By OLUSESAN LAOYE
There is no doubt the South West geopolitical zone of Nigeria is regarded as the political hot bed of the country. The revolution which paved the way for the independence began there because most of the arrow heads that started the struggle came from Lagos. Leaders, such as Sir Hebert Macaulay, Akinola Maja and many others were in this fold.
These leaders made tremendous impact as they created political awareness for their people, that influenced other sections of Nigeria that evennotable leaders who emerged from those parts of the country drew their political strength from these early leaders. Among them was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was mentored by Macaulay and could have become the premier of the region but for tribal politics.
Among the strong political leaders then with Zik were Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who became the Premier of the Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintolola, his Deputy, Adegbenro, Chief Fani-Kayode, who became Akintola’s Deputy when Akntola took over the Region, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Sir Odeleye Fadaunsi among others.
These people were significant South West leaders then, but of all of them, Chief Awolowo stood out because of his influence as the first Premier of the Region with his Action Group political Party and subsequent emergence as the first Leader of Yoruba nation.
These positions gave him greater advantage than the others and enable him to groom some leaders during the first and the second Republics.
As the most important leader in the West, especially in the second Republic, he raised leaders as governors and in the National and State legislatures.
Among those he raised were, Chief Bisi Onabanjo of Ogun State, Chief Bola Ige, in Oyo, Alhaji Lateef Jakande Lagos, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Ondo, who was older than those in the group and Prof. Ambrose Ali of old Bendel. He also spread his the tentacles to Kwara, where he produced the likes of Chief Lawoyin .
It is worthy to note that these leaders that Awolowo groomed politically have also mentored others who took over from them. For instance, in Oyo, Alhaji Lam Adesina by Bola Ige, in Ogun, Chief OlusegunOsoba, by Bisi Onabanjo; in Ondo before Ekiti was carved out, Chief Adebayo Adefarati by Chief Ajasin. Also Chief BisiAkande of Osun was tutored by Chief Bola Ige.
Of all these people mentioned, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the only one who do not have direct link with those in the lineage of Awolowo, though a beneficiary through the MKO Abiola June 12 struggle which had the backing of the core Awoist.
The leadership structure in the South West up till now revolves around the same ideology and legacy.
However, It was Obasanjo- a beneficiary of the struggle of these people -whot attempted to change the tempo nd narrative by bringing the likes of Ayodele Fayose, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Gbenga Daniel, Segun Agagu and Olusegun Mimiko, Adebayo AlaoAkala and Senator RashidiLadoja; but he didn’t seem to have succeeded. Despite this, all of them never departed from Awo’s progressives legacies which the South West is noted for.
These legacies which have dominated for decades have now produced new leaders in the region. The emerging leaders whose political futures position them for presidency and high aspirations in Nigeria could undermine the ambitions of the older ones like OlusegunMimiko and Bola Tinubu who groomed them. These new leaders are, Professor Yemi Osibajo, Raji Fashola, Governor Kayode Fayemi, and the man described as the new rising star in the region, the Governor elect, in Oyo State, Engineer, SeyiMakinde.
He is the current Vice President to President Muhammadu Buhari. He is also a pastor of one of the largest Christian Denominations in Nigeria. Tinubu brought him into politics when he appointed him as the Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General of Lagos State. Before then he was not known.
But his emergence as the running mate to Buhari and now the VP raised his political profile. He is the engine room of the presidency In charge of the economic team and policy of the Buhari’s government. Now that he is ready to enter a second term as VP in the present government, it is believed that by the time he spends eight years in the corridor of power at the centre, he would have become a strong man and so powerful for others even Tinubu who installed him.
What will also stand in his advantage is his strong link with the Awolowos as the husband of the grand daughter of the late Premier of the Western Region. What he needs to do now is to watch carefully and start to reach out and build his own structure by empowering the people in his immediate zone who will stand for him when the time comes and as well reach out to people in other zones.
This is another potential leader of the South West, brought to the lime light by Tinubu who single handedly picked him against all odds as the governor of Lagos State where he made tremendous impact. He became very popular among his colleagues then, as governor and his administration became a mirror of sorts being referred to all over the country.
This was the platform that gave him the leverage to be picked as a minister by Buhari despite the fact that his mentor Tinubu was against him. He is now saddled with three powerful ministries of Works, power and Housing. He is not doing badly and he is also using this platform to position himself for the future leadership of the South West. He could even be regarded as a bridge builder between the people of the South West and the rest of the country.
Fashola is strongly a man to watch as people in his zone and other parts are well disposed to him as a trusted ally.
He has robust credentials which go beyond Nigeria. He is an historian and expert in International Relations, and also a specialist in civil-military relation, a journalist, researcher, lecturer and strategy development adviser. He is currently the governor of Ekiti State for the second time. He governed the state before he was defeated by AyodeleFayose and appointed a minister for solid minerals by President Buhari.
However, he restrategised to come back. He was the Minister of Solid Minerals and a person said to be in the heart of President Buhari. Fayemi is seen as potential leader in the Region. Even right now he is at the centre doing the negotiations for his party and to mediate in crisis involving members, and the opposition to give his party victory. He is regarded as very humble, intelligent, a good mixer who is said not to be afraid of where other people feared to go.
Just elected as the governor of Oyo state he is seen as a person who can rub shoulders p with other potential leaders in the South West. He is believed to be gentle and humble. As a matter of fact he has been in politics even much longer than his contenders.
This is a young man believed to be focused because he entered politics early and he has been in it since 2007. He had tried to go to the House of Representatives, Senate and even governor before he finally made it.
Along the line he met people and spent a lot of money. Despite the huge amount sunk over the years he was resilient and never gave up. He has during these periods too employed and empowered a lot of people especially the youths. His empowerment programmes are not limited to Oyo State but cut across the entire South West. He is very popular among students who benefit from his yearly scholarship project which he says will continue.
The way he even reached out to all the South West leaders immediately he won the election was praised and that was one of the things observed to make people believed that he would excel politically.
Apart from all these attributes, he is personally wealthy and generous with his wealth. He is a person said to be a cheerful giver and likened to late MKO Abiola in terms of generosity.
With his personal wealth and now power as the governor of Oyo state which is the cradle of politics in the South West it is believed that if he manages that position very well, even just for his four years in office, no one among others who have surfaced as contenders for the leadership of the Region would supersede him in that quest.
In an interview with Alhaja Bose Adedibu, she said all the people tipped are competent as future leader of the South West; she however said that with Makinde’s wealth and humility and his support among the youths who now see him as a role model, he will go places.
Former Deputy Governor in Oyo State Alhaji Azeem Gbolarunmi said the zone now needs a transparent leader who is not self -centred and who will cater for the interest of the people.
Also Dr. Yemi Farounbi said anyone who wants to lead in the South West must be prepared to lead restructuring that will bring the Region back to the Awolowo era when the West was able to take the lead in terms of development.