Prominent Lagos indigenes recently initiated moves to reconcile the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George after over a decade of what the initiators called, a ‘malicious relationship’. Daily Trust reports on the possible outcome of the fence-mending move.
Last weekend, the Chairman of Lagos Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), Prince Tajudeen Olusi led some elders of Lagos State on a reconciliatory mission to the office of Chief Bode George along Lugard Avenue in Ikoyi.
GAC as fondly called in Lagos is like the council of elders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. They are a highly powerful organisation within the APC. In fact, some will say they are the most powerful under the control of Tinubu, the President-elect and their decision is final when it comes to deciding who governs the state. It is the same GAC that determined the fate of the former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who could not secure a second term as governor of the state.
But this time around, the GAC chairman said the mission to Bode George is non-partisan. In fact, he said the idea is not entirely his but that of prominent Nigerians and Lagosians concerned about the sour relationship between Tinubu and George, both prominent Lagosians.
For followers of the nation’s political development, Bode George is seen as Tinubu’s fiercest critic.
At every opportunity, George, a former military administrator of the state would not spare a rod for Tinubu, accusing him of corruption and mismanagement of resources in the state. Bode George has challenged Tinubu in all ramifications – his source of wealth, his age, his ancestry and at every point in time declared that Tinubu would never be president.
He was quoted on several occasions to have said he would relocate from Nigeria if Tinubu was elected as president, saying his presidency would be a disservice to Nigeria.
“It is a challenge. It would be the most illogical and most disruptive issue to have him (Tinubu) elected as president. If this happens, I will disown Nigeria to take the citizenship of Togo or any other country.
“Look, what this fellow did in my state, all the lies, and the most painful thing was that on the day of the election (2019 election), two bullion vans drove in the daylight to his house and what did Prof. Itse Sagay say, that he (Tinubu) had been a very wealthy man before. Where was he wealthy? If his (Sagay’s) conclusion was that, then something is wrong. Let us call a spade a spade and stop deceiving ourselves. So, if that is the way they want to do it, then I am ready to face him (Tinubu).
“Let us get out there because it would be the greatest disservice for our nation to have him contest as a presidential candidate,” he said in an interview granted in 2020.
A tall mission?
Notwithstanding the age-long enmity between the duo, the elders have started a mission, which looked like a tall one but they are positive about achieving a good result.
At the meeting were former Lagos Chief Judge, Retired Justice Ishola Olorunnibe, former deputy governor, Chief Abiodun Ogunleye, former deputy governor and Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDG, Orelope Adefulire, a retired federal Permanent Secretary and Odofin of Lagos, Chief Layi Ogunbambi, among others.
They subsequently went into a closed-door session which lasted for over five hours.
However, while the majority of those at the meeting were allies of Tinubu, the mission was carried out under the auspices of Lagos Elders.
It was learnt that this would be the second meeting to be held by the elders in a bid to end the cold war between Tinubu and George.
Bode George at the end of the meeting said he has no personal grudge against Tinubu.
“There is no battle between me and Asiwaju, a divided house is a defeated house. What has happened has happened, vengeance is of the Lord alone, we will have disagreements but we will not be disagreeable.
“On the issue of congratulating Asiwaju, I need to point out that I belong to a party, and these different parties are in court, we will have to wait for the court judgment.
Secondly, they wanted me to pay him a courtesy call. I was like, what are you talking about? I am the man representing South-West in the national confines of our party and I’m a life BoT member. So, how do I add that together? We are still in court, how do I now say I want to go and greet him? Greet him for what? What will my party and my people think about me?
“Once we finish at the court, then we’ll know what to do. The PDP members and I present were very clear in our mind that going to him now will be a bit suicidal. I am still an irredentist PDP man.”
Olusi in a chat with our correspondent said the move was instigated by prominent Nigerians who are concerned about the unity of the country.
He said, “As you must have noticed, the session from Chief Bode George is very positive and the initiative has received overwhelming support from well-meaning Nigerians, particularly Lagosians.
“The idea is not entirely mine but that of a number of prominent Lagosians who are anxious about the unity of Lagos State and by extension Nigeria.
“Therefore, you must have noticed this development and I am positive that this would metamorphose into a very good development.
“The two individuals concerned are prominent citizens of Nigeria in their own right. Apart from that, the two of them have played the role of governors in different states of this country. One is a former governor of Lagos State; the other was a governor of Ondo State. The two of them share a common identity as Lagosians. Apart from that, they have played prominent roles in different political parties in the affairs of our country and for the first time in the history of our country, the presidency has been zoned to Lagos.
“Nigerians have elected one of us, a former governor of Lagos and please note that Lagos is a foundation of Nigeria and therefore it is important that all Lagosians, whatever might be our position, whatever might be our role, support the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, even by our prayers. God is the sustainer, for God to sustain him, for God to assist him to excel, for God to assist him to put down remarkable marks of progress and development through the position of the presidency of our country.”
He said the peace move would be extended to other prominent Lagosians who have one grievance or the other with Tinubu in order to get the buy-in of every stakeholder to the presidency of Tinubu.
“Let me assure you, we are going to continue, we are going to reach out to other Lagosians who have one complaint or the other, we are going to reach out to all of them, we are all brothers and sisters and everyone can give his support, his contributions in spite of different religions, in spite of different political parties, that’s our position,” he said.
Speaking on the peace move, a former House of Representatives member from Lagos, Dr. Wumi Bewaji said the reconciliatory meeting is a positive development, which would be in the best interest of Lagos State. He said it has shown the maturity of Lagos elders towards peacebuilding.
“This is a good development. You know Bode George had said he was going into exile and that he is going to leave Nigeria. You know the usual reaction of the youth would have been, ‘Baba, go we are waiting for you to leave.’
“This is the difference between elders and youths. Elders have maturity and introspection. For Bode George, at his age, where do you expect him to go? So, I think the elders are doing the right thing and it is highly commendable that in spite of whatever political differences, they would still be able to act with maturity and understanding.
“The way I see it is that Baba Olusi, being an elder and leader of the GAC of Lagos State and who has been a former parliamentarian and Baba Olorunnibe, a former Judge of Lagos State, is a good thing that can bring down the temperature. It is a good thing that elders are coming together to say they want to put an end to this. It is highly commendable.”
He also expressed optimism that the reconciliation would work in spite of the past comments against Tinubu by Bode George.
“Asiwaju is known to be a man with a large heart. From May 29, he is going to be the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria, and being the President of Africa’s largest economy, it is a powerful office to occupy. To occupy that office, which means in spite of everything that has been done to him by his enemies, by members of his own political parties, and for God to make him overcome all of that, there is a divine agenda in place. When you are a beneficiary of that, which means you have to extend grace to people so as to show gratitude to God. I don’t think there is anything that anybody has said that cannot be forgiven. And for the two of them to come together, it would set the tone for a new era in Lagos.”