By Kehinde Bamigbetan
Members of the All Progressives Congress and supporters of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who read the back page of Thisday on Friday September 2, 2022 must have observed that the two articles –“Two of a Kind” by Akin Osuntokun and “ Tinubu and Afenifere” by Seun Kolade were, indeed, two of a kind!
Both oppose the presidential candidature of Tinubu and root for Peter Obi of the Labour Party on grounds that are false and illogical and assumptions that are retrogressive and primordial. Both are not informed commentaries but partisan advocacy, hagiographic apologia for the envious, vengeful ancient regime determined to put old poison in fresh looking bottles.
What do I mean? Fresh from a media blitz of his decamp from the Peoples Democratic Party, a party that gave him the opportunity to become a Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Political Matters despite zero electoral value and Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria despite zero reportorial experience, Osuntokun tried to live up to his new title as the “South West Leader” of his new party by dubiously grouping his presidential adversaries in the APC and PDP as birds of the same feather to clothe his party’s candidate in borrowed robes.
He should have known that differentiation is the cardinal principle of competition and any attempt to blur the distinctive edges of a brand like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in this election to mobilise the mob for his own candidate will not succeed.
Osuntokun launches his tirade by disparaging the party primary of the APC as a financial bazaar insinuating therefrom that it signposts that it would not fight corruption. From our perspective, incentivising delegates who left their loved ones in the country’s 774 local government areas to perform the national duty of electing the flagbearer that has the greatest chance of becoming Nigeria’s next president is another evidence of Tinubu’s legendary compassion and generosity.
It does not compare with the pretentious holier-than-thou posturing of Peter Obi whose media handlers claim does not give shishi but could raise N40million to buy the form to contest for the presidential ticket of the PDP. What Osuntokun should be explaining is how much Obi spent to hijack the Labour Party whose ideology he has never professed and whose manifesto, according to Barrister Kayode Ajulo, a former secretary of the Labour Party, has not read. Osuntokun should be convincing us how Obi was able to get the votes of 97 of the 98 delegates of a party he never associated with since it was established in 2002 and whether the delegates were fed with water and accommodated on the roads to secure their votes.
By rational projections, between Tinubu who brought the Action Congress of Nigeria to partner with other parties to form APC and Obi, who was a complete stranger to the Labour Party, who needed to buy any delegate? The answer is obviously Obi who did not just cross parties but is pretending to have committed ideological suicide.
Osuntokun worsens his case by invoking the spirit and letters of the irrepressible Pa Anthony Enahoro who came up with the concept of “subversive generosity” to define the strategy of compromising opponents with handouts adopted by the military junta of General Ibrahim Babangida. Without citing any historic precedent or fact, he engages in insane futurology, alleging that Tinubu believes so much that cash can solve every problem that he would throw money at the problem of insecurity. His allegation: “the first item is going to be the appeasement of sundry bandits and terrorists with tons of cash”.
Yet this writer lived in Lagos between 1999 and 2007 when Tinubu was governor. If “appeasement” of bandits was Tinubu’s strategy for tackling crime, would he establish the Rapid Response Squad, empower the police officers with arms, ammunition and vehicles and support them with welfare allowances that enabled them to drive criminals out of town?
To corroborate Tinubu’s zero tolerance for banditry, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State between 1999 and 2003 who later became the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro stated in the Premium Times edition of August 26, 2022, how Tinubu begged IGP Musiliu Smith to deploy him to Lagos to combat banditry. Read him: ”Lagos was in a problem. Criminality was at its peak- robbery, killings, kidnapping were at its peak. People were leaving Lagos State. Asiwaju made a special request to the IG. That was how I found myself as Commissioner for Police in Lagos State”. For delivering on this assignment, Okiro credits Asiwaju with the double promotion that made him the country’s top cop.
