This Day (Lagos)

3 September 2014

Nigeria: Tinubu Replies Ikimi, Denies Betraying Ribadu

Former Lagos State governor and a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, yesterday reacted to some of the direct attacks from a former top-notch member of his party, Chief Tom Ikimi, who last week accused Tinubu of manipulating APC for personal gains.

Ikimi had in a lengthy letter titled: "APC, My Reflections" and addressed to the party's National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, derided Tinubu, citing betrayal and his knack for acquiring wealth at the expense of others, as reasons for his decision to leave APC.

But in a statement from his media office, Tinubu, who denied practically all that Ikimi accused him of, said he would not have responded to what he described as "cheap blackmail and abuse" but asserted falsehood could be mistaken for truth, adding that: "I have seen Ikimi perpetrate this deviousness in his years in public life."

Taking the issues one after the other, Tinubu said: "Regarding Ikimi's bid for the chairmanship of the party, it was clear to practically everyone who had the interest of the party at heart that we simply could not have a man of Tom Ikimi's antecedents as chair of the party.

"As chairman of the NRC, one of the only two political parties in the country under the military transition programme, Tom Ikimi not only connived with the then military regime to annul the elections, terminate the democratic process and sell off his party, he became Abacha's foreign minister, convincing the world that heinous state murders like the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa were just acts!

"If Ikimi were the chair of APC, the party would have to sleep with both eyes open lest its chairman sold off the party before day break. No matter what anyone may say about me, it is unlikely that I can be accused of supporting incompetent or morally light-weight individuals for important political positions.

"My philosophy is to put the best forward, men and women of competence and integrity, who can stand up to us politicians to challenge us and say no when necessary. Such people are not noisy or able to gain attention by being loud. I believe my role is to do all I can to project them.

"Who in their right mind would compare the highly principled Chief Bisi Akande, or Chief Oyegun with a Tom Ikimi? Either of these two men is known for their no-nonsense styles, not once in their careers would you hear that they betrayed a cause or were anybody's stooge."

On the controversial Oando/ConocoPhilips deal, the former Lagos governor said the Ikimi story of his meeting with the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Deziani Allison-Madueke, on the eve of the APC Convention was his concoction.

His words: "Only a Tom Ikimi can come up with the absurd falsehood that on the eve of the APC Convention when I was in crucial meetings practically round the clock, I was meeting with the Minister for Petroleum! What exactly would have been the point of such a meeting especially on the eve of the convention?

"Was it to prevent Tom Ikimi from emerging as chairman of the APC? To what end? Of what value would it be to anyone except Ikimi himself? Besides, if this was so, why is he back to the same party that purportedly planned his down fall?

"What is the Oando/ConocoPhillips transaction anyway? For those who do not know, this is a private sale of the assets of ConocoPhillips to Oando. It was not patronage of any kind from the federal government. The federal government's involvement was merely to formally consent to the sale. I was not involved and I have never been involved in any of Oando's transactions.

"Typically, he plays on the fact that Wale Tinubu of Oando is my nephew. Oando has been thoroughly investigated by South African and British authorities in the past five years as part of the process of listing the company on the stock exchanges of those countries.

"Those rigorous and comprehensive investigations conducted by the governments and risk control investigators are to discover the actual ownership of shares in the company.

"Politically exposed persons like me are prime targets for those investigations. All these investigations have shown that I have no investments in Oando. My public position on the entire transaction is that if an indigenous Nigerian oil and gas entity run by young serious minded Nigerians who raised money transparently in international capital markets to the purchase private assets of a multinational, the federal government ought to give its consent.

"That it took so long is shameful. The Conoco/Phillips transaction was a $1.7 billion investment in Nigeria that would create more jobs, witness the establishment of allied industries and make the Nigerian economy more attractive. I would have been extremely proud to have made such a transaction possible."

Regarding the allegation that Tinubu sold out on Malam Nuhu Ribadu as the presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), during the 2011 general election, he argued: "I think common sense should dictate that if ever such a deal were reached, we would have had to inform our members in all the states.

"How could that have been done secretly? How do you tell hundreds of thousands of people not to vote for your own party without it becoming public knowledge?

"At the formation of the APC, a crucial debate ensued about what to do about persons like Ikimi, who had done awful things in the past, but who were now minded to align with the progressive tendency in Nigerian politics. Should we forever blacklist them? This would have been the easiest route, but it would have kept rancour alive. It would have made us slaves to the bleakest chapters of our past.

