By Kunle Rasheed
When I left my temporary residence of London Bridge to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was billed to verbalize his thoughts, I knew instantly there would be a lot of drama knowing how politics is being played by my Nigerian brothers and sisters.
I had told myself it will be a great disservice to me as a journalist who is fortunate to be in London at this particular time, not to witness the APC presidential flag bearer’s attempt at convincing the international policymakers and experts about his vision and mission to rescue Nigeria from its present predicament.
I got there early enough since it’s about two train stops away from where I was.
As early as 11am that I got there, there were lots of Asiwaju supporters waiting to receive their hero who had been scheduled to speak by 1pm. These supporters I learnt have been there since 8am in the morning not minding the unfriendly weather.
Aside those on the side of Asiwaju, a lone voice who wore a T-shirt branded with Yoruba separationist agitator, Sunday Igboho’s face was shouting at the top of her voice that the only solution to Nigeria problem is the realisation of the Yoruba Nation. This lone voice, an elderly woman, in no time had about three more supporters who were echoing her demand.
As I was still observing the situation, Reno Omokri, an author, a pastor and a well known social media influencer, from no where busted on the scene with some protesters who were chanting “Asiwaju, not fit to be the president of Nigeria because of this and that.” But unfortunately for Reno this time, he was subdued and overwhelmed by the ardent disciples of BAT who made sure Reno’s voice and that of his collaborators were not heard. Everywhere Reno turned to, the APC members who had loud speakers followed him until Reno was totally subdued that he waved goodbye and left the scene.
At that time despite the freezing cold, the whole place was charged as the wait for Asiwaju and the others continued.
Eventually, Asiwaju and the other dignitaries came in at about few minutes to 1pm and they were taken in through the side door because of the mammoth crowd that were present at the front gate.
I couldn’t make it to the auditorium because the attendance was done online and I couldn’t have been accredited right on spot.
If I was not fortunate to hear him out at the Chatham House, another opportunity came when he decided to engage the APC members in the Diaspora (UK) in another hall not too far from the Chatham House.
I was able to gain access through the governor of Ogun State Dapo Abiodun whom I thought was only going into that big hospitality outfit for something else.
Getting inside the hall, I was surprised to see Asiwaju whom I had thought had left the vicinity in that black Mercedes Benz Bus that came to ferry him away with the likes of Fayemi, Ayade, Ganduje, Umahi, El-Rufai, Badaru, Gbajabiamila, Oshiohmole and others sitting patiently and waiting for others to seat.
As Asiwaju stood up to speak, my heart skipped a beat; I became scared because of the way social media had painted him not to be able to articulate his thoughts again because of what they termed as ill health. I must confess; I love his personality and I don’t want him to falter because I know how brilliant he is with the gift of oratory.
But, Asiwaju positively surprised me as soon as he opened his mouth and his thoughts were sequentially articulated. He was injecting witty vibes to spice it intermittently, I knew at once that many times on social media, its all about the more you look, the less you see.
Asiwaju, was able to marshal his thoughts on nation building and how he intends to change the face of the nation positively if he is elected president, not forgetting how he was the best student in foreign school who had five top companies waiting to employ him before graduating.
It was indeed a pleasant delight to see him speak so intelligently that I concluded he has not lost touch a bit.
As good as the day was, I had opened my phone to see what was happening on social media and the first thing I saw was the same Reno who was silenced all through with video evidences claiming he chased and embarrassed Asiwaju at the Chatham House. He claimed further that Asiwaju due to the embarrassment could not leave his car. Haba! How could Reno lie so blatantly without blinking an eye lid? Asiwaju and other dignitaries were not near the venue when Reno started his failed protest.
He had left an hour before Asiwaju and the others came to the venue.
But, looking at it, do I need to blame Reno for pushing such a narrative? I think the blame should go to the APC not to have pushed out their own account first when Reno was overpowered. But they felt complacent and Reno took advantage of their complacency to push out his own version of the episode.
The lesson learnt from my little experience at the Chatham house is ‘ma te lenu’ (don’t be swayed by mere talks), do extra work more as a journalist in unearthing the truth always.
Kunle Rasheed, a Lagos based journalist covered the Chatham House lecture delivered by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu