One key issue that is roiling politicians in the Southwest geopolitical zone is what role they would play in the search for President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. Particularly, as the buildup to the 2023 General Election gathers momentum, Southwest stakeholders seem to be at crossroads over permutations that President Buhari’s successor should emerge from the zone in 2023.
The calculation is said to be propelled by a perceived ‘gentleman agreement’ between the North and Southwest during the merger talks for formation of All Progressives Congress (APC), which held that the Yoruba nation would produce Buhari’s successor.
Critical stakeholders, including politicians, traditional rulers, socio-cultural leaders and others in the zone are said to be weighing all options to ensure that Southwest is not shortchanged in the 2023 political calculations and beyond.
Meanwhile, the Southeast geopolitical zone, which is the only zone yet to produce the President since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999 is also mobilising support to realise the same goal of producing Buhari’s successor come 2023. Surprisingly too, the alleged plan by certain elements in the north to retain power at the centre beyond 2023 has drawn flaks from stakeholders lately.
Indeed, surreptitious moves across the major geopolitical zones, especially North, Southwest and Southeast, are currently on overdrive ahead of 2023 to determine where the baton shifts to in the next two years.
However, the South/South region is not left out in the calculation as some APC leaders from the north are said to be wooing former President Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw man from Bayelsa State, to return in 2023.
Recall that Jonathan only spent one term in office (2011 to 2015) when he lost as an incumbent on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to Buhari and APC.
The controversy surrounding the attempt by lobbyists to draft him into the race is that the former president would spend only one constitutional term, if he eventually agrees to contest, before the baton shifts to the north.
The move to usher in Jonathan is interpreted as huge betrayal and breach of trust by major Southwest stakeholders in the ruling party. The development compelled persons like the current Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, and lawmaker representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, James Faleke, to cry out, saying the 2014 gentleman agreement, especially with Buhari that he (incumbent) will handover to Southwest in 2023, still stands.
Aside other factors that are fuelling insecurity and distrust among the geopolitical zones, the quest to produce Buhari’s successor two years before the expiration of the second term of the incumbent is generating heat and crisis of which Yoruba nation is not exempted.
Reacting to the development, a traditional ruler, Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi, and member of the House of Representatives, representing Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency, Mr. Kolawole Taiwo, at different fora warned Yoruba nation not to allow the plot to stop a particular individual from exercising his constitutional right to express his presidential ambition, sets the region ablaze.
The monarch specifically alleged that all the hue and cry over security challenges in the Southwest region was about the 2023 presidential election. He said: “Those who are singing discordant tunes are doing so, because of personal aggrandizement. We know some Yoruba leaders, who are calling for war for political reason. It is all about 2023 presidency. Because they feel someone wants to become President and they don’t want him.
“It is because they know that the next president of this country will be Yoruba and they don’t want that to happen. The person they are accusing has not even come out to say that he wants to be President, so why the hatred?”
The monarch warned Yoruba leaders fanning the embers of discord and calling for war to desist in the interest of national unity.
“Some bad elders are sponsoring crisis in Yoruba land because of political reason and self aggrandizement. I will not allow war to come to Yoruba land or Nigeria. Stop beating the drum of war or you will not end well.
“You see, people have to be very careful because we will never support anyone that wants to disrupt the peace of the land. Anyone who wants to destroy the Southwest and particular, Lagos State will not end well,” Oluwo declared.
Oba Akanbi also warned against ethnic profiling, saying criminals were in all tribes and they should be treated as one.
“This thing is not about Fulani or Yoruba. It is political. Some people are sponsoring crimes to destroy Nigeria. Crime doesn’t have a tribe. Prosecute criminals and try them in court, not a tribe,” he said.
Oluwo emphasised the need for government to create intervention programme, which will aim at educating herders on modern day ranching to avert clashing with farmers.
He also advised Fulani herders to assist government and security agencies to fish out criminals in their folds.
“We want the Fulani also to fish out the criminals among them. You Fulani people should also come and live in the town, don’t live in the bush again. Let us know all of you. The Fulani community should talk more to the government to teach you modern way of ranching. Open gracing is no longer fashionable in 21st century. We know you are used to it but you have to change to the modern ways.
“There must be an intervention programme from the government to educate Fulani on modern way of ranching. Some of you should engage in pastoral business for herders to buy feeds from you. This is how you will not be having problems with farmers,” Oluwo stated.
Taiwo on his part said the solutions to the present challenges in Nigeria lies in Southwest and especially Tinubu getting the presidency in 2023 based on the role the national leader and critical Yoruba people played in ensuring Buhari’s victory in 2015 and 2019.
The Lagos lawmaker disagreed with insinuations that Tinubu is coming out too early to declare interest, even though the former governor is yet to make formal announcement.
He said, “I don’t know what you mean by that, because if we want to solve these problems that you have enumerated, the greatest problem we need to solve is that of power. Chief Obafemi Awolowo said that “give me political power and all other powers will follow.” You now want to remove the political power from someone, how will he work? If the presidency is not given to the Southwest in 2023, it could be given to somebody that does not know how our problems could be solved. Talking about the presidency, let us give it to somebody that can do it and most of our problems will be solved. It is something that must be done before we talk of the ticket of the party. People are agitating that it should come to the Southwest. The Southwest has a better candidate than any of the other regions.
Taiwo posited that the scheme to produce the president of Nigeria is not what any zone can actualise in one year.
He made reference to the formation of APC, which started as early as 2013, about two years to the 2015 election.
He said, “You can’t be in government at a particular level without being involved in politics or without agitations. 2023 is about two years from now and we are not just saying we want the presidency, we are not just saying that the presidency should come to the Southwest, we are saying that we have a better candidate that can solve our problems. So, we must go round to get support, you cannot do this job of walking round Nigeria in just one year. It is impossible or we will continue to deceive ourselves and we will get disappointed.
When asked if the north is actually going to honour the 2014 gentleman agreement to concede power to Southwest in 2023, Taiwo said, “Nigeria is full of a lot of people and characters are different. There are some that always want to derail anything good, it is in their DNA, but the good ones will always stand by the agreement and they would not want it to derail.
“So, the war is between those who want it to derail and those who want it to be done. If anybody just sits in one place and thinks that power will be served a la carte, the person is deceiving himself. My leader said that power is not served a la carte, which is why we keep moving round and talking to people. Let them see the reason we have chosen the person.”
Reminded that Tinubu is yet to declare, the lawmaker stated: “It is better people are making the declaration on behalf of Tinubu, which indicate that many people believe in him and his capacit y to rule. It is people like us that have worked with him that would say that we know this man, he is trustworthy, he is savvy and he knows all our problems and he can tackle them.”
© The Guardian