Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State, has disclosed that former president Olusegun Obasanjo curtailed the ambition of Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to become the running mate of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 general election.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview published on Saturday, Oyinlola, a former military administrator of Lagos State, revealed that there was already an agreement between Buhari and Tinubu before 2015 that they would be presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively.
The Osun-born politician, however, noted that the agreement was hidden from most members of the then new APC, which was birthed following the amalgamation of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the All Nigeria’s People Party (ANPP).
According to him, the development created apprehension within the party as some members feared that a Muslim-Muslim ticket could cost the APC victory in the election, given the sensitivity of religion in the country.
Oyinlola stated that some members of the party discussed the issue with Obasanjo and prevailed on the former president to intervene.
The former Osun governor noted that had the former president not intervened, President Buhari was comfortable with the Muslim-Muslim ticket following the governance structure in his previous stint in power from 1983 to 1985, a development which he (Oyinlola) said would have been an electoral disaster for the party in the 2015 election.
“The agreement was concealed from a good number of the party leaders until it surfaced after Buhari had got the ticket. Then the rumour came out and some us felt danger was looming with the idea of Muslim-Muslim ticket. To further add to our fears, General Buhari on one occasion said there was nothing wrong in the Muslim-Muslim presidential arrangement, saying after all he governed with Tunde Idiagbon,” Oyinlola told the Punch.
“That statement made us to know it (the Muslim-Muslim idea) was a fact. On two occasions, Bola (Tinubu) mentioned it in my presence that they agreed. If you recall one trending video back then, where it was said that Buhari had jettisoned what they agreed on, that is the room he was sleeping when Buhari was looking for the post.
“We then told Baba (Obasanjo). We told him that taking power from an incumbent government was a tough task and we must not give room for excuse and miss the target. We told him they (Buhari and Tinubu) were thinking of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. That was when Baba (Obasanjo) said people should not take the sensibilities of Nigerians for granted.”
Oyinlola, who is a former national secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), explained that after Obasanjo’s intervention succeeded in changing the decision, some people started spreading the news that Obasanjo frustrated the plan to make Tinubu the vice-presidential candidate.
“After that (Obasanjo’s intervention), they started saying it in my presence that Obasanjo frustrated the plan to get Tinubu on the ticket for 2015 but I always acted as if I didn’t hear them. We then had a stakeholders meeting where the issue of the running mate was discussed again,” he said.
The former Osun State governor added that a former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, who is a Muslim, also cautioned against the Muslim-Muslim ticket, especially because the party needed all the votes it could get from different parts of the country.
He said: “At the meeting, ex-governor Goje, rose up and said in the northern part, there is negligible number of Christians. He said the APC would need every vote to upstage the incumbent, so nobody should toy with the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket and everybody concurred. I think it was even Bola (Tinubu) that suggested that the matter should be taken before some leaders to resolve. But we never saw anything like that again.”
He also revealed that Obasanjo was the last person to throw his weight behind Buhari’s candidature. He stated that the former president was not comfortable with supporting Buhari’s candidacy due to performance capacity outside issues of the military.
Oyinlola stated that it took the intervention of political heavyweights from the APC to visit the former President in his Ota home in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to prevail on him to support Buhari.
He noted that the delegation included include himself, Tinubu, a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; and a former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
“The last person to accept Buhari’s candidature was Obasanjo and I say that one with every emphasis because I was involved. Yes, Baba (Obasanjo) had fallen out with Jonathan. His projection then was ‘any option but Jonathan’. That was his stand.
“Taking a look at those candidates from other parties, there was no other person we felt could handle the delicate governance of Nigeria better than Buhari among the contenders that time. That was why the choice of Buhari became the order.
“That, coupled with the fact that he had been at the helm of affairs in the country before under the military, so he has that edge over all others. But Baba (Obasanjo) was the last to subscribe to the idea. I can tell you that it took a team of Saraki, Amosun, Bola Tinubu, Kashim, Imam and myself, that went and bombarded Baba (Obasanjo) at Ota around 7am before he succumbed to our pressure.
“That day, he said Buhari that he knew would try in the area of military matters, but outside that, Buhari knows next to nothing; not economy, not foreign affairs and he has been proven right,” Oyinlola said.
Obasanjo later endorsed Buhari, and on February 16, 2015, he tore his PDP membership cards to shreds.