiced by prejudice. Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change and the ACN had an informal agreement to work together with the former producing the presidential candidate and the latter the vice presidential candidate. While Buhari would most likely have been the presidential candidate of the alliance, no decision had been taken on who would be the running mate. Surprisingly, the CPC unilaterally picked the radical cleric, Dr. Tunde Bakare, as Buhari’s running mate without consultation with the ACN, which controlled five states to the CPC’s one. If the ACN had gone on to assist the CPC’s victory, despite the disdain with which it had been treated, would it not be committing political hara-kiri? The 2011 electoral debacle was, with the benefit of hindsight, a blessing in disguise. That was what led to the mutual respect and spirit of give and take responsible for the successful formation of the APC and the latter’s unprecedented victory in the 2015 elections. In any case, I challenge Adelakun on her honour to cite any authoritative source that can credibly claim that Tinubu was “bought off” to deliver the South-West to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in 2011.
Adelakun makes such ridiculous remarks as Buhari, after his election, “firing Tinubu as kingmaker and compensated him with the cynical task of reconciling the party”. This lady is so astonishingly ignorant of the way politics works. So, political office holders and seekers can fire and hire at will those with the political following to influence the outcome of elections? It is a laughable proposition. And if the columnist does not know it, so important is the task of reconciling the party before the next elections, that only the most trusted and capable hands can be entrusted with the task; a selfless party man who will not utilise the opportunity to pursue his selfish interest.
The columnist tries her utmost best to portray Tinubu as self-seeking and self-serving in politics. Unfortunately, the Jagaban’s political trajectory does not lend credence to this jaundiced view. Otherwise, why did he risk his life to fight for the restoration of democracy after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, when it would have been more lucrative for him to join the band of opportunistic politicians that colluded with the military during that inglorious period? When he remained the only Alliance for Democracy governor standing after the PDP’s electoral rout in the South-West in 2003, why did he opt to remain in opposition and lead the fight inch by inch to reclaim the South-West back to the progressive fold rather than do the fashionable thing among Nigerian politicians of simply jumping aboard the party in power at the centre? It is undoubtedly that principled stance of Tinubu that is responsible for the survival of the opposition in Nigeria and the democracy we continue to enjoy today.
As far as Adelakun is concerned, Tinubu’s comments on political issues these days “seem like a forced attempt to be relevant”. She does not offer even one example of such statements. It is obvious she has not been reading the Jagaban’s periodic and well-timed observations and suggestions on the country’s politics, economics and society. Hers is clearly a minority opinion. Many have likened the quality of Asiwaju’s contributions to public discourse to that of the late Awo’s strategic interventions on weighty matters of state. Adelakun concludes her piece with the comical view that “If Buhari is returned to power in 2019…With power in his hands and no other presidential contest in his future, Buhari would probably have Tinubu jailed!” And so, is this a country of laws or the arbitrary rule of men? Is this a country where a President can easily get anyone jailed without following the rule of law? Adelakun forgets that top PDP leaders had boasted that once Tinubu quit office in 2007 and no longer enjoyed immunity cover, he would be heading straight to jail for still undisclosed offences. It is over a decade now since Tinubu left office and not a whiff of credible criminal infractions has been found against him. Rather, he continues to soar in terms of political clout and relevance even when most of his contemporaries as governors have sunk into political oblivion. Adelakun should wake up from her day dreaming and face the reality. Punch