In spite of recent efforts by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Bola Tinubu, to push back on his belief in a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, a book recently launched by his political ally, Chief Bisi Akande, may have put the lie to the former Lagos state governor’s denial.
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, while speaking on Arise Television last week, had disclosed that his point of disagreement with Tinubu had always been his insistence on a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“Together with Asiwaju, we formed Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and I was given a ticket in Lagos and he insisted to be my running mate and I said no, I am not going to have a Muslim-Muslim ticket and because of that he switched his support to the late Umaru Yar’Adua and that was the departing point,” Atiku had said.
But Tinubu had responded to the former vice president, stating that indeed he (Tinubu) was offered the running mate position by Atiku in 2007, because it was in Atiku’s political interests to do so.
“Let me say openly that Atiku offered me the vice presidential ticket in 2007. Let me also say that my religion has not changed. When he offered the position to me, I was a Muslim and I believe he was aware of my religious faith at the time.
“Atiku has no business raising the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket except as a hypocrite. Perhaps he believes people have forgotten his antics during the 1993 election…When it benefitted him personally, Atiku did not see anything wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket,” he had stated in a riposte.
But a check by THISDAY indicated that Akande actually disclosed in his book titled: ‘My Participations,’ published recently by Gaskia Media Limited, that while forming the Action Congress (AC), the understanding then was that Atiku would run on a joint ticket with Tinubu as his running mate.
Also, contrary to Tinubu’s statement that Atiku was drafted into the party without being a founding member, Akande had alluded to the fact that the formation of the party was a joint effort by major stakeholders, including Atiku.
“It was the second time Tinubu was tantalisingly close to the VP slot. In 2007, we formed a party, the AC, with Abubakar Atiku. We agreed that Atiku should be our presidential candidate and we had the understanding that he would run with Bola Tinubu.
“I was the chairman of the AC. One day, after we had nominated Atiku as our presidential candidate, one young man came and gave me a form from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). I told him I could not sign a blank form and that I, as the chairman, must know the name that would be filled in it,” he stated.
Akande also hinted that his reluctance to sign the necessary documents during the entire drama was because the forms eventually sent to him came without the name of a running mate to Atiku.
He stressed that even if Atiku wasn’t favourably disposed to a joint ticket with Tinubu, he should have at least, picked another person from the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
“The young man, Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, must have been the organising right hand man of Atiku. He was an active person from Kano. The following morning, he came again with Lawan Kaita.
“Kaita begged me and said it was Ben Obi whom Atiku had chosen as his running mate behind our back. So, I signed the form because I believed as the candidate, Atiku had the right to choose his running mate. If I refused to sign, that would create a crisis,” Akande explained in his autobiography.
In the book, Akande also revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari declined to accept Tinubu as his running mate in 2015, thereby confirming that it was not the first time Tinubu would confront serious opposition to his vice presidential ambition on same faith ticket.
The AC had thereafter fielded Atiku, who had at the time just defected from the PDP, following his fallout with his then boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who never hid his disdain for the idea of Atiku succeeding him.
According to Akande, despite the pressure mounted by the leaders of the party, including former Ogun State Governor, Mr Segun Osoba; ex-Ekiti Governor, Mr Niyi Adebayo and a one-time Governor of Oyo State, the late Lam Adesina, Atiku never gave them his word on the matter until he picked Obi.
He stressed that with Atiku, the belief was that the party would be strong in the north, but because of the majority of PDP supporters in the South-east and the South-south, it would face more resistance in that area.
“Sequn Osoba, Niyi Adebayo, and Lam Adesina had earlier met Atiku and we proposed to him our choice of Tinubu, and he promised to come back to us. He gave us a date. On that date, we all assembled. Atiku came with Audu Ogbe, Tom Ikimi and Usman Bugaje.
“We proposed that Tinubu should be the running mate, though Tinubu was not at the meeting. Atiku would not give us an immediate answer. He said he wanted to have more consultations,” he added.
Akande also said Ikimi, Ogbe, and quite a handful of party leaders were all very strong against Tinubu, because they reasoned that it would mean a Muslim-Muslim ticket which eventually ended the discussion in a deadlock. “Atiku never said anything. We left the meeting,” he wrote.
The former interim national chairman stated that what prompted the pressure to field Tinubu was that anytime there was the need for money in the party, Atiku would always call for Tinubu’s assistance.
“Bola was the only one spending the money among us. The rest of us were poor. Tinubu also put all his energy and resources into the formation of the AC and we felt he deserved a spot on the ticket,” he added.
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