The post-National Conference Summit, held last Thursday in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, was an assemblage of ‘who is who in the country particularly from the South-west. The attendance cut across religious and political persuasions.
At the parley, were Chief Olu Falae, a former presidential candidate of the defunct All Peoples Party; Chief Reuben Fasoranti, leader, Afenifere; General Adeyinka Adebayo(rtd), leader of the Yoruba Council of Elders; Senator Femi Okurounmu; Otunba Kunle Olajide, former Secretary, YCE; Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun; PDP leader; Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu; Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former Governor of Ogun State; Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, former governor of Oyo State; Mr. Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State; Dr. Doyin Okupe, spokesperson for President Jonathan; Otunba Iyiola Omisore; Chief Richard Akinjide, former Minister of Justice; and Senator Lekan Balogun, a PDP chieftain.
Others at the meeting include Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Minister of State, FCT; Prof. Wale Oladipo, National Secretary of PDP; Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Publicity Secretary, Afenifere; Senator Teslim Folarin, PDP governorship candidate in Oyo State; Mr. Gani Adams, Oodua Peoples Congress leader; Prof. Temitope Alonge, Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital; some members of Accord Party and Labour Party.
Meanwhile, Oyo State governor, Chief Abiola Ajimobi and his three other colleagues from the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) in the South-west viz: Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Rauf Aregbeshola (Osun) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) stayed away from the Summit. This was not unexpected. Their party did not endorse the National Conference which report was the crux of the matter at the Summit. In fact, the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, also from the South-west, described the National Conference a distraction ahead of its inaugration. Analysts believed the APC rejected the Confab out of its fear that it was designed to buy favour from the South-west which had continued to clamour for the restructuring of the country as the basis for a peaceful co-existence of the northern and southern segments of the nation. Unfolding events seem to have proved the analysts right.
Though the Summit, entitled, “The National Conference, 2015 elections and the Yoruba nation”, was hinged on Yoruba’s future, it had a semblance of politics as the convener, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, governor of Ondo State; Fasoranti and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, also a chieftain of the apex Yoruba group, said the Summit was to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan’s candidacy.
General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), the presidential candidate of the APC, was severally maligned for his role as a military Head of State in 1983. Reference was made to how people who fought for democracy then were thrown into prison.
Buhari’s action and the refusal of the APC to support the National Conference were repeated almost by every speaker except Ladigbolu who said he was not a politician and would not speak like one. He just advised Yoruba people to tread softly in their choice of who leads the country from May 29.
Mimiko said, “Today, the Yoruba people have marched out in their large numbers to their political capital, Ibadan to discuss and articulate, once more, an issue which, for decades, has been considered to be the main agenda for their race. You will recall that for several decades, the Yoruba were at the fore front of the agitation for the convocation of a National Conference. I, therefore, congratulate the Yoruba nation and all Nigerians that, finally, their dream of coming together to dialogue how they should be governed has come to reality.
“Let me salute President Goodluck Jonathan for his bold and momentous move as well as his focused leadership which was demonstrated through his compliance with the agitations by Nigerians to debate their collective future. Convening the 2014 National Conference was indeed a historic assignment that we are proud of and as a people; we must do everything possible to ensure that the CONFAB recommendations get implemented.
“No doubt, Nigeria has passed through various stages of national dialogues before without being able to emplace a constitutional and political arrangement that is accommodating enough to sustain the dedication and patriotism of many. The Constitutional and governmental experiments that we have had seem inadequate to capture the essence of those things that have the inherent capacity to unite us despite our ethnic and religious cleavages.
“The CONFAB report when implemented, will create room for each state to have its own Constitution, its own police force, its own prison service, can create its own local governments, can build its own airports, seaports and railways and in addition; in the economic domain, solid minerals that had been the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government since independence, have now been brought to the concurrent list. States can now create employment and develop at their own pace. With all that, it liberates everybody, it opens up the political space”.
Fasoranti and Adebanjo explained why they prefer Jonathan to Buhari.
Adebanjo said, “Those shouting Buhari today don’t know the past and it is our duty to tell them where we are coming from. One section of the country dominates the other. I am not a member of any political party. Why we are so attached to Jonathan is because we know where we are coming from. Anybody who has the national interest as his focus no matter where he comes from, we will support him”.
Prof. Dupe Olatunbosun, who presented the keynote address, entitled, “The 2014 National Conference and the future of the South-West, reeled out the achievements of Jonathan saying, “Considering the various challenges Jonathan-led government has been facing since 2011, these are remarkable achievements. Added to the giant strides of President Jonathan‘s courage, determination and genuine love for the unity of Nigeria that made him organize the national conference which other leaders before him failed to do. The success of the national conference has laid a solid foundation for the unity of the country when its recommendations become implemented”.
“There are some people, particularly, the APC, who have refused or failed to see these various monumental laudable achievements of Jonathan-led administration over the past four years mainly because of malice, prejudice and bias as well as jaundice and glaucoma in their eyes. Certainly, everything about President Jonathan seems to be providentially right and timely”.
Looking at the array of people at the Summit and sudden u-turn of some Yoruba groups like the Yoruba Council of Elders, led by Adebayo, which, some weeks ago, distanced itself from Afenifere’s endorsement of Jonathan for re-election, the political calculation seems to be changing. The YCE’s sudden turn-around may have been occasioned by a meeting which reportedly held in Lagos where the President was said to have endeared himself to the elders.
While the leaders were having their Summit, hundreds of youths, under the auspices of the South- West Youth Network and led by Kunle Yusuff, said the option left for Nigerian youths in the March 28 election, was for them to vote Jonathan to enable him continue his transformation agenda.
The event, organised by the aides of Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo, centred on the South-West Youth Voters Awareness and sensitization programme ahead of the rescheduled general elections.
Yusuff, who is also the PDP House of Representatives candidate for Lagelu/Akinyele in the March 28 election, advised youths to hold their destinies in their hands by voting Jonathan again.
Yusuff said, “We concentrate on youths because 70 per cent of the voting population comprises youths . Youths are the bedrock of this election. We have decided to form this organization to reach out to millions of Nigerian youths on the need to be active participants in the on-going electioneering campaigns by getting their Permanent Voters cards (PVCs) and vote for the person of Mr. President who is giving his all to position the youths as true leaders of tomorrow.”