A former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday refuted reports alleging that he boasted that he stole public funds and plans to induce voters with money.
Mr Tinubu, the acclaimed national Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), said his statement was misinterpreted to paint him in a bad light, adding that he never uttered any such statement.
There have been reports circulating in the media and on the internet allegedly based on a ‘leaked’ audio tape of Mr Tinubu at a public meeting of APC supporters in Lagos on February 14. The reports claimed that the former governor boasted that he stole public money and plans to buy peoples’ votes in the forthcoming election.
But in a swift reaction Wednesday, the Tinubu Media Office debunked the claim, adding that the former Lagos State governor’s statements were grossly mistranslated to imply corruption and election malpractice. A statement signed by Tunde Rahman, spokesperson to Mr Tinubu, said that the reports were borne out of desperate attempts to paint Mr Tinubu in a bad light.
“Politics is an arena where mischief and exaggeration may not be the best craft but are permitted excesses of the trade,” the statement said. “However, when people engage in willful defamation, they have crossed the line into the impermissible.”
The statement said Mr Tinubu addressed a large gathering of people, including journalists, and audio recording of statements made at such a gathering could not be described as leaked.
“Even the description of the audio as “leaked” is desperately illogical. Asiwaju addressed a meeting attended by hundreds of people. The meeting was open to the public at large. Moreover, the media was present and visible.
“There can be no leak involved when a statement is publicly made and the media present there. This misrepresentation of the audio as a “leak” is again part of a larger attempt to distort a normal speech to rally supporters prior to an election into something nefarious. As bad as this misleading description is, it is the least of the wrongs contained in these counterfeit reports.”
Mr Tinubu said his words were said in Yoruba and were mischievously translated to mean the opposite of what he said, based on a desperate attempt to soil his name in an election season.
“The merchants of this outlandishness use the fact of Asiwaju speaking Yoruba at the meeting as the basis for their falsehood,” the statement said. “Thus, non-Yoruba speakers are left to accept their translation of Asiwaju’s words. Had Asiwaju spoken in English they would not have a story to sell for his words clearly do not say what they claim of him. Their allegations are untrue but they figured their lies would still fly because many if not most of their audience cannot understand Yoruba.
“If the carriers of this defamation hired someone to translate Asiwaju’s words, they should demand their money back. The only way the translator could have innocently misinterpreted Asiwaju’s words so badly is that the poor translator only started to learn Yoruba half an hour before landing the job to make this translation. Give an accurate rendition of what Asiwaju said to 1000 average Yoruba speakers. Each one of them would refute the mistranslation now floating about.”
The statement said Mr Tinubu never said or implied, in Yoruba or any other language for that matter, that he stole money but that he would use his own funds for the present electioneering effort. It added that the APC National Leader addressed the issue of reward system for loyal party members and supporters after securing victory for APC in the 2019 elections.
“In short, Asiwaju (Tinubu) promised the party faithful, APC supporters and members a reward for their efforts to secure victory in the 2019 elections. He has previously stated the goal of getting 3 million people in Lagos to sufficiently believe in the vision of the APC that they will vote for President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo. This objective was again the crux of his Valentine’s Day statement.
“Take Asiwaju’s statement for what was truly said. He said he would not steal money nor ask for government funds. Instead, he said he would recognise the successful efforts of APC members using only his personal funds. As such, his statement should not be held up to scorn or criticism but should be welcomed as the manner how things should proceed.
“The falsifiers seek to paint his statement as improper. However, it is common practice to give tokens of gratitude to party members for their work. It is feeble to suggest that such a practice somehow amounts to vote-buying. No one was directed to give money to potential voters. Asiwaju made it clear that the token rewards would only take place after the election. As far as any reasonable person can discern, it is somewhat impossible to purchase a vote after an election has already taken place.”
The statement added that Mr Tinubu will not be cowed “by these ugly attacks” because, as a politician, he is “used to the bite and venom of those who would hold Nigeria back.”
Mr Tinubu, a strong ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, is believed to wield enormous influence in Lagos and Southwest politics. He served as governor of the state twice, between 1999 and 2007. He is one of the strongest supporters of Mr Buhari, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the APC in Saturday’s presidential election.
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