Buhari’s health, Osinbajo’s acting presidency and Yoruba unity

By Sunny Ogefere, Muyiwa Adeyemi (Ibadan) and Seye Olumide   |   22 February 2017   |   4:28 am  

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Obviously, the Yoruba people that make up the South West region of Nigeria are not happy with the political set up in the country.

They did not bargain for what is playing out presently, particularly at the centre, having expended enormous resources to ensure that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) displaced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general elections.

Apart from the absence of the desired infrastructure overhaul in the region, the people have been disappointed that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who undoubtedly is their leader politically has been more or less rubbished by the powers that have held sway in the presidency.

More disturbing is the attempt to foist a new set of political leadership on them by the northern oligarchy, who controls the presidency.

This has set the agitated minds in the region thinking provoking grumblings and open complaint by individuals and groups like Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Ebenezer Babatope; the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) to mention but a few.

In addition, groups such as Yoruba Patriots Movement (YPM) emerged galvanizing Yorubas and stakeholders in the region, irrespective of political leanings, to forge a common front ahead of 2019 elections.

Most recently, the medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari and the thrust of the nation’s governance upon the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, have unveiled a whole lot of developments with more nocturnal meetings and groupings in the region aimed at fortifying their power base and enhancing their interest in the federation.

This was underscored by the purported pressures on Osinbajo to resign by forces believed to be those working for the interest of the northern oligarchy, which out of fear were determined to avoid the same scenario that led to the emergence of then vice president Goodluck Jonathan as president following the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Unlike the previous occasions when Osinbajo acted for Buhari, this time around, there is a remarkable difference in the personality, carriage and governance style of the acting president.

Osinbajo’s presidential mien and candor represent a drastic departure from the old order of unreceptive and despotic domineering stance of the North.

President Muhammadu Buhari. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO.

He presents a glimmer of hope that after all something good can still come out of the APC; in about three weeks the acting president has exuded a confidence that few ever imagined could come from him.

For once Nigerians saw the presidency exhibit a ‘human face’ in governance when critics and those opposed to government policies were received with warmth.

For instance, Nigerians were proud to see a civil authority (Osinbajo) receive labour leaders protesting against the harsh economic policies of the government, with an uncanny calmness and gentility.

They were neither chased away by aggressive, stern-looking gun totting security agents nor some drab low-ranking inconsequential official sent to address them midway to their terminal point.

These indeed are interesting times. Obviously, Osinbajo is telling Nigerians ‘loud and clear’ that he can step into the shoes of Mr. President without qualms, if the need arises.

In actual fact, political pundits are beginning to consider him fit and proper to represent the South West whenever the presidential pendulum swings back to the region.

The confidence with which he presided over the affairs of governance this time around is amazing; the gait, the visit made to different locations, the tactful response to issues, wow, this is a new improved Osinbajo,” a member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) group of the APC stated.

Sources claimed that stakeholders might have met with him and reassured him that the region was behind him and so he should be bold and assertive as long as he was taking the right and lawful actions.

Since the news of the Buhari’s ill health, there have been political realignments across the country. Curiously, the South West, which has been politically divided, appears to be moving towards unity with the two well attended different political gatherings in Ibadan, the capital city of the Old Western Region recently, and the gatherings of the region’s governors in Ekiti State

The three political gatherings indicated far beyond what was discussed and released to the public. An insider said the meetings were actually organised to deliberate on the future of the region in the Nigeria context given the political happenings.

Beyond the concern over Buhari’s state of health, it was understood there was also a long-term vision to ascertain the position of the region should Mr. President stays to complete his two terms of eight years or not.

One of the principal issues that has sent a signal to the region under the Buhari’s administration since 2015 are the activities of the Fulani Herdsmen, who appear to have become emboldened with increased deadly exploits in the past 18 months.

The initial silence of Mr. President over the Fulani herdsmen’s killings across the South was not taken lightly by some stakeholders in the region, which at a point prompted the leaders of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, to threaten a reprisal if something was not done.

Another seemingly ache of the region was the nonchalant attitude of Mr. President to the 2014 National Conference recommendations, which the region embraced and has since been agitating for.

Buhari’s disposition towards restructuring of the country to true federalism and regionalism is quite disturbing to many stakeholders in the region.

Last year, a former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defense, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, expressed disappointment in an interview with The Guardian where he described the ruling party’s stance as ‘deceitful and fraudulent,’ for reneging on the promise to restructure the country after taking over power.

Bola Tinubu

The General referred the APC stalwarts opposed to restructuring as exhibiting the height of arrogance.

In a similar vein, former running mate to Buhari in the 2011 presidential election under the platform of the defunct CPC, Pastor Tunde Bakare argued that restructuring is the only way out of the myriads of problems confronting the nation.

Also, politicians in the region are bothered about the perceived ‘divide and rule tactics’ alleged by a cabal within the presidency, to ensure that South West does not speak with one voice ahead of the 2019 elections.

A case in point was the controversy that surrounded the Ondo APC governorship primary where the alleged cabal used the federal might to install their choice.

Although, many Yoruba leaders who were not of the APC family distanced themselves from the party’s affairs they were however concerned that if the North was allowed the chance to continue with its divide and rule tactics in their domain, the political future of the South West might be dictated by the North henceforth with the region’s interest compromised greatly.

Commenting on the issue, Fayose, sounded a note of warning that what happened during the time was not only a challenge to the APC national leader (Tinubu) but a warning to all Yoruba about the antics of the North.

