Before now, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC ) has always been regarded as one of the true heroes of the June 12 struggle. To many, Tinubu is a consummate politician, consistent democrat, tested and trusted leader and a staunch believer in the June 12 struggle.
In a recent interview, Chief Olu Falae, a former presidential candidate and elder statesman claimed that the 1999 governorship primaries of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos was won by the late Funso Williams but leaders of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), led by the late Senator Abraham Adesanya announced Tinubu as the winner as a compensation to him for his ordeal in the June 12 struggle which culminated in his going on exile.
According to Falae, ““Late Funsho Williams who won the primary election of the AD backed down after my intervention.
“I pleaded with Funsho Williams that by the grace of God if I become the president, I will give him legitimate recognition and opportunity to serve the country if he allowed Tinubu to become AD governorship nominee to save our leader, Pa Abraham Adesanya, the late leader of Afenifere, who announced him as the winner.
“Pa Adesanya was shot nine times by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha’s men. His children prevailed on him to stop leading NADECO but instead he replied that the struggle had just started. Ironically, Tinubu turned round to destroy Afenifere.
“It was Williams who won the AD primaries but there were some disagreements in parts of Mainland Local Government and Ikorodu; Pa Adesanya settled for Tinubu as the winner of the governorship primaries simply because he (Tinubu) was a key leader during the NADECO movement against the military government under Abacha.
“Tinubu suffered in consequence and was in exile abroad while I was detained with others for two years in Nigeria. Pa Adesanya insisted that one of us who suffered should be governor so that he could rehabilitate others”.
Throughout his tenure as governor, Tinubu, who said May 29 is not the original Democracy Day declared June 12 as a public holiday in Lagos State. With his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in charge, President Muhammadu Buhari last year conferred the highest national honour on the late MKO Abiola. This year, he officially assented to the Bill making June 12 Democracy Day and also renamed the National Stadium Abuja after Abiola.
Little wonder many Nigerians were shocked when Kola, the late Abiola’s first son in a recent interview claimed that Tinubu begged former Head of State, Sani Abacha to make him a Commissioner in Lagos even when Abiola was in custody.
According to Kola , it was after Tinubu had lost out that he decided to join hands with the National Democratic Coalition to fight for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate .
Speaking on Tinubu, he said “At the very beginning, he was part of the Yar’Adua PF group from Jos. He was a senator then, and as far as the group went, we related. The crisis started post-election. When Abacha came, one of the things he wanted to do was to be the administrator for Lagos”.
“Yes. I am sure you have seen pictures of him and my dad. He was hoping that there would be civilian administrators like we had under IBB but Abacha said no, that he was going to have military administrators. So he (Tinubu) said okay, in that case, can I be a deputy administrator? But Abacha said that there wouldn’t be deputies. Then he wanted the post of a commissioner”.
“Yes. Then it was a choice between him and someone very close to Jakande who has passed on now. I can’t remember his name, but because Babagana was already in the government, that guy was picked as commissioner. But really, Senator Tinubu had lost out already”.
“Yes, he was close enough. He and Adeniji Adele, a very good guy, were close to my father. In fact, Adeniyi was closer to my father and more dedicated to the process than anyone of them. When my documentary comes out, you will see Tinubu’s take on issues. So once he lost out, automatically, he became a NADECO member and Adeniji was incarcerated”.
Kola’s claim was corroborated by Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who described Tinubu as a “June 12 opportunist”.
George, the Atona Oodua of Yorubaland hailed Kola for deciding to make a documentary of the June 12 saga, adding that he must not be victimised for saying the truth since , as the first son of MKO , he was an insider.
He said , “It is true that Tinubu went to beg for a commissioner position . He was in the Villa and Gen . Oladipo Diya is a witness. He ( Tinubu ) said he wanted to be a deputy to a military administrator and when all that didn ’t work , he went into his activism .”
“Most of what Kola said is true. He spoke from the heart and he was trying to set the records straight in the face of the many narratives. He had been looking for who would help to recognise the June 12 saga so that his father wouldn ’ t have died in vain .
“In the course of this , he had bottled up so much . He went through a lot , having lost his mother and family businesses during the struggle . So , he was setting the records straight so that people would not rewrite history.”
However, these accusations did not go down well with Tinubu’s supporters in the APC and have fired back at the duo for describing Tinubu as a villain.
Joe Igbokwe, APC Publicity Secretary in Lagos in his reaction, said although APC did not find the need to “dignify a collapsed and a failed politician in Lagos or a little kid without sense of history with a response at a time like this, but we changed our mind because we do not want to allow lies to be told a thousand times so that some people will not believe it as the truth.”
He noted that before the annulment of June 12 1993 Presidential Elections Governors, Senators, House of Reps Members, State Assembly members had been in place and Tinubu was one of the elected Senators from Lagos.
“Now how can an elected Senator be asking for a mere appointment as Commissioner? Does it make sense to anybody who is privileged to be a sensible person?”
“In one breath the story tellers said Asiwaju asked for the post of a commissioner and in another they told us he wanted to be Deputy Sole Administrator Of Lagos. Now, do we have anything like Deputy Sole Administrator then? Was it in existence? Are they not liars from the pit of hell?”
Also reacting, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd),a NADECO chieftain said Kola was not fair to Tinubu and others who fought for the June 12 struggle by labeling them as opportunists.
He said that even though he had parted ways with Tinubu, he would still not fail to tell the truth about the role he played in the struggle.
“In spite of my personal disappointment with Asiwaju, I cannot be a witness to Kola Abiola’s ungratefulness to the lowest depth. We need to set the record straight. It is noteworthy to see that I have for over four years distanced myself from my hitherto close friend, Asiwaju.” Those who are close to Asiwaju and my humble self know that”.
“Chief Kola Abiola’s questioning of the integrity of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s early support for his father, Chief MKO Abiola, on doubtful demand from Gen. Sani Abacha is completely unnecessary and so uncalled for. To what end is Kola’s negative observation directed? Who is Kola Abiola trying this lie to give comfort to?” he asked.