To convince the electorate of the South-West Nigeria to buy into the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, who is also the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, must provide concrete assurances of a better deal.
This is imperative because it appeared that Tinubu was sent to Coventry by the Buhari administration for a spell, and was seemingly “rehabilitated,” and given the strange assignment to kill perceived brushfires within the APC, only because the votes of the South-West will be needed for President Buhari’s re-election quest.
The cold calculations of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, who argued that the South-West has gone with the North to produce the Buhari Presidency, and must therefore forfeit the chairmanship of the Peoples Democratic Party to Uche Secondus of the South-South, appears to confirm that the Yoruba must find ways to profit from their new found Northern Nigerian friends.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong in the South-West being branded as a political ally of the North. After all, almost the entire bloc of Eastern Nigeria allied with the political North in the First and Second Republics of Nigeria-to good advantage.
Governor Wike’s postulation appears to have been confirmed by the defeat inflicted on the PDP by the APC’s Kayode Fayemi, who won the recently concluded Ekiti State governorship election. Some however, argue that the victory of the APC and its candidate was accomplished through a combination of an overbearing Federal Government might and the not-so-new phenomenon of “see and buy” money politics.
The Ndigbo of the South-East Nigeria who seem to agree with the observations of Wike, have nonetheless asked why President Buhari would prefer to support a presidential candidate from the South-West for the 2023 General Election.
Not a few Yoruba are concerned that the query of Ndigbo may deprive the South-West of the APC’s 2023 presidential candidature, the same way the zone was argued out of the chairmanship of the PDP by Wike.
The new Yoruba thinking is that Tinubu must extract concrete gains for the South-West in order to convince them into another political alliance with the North. Wike has forced the Yoruba to the reality that they must reap from the Buhari Presidency because they have worked at its altar.
They therefore – justifiably – think that as the vice presidency of President Buhari’s re-election attempt is a shoo-in for them, they should also expect the co-operation of Northern Nigeria when they vie for the Presidency in 2023.
The South-West must play hardball politics, and bring the issues that concern them to the negotiating table. Tinubu must not “be dulling” this time round, as they say on the street. But the requirements of the Yoruba do not end with producing the Vice President in 2019.
Apart from assurances of getting the presidential ticket in 2023, the Yoruba want other things, which are encapsulated by the word, “restructuring.” Some cynics claim that they have no idea what is meant by restructuring.
It means the devolution of powers from the central government to the state and local government tiers of government. In more specific terms, restructuring would include shifting certain items from the Federal Exclusive List to the ballpark of the state and local governments on the Residual List.
It will also mean amending Section 9 of Nigeria’s Constitution, which implies that the constitution cannot be altered to create new states, and new local governments, change the state capitals, or alter the names of states, and local government headquarters, except by the approval of four-fifth of members of the National Assembly and two-thirds of the state Houses of Assembly.
A constitution that is silent on possibilities of states and local government areas merging, demerging, or having common utility and infrastructural services, but also insists that electricity generated beyond a certain level must be uploaded to the national grid, must be amended.
To the South-West, restructuring should also mean that personal or group aspirations of Nigerian citizens will not be put on hold because of other citizens. For instance, the argument that prevents a candidate with high UTME score from gaining admission to a tertiary institution so that another candidate with a lower score can go in because of the phenomenon called “educationally disadvantaged state” must no longer be advanced.
All citizens or groups must be able to progress at the pace that they have chosen. But to achieve this, resources must be provided to aid the aspirations of all Nigerian citizens, regardless of their state, local government, ethnic nationality, or religion. There must be no federally sponsored impediments, artificial barriers, or booby traps, in the way of any citizen of Nigeria.
Any political party that wants the full support of the South-West may have to take a look at the four-fold thrust of the manifesto of the Second Republic’s Unity Party of Nigeria: These are free education from nursery through tertiary level; free health services for all; integrated and rural community development; and full and sustainable employment.
While free education and free health services are easy to understand, the last two may need a little explanation. If you followed the enthusiasm that greeted the highly successful OYOMESI educational project of the Oyo State Government of Abiola Ajimobi, you will appreciate the importance of education to the Yoruba. Also, the attempt by former Governor Olusegun Mimiko to implement a strong medical infrastructure in Ondo State is a signal that the Yoruba crave good healthcare delivery.
Taken together, integrated and rural community development and full employment mean that infrastructure will be provided so that citizens can prosper both in urban and rural centres, whether they are engaged in agriculture, manufacturing, or the service industry.
The ambitious agricultural projects of Ogun State at Omo Forest Reserve and the J4 Farm Settlement for instance, tell you the importance the Yoruba attach to production of food and cash crops. The Oodua Group of Companies, owned by the South-West states, which have now been joined by their Lagos kins, is an evidence of the Yoruba quest for industrialisation.
The Afenifere, often regarded as a pressure group that serves the tribal interest, and preserves the ethnic identity, of the Yoruba, birthed the Third Republic’s Alliance for Democracy political party, whose preamble includes “reengineering of the political, economic, and social foundations to… build a new, united, and prosperous country under a good democratic government.”
The Egbe Omo Oduduwa, formed in 1945 to unite the Yoruba, was a response to the Ibibio State Union and the Ibo Federal Union, the political action committees of the Ibibio and the Igbo ethnic groups during colonial Nigeria.
Tinubu’s political family must join the Afenifere, whose influence waned after the 2003 elections, and harmonise their objectives into a corpus for the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, the Special Purpose Vehicle dedicated to delivering composite economic development throughout the South-West.
Failure to work together may jeopardise the political future of the South-West.