SOUTH-WEST: Going To The Centre Without Gravitas
THE success story represented by the dethroning of an incumbent federal government by an opposition platform has been, to a large extent, attributed the vociferous and strategic footwork of the Southwest geopolitical zone.
On the flip side, the journey of the Southwest to the mainstream could be attributed to the political whim of one man and his colony of loyalist in the erstwhile Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Then, on the wings of history, it could be said that South West’s (read ACN) movement to the centre simulates former Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s first entry into power.
In 1999, Tinubu was close to losing the Alliance for Democracy (AD’s) governorship primary election for Lagos State. But Yoruba elders, it was said, favoured his candidacy over that of late Funso Williams, As it was, Tinubu was being rewarded for his exploits and contributions to the fight against military excesses, especially the annulment of the June 12 presidential election, believed to have been won by Chief Moshood Abiola.
At the build up to the 2003 general election, the leaders of Afenifere were said to have held a meeting with then President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose second term was facing some hiccups; for a possible collaboration. The arrangement was for the AD governors to support Obasanjo in the presidential election, while the governors would do “their thing their own way” in the governorship. But despite the warning by some influential Yoruba elders that some past military officers from the South West should accompany Afenifere delegation to the meeting with Obasanjo, Afenifere went with the governors to Aso Rock alone. As it happened, the deception inherent in military officers was brought to bear by President Obasanjo. That year, AD got a bruised nose, such that it could not be the same again.
But as tactical player, Tinubu survived the garrison attack. Perhaps, his survival was a purpose. That auspicious purpose came four years later as the Tinubu followership succeeded in repackaging AD as Action Congress, but giving it back to Obasanjo’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It all started with a string of election reversals at the various tribunals where the garrison victories were perforated and real winners restored. What followed was that with the help of these new breed governors in Ekiti, Osun and Oyo, Asiwaju started dreaming of new lands to conquer.
Given the unfolding events in the APC Federal Government, is it possible that Southwest would not play with the full complement of its first eleven in politics? The tally of votes from the six Southwest states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo; shows that the zone was not united in its support for the APC presidential candidate. While it may be said that part of the reason that informed the choice of APC in preference to PDP was the presence of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on the ballot and ACN support, there is nothing to suggest that the zone totally approved of the APC presidential candidate or even the party’s template in response to the core issues that drive Southwest politics
Having served as Senator and Governor, what remained for the former Lagos Governor, therefore, was either to ascend the political ladder or go into premature retirement. 2015 would have been an excellent opportunity to move higher as Vice President, but the outcry against a Muslim-Muslim ticket stopped the games master on his tracks. Based on this reality of a redundant Asiwaju, it became timely to examine whether on account of his playing from the sidelines, the movement to the centre would amount to false calculation for the zone.
How South West Voted:
IN 2011, when it was apparent that Tinubu did not see a clear vision for progression into the mainstream, he used the ACN structure as a bargaining chip with President Goodluck Jonathan, even while former chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, was presented as a nominal presidential candidate. Forget the exaggerated perceived failings of President Jonathan, Tinubu saw 2015 as a ripe opportunity to consummate the political alliance with General Muhammadu Buhari and go for the ultimate prize.
Recall that prior to the 2011 election, before Buhari settled for the founder of Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, as his running mate, serious attempts were made to broker a political understanding between ACN and Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
Buhari’s observation that the prevailing sensibilities in the country defeated any talk of Muslim-Muslim ticket explained Tinubu’s reluctance to give the retired general a running as requested. Even Bakare in interviews with journalists explained that he was picked by Buhari when Tinubu’s ACN could not provide a running mate for the CPC candidate. It could therefore be deduced that the decision to back Buhari in 2015 was not the unanimous decision of South West.
In a way, it could be seen from the voting tally from the zone that real Awoists were not in a hurry to join in the frenzy of hate induced campaign against candidate Jonathan and PDP. Again, it was obvious that the Tinubu’s ACN seemed to be making the same mistakes AD governors made while collaborating with Obasanjo. A Yoruba politician had remarked, “you cannot take away deception, decoy from a soldier; it is so central to their training that they have camouflage as uniform.”
Political history records it was that kind of haste to join the mainstream that led to the misunderstanding between Papa Awolowo and Chief S.L Akintola. The basic ingredient of that misunderstanding was that while Awo seemed to sue for caution, Akintola was motivated by the need to collaborate with NPC and reap similar benefits being enjoyed by the Easterners in their constant alliance with the North.
