Sunday, 28th May 2023

Tinubu’s loyalists move to pacify critics in Yorubaland

By Seye Olumide, Ibadan
17 May 2023   |   3:07 am
There are moves by loyalists of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to rally around critical stakeholders across Yorubaland to support him ahead of May 29 inauguration.

President-elect, Bola Tinubu

There are moves by loyalists of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to rally around critical stakeholders across Yorubaland to support him ahead of May 29 inauguration.

Part of the strategies to achieve their plan was to engage those they identified as unrepentant critics of Tinubu across Yorubaland and to also engage prominent traditional rulers to speak or reach out to those closer to them in their various states.

The move for the rapprochement, as gathered by The Guardian, was to prevent a similar scenario against former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was taunted by other regions “as President without a base.”

Recall that between 1999 and 2003, the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Obasanjo did not win any state in the Southwest, just as he (Obasanjo) was severely criticised by many Yoruba leaders and politicians, one of the reasons that later culminated into ‘Operation Capture Southwest’ in the 2003 general elections.

Although the incumbent ruling APC won four states in Southwest in the last presidential election, Tinubu surprisingly lost his Lagos political base to the Labour Party (LP) and Peter Obi, just as he was also defeated in Osun State by the PDP and Governor Ademola Adeleke.

The likes of the leader of Yoruba socio-political group Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George; Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum and host of others are not hiding their disdain to Tinubu and how he emerged as the President-elect.

Bode George

The first of such reconciliatory moves was brokered with Chief George at the weekend, when one of the core loyalists of Tinubu, Chief Tajudeen Olusi, led two former deputy governors of Lagos State, Adejoke Orelope Adefulire and Abiodun Ogunleye, Justice Ishola Olorunimbe (rtd), Layi Ogunbambi and Satari Arileshere, a retired civil servant, to the Ikoyi office of George to broker a peace meeting between the former Military Administrator of Ondo State and the President-elect.

Olusi said the move became imperative because of the relationship, which they said was not cordial between the two leaders.

Speaking with newsmen at the end of the closed-door meeting, which lasted hours, the octogenarian, who disclosed that it was the second in the move to initiate peace between both leaders, described the mission as cordial and largely successful, expressing appreciation to God for the outcome.

He said: “This is indeed my second meeting to see Bode George and the purpose of this meeting is number one, to give praise to the Almighty. Today, the President-elect of our country, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is from Lagos State, he happens to be a former Senator from Lagos, and also a former governor of Lagos and we are, indeed happy, but we know as a matter of fact, that the relationship between the President-elect and our Chief Bode George is not very cordial.

“It is important that we as leaders of the community should take steps to improve the relationship,” Olusi said.

Olusi also disclosed that based on the successful outcome of the parley, demand was made on George by the delegation to congratulate Asiwaju Tinubu on his election as the President-elect, saying that the PDP chieftain could choose to do this before May 29, 2023, or thereafter.

But in a telephone conversation yesterday, George told The Guardian that as a Christian, he has forgiven Tinubu all that he (Tinubu) did to him, “but to congratulate him on his victory while my party, the PDP is still at the Election Petition Tribunal, challenging his victory is not possible.”

George asked, “What if the tribunal later says Tinubu didn’t win, which is not impossible, what do I look like?

“I told them point blank that I did not have anything against Tinubu, but that will not prevent me from telling the truth. I don’t have the idea of what they want since the matter is in court.”

George dismissed insinuation that Tinubu will buy him over. He said, “Even if Tinubu won at the court, I can not go beyond wishing him well. I don’t want anything from him. I was in the Aso Rock Villa as a military man and also had the opportunity of being in the Villa as a civilian under Obasanjo, there is nothing I want there again other than for Tinubu to perform and not the shenanigans he perpetrated in Lagos since 1999.”

The former PDP deputy national chairman who was accompanied by former Deputy Governor Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor, General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, among others, said the meeting bothered on the unity of Lagos State, as well as her culture of accommodating all, which, according to him, makes the state the commercial nerve centre of the country.

Fielding question if Tinubu initiated the reconciliation move, Olusi said, “It was a peace meeting organised to reconcile two individuals. You want to know whether the meeting was called at the instance of Mr A or B. It could be at the instance of anybody.

“However, the paramount thing is to reconcile people and make peace in the interest of ourselves, our people and the entire nation.

“The idea of brokering peace is entirely ours. I can boldly say that the initiative was entirely mine. It was not at the instance of either Asiwaju Bola Tinubu or Chief Olabode George. Also, it was not at the instance of any political party.”

“Those who were involved in the peace deal are prominent citizens of my state who are interested in the advancement of Lagos State and Nigeria.”

When contacted Chief Adebanjo said Tinubu has always been coming to see him even before the election but nobody has reached out to me since after the election.

According to him, “I am aware of their meeting with Bode Geroge, but if they want to come I will not stop them whatever they say will determine my response. My position is that Afenifere will stand for the truth and nothing outside the truth, until they come, there is no reaction.”

For the leader of Afenifere in Ogun and Lagos states, Senator Femi Okurounmu and Chief Supo Sonibare, refused to make comments.

According to Okurounmu, “I don’t have any comment to make on Tinubu. In fact, I am getting tired of talking.”

Chief Ayo Adebanjo of Afenifere

But in his comment, Bayo Aina, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere Egbe Ilosiwaju Yoruba led by Prince Olusi, said the meeting with George was just part of the bigger arrangement being made to bring all Yoruba stakeholders under one umbrella before Tinubu’s inauguration on May 29.

He said Prince Olusi just led the delegates to Chief George but the bigger picture involves the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), body of traditional rulers and other stakeholders.

According to him, “Beyond Tinubu and Yoruba land, there is need to put heads together over how to save this country and to achieve this we cannot continue to speak in different voices.”

But the Spokesperson of Afenifere, Mr. Jare Ajayi said, there is nothing to reconcile between the Pa Reuben Fasoranti leadership with Tinubu. He said, “Our appeal to everyone is that we need to support the President-elect to build this country, as soon as he is sworn in on May 29. What is ahead of the country is more than personal score and individual differences. It also goes beyond Yoruba nation, but affects others even the Yoruba in Kogi and Kwara states and those in the Diaspora. We have over 200 millions Nigerians who are yearning for good governance and a better nation.”

Meanwhile, the erstwhile Secretary General of YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, said he is deeply involved and in support of any reconciliation that will bring transformation to the Nigerian State.

Olajide pleaded with all to forget the past and be ready to join hands with Tinubu for the sake of Nigeria.