By OLUSESAN LAOYE
The emerging security challenges in the South west may have given President Muhammadu Buhari a black eye. For a man who came to power on the massive support of the region is turning to a persona non grata as his popularity which gave him two elections has suddenly turned to notoriety and infamy.
Before 2015 he was of little political consequence in the south west but the alliance with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the formation of APC changed all that and made the man to beat. The had tried to rule the country, but his limitations which revolves round the North, especially North West, made his presidential ambition impossible.
But the honey moon with the region seems to be in its twilight as 2023 approaches but especially the rising insecurity in the region and other parts of the country which the president has proved incapable or indifferent to tackle. The turning point was the murder of the daughter of the leader of Afenifere, the Pan Yoruba social cultural group, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin in July,which sparked off a gale of protests and agitations against Buhari.
This was followed last week with the RevolutionNow protest and the pre-emptive arrest and detention of the organiser, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.
The formation of the APC as a political party between the CPC, which he led and the ACN led by Tinunbu and other fringe parties such as the ANPP, faction of APGA and later the new PDP with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Olusola Saraki with five governors became the game changer. The role of the South west was crucial as the strongest partner in the alliance.
Before then, the impression was that he was a dictator and Islamic funder and Fulani irredentist who believed in a section of the Nigeria alone. He was not accepted in the south west because of the role he played as a military head of state in 1983 when he jailed politicians in the region and other parts of the country.
His obnoxious decree, especially Decrees 2 and 4 which empowered them to detain people without trial and also clamp down on journalists and eventually led to the imprisonment of Messrs Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of the Guardian newspapers for publishing factual but embarrassing report of public officials. This made him unpopular and worked against him since 2003 till 2015.
It was after the ACN platform controlled by Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu repackaged him and through a sustained propaganda campaign that changed the impression Nigerians had about him. The South west APC used all the machineries at its disposal – the press, civil societies and moved round the traditional rulers to convinced them that he had turned a democrat.
He too made the entire world believed that he had changed during the Chatham House lecture just before the election and all what was being said about him was blackmail and cheap propaganda.
What actually worked for him was that those who repackaged him calculated to watch the mood of the nation which was tasty for Change. The propaganda was that he was the only one at that moment who could turn the fortune of Nigeria around, especially, the fight against corruption and insurgency in the north east.
He and his party made a lot of promises to make life better for the people and to an extent some Nigerians saw him as the messiah. But now, the general impression and belief is that he has not delivered especially his lopsided appointments into key areas which favoured a section of Nigeria.
Judging by his performance politically since 2015 when the South West was involved, he was not popular as his electoral performances were very low and he was not in any way regarded as a factor politically. Even when he contested against his brother in Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, he lost. His votes were nothing to write home about in the South west compared to what he got in 2015 when Tinubu and others sold him to the Region with ACN.
Although he won the last election in the region his fortunes declined. In 2015 in Ondo, he scored 299,889 compared to 241,769 in 2019; in Oyo in 2015 he had 528,620 against 365,299 in 2019; Ogun, it was 2015..308,290 vs. 2019..281,762; Osun 2015.compared to383,603.in 2019..347,674; Lagos 2015..792,460..2019..580,825; and Ekiti 2015..176,466. 2019..219,231.
What has even happened since May 2919 when he was sworn in for a second term has further diminished his popularity among his followers , who believed that some of his actions are detrimental to the people of the South West and against the earlier principles which they had in 2915.
One major policy which got the people of the south west really angry was the idea of Ruga settlement for his Fulani tribe across the country. This made all well meaning people in the zone to come out with one voice to reject it. The likes of Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo , all the political and socio-cultural groups, traditional rulers and institutions rose up against it.
What worsened the situation now is the invasion and kidnapping of the people of the South West. These recent incidents did not only affected his popularity but credibility as a national leader. People in the region now see him as a leader for his own ethnics group alone because they are yet to be convinced about the rationale behind Ruga and other related policies mapped out to favour only the Fulanis, especially the herdsmen.
All those who reacted to his present position in the country as they affect the South West, expressed disappointments, saying that they thought he has changed and condemned what they described as his nepotism in handling the affairs of Nigeria, at the expense of other tribes.
The Deputy National Publicity secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. Diran Odeyemi said that the actions of President Buhari now serve those who packaged him as a democrat and sold him to the South West right, because they have now realised that President Buhari would never protect their interests and that of their people. He argued that as far as he was concerned he knew his policy would not favour the South West and that was why people like them worked hard to ensure that the PDP candidate got there but unfortunately the election was massively rigged.
One of the governorship aspirants in Oyo state in 2015, Princess Sangodoyin had also said that the people were disappointed in Buhari, saying that the issue of Ruga and the intention to take up the water ways in the country are issues which made the president look like a sectional leader.
She said that what the president should be thinking is how to improve education, health care delivery system, agriculture, deplorable environmental situation in the country and youth employment.
Also former governor of Oyo State Senator Rashidi Ladoja said that the president is no longer popular even among his own people in the south west,. He said his Ruga policy which has been suspended, got a lot of people angry saying that there was no need for it because the people of the region have been living peacefully together for decades with the Fulanis and even they used to interact when he was young.
It will be recalled that in the last one month the South west has been under siege with the alleged invasion and kidnapping of innocent people by the herdsmen. This then fuelled the anger of the people against the present government for not being sensitive to the security challenges of the region. This then informed the security submit held by the six governors in the region , several meetings by pressure groups and organisations and the traditional rulers.
This was followed by the visit of the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja and later an enlarger traditional rulers also led by Ooni of Ife at the instance of the Vice president Prof.YemiOsinbajo.
What actually showed clearly is that the South West in unison have come together to reject Ruga and the perceived invasion by the Fulanis of the region was the historic letter to President Buhari by the Alaafin Of Oyo Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III. That letter was a strong signal that the region would not tolerate any government policy that would put them in bondage.