Since then, the outspoken governor has been unrelenting in critcising Buhari for purportedly harbouring a sinister ethnic agenda.

Besides, the economic recession, which has virtually paralysed business activities across the nation, resulting in grave hardship to many Nigerians, is a major source of worry for the region.

Some of its leaders have cried out on the need to diversify the nation’s economy with the intention to reenergize the ‘regional integration’ for the economic benefit of the Yoruba race.

This was the crux of the South West governors meeting that agreed to work together to address the socio-economic challenges confronting the Yoruba nation.

The concern over the alleged pressure on Osinbajo to resign, those behind the suspected plot and what would be the fate of the country should it become inevitable for him to step in as substantive president as well as whether the North would allow him to assume power and complete his boss’s tenure, have all combined to bring the Yoruba closer.

In addition, there have been claims of subtle disregard for the acting president by some who feel they can only take orders from the president.

Former chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, alluded to this when he asserted that there might be cracks in government if “some people” start questioning the instructions of Osinbajo.

He noted that the acting president has carried on with grace and dignity building a momentum that the country can cash in and accelerate to regain lost mileage

Although, Osinbajo has since denied any pressure on him to resign, the South West is not taking chances. These developments brought the leaders of the Afenifere and its South East counterpart, Ohanaeze Ndigbo together in a historical meeting recently.

The details of the meeting was not disclosed but an inside source said the two socio-cultural groups must have come to terms that “all is not currently well with the politics of the country, therefore a need for future plan is necessary.”

At the weekend, a former national deputy chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George reiterated the need to work with all Yoruba groups in unity for the good of the region and the country in general.

George expressed concern over the way Buhari’s government has been muzzling perceived opposition, even within his party.

According to him, “There is the need to urgently take a firm position before the whole situation goes out of hand.”

Similarly, in the past 18 months, Ibadan, the capital of the then Western Region has become a kind of meeting point for the Yoruba to deliberate and take position on critical national issues.

Last July, Yoruba leaders from all walks of life converged at the International Conference Centre, in Nigeria’s premier educational institution, University of Ibadan during the 50th remembrance anniversary of Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, and insisted on the restructuring of Nigeria.

In January this year, another gathering of Yoruba leaders met in Ibadan, Oyo State capital to strategise on setting a new agenda for the race. At the colloquium convened by YPM, were former national chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, Senator Femi Lanlehin, Dr. Yemi Farounbi, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Dr. Doyin Okupe, Dr. Saka Balogun, Gen Raji Rasaki, Dr. Kunle Olajide and Senator Ayoade Adeseun, among others. Speakers restated call for the restructuring of the polity to reflect true federalism.

They also advocated the conduct of an all-inclusive Yoruba summit, where all Yoruba leaders would come together to deliberate on their future.

In the same month, South West stakeholders in the APC assembled in Ibadan to forge unity among prominent South West chieftains of the party.

This is followed by the recent South West governors meeting in Ekiti hosted by Fayose to deliberate on the fortunes of the region. It was meant to address their peculiar challenges and defend their interests within the federal system, irrespective of their political affiliations and rekindled the spirit of brotherhood that the old Western region was known for.

But unlike the days of the Western region, when only the Action Group (AG) held sway and played vital roles of the opposition, the present political arrangement does not allow for that. And this might have informed why the forum had been shying away from being critical about the performance of the central government as well as resist temptation to make uncompromising statement on the state of the nation.

Of the six states in the South West, the PDP controls Ekiti and Ondo States while Lagos, Oyo, Osun and Ogun States are in the mainstream politics of the APC. The influence of the APC in the region will spread to Ondo by February 24, when Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) will be sworn in as the governor of Ondo State and that will leave Fayose the only opposition governor in the region.

With this political arrangement, the South West governors forum seems to have no choice but to play along with the federal government, even when the region is believed not to have enough dividends to show for its political investment that led to the emergence of the Buhari presidency.

Fayose

At the Ekiti meeting many were disappointed that their communiqué was silent on the power play in the presidency, the status of President Buhari’s health and his capacity to continue in that office, the dismal federal allocations to capital projects in the South West in the 2017 budget, the downward trend of the economy and the hunger in the land.

Furthermore, they failed to drum support for the acting President, limiting themselves to the issue of integration, common policy on education, agriculture security network and other matters already discussed at their last meeting in Ibadan.

Although sources claimed that not all the APC governors in the region are willing to compromise the regional interest for political and personal considerations, their experience at Ibadan where governor Ibikunle Amosu of Ogun State was alleged to have kicked against their disposition on some national issues, must have been responsible for avoiding such issues in the Ekiti meeting. Curiously, Amosu did not attend the Ekiti meeting where his deputy, Mrs. Yewande Onanuga, represented him.

But if the forum failed to address some of the issues considered to be critical and germane to the survival of the region within the federation, Fayose did not allow the opportunity to slip by, as he noted: “We must constantly ask ourselves; where is the South West in the scheme of things in Nigeria?”

He bemoaned the absence of a rallying point for the Yoruba nation, as was the case under the leadership of late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, still remembered for his selflessness and sense of patriotism, and urged that they must take a cue from him.

“We must be reminded that even though the then Yoruba nation was balkanised into states, which we are privileged to lead at this time, we still remain one entity, with common language, tradition and culture. I therefore want to appeal that for this regional integration to achieve the desired objectives, politics must play the back role while we collectively determine our place, benefits and status as Yoruba nation in the Nigerian nation.”



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