There are remote and immediate factors that led to President Goodluck Jonathan’s defeat in the South West region, despite the resources and energy he deployed to take the zone. There is the notion that the Yorubas fared poorly under this administration. OLUSESAN LAOYE reports
Before the presidential election, there were crises in the South West region over the reelection bid of President Goodluck Jonathan. These created divisions in the region as there were different groups for and against his second term ambition. The disagreement and the opposition against President Jonathan in the region which reached its peak before the elections, has been gathering shortly after the President assumed office.
The people of the zone who felt that they were instrumental to his election in 2011 felt alienated when he constituted his team. It was glaring to them that they were sidelined in the nomination of candidates in his government. Although they did not initially bother about it but the events which unfolded later made them to believe that their marginalization was deliberate and an affront on them. Their argument was that they deserved more than what they got from President Jonathan’s government.
What initially triggered off the cold war between Jonathan and the people of the region started within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when the party became polarized due to his second term ambition. Also a clique emerged to dominate the politics of the region in the pretence to be working for his reelection. This polarization eventually led to party members undermining the former President Obasanjo’s interest in the party.
Before they eventually separated, Jonathan and Obasanjo, the party was operating two factions loyal to the two leaders. The removal of the key national officers of the party through the judiciary was interpreted to be a ploy to weaken Obasanjo and his loyalists. The National Secretary and the National Treasurer of the party, Prince OlagunsoyeOyinlola and Chief Bode Mustapha, respectively were the first victims. The onslaught against those in Obasanjo’s group extended to some states in the South West, and subsequently the South West executives of the party which was built round the loyalists of Obasanjo and headed by the former Governor of Ekiti State, EngrSegun Oni.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and what drew the battle line between the loyalists of Obasanjo and those in Jonathan’s group. The departure of Oyinlola and Oni from the key party positions did not go down well with their followers who felt betrayed. Although it could be argued that those who replaced them were from the South West and not elsewhere, the point made was that they got there through the back door and it was to undermine the people of the region.
What happened in the party actually exposed what was described as the antics of the Jonathan’s men to edge the South West out of the scheme of things in the country. Even those in his party were not happy with the way things were being done and the caliber of people he surrounded himself with in the region. It was the general consensus that those he placed in the position of authority in the region were not reliable and credible. To an average person from the South West, they believed that those they regarded as criminals amongst them should not be those to represent them both in the party and the government.
With this mind set, other leaders across the region and from different divides who have not been interested in what was going on took interest in those pushed forward, and started taking a critical look at the composition of Jonathan’s government and the benefits which the South West derived from it. As one of the Yoruba leaders said in Ibadan ‘’some of us never bothered initially about what was going on but the caliber of those backed by President Jonathan to look after the interest of the people here in the South West drew our attention to issues and that was why some of us began to appraise his government and to look at what we have benefitted, despite all our efforts to ensure that he got to that position. This was the period that we realized that we have not benefited from his government the way we ought to have.’’
Notwithstanding, it could as well be said that there were divergent opinions about the way Jonathan treated the South West and this was largely responsible for the interest groups which surfaced during the last days of the just concluded general elections. It also dawned on Jonathan very late that he had offended the people with his actions and the kind of people in the region he surrounded himself with. Because of his late realization of this, he had to mobilize both energy and resources to save the situation but it was too late because some of the respected leaders in the zone had mobilized against him in a subterranean manner.
While some of the leaders who supported him in the South West hid certain facts from him based on what they were allegedly benefitting or what they would gain, details of the offence of President Jonathan against the South West was reeled out before the election at the Yoruba Peoples Assembly Summit, held at the Parliament Building, House of Chiefs, Secretariat Ibadan. It was at this meeting that prominent Yoruba leaders spoke their minds and expressed their rage against Jonathan’s government.
What was actually observed at the summit was that despite the fact that the meeting was labeled to be anti-Jonathan, those who were there are prominent Yoruba leaders who were highly respected by the people and they cut across all sectors and segments of the society. The convener of the summit, Lt GenAlaniAkinrinade(retd) was the first to fire the first salvo about what Jonathan did wrong against the South West and why he should not be voted for again.
According to him, the current challenges of the Yoruba people in this dispensation have impeded and became a big threat to the Yoruba people and their developmental aspirations. He further argued that the Yoruba people have been a victim of arrested development.
He pointed out that the existence of the people in the South West, in the Nigerian space has been particularly devastating, especially when one compares this to the significant progress made by ‘’us between 1954-1966 towards building a socio- democratic platform, a modern, just and egalitarian society.’’ Akinrinade further argued that as a people those in the South West have been assaulted, buffeted by the vagaries of strange cultures and traditions, while ‘’our penchant to accommodate strangers with open arms has led to the bastardisation and in some instances a total replacement of ‘’our culture, norms and values. Today things that we never thought could happen in Yoruba nation are now the things we glorify and we have turned our core values on its head.’’
It was not only Akinriade that talked in this vein,DipoFamakinwa, the Director General Development Agenda for Western Nigeria was of the opinion that the Yoruba people have not been so relegated to the background like what they experienced during the time of President Jonathan. He added that all efforts to make him realise this were rebuffed. Also, Prof Akin Oyebode was of the opinion that the government of Jonathan has put the Yoruba at a cross road and what Yoruba people wanted from him or any government that would rule this country was a level playing ground.
Other Yoruba leaders who have been vocal about the way the government of President Jonathan treated the Yoruba nation, include one of the foremost legal luminaries in the country, NiyiAkintola (SAN). Akintola who was one of the people at the 2014 national conference was of the opinion that even the conference which was to help the people of the South West to achieve a common goal could not, because of the facts that they went there as a divided house. This he said was engineered by the present government of Jonathan. He expressed that it was glaring that the Yoruba nation has been maginalised and they must have a legal frame work that would always guide in their relationship with any government, while they must as well have plans B and C as to what they want in the country.
Hon OlawaleOshun, the Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group, a break away from the core Afenifere was also worried about the state of the Yoruba nation which he said has fared poorly under Jonathan. He said the people of the Yoruba nation should determine what they want from the country and the demand must go beyond Jonathan,arguing that they should as well come out with a concrete plan as to what they want from the government of General MuhammaduBuhari, so that he would know what we have on the table to be partners in progress and not just an onlooker in the affairs of the country. He stressed that the attitude of Jonathan has taught ‘’us a big lesson which should no longer be repeated.’’
It was Senator Anthony Adefuye who is the Secretary General of the Yoruba Unity Forum which has Mrs. HID Awolowo as the Matron and Leader, Bishop Gbonigi as the chairman who said the people of the Yoruba kingdom should continue to ask Jonathan what wrong they did to him to receive such treatment in his government.
He said that what got some of them actually angry was the fact that he never kept his promises to the people of the South West. He said that on several occasions, the Forum led delegations to him to outline what should be done for the Yoruba people, but at each time they went he would promise and after leaving his place something different would be done at the expense of the Yoruba nation.
According to him the position of the Speaker which they claimed was zoned to the South West was not what the region bargained for as they should have got the Senate president. He further argued that when the position of the CBN governor was vacant, the Yoruba Unity Forum went to him about it, he promised but when an announcement was made it was given to his kinsman from the South-South. According to him, it was after several attempts were made to make him see what he was doing wrong to a nation like ‘’us and he refused to do anything that words went round to let our people know what has happened to them in government.
Now that President Jonathan is out and a new government is coming into office, the debate among political observers in the region and across the country is whether or not the South West would fare better in the incoming administration.