By Wale Adedayo
When information filtered in that former governors of Lagos and Ogun States, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, have resolved their differences, it was not a surprise. Both men were bosom friends until Daniel’s entrance on the Ogun State political stage in 2003, when rivalry propelled by ego (some claimed money), ensured that both men did everything possible to pull each other down.
Of course, this is not the first time the war between both men’ll be settled. Such settlements have taken place before, and brokered by at least two well-respected monarchs from Yorubaland. These happened while Daniel was still in office as governor. And, none of it lasted. However, that of a few weeks ago presents a different picture, given the fact that it was brokered by a traditional ruler from Northern Nigeria.
And this was where the questions began for me: How many aides/supporters of Daniel knew about this settlement either before hand or after? Why should a Northern figure settle the differences between Tinubu and Daniel, which no Oba in Yorubaland has been able to achieve, for long? Why are both men determined to sheathe their swords this time around? In the face of a determined effort by Tinubu to unseat Goodluck Jonathan come 2015, why is Daniel, a friend of the president doing this?
Understanding the feelings of aides of both men, who worked to outdo one another on behalf of their bosses, is important for a person like me. Effective strategy in the Art of Political Management demands you understand your principal more than almost any other person around him/her. One certainly does not have an idea about how Tinubu felt about Daniel at the height of their war, being on the other side for a better part of four years (December 2004 – January 2009).
But being a close aide of Daniel for four years, it was interesting seeing the former governor in different moods at, the mention of Tinubu’s name or the appearance of anything Tinubu. Daniel could look jittery. At other times, his look could be vengeful. It could also be that of self-pity. But a summary often presents a completely different picture – it was something like, ‘what went wrong?’
Until about July/August 2008, one was a major arrowhead of Daniel’s anti-Tinubu campaign efforts. Before his switch to Senator Ibikunle Amosun as against the late Otunba Dipo Dina, who he earlier supported, Tinubu spared no effort in his silent war against Daniel. We did our best too, given the minimal resources in Ogun State as opposed to the maximum war chest owned by Lagos State in terms of human (media-men/women, activists, boys, etc) and material (funds, etc).
And, we had success stories to crown our efforts in certain areas. A few examples’ll suffice. Interestingly enough, this has never stopped a persistent whispering campaign that one was working under the table for Tinubu, and later (from 2007 onwards) for former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The former Ogun State often jokingly, but derisively referred to me as one of Tinubu’s tool as almost everyone believed The PUNCH, where I was before joining Daniel remains a member of Asiwaju’s media empire. But I am sure Daniel would have discovered by now that some of those around him jittery of another taking their place planted those stories including supposed evidence to support such.
As Director of Organisation, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ogun State at the time, a ‘counter-operation’ from my office returned the Jibowu Street, Yaba, Lagos headquarters to the old men of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, after Tinubu’s men, led by his former deputy, Mr. Femi Pedro, stormed the place and broke the locks as part of moves to rid the place of the leaders. Afenifere Youth Forum (AYF), another personal initiative, with a website (afenifereonline.org) designed for the ‘parent’ group operated from my office after we regained the secretariat as part of efforts to understanding of the younger generation, which the Tinubu side had in abundance.
An alert to Daniel about this move of Tinubu got a favourable response from former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, who assisted to rid the place of mobile policemen (Lagos State’s Rapid Response Squad) from Alausa. Had Pedro not been a deputy governor, he would have spent some time in detention, given the instructions from Abuja. Current National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who was part of Tinubu’s efforts at the time, spent some time in detention at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos.
Another was the outing of members of a group used as subtle destabilization agents against Daniel’s Administration and led by some supposed civil society activists, but being ran at the time from the office of Tinubu’s former Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Segun Ayobolu. Thousands of leaflets printed by this group, meant for distribution in the 20 local governments of Ogun State, were intercepted by my office with the ‘activists’ ‘contained’ by our boys. We handed them over to men of the State Security Service (SSS), who later confirmed what we had always known – that the funds and materials for the operation were supplied by Alausa. This was during Tinubu’s second term in office.
But the SSS intervention revealed more. The ‘activists’ were greedy. Despite the funds they got for the agitation-propaganda operation from Alausa, they wanted more from Daniel as they sought to blackmail the governor at the time. But for the involvement of one of Daniel’s media aide in the scheme, the SSS was prepared to charge the ‘activists’ and their collaborators in court. The aide was arrested, with Ayobolu being questioned too. The Tinubu CPS soon got ‘promoted’ out of office to a Special Adviser shortly after this event. But Daniel never distanced himself from that aide. He was, and remains, an expert in dangerous text messages with another estranged aide of the former governor being a notable negative-text-messaging ability.
There is no doubt it is only Daniel and Tinubu who knew how and why their war began. But it is also a fact that aides, and possibly friends-turned-aides, might have done one thing or the other to poison their relationship. An example’ll suffice.
After a reconciliation meeting among his Inner Four in June 2008 in Croydon, London, I saw another side of Daniel never seen before: a man who regrets. We were alone. But I cannot recollect precisely what led to a mention of Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola’s name. Daniel brightened up, but soon lost his light as he recessed into deep thoughts. I subsequently broke into his thoughts with my posers: “Oga, do you realize that Fashola treated you like a big Egbon upon his assumption of office? Do you realize there was hardly an event we organized in Abeokuta that the man did not attend?”
