2019, Yoruba interests, and Osinbajo’s vaulting ambition II
I will be economical with the truth if I say I did not expect the avalanche of readers’ reaction that trailed this column of last week. That is democracy in action! It is my inalienable and God-given rights to hold and disseminate opinion, which the 1999 Constitution guarantees. It is at same time your own right to agree or disagree. No one may abridge those rights!
We said last week that the postulation that power will shift to the South in 2023 if President Muhammadu Buhari wins the looming presidential election is not cast in iron, because there are suggestions Buhari and those around him are minded to hand over power to another Northerner in 2023. From what we have seen of Buhari’s clannishness, we may not be able to put such an agenda beyond him.
Another proposition is: Should PDP’s Atiku Abubakar win the election. Atiku reportedly campaigned for the PDP presidential flag promising to serve only one term and subsequently work to cede power to the Igbo in 2023. On account of this, as well as his smartness in promising the running mate slot to as many Igbo leaders as showed interest, he got massive Igbo votes to emerge as the PDP presidential candidate. No sooner than he got what he wanted than he showed his hand – naming Peter Obi as running mate and refusing to put pen to paper on his pledge to serve only one term as president. In this, Atiku follows in the footsteps of “illustrious” predecessors. Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly agreed a gentleman’s agreement with IBB and others to serve only one term but reneged once he got into office. Not only did Obasanjo serve two terms, he made a brazen attempt at third term.
Goodluck Jonathan heated up the polity when he, too, reportedly reneged on a gentleman’s agreement not to seek re-election in 2015. Despite the uncertainty over his health and the fact of his abysmal performance, Buhari still insists on second term. Truly, there is no statesman of the stature of Nelson Mandela on these shores!
The prognosis appears dire and dim for the South, whether with Buhari or with Atiku. If Buhari wins and pushes his clannishness to the ridiculous, as we have witnessed on many fronts in these past years with his appointments, policies, and unguarded statements, then, the presidency will not only elude the South in 2023 if Buhari installs another Northerner that year, his anointed may go on to claim two terms in the fashion of those before him. If Atiku wins this year, he may seek second term in 2023. The South may not only be engaged in a wild goose chase, it may indeed be waiting for Godot if it sets its store on the North to deliver the presidency to it on a platter.
True, then, that power theorists posit that power is not delivered on a platter; it is seized! Unfortunately, the South is not ready to seize power democratically. The time is ripe but the South is not ready. At no time in the history of this country is the North so disunited and in confusion as it is today but Southern political leaders, rather than catch in on the moment, are contented with playing second fiddle and grovelling for crumbs from the master’s table. They may not have known it but all these permutations and propositions of the Yoruba or Igbo voting for Buhari in this year’s general election so they can stand the chance of being anointed by the North for 2023 keeps the North in the driver’s seat and leaves the South as mere conductor. Be it known to you, O Southerners, that the driver, and not the conductor, determines the destination and destiny of the vehicle. He determines whether to crash or drive it to safety. South’s political leaders must seize and control the cockpit, not on North’s own terms but on South’s own terms.
The objective conditions mightily favour the South; what remains are the subjective conditions of the South taking its destiny in its own hands; not the slavish mentality and genuflecting pettiness of timid and lily-livered Southern leaders killing themselves and ruining their reputation and integrity running demeaning errands to curry the recommendation and support of feudal oligarchs. We must start by demanding, working towards, and getting true federalism. Restructuring of this polity in such a way as for the component units to control their resources, pay taxes to maintain the Centre, and develop at their own pace is imperative. Interestingly, restructuring is not supposed to retard non-oil bearing states as is being ignorantly peddled but is meant to put the entire country back to work as was the case during the First Republic which, without doubt, remains the Golden Age of Nigeria as a country. Apart from Lagos, I do not know of any other Yoruba state that will not sweat it out if true federalism becomes a reality today. So, it is not true that restructuring is targeted at the North. On the contrary, it is the panacea for the whole country’s underdevelopment.
That the Yoruba and Igbo have historically been at loggerheads is not news. We are familiar with the “carpet-crossing” episode in the Western House of Assembly in 1952. Nnamdi Azikiwe-led NCNC had won the largest number of seats in the election but not absolute majority; Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group had come second. There were other minority parties like Adisa Akinloye’s Ibadan Peoples Party, which won six seats. Many had expected that Zik would emerge Leader of Government Business when the “honourables” voted but it was Awo that emerged. The claims, though false, were that Zik’s NCNC honourables out of tribal inclination abandoned Zik and voted for Awo and AG. What happened in actual fact was that the NCNC stayed loyal to Zik but the minority parties voted with AG to install Awo. Whether AG, NCNC or Ibadan Peoples Party, Yoruba parliamentarians were involved and an Igbo had been ditched. The seed of distrust had been sown.
The story, however, did not end there. Zik returned “home” to the East where Eyo Ita, from Creek Town in Calabar (an Ibibio) was deputy leader of NCNC and Leader of Government Business; one event led to another and Zik took over Eyo Ita’s position. What happened in the West had been replicated in the East! The Igbo were to pay dearly for this when military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, adroitly played on old animosities to drive a wedge between the Igbo and their neighbours before, during, and after the Civil War of 1967 – 1970.
Who, then, is to blame? Next week, God willing!