Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state, says he reserves the right to back whoever he likes to emerge as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Ondo state governorship election.
A force to reckon with in Nigerian politics, Tinubu played a remarkable role in the emergence of Olusegun Mimiko, outgoing governor of Ondo.
He is also known to have made major contributions towards the opposition party forming government at the center – the first time in Nigeria’s history.
Reacting to an open letter by Tunji Abayomi, a lawyer and an APC aspirant in Ondo, Tinubu said Abayomi would not have attacked him if he had endorsed his ambition.
The aspirant had described Tinubu as a “man who frustrates the democratic aspirations of Nigerians through his dictatorial tendencies”.
Tinubu denied the allegation, saying he has always been a democrat and would remain one.
“You have been a friend and will continue to be. Thus, I can dispense with needless formality so that we can get to the crux of the issue. Your career is that of a lawyer and activist. I appreciate all that you have done in the pursuit of a more just and democratic Nigeria. However, your letter to me is an impetuous display unbecoming a man of your status and a man seeking the highest leadership position in his state. And as a lawyer you well know that one cannot seek equity without having done equity,” Tinubu said in his own letter.
“In writing the letter, you appear to have been bitten by a bug that often blinds the objectivity of a man. You have been bitten by an ambition that you fear you shall not be able to realize. In your pursuit of office, you have sought my support and influence. When you sought that support, you thought it proper and democratic to do so. If I had signalled my support for you, I am sure that you would never have written this letter alleging that I was undermining the democratic will of the people. You would have been pleased with me, I suppose.
“You said I seek to deny your democratic right. It is you who seeks to grab mine. If not mistaken, I believe I am a member of the APC. I reserve the right to support any candidate I wish because no one has the right to take this away from me. What your letter is really saying is that if I don’t support you I should keep my mouth shut.”
Tinubu advised Abayomi to channel the energy being used to “fight” an individual to “fight for votes in the primary”.
He said if the aspirant ends up winning the ticket of the party, he would congratulate him and work for the progress of the party.
Tinubu also denied the allegation that Abayomi convinced him to support President Muhammadu Buhari in the election, saying if the aspirant has such influence, how come he is struggling to get his own attention in Ondo.
“Instead of fighting me who is but one man with no vote, you should be fighting for votes and support,” he said.
“I have participated in elections for decades for myself and others. Some have been won. Some lost. Never, however, have I asked a friend for support than condemn for giving the very support I sought of them to another person. To do so is not to stand on principle but on bruised pride.
“You complain of a purported meeting I had to discuss the coming primary in Ondo. Do you deny me and other APC members now the right to assembly and talk? Had you heard that the meeting had anointed you, I doubt you would have written the first word of the letter you sent to me.
“But here I want to give you and others a clear assurance that you may rest more at ease. I will also do everything in my power to ensure the primaries are free and fair and that there will be no undue influence on the process.
“The candidate who can garner the most support and votes will win. Since its inception, the APC has run the cleanest and most transparent primaries in the history of this nation. The just concluded primary in Edo is further evidence of this. My dear friend I leave you free to run and win the primary. If you do, I shall congratulate you and support you in the general election.
“However, you must respect my rights as well and leave me to my own conscience to support who I will support. And to show interest in whom I wish.
“I also need to correct what appears to be a mistaken impression on your part about the 2015 election. Your letter seems to indicate that it was on your advice that I backed President Buhari. You assume too much credit and should be more guarded in your assertions.
“As a veteran in the political arena, I do not make important decisions lightly. I make final political decisions and calculations on my own after deep reflections and consultation with many people from many perspectives. I can assure you dear friend that I trust my own political counsel more than yours and that I have numerous other advisors whose advice I weigh more than yours.
“After all, had you so much influence over me in the presidential election, it would mean you surely should have greater influence over me when it comes to the primary in your state.”