The pioneer National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Chief Bisi Akande, has given an insight into the severe pressure mounted on the party by influential persons to make sure Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), now the President, did not emerge as the party’s candidate for the 2015 election.
In his 559-page autobiography, titled ‘My Participations’, launched in Lagos on Thursday, Akande said persons like former President Olusegun Obasanjo and some unnamed elite, especially from the north, including royal fathers, were against Buhari becoming the party’s candidate.
The former Osun State governor explained that an aristocratic leader from the North came to Osogbo, the state capital, to persuade the then governor, Rauf Aregbesola, to prevail on them to drop Buhari.
He, however, said the leaders of the newly formed party decided to go ahead with Buhari, given his charisma and the support he had garnered in his previous attempts, having contested the coveted position three times earlier. He said the emergence of the APC created a formidable structure for him and that Buhari’s candidacy was in fact one of the bases for the merger of the constituent political parties.
Regardless of this, he noted that the party allowed anybody interested in the ticket to contest against Buhari at the convention, where he eventually won.
On Obasanjo’s opposition to Buhari’s candidacy, he wrote, “When the party was ready and we were going around to all the leaders, someone reminded us that we had not seen Obasanjo and (former Head of State, Ibrahim) Babangida, and asked them to join us.
“We also met Obasanjo and asked him to join us. He said he would not join us but that he had his sympathy for us. He said he had decided not to join any political party since he left the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party).
“Behind the scene however, I understood he was pressurising some of our leaders not to use Buhari as our candidate. It got to a point when Bola Tinubu had to confront him thus: ‘It is not fair sending me to Buhari. Buhari was a soldier and he was one of your junior offices in the army. Why don’t you call Buhari and let him know how you feel about his intention to be President?’
“I don’t know whether Obasanjo stopped at it. From the start, he did not want Buhari to be President.”
Also, on the opposition by the other elite, Akande wrote, “It was apparent from the start that Buhari would be our choice for President. That was one of the bases for the merger. However, there were pressures from the elite, especially from the North, including royal fathers, piling pressure on us not to allow Buhari to be our presidential candidate.
Efforts to get a reaction from Obasanjo on the statement made by Akande failed, as his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, did not respond to the message sent to him.
“A prominent aristocratic leader from the North stayed several nights in Osogbo, persuading Governor Aregbesola to prevail on us not to field Buhari. He threatened that if we did, there would be trouble in the North. We reviewed all these threats and decided to go through it with Buhari.”