BOLA TINUBU: TRIP TO AMERICA EVOKES PASSION
The National Convention of the Democratic Party in the United States of America, caused a stir in Nigeria as Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu's attendance at the convention generated controversy because it was alleged that the former governor was personally invited by the US President, Barak Obama, to attend the event. Olaolu Oladipo reports
Like him or not, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a two term governor of Lagos State evokes controversies. For good or ill, the numerous issues that have been his lot since he voyaged into the nation's murky politics in the early 1990s when he took a successful shot at becoming a member of the upper legislative chambers.
Since then, his political accomplishments have been dogged with numerous controversies, question marks about his decision to attend the recently concluded 3-day national convention of the Democratic Party in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, has put him in the spotlight again, polarizing the political landscape by pitching his ardent supporters against those who could be considered as his traducers.
A statement from his office signed by one Sunday Dare, made available to newsmen, stated that Tinubu, the self-styled national leader of the major opposition party in the country, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), had been personally invited by US President, Mr Barack Obama, to be part of the convention.
Dare in the statement, said the invitation was extended to his principal based on his records as the leader and the major voice of opposition movement in the country. 'Tinubu, who was invited to the Democratic National Convention in his right as the leader of the opposition in Nigeria, will be at the ring side as the Democratic Party conducts activities that will culminate in the nomination of President Obama as its candidate for the November 2012 Presidential elections in the USA'.
He added that his boss will be accompanied on the trip by Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Tinubu's former Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Dele Alake and the incumbent Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji.
Tinubu's purported invitation comes after a week lecture tour, town hall meetings and book launch activities in Washington DC and Chicago areas of the country, where he made successful outings presenting his perspectives to his distinguished hosts on the numerous problems afflicting the country.
Hardly had the hype generated by the statement died that a conflicting report emanated from the camp of the US President, Mr Barrack Obama, stating that he did not personally or officially invite Tinubu, or any other politician from Africa to attend the convention. Although, the response to the claim was routed via the campaign organization of the US leader, the reaction was sharp and precise.
An official of the campaign organization, who sought anonymity, told LEADERSHIP's United States of America's Bureau Chief in a telephone conversation that it was mere speculations that President Barrack Obama personally sent a 'gold card invitation' to Tinubu and some politicians across the African continent in order for them to attend the convention which ended on Thursday.
Rather, the unnamed official stated that what the ACN leader had in his possession was a generic invite usually extended to sponsors who donate $ 5,000 to the campaign efforts of the party.
He said the former governor and his entourage were automatically qualified to attend the National Convention of the Democrats on that basis and that he will be accorded the same treatment given to similar other donors, thus ruling out any possibility of personal meeting with the US leader.
The source further went ahead to state that his principal will soon react to the rumour that he had adopted the leadership style of a particular political party in Nigeria, an insinuation that the reports suggested.
'The United States government will never allow itself to be dragged into local politics of any region or country. Several politicians from other parties in Nigeria also attended the Democrats' convention in Charlotte with the same kind of invitation got by Mr Tinubu because they had donated the required funds to the Obama campaign team.
'None of them, including Mr Tinubu, was given special treatment during the convention. President Barrack Obama did not privately meet with any of them to discuss the local politics in their country, so the issue of special interest or preference did not arise,' the source noted.
The official also debunked publications suggesting that the US President actually invited him specifically in his capacity as the leader of the opposition party in Nigeria to show the total loyalty of the US government to his party in Nigeria.
Reacting to the controversy, a former Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr Yinka Odumakin, condemned the development, describing it as an integrity question that has arisen. 'Although I am yet to get details, the news is all over the internet; so my contribution on this issue is based on what is circulating.
'To be candid, it will be a sad development if what the Democratic Party has said is true; how can someone say he or she was personally invited by Obama when actually the reality is that anybody can obtain that kind of invitation upon the payment of the said sum of $5,000?
'One wonders the kind of show off or fame behind such moves because it is totally uncalled for and if the motive is to deceive the people by showing what one is not, then it becomes more unfortunate and condemnable in all ramifications; a big integrity question is at play', Odumakin stated.
His party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), has risen in stout defense of its leader, saying contrary to the impression being created in the media, the former governor never at any point stated that a special invitation was extended to him by the US leader.
Reacting to the claim in the media, the party's National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a recent press statement, insisted that the uproar and controversy generated by the visit was a calculated move to smear the reputation of Tinubu.
Denying the suggestion as a mere rumour, Mohammed, on behalf of his party, blamed opposition political parties as being behind what he termed a 'wicked rumour'. He said the party's national leader never boasted he was invited by President Obama, just as he also confirmed that Tinubu paid $5000 to acquire the generic invitation.
'This is indolence on the part of those making the allegation,' he said. 'Anybody who is conversant with the Democratic Party National Convention, DNC, and US politics, will know that you will never be invited to the convention unless you fall into any of these three categories'.
According to Mohammed, invitations are given to those who are candidates vying for party nomination for the presidency, those elected as delegates or those who are considered as useful supporters of the party.
'If you are a supporter and you are being invited, you will be addressed with your first name as if the President (Obama) invited you. Asiwaju (Tinubu) never said he got personal invitation from President Barack Obama. Why the brouhaha about who invited him? The question is was he there or not? He was invited because of his support for the Democratic Party, and he never said he was personally invited by Obama'.
Like an enigma that he is, Tinubu, a politician considered as a cat with nine lives, will survive the controversies but once again, observers reckon that the controversies generated could have been avoided in the first place.