My Dear Tunji Abayomi,
It is said that to err is human. By your letter to me, it seems that you seek to remind me that I am human. Of this I am constantly reminded. I know I have made my share of mistakes. But my progressive inclination remains firmly rooted. However, by your pained and inaccurate letter, you have proven that you are human too.
You have been a friend and will continue to be. Thus, I can dispense with needless formality so that we can get to the crux of the issue. Your career is that of a lawyer and a activist. I appreciate all that you have done in the pursuit of a more just and democratic Nigeria. However, your letter to me is an impetuous display unbecoming of a man of your status and a man seeking the highest leadership position in his state. And as a lawyer you well know that one cannot seek equity without having done equity.
In writing the letter, you appear to have been bitten by a bug that often blinds the objectivity of a man. You have been bitten by an ambition that you fear you shall not be able to realise. In your pursuit of office, you have sought my support and influence. When you sought that support, you thought it proper and democratic to do so. If I had signalled my support for you, I am sure that you would never have written this letter alleging that I was undermining the democratic will of the people. You would have been pleased with me, I suppose.
But here I want to give you and others a clear assurance that you may rest more at ease. I reserve the right to support any candidate I wish because no one has the right to take this away from me. However, I will also do everything in my power to ensure the primaries are free and fair and that there will be no undue influence on the process.
However, because that support has not been forthcoming, you fear that the support you wanted may now go to a rival candidate. In your judgment, my support for you would have been democratic. Should I support another, then that same support is now to be considered dictatorial and unfair. Frankly, dear friend, I do not see the objectivity in your analysis or the merit in what you claim as your injury. If you seek a person’s support, you cannot in good conscience turn around and object that such support should never be given to another person. Your position is more undemocratic and unfair than what you accuse me of. Your words attack me for being undemocratic when in reality your heart attacks me for not giving you what you want.
I have participated in elections for decades for myself and others. Some have been won. Some lost. Never, however, have I asked a friend for support then condemned him or her for giving the very support I sought of them to another person. To do so is not to stand on principle but on bruised pride.
You said I seek to deny your democratic right. It is you who seeks to grab mine. If not mistaken, I believe I am a member of the APC. I have a right and duty to support the candidate who I believe will best represent the party. What your letter is really saying is that if I don’t support you I should keep my mouth shut. You complain of a purported meeting I had to discuss the coming primary in Ondo. Do you deny me and other APC members now the right to assembly and to talk? Had you heard that the meeting anointed you, I doubt you would have written the first word of the letter you sent to me.
But here I want to give you and others a clear assurance that you may rest more at ease. I reserve the right to support any candidate I wish because no one has the right to take this away from me. However, I will also do everything in my power to ensure the primaries are free and fair and that there will be no undue influence on the process. The candidate who can garner the most support and votes will win. Since its inception, the APC has run the cleanest and most transparent primaries in the history of this nation. The just concluded primary in Edo State is further evidence of this. My dear friend, I leave you free to run and win the primary. If you do, I shall congratulate you and support you in the general election. However, you must respect my rights as well and leave me to my own conscience to support who I wish to support. And to show interest in whom I wish.
I am a democrat. I am ready too for the chips to fall where they may after an open and fair primary election in Ondo State. Instead of welcoming this, it appears you are afraid of it. Instead of fighting me who is but one man with no vote, you should be fighting for votes and support. Your letter to me was woefully misplaced and inappropriate.
I also need to correct what appears to be a mistaken impression on your part about the 2015 election. Your letter seems to indicate that it was on your advice that I backed President Buhari. You assume too much credit and should be more guarded in your assertions. As a veteran in the political arena, I do not make important decisions lightly. I make final political decisions and calculations on my own after deep reflections and consultation with many people, and from many perspectives. I can assure you, dear friend, that I trust my own political counsel more than yours and that I have numerous other advisors whose advice I weigh more than yours. After all, had you so much influence over me in the presidential election, it would mean you surely should have greater influence over me when it comes to the primary in your state.
I do appreciate your passion and concern for the welfare of the people. Yet, you are not the only one who feels this. The love of the people is not exclusive to you, Tunji. My entire life has been devoted to the betterment of the people and of this nation. Lagos is a much better place because of what we have tried to do and I pray that it will be better still. Many worked hard and long and sacrificed much, even more than you, to bring in the new federal government. We did not do this as sport but to improve the lives of the people. You need not lecture me about the plight of the people. Their right to a better life is what motivates me. I do not doubt your love for the people and this nation. Yet, you have no right to doubt mine for you do not love this people and this place more than I do. Of that, I can assure you.
I am a democrat. I am ready too for the chips to fall where they may after an open and fair primary election in Ondo State. Instead of welcoming this, it appears you are afraid of it. Instead of fighting me who is but one man with no vote, you should be fighting for votes and support. Your letter to me was woefully misplaced and inappropriate. Still, I wish you the best and may democracy and the people’s will prevail above all else.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC).