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Opinion: Paden’s Puzzling Padding of History



This is obviously the season of padding. First, there was the padding of the 2016 budget – illicit insertions and consequent distortions that not only resulted in a costly delay in the passage of the budget but is still causing distracting ripples in the House of Representatives. Then we had the padding from the National Headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of the delegates list for the party’s contentious Ondo State primaries aimed at achieving a predetermined outcome. The party is still reeling in crisis.

It has taken nearly two weeks for the APC national chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun, to come up with an utterly laughable attempt to justify the tainted exercise. In Kogi State, a resort to curious extra-constitutional interpretative padding on the part of electoral, ruling party and judicial authorities has foisted a status quo of arrogant and insulting impunity on a helpless people. But the most amazing of all is the historical padding of President Muhammadu Buhari’s authorized biography by an ordinarily highly distinguished scholar, Professor John Paden.

Paden insinuates in his book that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was not really the nominee of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a national leader of the APC, for the job. Three names – Tinubu, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and Osinbajo – he says were actually presented to Buhari. By Paden’s account, Buhari insisted on Osinbajo,a Christian pastor, as his choice because the other two were Muslims. And this was allegedly despite immense pressure from Tinubu who wanted the job. History must be fuming at this bizarre attempt to shave its head in assumed absentia (apologies to the late MKO Abiola).

Osinbajo was Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Tinubu’s Cabinet in Lagos State for eight years. He was one of Tinubu’s closest and most trusted aides. Tinubu had three major reasons for opting for Osinbajo. He is a pastor of the largest Pentecostal church in Nigeria and a close spiritual associate of the highly revered Pastor Enoch Adeboye. He is married to a granddaughter of the great sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, which would greatly enhance the ticket’s acceptability in the South West. He is a man of impeccable integrity like Buhari. As a key member of Tinubu’s inner caucus and Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr Tunji Bello, in a detailed and widely published eye witness account said yesterday, these were the reasons why Osinbajo was Tinubu’s choice. The prime concern was that the South West should not lose the position to other regions also angling for it and that the party ticket be strong enough to defeat the PDP. The luxury of sending three names to Buhari was out of the question. This position has been publicly corroborated by a distinguished retired General who in a published statement wrote: “I was there at the Lagos Lodge Annex in Asokoro, Abuja at Tinubu’s place. On the night in reference, Asiwaju insisted that three names would not be sent for the VP slot. He maintained that only one name would be sent. Eventually, the name of Osinbajo was sent to Buhari. There was no pressure”.

Flashback to December 17th, 2014. Osinbajo’s sole name had been forwarded to and accepted by Buhari. Tinubu issued a public statement widely published in the print, electronic and social media rallying support for the ticket. It is an irrefutable and indestructible document that history will readily and eagerly tender before the Supreme Court of the Universe on the day of political judgement. Tinubu stated among others: “There came a time during the course of the events when our presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, offered the Vice Presidential ticket to me. Being a normal human being, I was deeply moved and honored that he would consider me for the position. Being a patriot, I had to weigh my potential candidacy in all of its dimensions. I have concluded that the interest of the party, our campaign and of the nation are better served if I retain my position as the National Leader of the APC, allowing me to be a bridge builder across all divides. Although, I declined the position, I want to thank General Buhari for extending the honor to me. Despite all the noise and opposition around my possible selection, he stood firm and steadfast…I have removed myself from consideration so what I now say cannot be seen as self-serving”. It is two years since. These facts have not been disputed, refuted or contradicted.
Professor Paden wrote the monumental biography of the first Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello. It has been estimated that the book runs into over 1 million words. According to a perceptive reviewer of Paden’s Ahmadu Bello book, “Forgetting any pained surprise at so many typos; leaving aside the discomfort of a text written in an irritating, clumsy, and at times historically misleading present tense, and one frequently carrying more footnotes than text to the page…one reaches the end of the marathon breathlessly wondering how totally one can endorse the claim that this is the definitive life of the putatively definitive Premier of Northern Nigeria…I find myself, for all my admiration of John Paden the scholar…slow to accept that here is the be-all and end-all biography of Ahmadu Bello. For many, a highly revealing source remains the book written (however gracefully ghosted) by Sardauna, ‘My Life’ (Rayuwata in the Hausa version) twenty-five years ago. Paden has written ten times as more; but has he told us five times as much about Ahmadu Bello?” On page 4 of his book, ‘The Politics of Mallam Aminu Kano: Documents from the Independence Struggle (1950-1960)’, Dr Alkasum Abba, accuses Paden of making assertions in his Ahmadu Bello biography that misrepresent Aminu Kano as a “Northerner” first and foremost. According to Abba “These assertions lend credence to the NPN line which actually misrepresents Mallam Aminu Kano’s role and real significance in the politics of Nigeria”.

Can it be, then, that Paden’s scholarship generates more heat than light? What could be responsible for a highly respected scholar’s distortion of history as regards the emergence of Vice President Osinbajo on such a monumental scale? Could it be carelessness? That is unexpected of a scholar of Paden’s stature. Could it be deliberate mischief and falsehood to achieve predetermined objectives on behalf of shadowy vested interests? In that case, Paden violates one of the key tenets of the intellectual vocation, which is the relentless and uncompromising pursuit of truth. According to the radical economist and revolutionary thinker, Paul Baran, the intellectual’s “primary, if not exclusive loyalty must be the quest for truth”. The late eminent political scientist, Professor Aaron Gana, reinforces this view when he asserts that “Since his primary responsibility is the pursuit of truth, the desire to tell the truth becomes one condition for being an intellectual”.

Dr Emmanuel Ojo of the Department of History, Ado Ekiti University, identifies a major error in Professor Richard Sklar’s otherwise magisterial work, ‘Nigerian Political Parties”, where the political scientist claims that the motion for self government moved in the federal house by Chief Anthony Enahoro in 1956 “was filed without the knowledge of the Leader or Deputy Leader and without prior submission for the AG’s Parliamentary Council for discussion”. Yet, Chief Enahoro in an interview on August 22, 2009, said “…although the self government motion was moved by me, it was actually a motion of the Action Group…I could not have moved a motion of such magnitude without the consent and approval of my party”. How then did Sklar arrive at his conclusion? How many generations of students and readers has he misled even if not deliberately?

Let me end with the admonition of Dr Ojo: “It is often said that water is as pure as its source. The same is true of history. While no source of history is fool proof, historical accounts based on large-scale fallacies will not only misinform others, misrepresent people and confuse issues, it will ultimately replace authentic history with propaganda and falsehood. Since the importance of secondary sources in the reconstruction of Nigerian history cannot be overemphasized, it is expedient that they are not subjected to deliberate or calculated misinterpretation or misrepresentation. Since sources are the foundations upon which the reconstruction of past human actions rest, it is imperative that historical sources are presented and preserved without monumental alterations and in a manner that guarantee the presentation and preservation of fair and useful historical accounts for posterity”.


Article written by  Segun Ayobolu


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