•Tribal leaders consider reverting to regional politics, protest vote if denied position
By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
A fierce agitation for the zoning of the position of the president in 2023 is growing in the South West, made up of the six Yoruba states of Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti and Lagos, Business Hallmark investigation can reveal.
According to BH findings, majority of those from the region are united in the agitation, irrespective of their religious and political leanings.
Some Yoruba leaders, including professionals, politicians, traditional rulers, as well as community leaders who spoke to our correspondent said they were not going to back down on their demands, noting that the only way to ensure fairness is to allow the presidency to come back to the region after the tenure of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
The South West, it would be recalled,last occupied the number one seat in the present 4th Republic in 2007, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo from Ogun State, was president for eight years from May 29 1999 toMay 29 2007.
Obasanjo had swept to power in 1999 and 2007 under the umbrella of the then ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) against the wishes of his people who had preferred one of their own, Chief OluFalae and the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu respectively.
At the expiration of Obasanjo’s tenure, the Yoruba dominated Alliance for Democracy (AD), which later metamorphosed into the Action Congress of Nigeria (APC), made two other failed attempts to produce a president.
The PDP, in the two presidential elections that followed, defeated other opposition parties to install former Presidents Umaru Musa Y’aradua and GoodluckEbelo Jonathan in office for another eight years.
Having failed on four occasions (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011) to have their way, political leaders from the South West, led by former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had midwifed an alliance between the ACN with the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), led by President Buhari, a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the New PDP led by renegades like the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Olusola Saraki, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and others to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The special purpose vehicle successfully snatched power from the PDP in 2015, after its candidate, President Buhari, was declared the winner of the keenly contested election.
The alliance, though later strained, lingered into 2019, with Buhari winning another term against PDP’s Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
According to multiple sources both from and outside the South West, there is an outstanding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) within the APC dating back to 2014 when the party was founded, that the presidency will revert to the South Westafter President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
However, available information suggests that the president and his close allies are not willing to honour the agreement to give power to the Tinubu camp in 2023.
The Buhari group, it was gathered, is not comfortable with power going to the South, especially the South West.
“The North, apart from not yet satisfied with the eight years of Buhari and wanting more, is not comfortable with the South West getting the number one position in 2023.
“The zone is already powerful. Giving it more power will endanger the continued dominance and relevance of the North. You can see what Obasanjo did during his reign.
“He is the root of the present economic woes in the North today with his policies. He liquidated, privatized or out rightly sold most government institutions like the Nigerian Airways, PHCN, NITEL, that used to feed the North.
“Though the North was angry with him, we couldn’t touch him because he had his very powerful Yoruba block behind him.
“They are so powerful with all their wealth and institutions behind them. Have you ever seen a government that succeeded in Nigeria without the backing of the Yoruba?
“The crisis that brought down the First Republic started in the South West. Likewise, the regimes of Buhari in 1985, Babangida, Abacha and even Goodluck Jonathan were all upended by forces from the South West.
“The problems Buhari is currently experiencing, we all know, are been orchestrated by the South West controlled media, institutions and individuals. There was peace during his first term until the Yoruba turned after sensing that they may be denied the presidency in 2023.
“So it will be foolish to cede power to the South, particularly the South West, which is the elephant in the house, until the North is ready to successful counter a gang-up like the feared butchering of the country into independent states”, a former permanent secretary turned politician from a state in the North Central zone told our correspondent.
However, while forces close to the president are scheming to deny the Tinubu camp the presidential slot in 2023, various interests from the region vowed to ensure power reverts to the region.
Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, recently lend his voice to the call for power shift when he claimed there was an agreement that power should rotate between both the North and the South when the APC was founded over seven years ago.
While demanding that the agreement should be respected, the former Lagos governor warned that it would be dangerous to abandon it.
“The truth is that what makes an agreement spectacular is the honour in which it is made, not whether it is written.
“If it was written there would be no court cases of breach of contract because it is a document that is written and signed that goes to court. But the private agreement you make with your brother and sister should not be breached, it must be honoured.
“All parties are clubs where you write agreements just like a social club and we can decide that it is the youngest person who will be the chairman of the club or we can decide that it is the oldest person or the next female or the next male. That is the matter of agreement between people,”Fashola had argued.
Speaking on the matter, an APC chieftain, Akinjide Kazeem Akinola, said a Southwest presidency is not negotiable.
According to Akinola, the South West dominated by the Yoruba tribe had supported candidates in the past for presidency, and should be granted merit to produce the country’s president.
“Come 2023, the presidential slot should be zoned to the South West. The demand is not negotiable”, Akinola stated.