That strategy could be faulted when the mileage covered by Western Nigeria in education, statecraft, infrastructure and economic development is considered. Consequently, it seemed Awo wanted any collaboration between North and West to be predicated on common agreements so that one does not become a limitation to the other. As an expert in geopolitics, Awo knew that it takes mutual understanding for progressive socialists to blend with arch conservatists.
Given the unfolding events in the APC Federal Government, is it possible that Southwest would not play with the full complement of its first eleven in politics? The tally of votes from the six Southwest states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo; shows that the zone was not united in its support for the APC presidential candidate. While it may be said that part of the reason that informed the choice of APC in preference to PDP was the presence of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on the ballot and ACN support, there is nothing to suggest that the zone totally approved of the APC presidential candidate or even the party’s template in response to the core issues that drive Southwest politics.
In Ekiti, where Ayo Fayose defeated the ACN nay, APC candidate in the governorship election, Buhari secured 120, 331 votes out of the 323,739 accredited voters and PDP, 176, 754. For Lagos, APC had 792, 460 to PDP’s 632, 327 out of 1, 678, 754 accredited. The disparity of total votes scored by APC, (2, 433, 193) and those of PDP, (1, 821, 416) gives a picture of how divided the Southwest was in both the issues that dominated the presidential elections and the candidates, both whom were not from the zone.
However, given the fact of Southwest’s preeminent position in defining Nigeria’s democracy, how far would its marriage with a section of the North fetch it further socio-political gains? Political gains are not just defined by appointments. What should ordinarily matter to the Southwest, from the background of its position in Nigeria politics, should be the implementation of those cardinal policies the zone had always canvassed, including fiscal federalism, state police, restructuring of the federation, which is a return to true federalism. The question then is, who are the major players that Southwest would be playing in the Central government to score those vital goals? Again, could it be said that the decision to back Buhari, being the brainchild of one man, would ultimately turn out as a faux pas as happened with Obasanjo?
Without doubt, President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated that the federal government he is set to form is to be rested on the structure of the merger that produced the APC – Southwest and North! This he amply demonstrated by the appointment of his two spokespersons. But was that a mere token? Prevailing circumstances point to such a possibility. The election of the principal officers of the National Assembly, namely, Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate; tends to support a devious political recalibration at play. If not for public outcry that attended the attempt to sidetrack Femi Gbajabiamila from the House Leadership, Buhari would not have intervened because it had become so obvious that the Southwest was being given the short end of the stick in a government it powered to victory.
Senate President Bukola Saraki may be an accidental player on the throne. Yet in the event of his likely removal, Southwest would definitely not occupy that seat. So in a federal government that the President, Senate President, Speaker, Chief Justice of the Federation and Chief of Army Staff hails from the North; could that justify Southwest’s principal support? Granted that the Vice President is a plus but what is the guarantee that when important decisions concerning the running of this country would be taken that he would not be sent to represent the president on one continental or international event? But is Prof. Yemi Osinbajo a master in the game? Who does he know?
Implications Of Fashola’s Diminution On APC
RECENTLY the PDP accused President Muhammadu Buhari of shielding certain members of his party, APC from prosecution for graft. PDP also reminded the president that he was, by virtue of those tainted party men, a product of corruption. Among the prominent names mentioned in the opposition party’s release were former Lagos Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and incumbent Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el Rufa’i.
PDP may have its grounds for making the call, but the inclusion of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Fashola, in the list of those tainted by corruption brings attention to the goings on in the APC, nay the Buhari Presidency. To some extent, the foundation for what the ACN, which transmuted to the APC, became could be rightly said to have revolved around Fashola. Until few weeks ago, the former governor remained the poster-child of good governance and credible leadership around whom the emergent party laid claim.
If Tinubu was hailed as the last man standing in 2003, his successor gave his (Tinubu’s) image a lift. Much of the respect a lot of Nigerians, especially those from Nigeria’s Southwest, reserve for Tinubu radiates from the innovation, foresight and intellectual rigour Fashola brought into the governance of Lagos State. Indeed, most Nigerians including those that have not set foot in Lagos saw in Fashola, a hardworking and focused emergent leader. Within his first four years in office as Governor, the former Chief of Staff to Governor Tinubu, tried to make Lagos a true Centre of Excellence!
