Driving a wedge between Tinubu and Osoba
It sometimes occurs to me that for politicians there are no qualms in turning every avenue, every event and every little space and opportunity into politics. When they are in their mood, nothing can be said to be hallowed neither in their reckoning nor in their sight. Sensibilities can be assailed even where in place of hurt, compassion, caring, loving and prayerful thoughts are called for.
For us journalists, we know that publication of certain materials could be in bad taste which is why there is what editors call copy tasting and editorial judgment. Sharing certain ethos with the Rotarians, editors ask if a matter is the truth, and is it fair to all concerned? The copy-editor must worry about the fairness of a report so he ensures it is balanced. There is room for humour; there is room to poke fun. The editor is, however, expected to consider what price lies hidden that society may pay for in an ill-thought fun. The matter I am coming to present is not even funny, but what could drive a wedge between two political giants who are not rivals but friends, one adviser to the other. If they are friends, as Rotarians are wont to say, the fourth part of The Four-Way Test applies: “Will it build goodwill and better friendship?” Both Tinubu and Osoba have followers, some in the public glare, some covert, genuine or opportunistic.
Last week, my attention was drawn to an online publication captioned: “Unlike Tinubu, politicians abandon Osoba in London after knee surgery.”
The report says Nigerian politicians would appear unconcerned about the health of Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State who is in the United Kingdom for surgery in the knee whereas when Bola Tinubu had a similar health challenge, Nigerian politicians flew down in droves, turning his home into a Mecca of sorts. The report wonders why senior government functionaries and legislators in Ogun State have not flown down on a get-well visit to Osoba. “However, findings by our correspondent revealed that one month after Governor Abiodun announced Chief Osoba’s knee replacement surgery, no politician in Ogun State has deemed it necessary to visit the former governor. Either from Ogun State or other parts of the country, the octogenarian has not been visited, in their usual style, by politicians, especially his beneficiaries from the state.
“Though Abiodun said he had visited Osoba on September 30 after the surgery, our correspondent gathered that no new effort has since been made, either by Abiodun or the state government to pay solidarity visits to the elder statesman.”
The report, quoting a loyalist of Osoba in Abeokuta, goes on to add that former Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun visited Tinubu in London. Why has he not done the same for Osoba? “If he could put aside his differences with Tinubu to go all the way to London to see him, then nothing stops him from doing something similar for Chief Osoba.” The report mentions the visit by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, to Tinubu and those of the South-West Governors—Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos; Dapo Abiodun of Ogun; Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, and Dr. Umar Ganduje of Kano State. A delegation of Northern lawmakers led by Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, comes in for mention, too; all visited Tinubu.
A political leader in Ogun State is then reported to have wondered aloud why the same best wishes were not extended to Osoba and he accused the Nigerian politicians of hypocrisy. And there lies the problem and untoward insinuations which call for maturity on the part of both prominent politicians to handle; they should see to it that they are not taken in by the report and allow discord in their chummy relationship. On the surface, the report would appear aimed at shoring up support for Segun Osoba and chastise political actors he may have mentored or helped into political relevance as ingrates. It is loaded.
There is no cause for comparison between the two even if we can talk about basis. They are both former governors, with Osoba mounting the saddle in 1992. Today he is the only one surviving of that set in the South-West. He and Bola Tinubu became members of the 1999 class in their respective government houses. While the tenure of Segun Osoba terminated in 2003 that of Tinubu went on until 2007 by sheer guts. The hailing then was here comes “the only one standing!” He alone of the AD helmsmen in the South-West withstood the PDP routing current that swept through the Region which others blamed on leadership miscalculation, a grouse that endures till today even though it has been vigorously denied. The friendship between the two solidified and if you talk about the three musketeers you bring in Bisi Akande. With gaze on the ultimate crown, Tinubu began to expand territories principally to Osun and Ekiti states which he has held on to till this day by planting his prefects in the two states. Ondo resisted him; same as Oyo. Osoba held on to his own territory of Ogun State on two occasions now, clearly as the kingmaker and installing his own prefects as well. However, Osoba cannot forget his root. While he is in active politics, he has one leg in the media where he made his name long before his foray into politics. It is in this he found fulfilment. He is content in being referred to as a reporter. It was at the Daily Times he cut his teeth and journalism ethics was ingrained in him which included working quietly and not attracting attention. It was a time bylines were earned. Ask Idowu Sobowale; ask Chinaka Fynecountry; ask Sola Odunfa; ask Dipo Ajayi; ask Angus Okoli; ask Oba Femi Ogunleye! Osoba, equipped as an administrator having been exposed to all manner of training both locally and overseas in management, went from Kakawa to Ilorin and transformed The Herald into a going concern, a respectable well-sought-after government newspaper that even broke even; from there to Ibadan where he turned The Sketch into a profitable organisation and erected imposing administrative blocks. He came back to the Daily Times. He met the balance sheet of the company after the exit of Dr. Dele Cole, already flashing red. He returned it to enviable green. He was President of the Nigeria Newspapers’ Proprietors Association. He was a prominent member of the renowned International Press Institute (IPI). He is at the moment chairman, Board of Governors, the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.
