I was a Director of Communication for Alhaji Bashir Tofa’s campaign organisation.
I also later became the chief returning officer at the INEC Headquarters during the Presidential elections results compilation in Abuja.
Now that he is dead many people will say many nice things about him and a few may say otherwise.
But like Anthony said at Ceaser’s funeral “I have come to bury Ceaser not to praise him.”
I will only narrate two encounters I had with him among several and I will leave Nigerians to decide what type of politician Bashir Tofa was.
After he emerged as the NRC’s Presidential flagbearer he appointed 8 directors for his campaign organisation. I was one of them.
At the inaugural meeting of the campaign organisation we deliberated and discussed the strategy and the road map for our victory over the irrepressible MKO Abiola.
During the meeting he was confronted with the fact that he, Bashir Tofa, did not have a chance against Abiola in the coming elections because Abiola was too far ahead of him in every sphere of reckoning politically nationwide and that the only thing which can give him a little chance at all was if the campaign organisation could find a way to smear Abiola and play on his numerous ethical and moral vulnerabilities thereby bringing Abiola down to Tofa’s own very low level in public perception.
It was opined that only under this “new” debased consideration can he Tofa have the slightest chance of victory.
Tofa response was that: “I will not destroy a man’s reputation and goodwill because I want to be president.”
We lost the election.
The second encounter was at the conclusion of our Presidential campaign, at our very last meeting presided over by Tofa.
He put a question across to us the major stakeholders who had gone round the 774 local governments with him by road over some few weeks.
He told us that we must come open and decide by ourselves those who wanted to serve in government with him but will only do selfless service for the sake of serving the country and those who want to do business and make money. The latter group will assist the Party from time to time while the first group will enjoy the power and official perks of office while it lasts.
He said if he became President a clear distinction between the two groups was an imperative for the success of his administration and keeping faith with the mandate he would have received from the Nigerian people.
Everyone was stunned. But the two groups actually emerged, and he kept the list in his file.
May the Almighty God bless the soul of our dearly beloved and richly blessed statesman, Alhaji Bashir Tofa.
*Okupe is a former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan