The voting pattern in the South-West on February 23 when Nigerians voted for the President will surely continue to draw varied reactions from across the land. There are those who consider it a hard-earned victory for APC salesmen who did a yeoman’s job and there are those who like to downplay the glory of such APC leaders.
On aggregate, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari defeated his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar, hands down in Yorubaland, except in Oyo and Ondo where the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won by a narrow margin.
Across the country, APC scored 15,191,847 votes to defeat PDP, which scored 11,262,978. But the figures are generally considered unimpressive given the total number of registered voters in the country. Out of over 82 million names on INEC’s voters’ register, only a paltry 28 million showed up that day, representing a third of the registered voters.
But whichever way we look at it, the February 23 exercise was quite historic in the sense that a few myths were shattered just as a good number of those hitherto considered political heavyweights were completedly demystified in their respective bases.
First is the cult of retired generals who did not hide their opposition to Buhari’s candidature and did everything humanly possible, including a campaign of calumny, to stop him, but to no avail. The outcome of the election clearly showed that they were out of tune with the people who actually determine who becomes President, governor or what have you.
Again, you also have ethnic entrepreneurs, especially in the South, who had hedged their fortune on Buhari’s defeat, just as we also have closet politicians masquerading as religious leaders. This latter category had more or less turned their sectarian platforms to a whip to lash Buhari continuously. You also have their allies in a section of the media who resorted to name-calling, all targeted at demarketing the APC presidential candidate.
Having watched their dream turn smoke following the announcement of the polls results, this coalition of sore losers seems to have found a new pastime, bashing of the co-chairman of the APC presidential campaign, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It explains the spate of media attacks onthe APC national leader lately.
Even while joyous members of APC are still toasting Tinubu and other leaders of the campaign council, these sore losers have gone to the ridiculous extent of trying to detract from the victory by peddling the falsehood that Tinubu was no longer influential in the South-West on account of perceived low turnout of voters in Yorubaland and Buhari’s loss in two states, Oyo and Ondo. Very funny indeed. Like we say rhetorically in Yorubaland, they say someone is bigger than you and you sneer shamelessly that it is just by a bit. So, if it is that easy, why were you unable to add that “small bit” to your own so that you can be bigger than that person?
Of course, PDP’s victory in Oyo is easily attributable more to two local factors: popular disenchantment with some of Abiola Ajumobi’s policies as well as the discontentment arising from the APC primaries, which led to the exit of influential members like Christopher Alao-Akala to ADP and Senator Soji Akanbi to ADC to pursue his senatorial ambition. He is the incumbent senator representing Oyo South senatorial district.
In electoral mathematics, Ibadan city alone undoubtedly accounts for about 60 per cent of Oyo vote. The truth of the matter is that many influential groups in Ibadan were unhappy with the chieftaincy reforms introduced by the Ajimobi administration. They considered them as an attempt to erode the power, prestige and influence of the Olubadan of Ibadan.
So, the anger was expressed loudly by voting against APC.
Also, Alao-Akala’s exit negatively impacted on APC as the party lost a significant number of votes in Ogbomoso, where the ADP candidate is strong. But the the good news is that the party leaders have now done the needful by reconciling with him ahead of the state election and he has promised to join forces with APC for the March 9 polls.
It is, therefore, wrong to say that APC’s loss that day was an expression of dislike for Buhari. Rather, it was brought about by the mismanagement of local politics by the ruling party.
As for Ondo State, it was clearly the case of a divided house. Though the governor’s stool is not in contest this year, there were unresolved issues around the primaries conducted last October to select candidates for the state assembly as well as the National Assembly. Most of the candidates that emerged were not the favorites of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. The former NBA president has never hidden his bitterness over the development. Unfortunately, the issues were not redressed before the party went into the February 23 election. The result was the defeat of the party by Atiku.
Of course, overall, it should be admitted that PDP had a bankable message for the South-West voters on February 23, restructuring. Anyone familiar with the progressive values subscribed to by the Yoruba generally will easily understand that Atiku’s promise quite resonated well with the people. It gave some elements within Afenifere whose electoral value had depreciated in their respective bases because of their flirtations with Goodluck Jonathan in his failed bid for second term new political oxygen of sorts.
Suddenly, they had something to crow about and a perfect excuse to take up briefs from Atiku as his salesmen in Yorubaland. While executing their brief as Atiku’s marketers, it became quite fashionable for these elements to portray Tinubu as opposing restructuring and, therefore, working against Yoruba interest by campaigning for Buhari’s second term.
They got even dirty by trying to blame the migrant herdsmen’s sacking of farmlands in Yorubaland and inflicting bodily wounds on farmers on Tinubu.
It, therefore, took a lot of hardwork and leg-work to convince the people otherwise. The discerning Yoruba surely know better. They refused to buy the cheap stories by such mischief-makers. They know Tinubu’s partnership with Buhari has paid off for the South-West in terms of dividends of democracy. Thanks to his negotiating skills, a Yoruba man in the person of Professor Yemi Osinbajo became Buhari’s running-mate in 2015 and has now been re-elected with Buhari for a second term, which ends in 2023. Not only that, Yoruba were saddled with strategic portfolios in Buhari’s first term. In terms of federal projects, the South-West could not be said to have been marginalised in anyway. Ready examples are the construction and completion of new railway line between Lagos and Abeokuta, even as work is in advanced stage for the Lagos-Ibadan end.
So, let no one try to downplay the yeoman’s role Tinubu and other APC leaders did in the South-West to tip the pendulum of victory in Buhari’s favour.
•Engineer Balogun writes from Ibadan, Oyo State.