If politicians fell upon themselves to visit Tinubu as they did when he was recuperating in London, there was a basis for it. He is a national leader of APC. He fixes his gaze is riveted on the ball; on being the next occupant of Aso Rock Villa. His body language says it. He breathes it, and his supporters see the prospect of him realising his presidential ambition. Politicians flock his residence in London and Bourdillon in Lagos to be counted since you never know. He himself is building bridges across divides. Olusegun Osoba is not fixing his gaze on the Aso Rock. He is 82 and by 2023 when the final whistle for the race to the Villa, he will be 84 years. He is neither in need of publicity nor fresh exposure. Whatever following he has and still cultivates, he can only turn over to Tinubu. Since he is as formidable in that arena as he is in the media, both parties cannot but watch it and resist a wedge being driven into their relationship and by predictable extension into the ranks of their supporters. Given the peculiar nature of Nigerian politicking, the misreading of the relationship could end in violence on the street. No party should be lured to have the inclination of waving the banner with the beating of the chest and the sing-song parlance on the street: “Our father’s car is bigger than your father’s!”
After all said, can it be stated in truth that Aremo Olusegun Osoba is abandoned in London unlike Tinubu? The online report quotes Governor Dapo Abiodun as saying: “Our Baba, Chief Olusegun Osoba, underwent knee replacement surgery in the UK and we thank God that it went well as he is now fine and in perfect condition.” The report further states: “Abiodun made the revelation during the October 1 Independence Day celebration.” If you asked me, I would say the ‘revelation’, its timing and the occasion demonstrate clearly that Osoba has not been abandoned. It was deliberately drawing attention to the situation with their leader and former governor and for prayerful thoughts to be sent to him for quick recovery. The pronouncement of the governor was bound to evoke love and goodwill. But more than that: What are the facts?
When information reached the President, Muhammadu Buhari, he called Osoba on phone. He also sent the Nigerian High Commissioner in London, Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola, to visit Osoba on his behalf. Osoba’s personal consultant surgeon, who was his friend of about 60 years, Dr. Stephen Folarin Olufunwa, was at the theatre during the operation. Abiodun got him to report to him hour by hour. After the operation, Dr. Olufunwa also collected minute by minute information from the nurses which were transmitted to the governor who was in London himself. It was after he was satisfied that Osoba was stable that he got clearance from him to make an announcement back home in Nigeria. Olufunwa Osoba’s classmate at Methodist Boys High School in Lagos made it his duty to be constantly with him. As the news spread, former Head of State, General Abdusalam Abubakar, raised a delegation to fly down to visit Osoba in the UK. They went with a note of encouragement.
Ibikunle Amosu, former governor of Ogun State, now a senator, sent a letter to Osoba enclosing in it $5,000 (US Dollars). The Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Kunle Taiwo Oluomo flew to London to see him. So did His own Deputy Governor, Segun Adesegun, and his Commissioner for Finance, Joseph Durojaiye. The paramount traditional ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Awujale, calls Osoba every day. Primate Akinola regularly follows up on his condition. A delegation of some Northern politicians visited him, too. Captains of industry, Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola have visited him. Oba Otudeko has been there again and again. Senator Akin Odunsi was in London to see how Osoba is faring. The governors of South West states had a zoom session with him when they held a meeting of their Forum. Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Health Minister Chris Ngige and Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Trade and Investment were among the ministers who did call as well.
Doctors asked Osoba to isolate for two days and to afterwards minimize contacts. Many people who had planned to visit him were advised to shelve it. His Nigerian phone was shut down completely. I am told WhatsApp and Text Messages would take more than a month to read. He has put the gadgets strictly under control. Of course, calls from his primary constituency, his professional colleagues are given, notably from Sam Amuka, publisher of Vanguard newspapers who has led the pack of other ranking chiefs in the media. I am to learn that the show of affection has been overwhelming shot up most additionally by his reputation as a journalist of nearly six decades. What with baskets of fruits, beverages and biscuits flowing unceasingly into his apartment from Nigerians in the United Kingdom!
The doctors are pleased with the speed of his recovery which is considered unusual for a person of his age. Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Jonathan Miles says in a note he sent to Dr. Stephen Olufunwa: “It was great to see Chief Osoba again today. He seems to be doing very well after his right knee. He is already over 0-100 degrees and the wound is well healed and he can straight leg raise. I have shown him his ex-rays and what we have replaced, so he understands it well. I would be more than happy to see him if he has any further issues or problems with which we may be able to assist.” This was the enheartening briefing Abiodun had engraved in his heart and tucked in his briefcase when he tore off from President Buhari’s entourage flying from France to South Africa to see how Osoba was faring. How he would have loved to have the wings of a dove to fly home. Nevertheless, he went straight from Osoba’s residence to Heathrow Airport to fly in the Wright Brothers’ flying machine we all call airplane.
The online newspaper got it all wrong.
The Ikoyi high-rise building disaster
FOR a long time to come the collapse of the 21-storey building at Gerrard Road, Ikoyi will be the subject of public as well as private discourse. There are several dimensions to it. There is the structural integrity of the building. The Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers is looking into that aspect and there is the government’s own investigation into every aspect of the disaster. Indeed, the Institution of Structural Engineers has issued a four-page report they call a summary of their preliminary findings.
However, what can’t but agitate the minds the more is how was it that slightly more than 60 persons gathered on that day, 45 of whom died in the disaster. They were buried under the rubble, 15 were rescued. Among the dead was the friend of Femi Osibona, the developer, who was to travel later on that day to the United States where he lived.
Wale Bob-Oseni honoured the invitation of his friend to visit the edifice he was raising at Ikoyi. He died when the building came down. How come that it was on that day, that hour of his visit that the building came down? How come the dead and 15 were brought out alive? They are survivors living to tell the story. What was the thread that connected them and got them gathered for the fated day? Questions upon questions on what lies behind the enigmatic experiences of that day.
This will be treated next week!
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