2023: On the consultation trail with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
What a fitting and appropriate way for Asíwájú Bola Ahmed Tinubu to end the South-west leg of his consultations and engagements with traditional rulers and political stakeholders across the country on his 2023 presidential aspiration.
After going round the South-west geopolitical zone meeting and interfacing with prominent royal fathers from Ogun to Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states, the All Progressives Congress National Leader drew the curtains at the residence of the leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, in Akure, Ondo State capital, on Friday, March 4, 2022.
Prominent leaders including former Minister of Finance and presidential candidate of the defunct AD/APP alliance, Chief Olu Falae; Afenifere Secretary-General, Bashorun Seinde Arogbofa; prominent lawyer, Dr. Tunji Abayomi; Senator Dayo Adeyeye and Mr. Kole Olumolu were on hand to receive Asiwaju at Fasoranti’s residence.
Speaking on the occasion, Asíwájú Tinubu said the decision to conclude the consultations in Papa’s house was deliberate, explaining that he wanted Baba Fasoranti’s blessing and prayers to cap the all-important tour.
“When I started the consultation visits to the South-west, I resolved I must end it here in the residence of our father, Baba Fasoranti, because I know that his prayers and blessing are valuable and will urge me on,” he said.
The prayers came in torrents. Chief Fasoranti endorsed Asiwaju’s aspiration, while also praying that the political journey would be a successful endeavour. Chief Falae who stated that Asíwájú had paid his dues, demonstrated character and competence and fought along with others for the democracy we now enjoy in the country also endorsed him for the presidency. Those were the kind of words of encouragement and endorsement that had trailed Asiwaju Tinubu’s train as he continued his consultations and engagements with prominent leaders and traditional rulers across the country.
Before berthing at Pa Fasoranti’s house, Asiwaju had met and dialogued with traditional rulers in Ekiti and Ondo states. On March 3 in Ekiti, he first engaged with over 30 traditional rulers gathered at the Council Chambers led by the Chairman of the state’s Council of Traditional Rulers, the Onisan of Isan-Ekiti, Oba Ayodele Adejuwon. From there, he proceeded to the Palace of Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe, where some first class traditional rulers had already assembled.
A different format was adopted the next day for the Ondo State consultations. Asiwaju met the traditional rulers at the headquarters of each of the three senatorial districts in the state as pre-arranged for him by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. Those from Ondo South Senatorial District converged on Okitipupa where Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom in Ilaje Local Council of the state, was waiting with the numerous royal fathers from the senatorial zone.
The consultation train moved from there to Owo where top traditional rulers from Ondo North Senatorial District gathered at the Palace of Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye. It was later the turn of Ondo Central where royal fathers including the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Adesimbo Victor Kiladejo, gathered at the Palace of Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi.
Although they tend to be insulated from partisan politics, traditional rulers enjoy the respect and reverence of their people and wield considerable political influence. Asiwaju took the decision to parley with these royal fathers to underscore two important points. One, to underline the significance of the royal fathers as critical stakeholders in the country’s democratic project and two, to demonstrate the high esteem in which he holds them.
The APC leader had begun the South-west tour on February 12 with a visit to traditional rulers in Ogun. It was a hugely successful trip during which he visited the four paramount rulers in the state. There is a need to give a quick overview of where the Asiwaju train touched in the state and the royal fathers he deliberated with. The first port of call was the Palace of Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebuland where he met with the legendary Oba (Dr) Sikiru Kayode Adetona. Asiwaju first addressed the mammoth crowd gathered at the palace including some other traditional rulers and chiefs in Ijebuland and some top indigenes of the area before entering into a close-door meeting with the highly-revered monarch, who like the APC leader, had contributed immensely to the struggle for termination of military rule and entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria.
From there, Asiwaju and his entourage moved to Abeokuta, precisely the Palace of Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, where he first held court with the monarch in his inner chambers, an expansive and well ventilated living room, before both of them retired to the hall downstairs where, unbeknownst to Asiwaju, an enthusiastic multitude of other Obas, chiefs and top Abeokuta indigenes had gathered. Asiwaju spent more time in each of the places he visited than he anticipated. The monarchs and their chiefs were obviously bent on maximising the opportunity of interacting with the APC leader.
