As part of the reactions that greeted Osinbajo’s clarion call to the Yoruba, some non-Yoruba have labelled him an ethnic jingoist.
Year 2023 and not 2019 may turn out to be a defining moment in Nigerian political history and democratic growth as it is likely to be the determining factor on how this year’s general elections, especially the presidential election would be won and lost. It is therefore not surprising or strange that politicians and political actors have started to mount the stage for the drama that will play out. The dress rehearsal has been the reactions that have been trailing the recent comments by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo while trying to awake the consciousness of the Yoruba to the reality that with the way things are playing out on the road to the presidential election, the Yoruba have a legitimate right of application (if not an advantageous one), to the Aso Rock throne when it becomes vacant in 2023.
As part of the reactions that greeted Osinbajo’s clarion call to the Yoruba, some non-Yoruba, especially from the Igbo ethnic nationality and the main opposition in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) have labelled him an ethnic jingoist, non-believer in national unity, ambitious and self-serving. Even his kinsman from the now turned one-man-riot-squad in the factional Afenifere symbolised by Yemi Odumakin did not spare him of its venom. It is therefore more imperative to first examine Osinbajo’s justifiability or otherwise to make the call and the logicality or otherwise of his clarion call to his people.
The Vice President has not committed any illegality or broken any law by identifying with the yearnings and aspirations of his Yoruba people because the Nigerian Constitution itself puts a lot of emphasis and recognition on place of birth and state of origin when any Nigerian is either vying for a political office or seeking to work in any office; public or private. Also, the law setting up the Federal Character Commission clearly appreciated the truth about the unity in diversity of the Nigerian country. The VP cannot pretend to be holier than the constitution and other statutes which clearly stipulates that a public officer must be born in a particular part of Nigeria. It, therefore, could not have amounted to a crime if such an officer advanced the aspiration of his people. Professor Osinbajo is first a Yoruba as established by the nigerian constitution and he is very conversant with the famous Yoruba adage which says: “Omo ale lo nfi owo osi juwe ilu re (Only a bastard uses the left hand to describe the direction to his town). Should anything happen to this fragile federation deceptively called one Nigeria, to which direction will Osinbajo head? The Yoruba again say “Ile labo isimi oko” (Home is the place of rest after a hard day’s work in a land of sojourn). Where was Dr Nnandi Azikwe buried? Where was Dr. Alex Ekwueme buried? Ditto former President Umaru Yar’adua. So, Osinbajo is eminently justified to speak to the Yoruba on issues that border on their collective aspiration, survival and fulfilment of their destiny.
It is going to be a curious altruism for Osinbajo to be fighting the course of Igbo presidency when the Igbos are not united on the fundamental need for it, for those that agreed, they have refused to design a generally acceptable means of actualising it; even many by omission or commission are working against the Igbo presidency project. The VP cannot be more Catholic than the Pope, he cannot be more be Ibo than the Igbos. As for the presidency in 2023, it is zoned between the South and the North, the way the PDP zoned its national chairmanship to the South and its presidential candidate to the North, any of the zones in either of the two regions is qualified to present a candidate for it.
If the Igbos appear not thirsty or agitated enough for it as it is becoming clearer by the day, not even to non-Igbos alone but to some stakeholders in Igbo land, then is it not logical that others in the Southern region, including the Yoruba should not only indicate interest but should begin to work for it so that it doesn’t slip away from the region? When Cameroon who had been awarded the hosting right of AFCON was lackadaisical about it, didn’t CAF withdraw the country’s award? And if no zone in the region is ready to present a candidate in 2023, what stops the North in taking another short at it? So, the clarion call by Osinbajo is logical.
Talking about the only oasis of dissent from Odumakin’s battle-weary Afenifere, it would have been very strange if he failed to use the Afenifere name to oppose it going by his antecedents and the fact that it prospers him to always oppose every step taken by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to develop the Southwest or improve the fortunes of its people. After all, Odumakin’s factional Afenifere is an arm of the PDP from which it profited and like other PDP loyalists or sympathisers, are working in concert with everything anti-APC for a return of the PDP and for the return of business as usual.
It is certain that Odumakin and the remnant of his Afenifere want the Yoruba to remain in perpetual slavery as they were under former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. For all the years of the alignment of his Afenifere with the Jonathan administration, how did it change the fortunes of the Yoruba? Of course, it changed it for worse to the extent that a Yoruba was not in the first top 15 positions in the country. The Northeast has a development commission, ditto the Niger Delta. One is currently being planned for the Southeast. Odumakin’s Afenifere never felt agitated to demand one for the Southwest or take up the struggle for the actualisation of the long approved Special Status for Lagos.
Now that we are in the second position, they are not happy. It is time Odumakin heeds the warning of elder statesman Biyi Durojaiye that those using the name of Afenifere to oppose or speak for the Yorubas should stop it. By the way when were those congresses of the Yoruba held where Odumakin derived his authorities to speak for them? If any, how many people were there and who elected them?
Yes, without any doubt, 2023 will be a defining, if not the moment in the political and democratic history of Nigeria because either of the earlier predicted tendencies will come to pass. For instance, history would definitely be made if a democratically elected president of Nigeria emerged from the Southeast zone in 2023, just like it would be historic for the Southwest to produce the country’s political leader in 2023 within a space of 16 years.
And if for reason of the Doctrine of Necessity it returns to the Northern region, it would still be a defining moment. Every ingredient to make any of these permutations become a reality is actively present in our political actions and inactions in the country. For the Igbos, it could be a dream come true if they sincerely know their target and deploy the right and most potent strategies that are devoid of blackmail, playing to the gallery, recrimination, unnecessary antagonism, bitterness and pull-down tendencies to attaining it.
However, it is an incontrovertible fact that APC will pick its 2023 presidential standard-bearer from a southern geo-political zone where it enjoys massive support in during elections. If the Buhari permutation is the one that holds the day next February, then the Igbo must do the needful to sink the ambition of the Southwest. Surely, the Igbo will be the architect of their fate in 2023.
If they make it to Aso Rock it will be the defining moment and even when they don’t, it will still be the defining moment in the struggle for power in a multi-ethnic country called Nigeria because the question that will be in everybody’s lips at that moment will be how did they make it or how did they lose out in the battle?
Fanoro, a journalist, writes from Lagos