A close associate of Tinubu who did not want his identity revealed said that it was on the merit of Buhari handing over to Tinubuthat prompted Tinubu and other stakeholders from the South West to concede the party’s presidential ticket to Buhari during the party’s presidential congress held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos in 2014.
“Buhari had contested for the presidency three times on the platforms of CPC and ANPP, but failed until the 2014 merger propelled him into the presidency.
“Without such agreement on rotational presidency, there was no way President Buhari could have defeated theNew PDP arm of the APC led by Saraki, Kwakwanso, Atiku and Amaechi”, the source noted.
A Yoruba group, Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA), in it’s own response, said the Southwest deserved to be given the chance to produce the President in 2023, saying the region has paid its dues.
The group’s National President, Olalekan Hammed, argued that among the three geo-political zones that constitute southern Nigeria, Southwest has maximally paid its dues in APC and deserves the party’s presidential ticket in 2023.
“Starting from the enormous roles played by southwest political leaders in the merger that gave birth to APC, the election that brought President Muhammadu Buhari into power was highly complemented by Southwest votes as at the time when both the SouthSouth and South East could not give himthe required 25 per cent vote.
“Moreover, PDP hardly won a state out of six in our region from 2015 till date, which is evidently enough to prove our progressivism.
“Besides that, governors defecting to APC in SouthSouth and South East after 2019 are children of circumstance and opportunists. They are now identifying with heroes in progressives’ family after relentless efforts made by pioneers to build the house.
“They are people that were reaping in PDP when South West progressives were struggling as opposition to send PDP out,”Hammed said.
A PDP chieftain from Lagos, Chief Olabode George, warned that the nation’s democracy may be scuttled and its unity jeopardised if any attempt is made to dump power rotation.
“If the North has spent eight years, by the zoning principle and for the purpose of oneness, for equity and justice, it should come to the South.
“But that is still subject to a lot of discussions among the party hierarchy, elders and leaders of the parties to keep the country one.
“If it goes that way, the only thing to do is to look into the constitution because restructuring is a must. It will douse a lot of tension in the country and President Buhari has nothing to lose.
“The constitutional conference has submitted its report, what is wrong in getting that report, implementing it and letting us move forward?
“So, we need to restructure if we must move forward but for fairness and equity, the presidency should return to the South,” said the former national deputy chairman of the PDP.
A founding member of the APCfrom the South West and former Ogun State governor,Chief Segun Osoba, said there was a gentleman’s agreement among founders of APC that power would shift to the South after Buhari’s eight years in office.
“To now say anything short of that gentleman agreement in APCwould amount to breach of trust and confidence upon which the party was founded, gave its presidential ticket to Mr. President and defeated PDP in 2015 and 2019,”Osoba said.
The leader of Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, also insisted that power should go to the South in 2023.
“That is not debatable. Let us not deceive ourselves, the South should have it and when it comes to the South, the question we will now ask is where should we go from there?We can’t afford to gamble with another Northerner after President Buhari has served for eight years”, the Afenifere chieftain declared.
While the ruling APC is busy battling with the headache of which zone its presidential candidate will come from in 2023, the PDP in a strategic move last Thursday zoned its chairmanship position to the North, a move seen by many as a preemptive measure to beat the APC to the game.
Based on the norms and conventions of all the political parties in the country, when a party chairman comes from the South, the presidential position goes to the North. Likewise, if the North gets the presidential slot, the party chairmanship automatically to the South.
According to sources in the PDP, the decision has tactically conferred the right on the South to produce the party’s next presidential candidate.
“We all know that a region can not produce the party’s chairman and presidential aspirant at the same time.
“It is a coup against the APC. If it (APC) picks a northern candidate, it is bye bye to the presidency in 2023 as the South West will definitely work against it. I doubt if Tinubu and his South West people will accept the insult. We are waiting for how the APC will respond”, the PDP source stated.
Responding to the South West’s insistence on getting the presidency in 2023, the APC said ithad no problem with zoning of the presidency but it is yet to take decision on where to zone positions.
The party’s deputy spokesperson, YekiniNabena, said party leaders will soon meet and decide on the issue of zoning.
“We don’t have any problem about zoning. At the appropriate time, stakeholders in the party will meet and decide on the issue of zoning. It is not a one man show,”Nabena said.
However, another APC faithful from the northern part of the country told BH that the party leadership is in a dilemma over the unexpected move by the PDP.
“With the PDP’s devious move, the game plan has changed. As things stand today, I dont see the APC winning the presidential poll in 2023 if it zoned the seat to the North.
“The South is presently united, while the North is not. Owing to the constant attacks by Fulani herdsmen and bandits on locals in the North Central states of Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa and Southern Kaduna, as well as the alleged Fulanisation agenda of the present administration, the North is deeply divided and won’t have a common voice in 2023 unless the trend changes”, the source said.