For instance, he arrived at Ake’s Palace around 4:00pm that Saturday and by 6.30pm discussions were still ongoing, yet he had the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, still on the list. As late as it was, he proceeded to Ilaro, a two-hour distance from Abeokuta where he also spent over three hours, arriving back in Lagos at midnight.
The next day (February 13) was devoted to the Akarigbo and Paramount Ruler of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi.
Indeed, intensiveness and inclusiveness became the hallmarks of Asiwaju’s itinerary and meetings with the traditional rulers and other stakeholders.
It is also noteworthy that in Oyo and Osun states, Asiwaju had also met with Alaafin of Oyo, Iku Baba Yeye, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja 11; Owa-Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran, and Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun Oyetunji.
In these places, Asiwaju’s message to the paramount rulers and their chiefs was succinct: he told them he had come to inform and consult with them on his decision to contest for the presidency and to seek their prayers and blessings, which they generously gave.
This is how he put the message for instance at the Palace of Akarigbo, who is presently the Chairman, Ogun Council of Obas and Chiefs: “I am here to let you know Kabiyesi that I want to contest to become the president of this country. And equally, to also inform Kabiyesi that I have earlier gone to the Presidential Villa to inform the president, because I know we have a president and there can only be one president at a time who must be accorded his full respect as the President and Commander-in-Chief and the leader of our party. I went to him and informed him that I would like to step into his shoes without stepping on his toes. I did that and he said ‘go ahead, we are in a democracy’”.
Indeed, after first visiting the Presidential Villa, Abuja to inform President Buhari of his aspiration, Asiwaju had launched into series of consultations and meetings on the matter of 2023 presidency. In Abuja, he met with some Northern leaders led by former Liaison Officer to former President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai. Later, he proceeded to Kano and Katsina states where he conferred with Governors Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Aminu Bello Masari. Among those he also met with were Zamfara State Governor Bello Mutawalle, Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello and former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida. Asiwaju also met with some stakeholders abroad during his recent trip to the United Kingdom. Among those he engaged with in London are members of the APC UK chapter and Nigerians in the Diaspora.
There are, however, a few remarkable things about these consultations, particularly the meetings with the traditional rulers. One, it should be noted that Asiwaju was not just meeting these eminent royal fathers just because he is in the presidential race. He has always maintained a cordial and harmonious relationship with them over the years.
Such is the nature of his relationship with the monachs that with his visit to the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Olugbenle, for instance, he unwittingly made history. The royal father had disclosed openly to those gathered to receive Asiwaju that the APC leader had written his name in gold, becoming the first presidential aspirant/candidate to have ever visited the people in their ancestral town.
The consultation visits have been tasking and demanding but obviously fulfilling to both Asiwaju and his hosts. In the course of the tours, Asiwaju travelled extensively by air and road while also addressing his hosts at length in various areas. Everywhere he went, it was evident that Asiwaju wasn’t unknown visitor.
Beyond politics, he had established years-long relationships with the royal fathers and communal leaders and this was widely acknowledged. Another common feature of the visits virtually everywhere was that prominent indigenes and ordinary citizens converged on the palaces to welcome and cheer the aspirant demonstrating that they are one with their traditional rulers on the issue.
At every point Asiwaju reiterated his physical and mental capacity to lead, stressing that an administration he heads will have no excuse for failure. He equally made references to his track record in the private sector as treasurer of Mobil before his venture into politics, his active role in the pro-democracy struggle that ushered this political dispensation, the foundation his administration laid for the fiscal emancipation of Lagos between 1999 and 2007 as well as the ongoing modernisation of the state, his contribution to winning back stolen electoral mandates in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states after the flawed 2007 elections and his input towards the victory of the APC in the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections.
Asiwaju made it clear that if all the assault on his person and character is to deter him from the race or distract him, they are mistaken. For he has put his leg on the throttle and there is no going back on his 2023 aspiration. Indeed, in response to the mudslinging and attempts to impugn his character, he spoke about the allegory of wrestling with the pig at the residence of the new Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Lekan Balogun, in Ibadan, Oyo State two weeks ago. Paraphrasing a Greek philosopher whose book he read, he said “if you want to wrestle with the pig, you must be ready to roll in the mud and deal with the poo poo,” he stated that he was ready to get dirtied in the process. “All that it requires is that afterwards you wash up and become clean again,” he added.
• Rahman, former Thisday on Sunday Editor, is Media Aide to Asiwaju Tinubu