There is always a critical context that defines Tinubu’s generosity as a person and elected representative. As the democratically elected governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, Tinubu recognized the role of the students movement in particular and the youths generally in the struggle against military dictatorship and took them under his wings. A former Public Relations Officer of University of Ife Students Union and later President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Opeyemi Bamidele, now a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was appointed the Commissioner for Youths and Sports. Another leader of the students’ movement, Comrade Rauf Aregbesola was appointed the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructures. After eight years as governor of Osun State, he is now the Minister of Interior. Other student comrades such as Segun Maiyegun, Ogaga Ifowodo, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, Late Rotimi Obadofin, Late Chima Ubani maintained fraternal contact with him.
Indeed, when Ubani died in the course of the struggle of the labour movement against the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, it was Tinubu who solved the problem of accommodation of his bereaved family by donating a three- bedroom flat at the Abiola Gardens to Ochuwa, his widow and children. He also approved yearly scholarship for the children. Osuntokun may want to tell us what “subversion” this “generosity” to the family of a late activist was meant to neutralize.
It is not yet time to ask where Peter Obi was during this tragedy that befell a foremost fighter for working class liberation of Igbo birth and prominent leader of international revolutionary movement. We know he will have no answer because he was never in the radical movement whether as a student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka or worker. He wants to reap from a movement he never sowed into; a movement whose language he cannot speak.
But we have evidence, that, instead of Tinubu, it is Obi who has very urgent need to apply Osuntokun’s voodoo principle of “subversive generosity”. How now? There are two “subversive” developments threatening his legimacy and legality as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party arising from the coup that got him the presidential ticket. The first is the ongoing court case of Callistus Okafor, a fellow Igbo and the deputy chairman of Labour Party who, according to the party constitution, should succeed the chairman. He is in court to argue that Julius Abure, the national secretary has no constitutional basis to act as chairman. Already, Okafor has alleged that Chief Doyin Okupe claims that he wants N48million to settle his lawyers before he would co-operate with Obi. In another instance, he alleges that there are rumours that he wants N15million to withdraw his case. The transactional character of these developments is enough to puncture the false mispresentation of the presidential ticket of Obi as a break from the norm.
While Okafor kicks despite the compromising endorsement of Abure by the labour leadership, the supporters of Sampson Uchenna Charles, another Labour Party presidential hopeful of Igbo origin, are protesting the betrayal of the man they allege spent his resources to reposition the party in the belief that he would be given the ticket. In a statement apparently targeting Obi, they stated that “the same politician with the same mind have now seen Labour as a fallback when the heat of their corrupted party is too much to bear.”
How well Osuntokun has mastered the strategy and tactics of subversive generosity will be determined by the application of this principle to the resolution of his presidential candidate’s problem.
What seems very clear from the above narrative is that the Labour bureaucracy has, once again, confirmed the position of the Marxist thinker and internationalist, Leon Trotsky that whenever there is scarcity, deliberate or contrived, bureaucracy emerges, first to regulate, then, to control. It is true that the Nigerian labour centres- the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress- established the Labour Party. It is also true that despite the presence of the mass of working class unionists and professional associations affiliated to labour, the two centres have contrived to create an artificial scarcity in the leadership of the party and put its ticket on sale to the highest bidder. Else how does one explain the emergence of such conservative, reactionary hagiographers of anti- working class oppressors such as Osuntokun in its leadership or famous commercial capitalist who hides investments in proxy accounts as its presidential candidate?
There is clearly a gross disconnect between the labour leadership that has sold the ticket of the revolutionary movement to its oppressors for pittance and the working class and peasants who ultimately own the ticket and no amount of false consciousness propagated by this insincere leadership will lead workers to vote for a man that was never there when their comrades and cadres fell on the field of battle.
It is thus easy to understand the fixation of Osuntokun with the Muslim-Muslim ticket and similar primordial excrements of a system crying for revolutionary transformation that he defines as “divisive instruments” of the polity. Apparently, a mind permanently in statis can only conjure a society in stagnation, tied eternally to its weaknesses to the extent that they are perceived as congenital and unchangeable.
Anyone who flaunts friendship with autocratic octogenarians who laid the foundation of the immiseration machine called the Structural Adjustment Programme like Osuntokun can no longer trace the devaluation of the Naira from the introduction of the Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market to the current status of our national currency. They can no longer connect the privatisation and commercialization of public enterprises that led to mass retrenchment with the joblessness that still undermines our economy today.
