Osinbajo’s apparent reference to the possibility of Yorubas’ chances in the 2023 presidential election… rubbed many Nigerians up the wrong way.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been in the eye of the storm since December 22 when he encouraged people of his Yoruba ethnic stock to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the coming presidential election as the best step forward in their quest for the country’s Presidency in 2023. His position, which he made known at the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, drew the ire of people from different parts of the country, including a faction of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, which has Mr. Odumakin as its spokesperson.
Specifically, Osinbajo was reported to have told the Alaafin during a 45-minute closed-door meeting that the “Yoruba have a lot to contribute to Nigeria for the 2019 elections. It is for us Yoruba, if you understand, it is for us. We are not looking at 2019, but 2023. If we don’t get it now, it may take some time again.”
Osinbajo’s apparent reference to the possibility of Yorubas’ chances in the 2023 presidential election being buoyed by supporting Buhari for a second term in the February election, an obvious fact which has also been articulated by other prominent South Westerns, including Works, Housing and Power Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola, rubbed many Nigerians up the wrong way.
His position has been interpreted as an undue interest of the Vice President in the office of president for people of his own Yoruba ethnic stock at a time when he is expected to be neutral and working towards the emergence of the most competent person of any tribe for the office of President, as the true statesman that he is.
The position of the Vice President on this matter has become the subject of a viral bitter politicking for which some politicians have been calling for his head. In an ideal setting, and in political environments where electoral contests are free and the electorate work towards the election of the best persons for vacant political offices, Osinbajo’s position would be harakiri.
In such climes, political leaders work, and are seen by all to be working, in the best interest of their country and its entire people. Such countries have gone far beyond the cleavages of ethnicity and religion, and their leaders are sworn to the glory and honour of their countries. These countries have become caring societies with social protections and inalienable rights for women, children, workers, the disabled and, indeed, the entire people of the countries. In these countries, the parts of the countries from which the presidential candidates come do not matter.
There is nothing like rotational Presidency in these countries and the constitutions of the countries and of their political parties do not say anything about the need to rotate the Presidency between different parts of the country. The people have come to see merit as the main deciding factor in who they vote into office as President.
This is not so in Nigeria where tribe and tongue is everything and the President, as we saw it during the Goodluck Jonathan era, can decide to isolate a particular region of the country and keep people from that part very far away from the echelons of power, with impunity.
This same tendency has drawn the current Presidency some flaks as it has been accused of keeping the security apparatus of the country within the hands of the President’s Northern-Muslim brothers, even while obeying the constitutional requirement on the spread of ministers.
The undue ethnic influence on our politicking is also glaring in the pattern of voting in our elections. That is why we see candidates getting the majority of their votes from their own parts of the country. This has been the pattern in Nigerian elections over the years with the exception, perhaps, of the annulled June 12, 1992 presidential election which Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola won, even in the Northern part of country.
Since political office holders rely largely on their ethnic groups to win elections to retain their relevance in their geopolitical zones and ensure that the dividends of democracy in any dispensation get to their regions, it is hardly questionable that any politician in Nigerian will be interested in the political fortunes of his own geopolitical zone.
It is obvious that whoever wins the coming election between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will determine the chances of the three geo-political zones in the Southern part of the country producing the president in the 2023 poll. If Buhari succeeds in getting a second term in office, the contest will undoubtedly shift southwards for the next President with the zone that is believed to be his ally in the APC standing a good chance to strive for the highest office in the land, which is more likely the Southwest in this instance.
The zones that have been consistently antagonistic to the current regime may not stand too much of a chance in this scenario. However, if Atiku prevails and is voted the next President of Nigeria in February this year, he will definitely strive to get a second term in office in 2023 (no matter whatever agreement on one term only he signs), thereby dashing the hopes of the Southern geopolitical zones – the South-West, South-East and South-South, to go for the Presidency.
It would appear, therefore, that the chances of power coming down South in 2023 rests only on the re-election of Buhari. And, any Southern geopolitical zone that has any interest in the Presidency come 2023 should properly think out its options and determine the best way to achieve its objective.
Ultimately, however, the ideal thing is to cleanse our politicking of its ethnic cleavages to provide room for a system in which merit is the principal determinant of our choice of presidents. We need to develop a system in which it does not really matter who occupies Aso Rock, either this year or in 2023. The future of our country rests on the de-ethnicization of our politics to have only the best candidate who will cater to best interest of the entire country in power at all times.