•Anyaoku, Tinubu, Ukiwe eulogise statesman at 90
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been campaigning against President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election, has been described as a failure by elder statesman Chief Ayo Adebanjo.
In his autobiography titled Telling it as it is, which was presented in Lagos yesterday as part of activities to mark his 90th birthday, Adebanjo described Obasanjo’s presidency between 1999 and 2007as a “tragedy” and a “calamity”.
Devoting two pages – 187 and 188 – to the Obasanjo presidency, Adebanjo wrote: “The man who carried on as if he was all-in-all failed woefully on all counts as President. His eight-year tenure (1999-2007) was a tragedy. His scorecard is nothing to write home about. What did he do in eight years? Before he came, we were buying fuel (petrol) for N20 per litre, and crude oil was $23 per barrel. In 2007, under his regime, we were buying fuel at N75 per litre, and crude oil was between $65 and $75 per barrel. In the worst days of Abacha, one dollar was over N120.”
Adebanjo was a disciple of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was a member the Action Group (AG) in the First Republic and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the Second Republic.
At the beginning of this Republic, he was a member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
He also wrote in the book that Obasanjo humiliated the late Awolowo, when the latter visited him to discuss the interest of the Yoruba when Obasanjo became the military head of state after the assassination of Gen. Murtala Mohammed on February 13, 1976.
Adebanjo wrote: “There are many incidents to show that Obasanjo was anti-Yoruba. He has no interest in, or sympathy for the Yoruba cause, he only has his own interest for everything he does. That is my conclusion, and I have copious evidence to prove it.”
Adebanjo also blamed Obasanjo for the collapse of the AD by picking the late Chief Bola Ige, a member of the AD, as a minister in 1999 against the wish of the party.
He said: “As far as I am concerned, the moment Bola Ige joined Obasanjo’s government, following his (Bola Ige) loss of AD’s presidential primaries where he polled six votes against Chief Olu Falae’s 17, marked the beginning of the end for the party. In my opinion, these are the scenarios which led to the collapse of the AD.”
Extolling the virtues of Adebanjo, All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said he regarded him as a great leader who is committed to democracy.
Tinubu, who strolled into the hall unexpectedly, told the audience that he was on his way to Abuja to attend his party’s meeting when he was informed that Adebanjo’s book launch was holding today (yesterday) and he decided to be there, even if it was for only two minutes.
He described the celebrator as “a nationalist worthy of emulation. “He has been a father to all of us in politics; he is a man of principle, who is always ready to defend his position on any issue”, Tinubu said of the nonagenarian.
He went on: “If not for his honour and integrity, I wouldn’t have been Lagos State Governor. He stood against rigging the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governorship primary in 1999. He insisted that direct primary should hold. And when the result came, some people wanted to manipulate the result; Adebanjo stood his ground that the result of the primary should be upheld. If he had been a corrupt leader, he would have taken money and my name would have been substituted.
“I respect you; you are a mentor to me. We can disagree. If you call me a rebel, you taught me the act of rebellion. If I go the other side, I am not a bastard, I have a good father. Please, continue on the path of integrity and honesty you are known for.
“You can’t but praise and honour him for his principled stance on restructuring. Restructuring means true federalism; there should be opportunity for each federating unit to govern according to its blueprint; it is about management of resources. I agree with Chief Adebanjo on this. We thank God for you and want you to continue to serve humanity in good health.”
Former Commonwealth Secretary General Chief Emeka Anyaoku described Adebanjo as one of those responsible for creating the history of Nigeria. He described him as a symbol of passion for Nigerian success.
Anyaoku recalled that Nigeria was doing well with four regions, with each region developing at its pace. “If we are to talk about the progress we made in those days, we think of Awolowo’s achievements in the old Western Region, first in their nature: free primary education, first television service in Africa and prudent management of Western Region resources. In the Easteern Region, under Dr Azikiwe and later Dr Michael Okpara, agricultural development was significant. The North under late Ahmadu Bello was renowned for groundnuts pyramids, cotton and high quality hide and skin that were sought for by foreign countries. There was healthy competition among the regions.
“If the military had not intervened in 1966 and remained in power for long, Nigeria could have developed. I don’t know how a country with much diversity like Nigeria can develop without true federalism which Awolowo advocated and struggled for throughout his life. Adebanjo was his associate and has remained a true disciple of Awo’s legacies.”
He said: “Adebanjo is very focussed. I continue to be amazed by the prowess he demonstrates at 90. I am 85 and I am looking forward to be 90 and retain the same attributes that Adebanjo has.”
The book reviewer, Professor Wale Adebanwi, said Adebanjo’s early embrace of political conflicts and battles and his unflagging boldness in the face of tyranny have made him one of the most formidable and consistent political fighters the country has ever known.
Adebanwi noted: “There is a certain joy that politics brings to the author which triumphs over all the disappointments and the disabilities of the political system; there is a certain peace that his moral vision invests him with that is undisturbed by the perennial crises and political violence that he has lived through and that surround him.
“To be able to account for this paradox, we need to read the first three chapters of this book which locate the personal and the political and then unite them in a certain embrace of the world that explains his irrepressible, stern but cheerful nature and the vigour of his ideological convictions.”
He said the author raised the question of Chief Bola Ige’s decision to join the Obasanjo administration, which might be ranked as one of the gravest, and as it turned out , most fatal political errors ever committed by leading progressive politician in Nigeria’s history.. However, the author described Ige as “brilliant”, one of the greatest Awoists.
Adebanjo thanked all that came to honour him on the occasion. He urged the guests to donate to his Foundation by buying the book. He said the proceeds would go to the Foundation that would keep managing his church in his country home, Isanya Ogbo near Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.
At the occasion were Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd), who was the chairman, former governors of Ogun State Chief Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Deputy Governors of Lagos State Mr. Kofo Bucknor-Akerele and Mr. Femi Pedro; business moguls Mr Tony Elumelu and Oba Otudeko; Chief Olu Falae, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; Secretary to Ogun State Government Chief Taiwo Ade Oluwa, who represented Governor Ibikunle Amosun, his counterpart from Ondo State, Mr Ifedayo Abegunde, who stood in for Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the wife of the Ogun State Governor, Mrs Olufunso Amosun, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Alhaji Tanko Yakakasai and Chief Bakare Oluwalogbon.
Others were Chief Kola Daisi, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Mr. Sam Amuka Pemu, Mrs Nike Akande, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu, Prof.Pat Utomi, Mrs Bisola Clark, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Mrs Omotola Oyediran, Dr. Doyin Abiola and Dr Kanyin Ajayi.