That such acrh-reactionaries are the ones preaching labour to the labour movement is enough provocation. That they have the temerity to point at the speck that may be in our eyes while they are comfortable with the logs in theirs is the tragedy of our times.
The APC Tinubu/Shettima presidential ticket deliberately seeks to demystify religion as the opium which the ruling class has used, for many decades, to manipulate the masses. We seek to prove that Nigerians love fellow Nigerians not because they belong to particular religion or region but because true Nigerians are like fellow human beings all over the world who belong to one global family protected by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Rights. We consciously seek to build a new country where citizenship, symbolized by the Nigerian passport and flag, towers over tribe and bribe. Our campaign will call on Nigerians to heed this call for patriotism and service to the Fatherland. On February 25, 2023, history shall vindicate our mandate.
And to Seun Kolade, who advertised wanton ignorance in his article, “Tinubu and Afenifere”, it is important to direct you to seek the report of the committee set up by the Afenifere in 2003 to evaluate how well each governor elected on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy complied with the principles of restructuring, true federalism and welfarism. Former Communications Minister, Chief Cornelius Adebayo chaired the committee. The report will confirm to you that this committee commended Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for excellence in executing the mandate and recommended him for another term.
Tinubu pursued the strategy of executing true federalism by adopting the tactics of administrative and judicial review. Administratively, he removed all the insignia of the Federal Government left by the military administrator, General Buba Marwa on public buildings, vehicles and items and replaced them with the now familiar Lagos State logo. This logo was created at the inception of Lagos State but since the exit of the Second Republic administration of Pa Lateef Jakande, successive military administrators replaced them with federal insignia in line with the unitary character of the military command system.
The flag of the state became more prominent in all public places and events. Lagosians began to feel autonomous with the changes in the branding of the state outdoor and indoor. Stationeries and public documentation were rebranded to demonstrate this strategic shift to revive the message that “Gedegbe l’Eko wa” ( Lagos is fit to be on its own).
But more comprehensive and valuable was the tactic of judicial review. The federal constitution of 1999 has three lists- exclusive, which dealt with matters on which only the federal tier can act on or make laws for; concurrent, that is matters that both the federal and the state can make law or act upon with the proviso that where there is conflict, the federal law shall supercede and the residual, matters not in the exclusive or concurrent.
Considering over two decades of arbitrary federal control over states due to military rule, there was an attitudinal closure among the citizens that these powers were irreversible and it took the courage of Governor Tinubu to change this mindset by challenging the illegal practices in court. For instance, the Lagos State asserted its physical planning powers by seeking judicial re-affirmation of its constitutional control over federal land and issuance of certificates of occupancy. Similarly, it sued the Federal Government on its rights to create new local governments, produce number plates and implement the sales tax.
The victory recorded in these cases restructured the constitutional architecture between Lagos and the federal government and became sources of revenue for the sustenance of the government.
Kolade trivializes the serious discourse over true federalism by confusing it with herdsmen and farmers clashes. Pastoral animal husbandry involving herdsmen has been practiced in the Western Region without any problem since the 70s. The introduction of violence leading to insecurity is not, fundamentally, a matter of true federalism and restructuring. Each South Western state has governors elected to protect their citizens and it would amount to baiting a Tinubu who had no executive powers and had left government since 2007 to make a pronouncement on a security matter.
Finally, while it is our interest to work with all groups, experience has also taught us that there is a lot of envy, hatred and spite in the vengeful disposition of persons whose ambition to control and determine the electoral influence of Bola Tinubu met its waterloo at a critical period in the politics of the region. Such persons have chosen to pitch their tent with presidential candidates other than Tinubu in the hope of asserting their electoral value. As true democrats, we cannot but wish them and their presidential captive the best of luck in the conviction that the script of 2003 elections will surely and certainly re-create another Last Man standing in the February 25, 2023 polls.
Kehinde Bamigbetan, press secretary to Governor Bola Tinubu, 2005-2007, lives in Lagos.