In a fresh narrative of the intrigues that characterized the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s President in 2015,the pioneer National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC),Chief Bisi Akande, has alleged moves by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Northern elites and some aristocrats to ensure it did not happen.
Chief Akande, in his memoirs – My Participations – which was launched in Lagos on Thursday, says Obasanjo worked behind the scene to stop the then fledgling APC from picking Buhari as its standard bearer.
The former Osun State governor recalls that while the former president declined to join the APC, he confessed having “his sympathy for us.”
He says: “He said he had decided not to join any political party since he left the PDP.
“Behind the scene however, I understood he was pressurizing some of our leaders not to use Buhari as our candidate.
“It got to a point when Bola Tinubu had to confront him thus: ‘It is not fair sending me to Buhari.Buhari was a soldier and he was one of your junior officers in the Army. Why don’t you call Buhari and let him know how you feel about his intention to be President?
“I don’t know whether Obasanjo stopped at it.From the start, he did not want Buhari to be President.”
He also speaks about opposition to Buhari from some quarters in the North.
“It was apparent from the start that Buhari would be our choice for President.That was one of the bases for the merger.
“However, there were pressures from the elites, especially from the North, including royal fathers, piling pressure on us not to allow Buhari be our presidential candidate.
“A prominent aristocratic leader from the North stayed several nights in Osogbo,persuading Governor Aregbesola to prevail on us not to field Buhari. He threatened that if we did, there would be trouble in the North.”
Akande says they reviewed all the threats and decided to go through it with Buhari.
He adds: “Buhari had been losing elections before because he had no structure to harness his support and transform it into votes.
“Now through the APC, we had created a formidable structure for him; bigger and better than that of any other party in Nigerian history.”
Adebanjo, Olaniwun Ajayi frustrated Bola Ige’s presidential ambition
Akande also gives his own account of how three Afenifere leaders, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the late Chief Olaniwun Ajayi and late Chief Ganiyu Dawodu, allegedly frustrated the presidential ambition of the late Chief Bola Ige, a Second Republic governor of the old Oyo State.
He says: “After the 1999 local government elections, the results of which were a prelude to and conditional for the registration of party organisations including AD as political parties,a meeting of the AD leadership was summoned to the chairman’s home in Kaduna to discuss funding and the way forward.
“At the meeting were Afenifere leaders from the South West. Among them were Senator Abraham Adesanya,Chief Bola Ige,Sir Olaniwun Ajayi,Chief Ayo Adebanjo,Senator Ayo Fasanmi,Chief Olu Falae,Chief Segun Osoba,Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu,Senator Femi Okurounmu,Dr.Wahab Dosunmu and Senator Bola Tinubu.
“With me from Osun State was Sola Akinwunmi.. The summary of the decision at that meeting was that the South West should urgently produce a candidate for the Presidency around whom the search for funds could be co-ordinated.
“After the meeting that night, we (Olaniwun Ajayi,Ayo Adebanjo,Ayo Fasanmi,Ganiyu Dawodu,Femi Okurounmu,Sola Akinwunmi and myself) followed Bola Ige to his wife,justice Atinuke Ige’s official residence. She was then a justice of the Appeal Court in Kaduna.
“There, we were lavishly entertained and we slept to keep the night in different allocated rooms.
“After dinner, Bola Ige took permission to visit certain people in the city. Sola Akinwunmi and I were lodged together in one room. I left a message with Bola Ige’s wife,justice Atinuke Ige,that Bola Ige should see me on his return from the city no matter how late in the night.
“On his return,he woke me up. I advised him to seize the opportunity of our being together to mention his ambition for the Presidency to his friends –particularly Olaniwun Ajayi,Ayo Adebanjo and Ganiyu Dawodu.
“While we were at breakfast the following morning, he called his three friends into a lobby as I advised him.
“We thereafter left for Kaduna airport to board Chachangi Airline to Lagos.Inside the plane,I saw his three friends talking animatedly with Chief Ayo Fasanmi.
“As soon as we alighted from the aircraft, Ayo Fasanmi asked me for a ride in my car to Dr.Tunji Otegbeye’s house at Ikeja GRA. On our way, he told me that the three friends would not support Bola Ige’s ambition because according to him, Bola Ige would be too tough for them to control as President of Nigeria.
“That began the surprises at the Ibadan D-Rovans meeting of Afenifere contrived committee where Chief Olu Falae was preferred by Afenifere to Chief Bola Ige as the presidential candidate of AD.”