Tinubu and the heavy burden of Calvary [OPINION]

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By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I know you must be wondering what the business of a former PDP Presidential aspirant is with the APC Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. My response is not far-fetched. Everyone knows that we go way back. We were friends and Brothers, ever before we became comrades-in-the-struggle in the heady days of the NADECO operation for the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election, which was won fair and square by Chief Moshood Abiola. We had become acquainted in 1991 and became much closer as we worked assiduously, in diverse roles, for the eventual success of Chief Abiola at the 1993 polls.
After the annulment, we collaborated in several critical ways during our period of self-exile overseas, particularly in the UK, but that is a story for another day. As my Elder Brother and older friend, it is incumbent on me to continue to relate with him despite any differences of political affiliation and opinion and this means reaching out to him whenever I feel the need to do so. Therefore, even if we have now recently found ourselves in different Political Parties today, I must continue to be his younger friend and Brother. Brothers remain Brothers, no matter what and one of the strong principles that I have imbibed since childhood is that loyalty and fidelity to friends and family is sacrosanct and sacred.
Nigeria is in a far worse state than we found ourselves nearly 30 years ago. We must necessarily and urgently rise above political sentiments to seek out the best of about four major candidates that have emerged for the 2023 Presidential polls following heavily contested Primaries in the two major Parties and the unanimous coronation of others in the lesser and fringe Parties. Apart from Asiwaju Tinubu who polled the majority of Delegates votes to win the APC Primaries, the other serious contender for Presidency of our country is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of my own Party, PDP whom I supported in 2019 when I was not yet a member of that Party. The two other visible contenders, and not in any particular order, are the Labour Party Presidential candidate, former Governor Peter Obi, and the Presidential candidate of the NNPP, former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Please, let me stay on these four for now.
My role today is principally as a journalist who’s a chronicler of events and recorder of history. It is not as a member of any political Party. It is strange and bizarre how history often repeats itself with almost mathematical precision. Let me describe this in a jiffy.
Nearly 30 years ago, Chief Moshood Abiola won the SDP Presidential Primary in Jos. It was a victory well anticipated and long foretold by me. I had written a letter to Chief Abiola about two years earlier informing him of how I was so sure he still nursed the Presidential ambition and I spelt out what I believed he should do to achieve his dreams. I was barely 31 years old then, but Chief Abiola did not dismiss me as a young boy or an inconsequential novice. We didn’t have a proliferation of telephones then and so Abiola physically sent someone to bring me over to his house. As soon as he was ready for me, after hosting some members of the National football team, he asked why I wrote him the letter. I was confident enough to present my cogent reasons and vivid ideas. He appeared very impressed. I advised and pleaded that if and when he finally decided to run, he should join the main dominant party of his Yoruba people and not go into opposition like he did with NPN. I reminded him that this was what had brought him at loggerheads with the Awoists. We also discussed likely Vice-Presidential candidates from the North, and I suggested a few Northern Christians that I felt suitable and worthy enough to be on the ticket. He thanked me profusely for my suggestions and I left. What struck me at the time was that we were both very confident that Chief Abiola would be victorious at the elections. He was convincing and I was convinced.
The day I had anticipated eventually came, in 1993. I was cock-sure Chief Abiola was going to pick a Northern Christian as his running mate. We got the shocker of our lives when Dr Mrs Doyin Abiola invited a few of us, Dele Alake, Segun Babatope, Tunji Bello and I, into her office at Concord Newspapers to break the news that Chief was not going to pick a Christian as his runningmate. Worse still, he would be flagging off his campaign in Kaduna without even announcing his VP candidate. We already knew that Chief was under intense pressure from the SDP Governors to pick Babagana Kingibe. The Governors have always been very powerfully influential and obstinate, and it was clear that they were determined to get their way because they felt that they had been largely responsible for Chief Abiola getting the SDP ticket.
So, we all waited with bated breath for his ultimate pick. When Chief Abiola finally dropped the bombshell, it reverberated with such velocity that shook many Christians. It is not true that the Christians, or Nigerians generally, were just liberal or reticent about Chief Abiola’s gamble. Many notable leaders protested vociferously. One such great Leader was the former Governor of Ondo State, Papa Adekunle Ajasin, who put a call through to Abiola and told him in very stern and unequivocal voice: “You this boy, you have crucified Jesus Christ a second time with your decision!..” Abiola tried to pacify Papa by jocularly saying “Baba mi o si ni Calvary… (Baba I’m not in Calvary). Calvary represents the place of crucifixion in Christendom where Jesus was nailed to the cross and killed. Chief Abiola was well versed in Biblical passages and often quoted copiously from it. He had attended the famous Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, where he crossed paths with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former World Court Judge at The Hague, Prince Bolasodun Ajibola and other distinguished Nigerians too numerous to mention here.
Chief Abiola later confided in us that powerful leaders in the North had told him a Christian cannot represent the North and that even Chief Abiola himself as a Southerner was not considered Muslim enough. And it was for those genuine and germane reasons that he capitulated. However, despite that huge sacrifice, none of those who forced him to make the compromise was available to rescue him in the days of tribulations.
This is the didactic lessons I wish to commend to one of the highly possible winners of next year’s election, Bola Tinubu. A leader must begin his job even before winning the election. He must demonstrate the uncommon courage hitherto lacking in others before him. He must right the wrongs of the past.
I’m reasonably convinced that Tinubu is the only one with a religious albatross around his neck right now because none of the other candidates would dare contemplate the idea of a Muslim-Muslim combo in today’s Nigeria. Not even Major General Muhammadu Buhari with his legion and battalions of fanatical supporters could ever take such a monumental risk.
I have had the opportunity of reaching out to Islamic clerics and Christian leaders, everyone is worried about the possibility of a religious conflagration if care is not taken.
I am confident that Tinubu will make his decision after sincere consultations with most of those concerned, especially his cerebral team which prides itself in the level of research that they have embarked on. Tinubu is in the contest to win it ,and not to merely make up the numbers. He will do what he has to do, even if it is a bitter pill for him to swallow. I expect that he will genuinely weigh the pros and cons, and look at the odds very critically, before making what is an informed decision. I am also filled with assurance that whatever decision he makes would be one, which like Abiola, he is convinced of, and will seek to convince the majority of Nigerians about. It is fascinating that Tinubu was a close confidant who had understudied Abiola’s template fastidiously and must have learnt valuable lessons from the great legend.
Culled from ThisDay

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