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Olalekan Adetayo: A president’s biography and its controversies

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Olalekan Adetayo: A president’s biography and its controversies

by Olalekan Adetayo

An authorised biography of President Muhammadu Buhari titled “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria” written by Prof. John Paden was on Monday presented to the public at an elaborate event held inside the International Conference Centre,  Abuja.

As early as 8am, all roads leading to the venue were completely locked down by security agents. It was extremely difficult for guests to access the venue. So tough was the situation that as of the time the event was scheduled to start, only a handful of guests were already seated. At a point, some of the chairs in the hall were removed to ensure that the venue did not look scanty by the time the President would arrive. Those who sat at the back were also prevailed upon to occupy the seats in the front.

When Buhari finally arrived, it became glaring that the event was not a small one. Three African leaders honoured him with their presence. They were Mr. Idriss Deby of Republic of Chad; Mr. Patrice Talon of Benin Republic; and Muhammadu Yusuf of Niger Republic. They flew into Nigeria specifically for the book presentation! The Presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon were represented by their countries’ ambassadors in Nigeria.

Like the previous book presentations that have been organised, donations were not made public but guests were encouraged to buy as many copies of the book as possible. Some smart Nigerians were said to have started making quick money by selling one copy of the book for between N20,000 and N30,000 outside the venue before organisers quickly announced the cost, saying the books would be sold at the rate of N1,500 per copy of paper back edition; N2,500 per copy of hard cover and N10,000 per copy of leather edition. Again, like the previous ones, organisers claimed that proceeds from the book would be sent to Internally Displaced Persons Camps.

A former military leader, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), who was the chairman of the event allowed the planners to drink from his fountain of knowledge. He started by correcting them that it was wrong for two or three people to have spoken before him, saying chairmen always speak first and declare events open. The former military leader also found it unbelievable that no provision was made for Buhari to talk in the programme of event. He had to use his power as the chairman to slot it in. He insisted that even if it was just to thank those present, the President must talk.

Controversies have however started trailing the book with many describing some of the accounts of the author as half-truths. It actually started from me. While flipping through a copy I bought at the event, I saw where the author indicated that Buhari chose Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as his running mate in the 2015 presidential election despite alleged enormous pressure from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to do otherwise.

The general belief is that Tinubu was instrumental to the emergence of Osinbajo who served as his Attorney-General when he (Tinubu) was the governor of Lagos State. But according to the book, the names of Tinubu; the then Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; and Osinbajo were forwarded to Buhari for him to pick a running mate shortly after he emerged the party’s candidate at its convention in Lagos.  The author claimed that Buhari chose Osinbajo above others.

I wrote a story from this claim and it was published on Tuesday. Since then, APC chiefs who claimed to know the truth have been issuing statements upon statements to fault Paden. They insisted that Osinbajo was Tinubu’s nominee for the position. The latest detailed reaction was from the Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello, who described the President’s biographer as a peddler of falsehood that was on a mission to distort history and put the entire society at a disadvantage.

For me, I want to believe that the author did not come out with that claim from the moon because Buhari himself said at the event that he spoke from his heart to Paden while preparing the book while the author in return applied professional touches to the interviews.

One thing is clear: the last is yet to be heard on the matter.

The Tinubu, Odigie-Oyegun drama

It is no longer news that the relationship between the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; and the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is far from being cordial. Although Odigie-Oyegun will prefer to refer to the situation as a difference of opinion and not a rift, nobody is left in doubt regarding the disagreement.

The reason for the disagreement is also in the public domain. Tinubu had recently written a statement, calling for the resignation of the party chairman. The bone of contention was the party’s governorship primary in Ondo State which produced Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming governorship election.

The former Lagos State Governor had accused Odigie-Oyegun of allegedly overruling the party’s National Working Committee that reportedly upheld the decision of the Appeal Committee which recommended the cancellation of the primary election’s result. The party chairman however refused to take issues with Tinubu who he said he held in high esteem.

A mild drama played out on Monday when the two party leaders were seen together in public for the first time since the disagreement broke out. It was at the presentation of the President’s biography. Odigie-Oyegun arrived the venue of the event well ahead of Tinubu. As if their plan was to settle the rift that day, protocol officials had placed the seats of the two leaders side-by-side.

Immediately he entered the venue, a number of guests and party chiefs besieged Tinubu. These party members formed a queue and took turns to exchange pleasantries with him as photojournalists were struggling to be in vantage positions where they could get the shots of when he would finally take his seat beside the party chairman.

While that was playing out, Odigie-Oyegun concentrated on his mobile telephone handset. The truth of the matter is that security agents had already blocked telephone signals at that time as they always do at events attended by the President. So I could not ascertain what the party chairman was busy doing with the handset for such a long period.

When Tinubu finally decided to take his seat, Odigie-Oyegun stood up and had a handshake with the former Lagos State governor. Immediately they took their seats, they engaged in a brief discussion before politicians and other guests started trooping in again to greet Tinubu.

Former Benue State Governor, Senator George Akume, noticed the tension and he decided to approach the two leaders. While he was discussing with Tinubu, he saw that photojournalists were taking their pictures and he quickly beckoned on Odigie-Oyegun to join them.

The national chairman then joined them while the three of them posed for photographs. Shortly after, Tinubu resumed his exchange of pleasantries with other party members. There was no free moment for him until the masters of ceremony announced the arrival of the President, signalling the commencement of the programme.

Enjoy your weekend.

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