It was a very surprised, but humbled Daniel, who broke in saying, ‘yes, yes’, nodding in affirmation with a look that sought to recapture some of the moments just mentioned in his memory. Knowing that I now have his undivided attention, I continued: “My sources in Alausa told me one of the first things he did upon assumption office was to instruct his media and information people that he does not want any attack against you, that the war between you and Tinubu should not be continued under his administration.”
Now frowning, he blurted out: “But he has stopped attending our events, and Lagos State appears to be fighting with us again.” I did not respond on time because it was a delicate moment given the fact that most of the problems involving Daniel had to do with one or two of his closest people. My courage returned as I told him about the statement of his Chief of Staff, Chief Yomi Majekodunmi, during a reception we organized for the retired Director General of the SSS, Col. Kayode Are, at Gateway Hotel, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
At the mention of this event, which was also attended by Tinubu shortly after Fashola had become governor, Daniel became a study in attentive listening. I explained how Majekodunmi told the gathering that Fashola was there to learn from the Leader. On the surface, it was an innocuous statement. Tinubu began whispering into Fashola’s ear even before Majekodunmi finished his MC’s statement. The Lagos State governor did not stay long after that. And it was the last time he attended any event involving us, to my knowledge in Ogun State.
But apart from my explanation, I challenged Daniel to watch the video recording of the event again to ascertain for himself why after that event the Lagos State governor did not attend anything organized by Abeokuta again. He became remorseful and countered that I should have told him immediately or shortly after so that he could make amends. But my countenance was like, ‘how many of such have I made in vain with nothing by way of positive correction coming out of it?’
Putting this blame on aides or friends could also be misplaced. Daniel was and remains his own man. Former Editor of Compass newspaper, Gabriel Akinadewo, had called one evening about July/August 2008 pleading I should confirm if Daniel had reconciled with Tinubu. I dismissed his matter-of-fact statement with a wave of the hand by responding in the negative immediately. It was not possible, because Daniel had a few days earlier directed that I restock my pile of anti-Tinubu materials. But following Akinadewo’s persistence, I decided to confirm from Daniel as my friend had demanded.
Daniel was still in the office that evening as I left mine to join him. He denied any such event, initially. But confronted with the facts Gabriel gave me, he retorted, “Is it everything you want to know?” The former governor later admitted it was Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, who had invited both men to Lekki, Lagos for a truce meeting. Of course, I did not tell him, but it was the last time I worked on any anti-Tinubu material for him.
The traditional ruler, who acted as a father figure to settle this rift, obviously enjoys enormous respect beyond word of mouth from both men. This is very important in situations like these. But its timing is suspicious. Some observers are already pointing at 2015 presidential calculations. Could it be an avenue for the North to consolidate its quest for The Presidency in the South-West, which is already a settled matter among members of the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
Besides, speculations were rife a while back that Daniel was nursing a Senatorial ambition. A number of people believe he’ll join the All Progressives Congress (APC), while others argued against this position. An angry APC source in Abeokuta lamented to me during a discussion on Sunday that the party may want to leave Ogun East Senatorial District for Daniel’s Labour Party so he could actualize a long-held ambition to be in the senate.
To me, this does not make much political sense as leaving a senatorial district with nine local governments for Daniel could incapacitate an APC governor through the election of opposing legislators if the party truly believes in winning the 2015 gubernatorial election in Ogun State. Of course, with the Ipari Ija, it is certain Daniel’ll ruffle a number of feathers in Aso Rock Villa with some of them getting angry that the man is romancing an enemy (Tinubu).
If indications at one’s disposal is anything to go by, the former Ogun State governor may not give a hoot. It was not only Obasanjo that Jonathan disgraced with the promotion of billionaire PDP-financier, Prince Buruji Kashamu, as South-West leader of the party. Daniel has been critically injured emotionally since Kashamu’s emergence as the face and voice of Aso Rock Villa for the South-West chapter of the PDP.
Devoid of politics, the new found peace between Tinubu and Daniel could have a salutary effect on Yoruba aspirations concerning the proposed National Conference. Tinubu is opposed to the conference, not implacably, though. His opposition stems from Jonathan’s failed administration, which the former Lagos State governor believes is a major impediment to presiding over an important national issue like a national conference. Tinubu believes Jonathan wants to use the conference as a smokescreen to win sympathy among the Yoruba, majority of who wants a restructured Nigeria through a national dialogue of the country’s ethnic nationalities.
Daniel, and Afenifere to which the former Ogun State governor belongs, remain major points of support for Jonathan concerning the national conference. Sources believe the former Ogun State governor is the major link between The Presidency and Afenifere. Thus, it is possible for the current peace between both men to work in favour of bringing Tinubu back into the Afenifere fold, and possibly ensure that he throws his enormous political weight behind the proposed national conference for the sake of the Yoruba Nation if asked to do so by his friend, Daniel.
And, here’s wishing both men a blissful 2014 and beyond!