"Instead, we opted to extend the hand of brotherhood, reconcile and put the past behind us. This would enable a broader political consensus, while also giving the likes of Ikimi an opportunity to atone for their grievous wrongs against the people and be rehabilitated.

"We recognised that many leading Nigerians had committed acts of shame. Some for private profit, others who were otherwise decent people but had become prisoners to a terrible system.

"Not surprisingly, Ikimi, acting true to type abused that magnanimity. He was never sincerely committed to the party. He was always playing out a PDP script. He only wanted the chairmanship of the party as a bargaining chip for negotiations with his benefactors.

"His defection, purportedly on account of the loss of the chairmanship of the party, is a mere subterfuge. Once his ploy failed, he had no other objective within the party; I knew he would go back to his sponsors. He is back in the company he deserves. And APC is better for it."

In a related development, the APC yesterday put the blame of the sponsorship of the dreaded Boko Haram sect on the doorstep of the presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The party's National Chairman, Odigie-Oyegun, who addressed journalists on the recent controversial exposé on Boko Haram sponsors made by the Australian negotiator, Mr. Stephen Davis, as exclusively reported by THISDAY last week, accused PDP of plotting to use the insecurity situation for electoral advantage with the purpose of winning the 2015 general election.

"The die is cast. The truth is finally out! Boko Haram sponsors have been exposed. They are within the ruling PDP. They are friends of President (Goodluck) Jonathan. He cannot pretend not to know who they are and what they have done and are still doing.

"His myriad of intelligence agencies, including the DSS and the DMI, cannot pretend they do not have any information on these men, " he said. Oyegun who also commented of the parting of ways with two leading members of the opposition party, Senator Modu Sheriff and Ikimi, described the duo as surrogates of the PDP and presidency, and moles whose agenda to decimate the opposition had failed.

The party took time yesterday evening to play back for journalists the recorded version of the controversial revelations by Davis on the sponsors of Boko Haram as was relayed on Arise Television, a THISDAY sister company.

Oyegun said the PDP-led federal government had persistently pointed accusing fingers at the APC as the sponsors of the Boko Haram without any concrete evidence to that effect.

He said a top official of the federal government, late General Andrew Azazi had openly laid the blame of Boko Haram on PDP and was removed from office shortly afterwards.

He also alleged that several efforts were made by the PDP agents to put the blame of Boko Haram on General Muhammadu Buhari but without success, before a suspected assassination attempt was made on him through a bomb attack in Kaduna.

Speaking on the abduction of 200 Chibok schoolgirls, the party said the issue was still begging for answers was the manner in which the insurgents undertook the kidnapping with emergency rule still in force and soldiers guarding the area suddenly withdrawn.

He said his party had maintained that the Boko Haram-triggered insecurity was a politically motivated act whose only target is the 2015 general election.

According to Oyegun, the man who exposed the sponsors was hired by Jonathan and certainly not speaking for the opposition, adding that the onus of proof remains with the government in order to discredit Davis.

On why APC did not bother to check the veracity of the claims by the Australian before cashing-in on it, Oyegun said the party believes that the crime of insurgency was a heinous one and no government can tolerate its sponsors. He said the reason for demanding that the named sponsors be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was for them to be investigated before any prosecution.

Oyegun said it is not for APC to doubt the claims of Davis but to put the matter squarely on the doorsteps of the presidency and federal government whose responsibility it is to investigate it.

"Stephen Davis, a man hired by the President Jonathan-led federal government to negotiate with Boko Haram for the release of the Chibok girls decided to speak out, believing the best way to tackle the insurgency is to expose the sponsors. And who are they?

"On international television last Thursday, and as you have just seen and heard, he named former Borno Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and a former Army Chief, Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, as the sponsors of Boko Haram," he said.

Also defending the position of APC, the party's spokesman, Alhaji Lai Muhammed said the Australian was an appointee of the federal government charged with negotiating the release of the Chibok girls.

He said the party had offered a hand of fellowship on finding the way out of the crisis but was stabbed in its back. According to him, the president must take steps to weed out all the fifth columnists

"In view of the fact that the alleged Boko Haram sponsors are either members of the ruling party or friends of the president, it is clear that the PDP-led federal government is unwilling and unable to try them, hence our call.

"Nigerians can be rest assured that the APC will not allow this issue to be swept under the carpet. Now that it is clear that the PDP is behind Boko Haram for the sole purpose of winning next year's presidential election, Nigerians must prevail on the PDP and the presidency to urgently end this insurgency and the daily killing and maiming of innocent Nigerians," he added.

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