Former Chairman, Lagos State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Henry Ajomale, has urged Nigerians to ignore the submissions of Kola Abiola, son of the late MKO Abiola, about Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s role before, during and after the June 12 struggles, saying the younger Abiola cannot speak on the APC National Leader’s role in the pro-democracy struggles in Nigeria. In this interview with Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, Ajomale said it is obvious that Kola was not on the same page with his late father as far as the June 12 issues were concerned. He affirmed that Tinubu remains one of the pillars of democracy in the country irrespective of what his detractors may say. He also spoke on President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term, the security scares across the country and other issues. Excerpts
DID you read the claims credited to Kola Abiola, son of late MKO Abiola about Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s role before, during and after the June 12 struggles?
Kola Abiola lied against Tinubu. But why he decided to do so I wouldn’t know. Kola Abiola was trying to distort history. But thank God many eminent Nigerians who played active role during the June 12 struggle, and who knew the roles each individual played, have been debunking Kola’s claims. As a close associate of Tinubu’s who was together with Tinubu during that period, and still with him today, when I saw that interview by Kola, I knew he was being mischievous. But it is gladdening that Kola’s claims had been described as nothing but tissues of lies by many Nigerians, including Col. Tony Nyiam [retd], a former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and General Secretary, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, among a host of others.
Tinubu is one of the great pillars of our democracy. Kola Abiola can’t rubbish him. No individual or group can rubbish him. Tinubu played an indelible role in the struggle for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria. He used his personal resources to fight the military which annulled the June 12 1993 elections. How possible, how can a Senator want to become a Commissioner or Administrator? As a Senator, Tinubu was far and above all these positions. He never hobnobbed with the military. Have you seen any of the other Abiola’s children coming out to support Kola’s claims against Tinubu? Tinubu was one of those who funded Radio Kudirat, the pro-democracy broadcasting outfit based in London which became a thorn in the flesh of the Abacha junta.
As a close associate of Tinubu, can you recall some of the things that transpired during that period?
During the period in question, Tinubu was an elected Senator but when Abacha dissolved the Senate after sacking the Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonekan, Tinubu formed a group of Senators that were opposed to Abacha and the military. This group of Senators, led by Tinubu, became a thorn in the flesh of the military to the extent that Abacha arrested Tinubu and detained him in Ikoyi Prison for nine (9) months before he later went on exile to continue the struggle against the military dictatorship. But before he fled into exile, Abacha had already declared Tinubu an enemy. The military had become uncomfortable with his anti-military stance and declared him a persona non-grata.
At a point, Abacha junta falsely accused Tinubu of planning to bomb NNPC depot at Ejigbo in Lagos. It was at this point that Tinubu decided to go into exile. Tinubu never had anything to do with lobbying Abacha for any appointment. Rather, it was the leader of the political association that Tinubu belonged to, the Primrose Group, led by Chief Dapo Sarumi, that unfortunately decided to participate in Abacha’s government, and he was made the Minister for Communications. When Sarumi was planning to take that appointment, Tinubu got wind of it and he leaked it to other members of the group. But despite our efforts to persuade Sarumi not to join Abacha’s government, he refused to listen to us and went ahead to serve in Abacha’s government. All these goes to show that what Kola said about Tinubu were lies.
Not only that. It also shows that Kola was also not on the same page with his father politically at the height of the June 12 crisis. I will humbly urge Tinubu to ignore those who are trying to portray him in bad light for political and selfish reasons. No matter how they try, his political adversaries will always fail. Lest I forget, Nigerians should also not forget that when Abacha’s Foreign Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, went to the United Nation’s General Assembly to defend that infamous military regime, it was Tinubu that flew all the way from London and mobilised other pro-democracy activists to counter Ikimi. And that was how Abacha’s regime was shamed before the international community. Tinubu has paid his dues. It is very unfortunate that some Nigerians are envious of his success as a political generalissimo, and one of the pillars of the nation’s democracy.
Do you share the opinion that President Buhari’s cabinet is again delayed, 6 weeks after his inauguration for a second term?
Nigerians should be patient. They should not stampede Buhari. Already, the Presidency has told Nigerians that the President is working on the matter. They further assured that the announcement and formation of the new cabinet will not take long. Let’s be patient with Buhari so that we can have the best. I’m very sure that by the time the list of cabinet members is announced, we will all commend the President. I enjoined Nigerians to give maximum co-operation with Buhari so that he can consolidate on the achievements he recorded during his first term. I believe that the APC administration led by Buhari will surely take Nigeria to the next level.
What would you want the newly inaugurated National Assembly to take as priorities?
My advice to members is that they co-operate with the executive in order to give Nigeria the best. The National Assembly should not be antagonistic of the executive. They should work together in harmony. I’m not saying that the National Assembly should be a rubber stamp for the executive but that they should work together in harmony for the common interests of all Nigerians. Once the relationship between the two arms of government is harmonious, other things will be easy to achieve.
On the present state of insecurity, what do you think should be the way out?
We should all be vigilant and be our brothers’ keepers. We should also co-operate with security agents in order to expose and flush out criminal elements in our midst. These criminals making life difficult for people are not ghosts. They are human beings. Nigerians should give relevant information to security agents, including the Police, so that these bad elements can be arrested and brought to justice. I also implore President Buhari to take advice given to him by a delegation of Afenifere leaders that visited him in Aso Rock on Tuesday. The delegation, led by Senator Ayo Fasanmi, including APC National leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Prince Tajudeen Olusi and Aremo Olusegun Osoba, advised the federal government to recruit more policemen across the country’s 777 local government areas in order to boost security. I urge Buhari to take this advice and other ones given to him by our leaders.
Buhari is on the track. The era of impunity is gone. My advice to Buhari is that he should sustain the fight against corruption. Under PDP, corruption was the order of the day but thank God Buhari and APC have reversed that. It is no longer business as usual.
You were state chairman of the ruling party in Lagos State for 12 years. What was your staying power in spite of the many intrigues associated with politics and political offices?
It was not easy leading people, especially politicians. However, one major thing I did that worked for me was that the welfare of my members came first and foremost all those years. As the leader, people will come to you for so many things. Those who need money to pay bills will come, those who need advice and guidance will come; you have to attend to all of them as much as you can. Give them money when you have and seek their understanding when you don’t have. Aside that, I was always prepared to provide leadership especially during elections be it normal and unscheduled elections. And when there is a problem, which you always have anyway, you have to lead the way first and get leaders of the party to go there and settle it. You have to be good in dispute resolution. When you leave a problem to linger for too long, it becomes a monster and develops into a big crisis. Once it develops into crisis, then it becomes very difficult for you to manage.