So wide was Fashola’s acclaim, that when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was campaigning to be the Governor of Edo State, no rally was addressed by him without several mention of Fashola’s as a blueprint of what his administration hopes to deliver in Edo.
From meticulous planning and uplift of infrastructure to environmental sanitation, Fashola tamed Lagos into a modern city. Add to that, he brought about a social science approach of evaluating progress of his government through a periodic measurement of its days in office. He opened a window to the working of his mind and his administration even as he put energy and enthusiasm into the running of the state government. The masses beheld his vision and approved his mission with their goodwill and support, so much so that in 2011, when there arose some telltale signs that he might be denied a second term ticket, many prominent citizens intervened.
Fashola’s good name continued to circulate even during the merger proceedings of the APC. It could be said that the defection of five governors into the APC was ostensibly to enjoy the warmth of the good governance reputation of Fashola. There is also reason to believe, that most Nigerians were infatuated by the association of Fashola with APC, to conclude that the party was a better alternative to PDP. But barely three months after APC won the 2015 general election it became obvious that everything that has a start must have an end. President Buhari had made it clear that no person that has the allegation of corruption hanging on his/her neck should be considered for inclusion in his cabinet. Most people believe that the delay in putting together the federal cabinet is caused by this prolonged search for angels.
But the delay provided mischief-makers and emergency whistle blowers the opportunity to take a closer look at the so-called apostles of change and good governance cavorting around the President. Sadly, it happened that the former members of the ACN found the opening to practice the art of self-destruct further. This time around, BRF, became the easy target. Suddenly details of how contracts were awarded to cronies and alleged dubious expenses graced the pages of major national news media. The architects of the damaging revelations succeeded in perforating the good-man image about Fashola.
And in curious combination of events, not long after the stunning expose, PMB released another batch of critical appointments into his government: there was no name from Southwest, the bastion of opposition and APC! Many observers and conspiracy theorists posited that Fashola lost the position of Chief of Staff to the President based on the damaging negative publicity of his stewardship as governor.
Those who planned and executed the media insurrection that downed BRF may have exulted in the success of their enterprise, but in the long run, APC as a party would bleed from it. The ACN, which served as the nucleus of APC, must have finally committed hara-kiri. However, it must be noted that it was a dangerous tradition that begun long ago. It is inscrutable why ACN decided on the practice of cutting its nose to spite its face. When the former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, was denied a second term access to the Senate, many thought it was merely part of a strategic political style of sharing positions. But the attack on Fashola has revealed a calculated plan to uproot new faces of Southwest progressive politics.
As happened to Mamora, the former Ekiti Governor, Kayode Fayemi, is also embattled. The question now is, if this sinister project of hacking down its first eleven continues, how far could the ACN family go to participate effectively in the federal government it helped to produce?
For APC, allies and supporters of PMB especially those of his erstwhile Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) may rejoice that the boisterous elements from the Southwest have through their programme of self-destruction provided a living space for them, in the end it would dawn on them that devoid of the active participation of the ACN elements that engineered the merger, APC will lose its focus and vitality.
And for Buhari’s presidency, without the ideological breath of the Southwest first eleven, his administration could betray its vacuous hold on the critical issues of change and good governance! Former military President Ibrahim Babangida was quoted as telling some of his military colleagues after one of his former ministers, dropped off a position paper in his office, that “when we find them useful we use them when we are done, we kick them out”. IBB was referring to civilian eggheads. But in the light of unfolding politics of new alliances, was Southwest used to give the North what it has always craved? Somehow! Southwest has keyed in deeply into the administration, such that it may not have the moral scruples to complain when things go awry.
There are also reasons to believe that the whole infighting and mudslinging among Southwest politicians revolve around who occupies high offices in the Federal Government. Fashola’s declaration that “I am not looking for a job…” bears that out. It seems history is about repeating itself. The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the father of Yoruba politics fell out with Chief Akintola over relationship between West and North.
Could it be then that the decision by ACN to align with CPC, ANPP et al, without concrete agreements was misguided in the first place? Which first eleven would the Southwest send to the federal government in the light of this climate of distrust and narrow-mindedness? It is left to be seen as President Buhari unfolds his final list of appointees, if the final dismembering of APC would not ensue from the lack of tact in Southwest.