The vice presidency occupied by South-West since 2015 and certain to be still occupied for the 2019 elections is adequate vote catcher for South-Westerners.
Minister of Works, Housing, Power and former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola is in politics but hardly does he exhume politics.
This observation is without any contradiction. Better still, all Fashola has to do is to learn the tricks of what, over the ages, the cunny practitioners have labeled a dirty game. Otherwise, Fashola will continue to run into troubled waters.
Worse still, for Fashola to be at the wrong place at the wrong time might discredit him or his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Particularly, on the even of national elections, a ruling party at federal level, cannot risk being misunderstood or indeed, being unrepresented. Any other party notcher or any other zone can afford that risk. But certainly, not the South-West zone, which, in the scheme of things in the past 20 years, couldn’t claim to have been cheated despite the nullified 1993 presidential elections.
Fairly speaking, South-West has been more than compensated with eight-year tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and potential eight years tenure of vice president Yemi Osinbajo. Equally, South-South should also be credited with six years of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan after two years as vice president to deceased President Umaru Yar’Adua.
When therefore triple Minister Fashola urged South-Westerners to vote for President Buhari in 2019 elections so as to bag the Presidency so soon again in 2023, he (Fashola) might not mean or even be aware of the implied injustice if not act of provocation. Such couldn’t have been in the interest of their party, the APC. It is all the more worrying because this is the second major occasion Fasola would, in campaign rhetorics, shoot foot. At a critical stage daring the 2015 election campaigns, both the APC
and candidate Muhammadu Buhari were under blackmail and political opportunism of their rivals, the PDP for allegedly fielding an old man for the presidency. The APC fought back with emphasis on the personal integrity of alleged old man Buhari against the notorious public treasury looting tendency of younger ones.
In the midst of that raging controversy, outgoing governor Fashola of Lagos State found it convenient to cite old age against the formidable PDP challenger in Lagos State Jimi Agbaje close opponent was not even Fashola himself but Akinwunmi Ambode. Expectedly, Jimi Agbaje’s party, the PDP easily dismissed Fashola’s old age criticism against Agbaje by reminding him (Fashola) that in comparison,
his party’s presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari was even older than Jimi Agbaje. Fashola, without any prompting easily forgot everything about old age as a campaign weapon. Just like in 2015, when old age as a campaign weapon by Fashola could have damaged Buhari’s electoral prospects in Lagos State, the same Fashola’s wooing of South-West voters with prospects of presidential ticket in 2023 this time, has the risk of harming Buhari’s (and of course APC’s) electoral prospects in South-East in 2019. The vice presidency occupied by South-West since 2015 and certain to be still occupied for the 2019 elections is adequate vote catcher for South-Westerners.
More compelling therefore is Buhari’s credibility among South-Easterners for the 2019 elections. Already, and for the first time in the last 20 years, South-East is testing goodies in terms of infrastructure provided by the Buhari administration. Thanks to the effort of South- Easterners in Federal Government and APC than the negligible votes Buhari attracted in South-East in 2015. If provision of infrastructure, especially commencement of the construction of second Niger Bridge from Asaba to Onitsha could not convince South-Easterners, Buhari offered the zone richest prize – Aso Rock tenancy in 2023. It is a matter of integrity at stake which the slightest hint of shifting to another zone will shatter to pieces. And that is the danger of even a joke of South-West bidding for the presidency in 2023.
The very idea of any other zone producing Nigeria’s President in 2023 must be embarrassment to President Buhari who has assured South-West zone the presidency that year. To make the offer beyond every doubt, President Buhari specially delegated Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the Federation to give that assurance to a well attended political rally at the capital city of one of the states in South-East zone early this year. Sincerity and acknowledgement of the right of all parts of the country to produce a president for the country do not come better.
What is more, if only 20 years ago, there were doubts about such possibility of political leadership shifting from North to South and back to the North and South in mutual rotation, such doubt has since perished. Faced with possible disintegration of Nigeria posed by five years of resistance against the nullification of the 1993 presidential election virtually won by MKO Abiola, Northern Nigeria voluntarily conceded shifting of Nigerian Presidency not only to the South but specifically to the South-West. The only K-leg of that gesture was that South-Westerners were denied their right of preferred candidate(s). Since then, for a second time, South (Nigeria) also produced the President in the person of Goodluck Jonathan.
The Presidency, with Muhammadu Buhari in charge also returned to the North in 2015. If therefore the Presidency is to return to the South in 2023, the only deserving part of the country is South-East. After all, Obasanjo (South-West) and Goodluck Jonathan (South-South) already tasted the Presidency. Hence, Buhari’s gesture, almost on a platter of gold, to the South-East in 2023. Nothing can disturb that arrangement without disturbing consequences. Any idea therefore that South-West would once again bid for the Presidency in 2023 is a non-starter. This is not the time for political insincerity of past years or the so-called after of handshake across the Niger from the West to the East will be out rightly leprous.
This is not to say that South-East is even seriously helping itself to make 2023 its year of history. In short, as much as Buhari and APC man be well-intentioned towards South-East in 2023, reaction from that zone (South-East) is down right ridiculous and potentially self-defeating. When Buhari (in effect APC) made the offer of Presidency in 2023 South-East, the response of Ohanaeze was that the zone preferred restructuring of Nigeria to Aso Rock tenancy. In short, if Nigeria is not restructured by 2023, South-East would ignore the offer of Presidency? Everybody in that zone has since seemingly acquiesced.
And other zones, especially South-West would be expected not to seize the opportunity? Why can’t South-East learn from past history especially of shifting positions on events eventually leading to the civil war which left South-East all alone to defend itself? In the present day political circumstances, which is within South- East’s easier reach, Nigerian Presidency or restructuring? Why dismiss certainty for uncertainty? The political reality today is that under a spurious restructuring, even if South-East zone gains ten new states, not less than fifteen new states will be created in the North. Will that new arrangement win the Presidency for South-East in the future?
Is South-East in the Presidency not better placed to restructure Nigeria provided (and only provided) other parts of the country support restructuring? Former president Goodluck Jonathan organised a constitutional conference which purported to have recommended restructuring of Nigeria and submitted its report to Jonathan more than a year before the 2015 presidential elections. With its effective representation in Jonathan’s administration, why did South-East fail to prevail on Jonathan to implement that report especially on restructuring? And following Jonathan’s failure to restructure Nigeria, did that stop or even postpone 2015 Presidential elections?
If South-East prefers restructuring to the offer of Presidency, it is a choice with which nobody can quarrel. But, any elections due will be held since neither Nigerian constitution nor electoral act makes general elections conditional on restructuring of the country.
Curiously, instead of taking the offer of Presidency, South-East seems to offer its head in sacrifice for breaking the coconut of restructuring. As MKO Abiola would put it in one of his memorable proverbs, try your gesture and you won’t be around to share in the coconut.
This, anyway should be noted. If South-East zone stands by its pledge to reject the Presidency in 2023 after insisting on restructuring of the country, other zones in the South- South west and South-South will vie for the Presidency and South-East will gnash for nothing. The offer of the Presidency in 2023 cannot be on the table indefinitely.