Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Leadership Undercurrents In Yorubaland

By Bolaji Tunji
Soon and very soon, the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would be two years old. The two years is the midterm of his four-year mandate. As Nigerians, we have all seen how the past few months have been, but because  I am not God, I can not say what the outlook would be in the next two years. But God has given me the faculty (brain)to project and take a leap into what the next two years would be based on happenings in the preceding months and the present situation. Without being too pessimistic, the outlook is not too rosy especially on the political front.
*Obafemi Awolowo
My concern is how the South west will fare in the coming years. There is leadership undercurrents in the south west. How will this play out in the coming years such that the Yoruba nation will still be relevant in national politics.
Most importantly, what is the manner of leadership that the Yoruba nation requires at this time. Today, it is not in doubt that the South west can lay claim to installing the present government. It is the first time that the Yoruba nation would be taking a major leap, without prodding, by any of the ethnic groups, to promote governance at the national level. Forget the fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a president of Yoruba descent was there for eight years. We all know at the time he was put forward that he was not the candidate of the Yoruba race. He was “coerced” into the race by those who felt it was the only way the Yoruba race could be assuaged following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections and the death of the man believed to have won that election, Bashorun MKO Abiola and ideally fit into their agenda.
The story has always been the same from the first republic to the present. The Yoruba race has never progressed to where it was able to promote and subsequently help instal the president as we have today. Not only that, this is the first time the progressives would be in charge of national affairs, all thanks to  Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos governor and leader of APC.
It is not in doubt that he practically assured the presidency of President Muhammadu Buhari who had to contend with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Kano governor, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha and founder of Leadership newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah, even the present Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki had actually signified his intention to also vie for the ticket. It is thus clear and straightforward that Asiwaju actually took the Yoruba race to the centre through the alliance he coupled with the Hausa-Fulani. In one fell swoop, he achieved what late Premier of Western region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was unable to achieve. For the records, Akintola had favored an alliance with the North at the time. It never worked. Tinubu brought the West and the North together and helped instal the Buhari presidency. For all that is worth, he is responsible for whatever the Yoruba race has to contend with today.
But where does that take the Yoruba nation? There have been speculations that Asiwaju has been sidelined and has been made irrelevant in the present administration. Is that really the case? Is it really true that he has been sidelined and if that is the case, how did this come to pass? What did Asiwaju do, or did not do that led to him being sidelined, in an administration he helped installed. And most importantly, if he was actually sidelined, what would be the position of the West in the build up to 2019? Lastly, how relevant would Asiwaju be in the general equation as 2019 gathers momentum?

I will not say I have answers to all the posers. But the critical question s; Was Asiwaju really sidelined by the Buhari presidency? Not really, though some would argue to the contrary. Those who argue on the later premise would say that the people he promoted and wanted in the administration were not considered. That his ministerial list to the president was not honored, thus implying a fight between him and the president. The argument then went further that President Buhari even wants to emasculate Tinubu in the West as evinced in what happened in Kogi and the Ondo elections. To jog our memory, Tinubu had favored James Faleke presently representing Ikeja Federal Constituency in the House of Representative, to emerge as Kogi governor in the aftermath of the death of his principal, Abubakar Audu who was then coasting to electoral victory.
But should we not interrogate the situation further? In Kogi election, Faleke was a law maker representing Lagos state, not Kogi, how then would the people give him the needed support? Would they not see him as an imposition from Bourdillon, which has been the refrain in the recent past.
We should also note that outside the South West, more specifically Lagos, Asiwaju’s influence has not been as resonating as one would have expected. Take the case of Ondo, in 2012, Tinubu had supported the governor elect, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN). He lost that election.
In the just concluded election, Asiwaju did not hide his desire for Chief Olusegun Abraham to pick the APC ticket, but Abraham lost the ticket to Akeredolu who eventually won the election. Would the story have been the same if Tinubu’s candidate had picked the ticket instead of Akeredolu? I very much doubt it. But I want to also say that the Tinubu camp did not really play its card well which led to schism in the party. It is not a hidden fact that the Asiwaju camp promoted three different candidates during the party primaries.
Apart from Abraham that the party leader supported, Chief Olusola Oke, candidate of the Alliance for Democracy was also said to have the backing of Osun governor, Rauf Aregbesola. Although the governor vehemently denied this. Former  Osun governor, Chief Bisi Akande and Senator Remi Tinubu were also in support of Senator Ajayi Boroffice. Three different candidates from the same camp. That clearly is a recipe for rancour if not outright division.
It is difficult understanding how politicians work or do their thing. Why divide your support instead of queuing behind one candidate?
I think the APC leader clearly got that particular permutation wrong. Yes, this could fly in Lagos. In Lagos, a candidate would have been handpicked as it happened in the case of the immediate past governor, Raji Fashola and even his successor, Akinwumi Ambode who were clearly Asiwaju Tinubu’s handpicked candidate. So if the APC leader didn’t get what he wanted in Kogi and Ondo, the blame should be on the strategy and not on the presidency.
The above scenario is where the problem is. Why are some people that should be at the becks and call of Asiwaju working against his interest as it is clearly the case today? Their grouse. They are not being given their head. They clearly want to be part of the decision making in the south west. They want an all-encompassing decision making system which they believed is not being offered. They are opposed to the continued culture of imposition. Though some of them have also been beneficiaries of imposition, they want a change from the old order. In the vanguard of the new thinking are some former governors in the south west who are now ministers. They have a long list of those who equally believe in the cause.
I recall attending a function where well known Tinubu loyalists were also in attendance. They did not hide their displeasure. Hear one of them: “as formidable as Chief Obafemi Awolowo was, he never imposed a candidate. In the 1979 election, his preference for Oyo governorship then was Chief Emmanuel Alayande, but the popular choice was Bola Ige and he went with it. Also his son, late Oluwole Awolowo was a member of the state House of Assembly then, Papa blocked him from aspiring to becoming a Senator because he asked those who came to present Oluwole’s case to justify why he should be supported. He did not impose his son and he never imposed his wife on the Yoruba race”. Other speakers contributed, asking why it had been difficult to call a meeting of top Yoruba leaders to decide on who would represent the race instead of imposing candidates.
The above scenario clearly points to one fact, it would no longer be business as usual in South West politics. A change is coming on the old order and this is becoming obvious daily, whether it is sustainable or not is a different thing entirely.
*Tunji is a commentator on public issues 

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