IDOWU SAMUEL writes on effects of the perceived relegation of the South-West geopolitical zone in the power arrangement of the country. Again, the Yoruba have been shoved aside in the power game in Nigeria. Considering the comfortable position, in which case the South-West produced the president from 1999 until 2007, and then the Speaker of the House of Representatives, just for four years, it has been hard for an average Yoruba to understand the basis for the Ã¢â‚¬ËœconspiracyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ by the rest of the country, to push his zone to the brink in national power arrangement.
With the exit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, the succeeding government, headed by the late Alhaji Umaru YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Adua appreciated the relevance of the South-West in the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s power arithmetic and worked closely with every Yoruba who occupied some positions of authority. Indeed, he took the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ã¢â‚¬ËœDimeji Bankole, as a son. The latter demonstrated commitment to the YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Adua cause to a fault, such that when the president died, he became an object of scorn. Despite the bias YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Adua showed towards the ethnic group, the Yoruba had no reason to complain aloud about being marginalised.
There has been a good political romance between former President Obasanjo and the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan long before now. That romance is traceable to the period Jonathan was deputy governor of Bayelsa State. There were reports that Obasanjo even had a hand in the manner Jonathan became the governor of Bayelsa State, after the ouster of his former boss, Dieprieye Alamieyeseigha. The fact that Jonathan again rose to become the vice president because the caucus that produced the late YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Adua found him worthy to be vice president has not been in doubt.
With the death of YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Adua in 2009, Jonathan needed some national support to become president. This is because his chances of doing so were largely deemed by primordial sentiments against him by some political forces which felt his presidency would have caused a serious setback for the North. So uncertain were the chances of Jonathan that only a few friends could openly identify with him. There are many big-wigs around the president now who had, some months back, worked against plans to make him president. But today, they have become the presidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best friends.
The clamour for Jonathan to become president came more from ordinary Nigerians, braced by civil society groups, indeed, Save Nigeria Group (SGN). But Nigerians and civil society groups could not enthrone him as generally desired. It was rather former President Obasanjo who instigated the process right from when he openly called on YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Adua to resign on account of ill-health.
Jonathan and South-West
The 2011 general election occurred like a jig-saw puzzle to the think-tank of President Jonathan. There was the North which was breathing heavily on his neck on the issue of zoning. Jonathan, too, was unsure of his chances, since it appeared he was not going to receive support from every zone of the federation. But he had Obasanjo in the South-West who assisted greatly in rallying forces in his favour in the zone. Obasanjo openly campaigned for Jonathan to be president and ensured that the South-West voted overwhelmingly for him. It was after the success of the election that the tide began to change.
The changing face of politics in the zone has reduced its relevance at the centre. Other zones capitalised on its capture by the opposition parties to knock it aside in power sharing agenda. The stage was set for the zone to retain the post of the Speaker of the House of Representatives until the tide suddenly changed.
The President And The Opposition
Several arguments have been canvassed on reasons the South-West lost the speakerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s position. A school of thought had attempted to raise a conspiracy theory on the issue. In this regard, there were those who concluded that if PDP and the Presidency actually wanted somebody from the South-West as Speaker in line with agreed zoning formula, nobody in the House of Representatives would have mustered the effrontery to rubbish that arrangement.
No party member in the past had slapped the PDP and the president so daringly in the face on issue of zoning. Those who share this thought found fault with the PDP, for failing to settle the issue of who was to be the Speaker between the two available candidates, Muraina Ajibola and Mulikat Akande-Adeola. In the end, the PDP settled for Akande-Adeola, notwithstanding the fact that many members of the House considered her a weaker candidate on many grounds. The choice of Akande-Adeola, it was believed, was meant to soften grounds for the man who later rubbished the PDP zoning agenda, Honourable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who eventually emerged as Speaker. Notwithstanding the ill-feelings generated by the election of Tambuwal, the PDP pledged forgiveness and support when he paid a courtesy visit to the acting National Chairman, Alhaji Haliru Bello Muhammed.
Again, political pundits have been expressing concern on the nature of romance between the government and the opposition party; the Action Congress Nigeria (ACN) in the South-West. Prior to the general election, there were reports of secret talks between Jonathan and the ACN leaders. Yet, the unfolding political scenarios after the election have not stopped pointing towards the strengthening of that romance.
Many have wondered aloud about the interest the ACN leaders had in the election of Speaker of the House of Representatives on June 6, 2011. The governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, was physically present to ensure that the votes of ACN members did not go to Mulikat. There were reports that the opposition party had struck the deal with some PDP stalwarts to post the Speakership slot out of the South-West.
If the ACN did not want the speakerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s slot taken by South-West and had worked assiduously towards it, such was borne out of the partyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s desire to sweep off completely, the vestiges of PDP, out of the zone. It was a way of sealing the hope of the ruling party ahead of 2015. Perhaps, the think-tank of the president was not aware of that. Notwithstanding, the pummelling of PDP in the South-West by ACN has not stopped at the level of killing the desire of the zone to have the speakerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s slot.
It was not the first time that the South-West would suffer a treatment of ignominy in national power game. During the Second Republic, late Senator Jonathan Odebiyi of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and opposition leader in the Senate decried what he described as consistent neglect of the Yoruba in national politics, concluding that Yoruba had been pushed to the fourth position among ethnic groups in national politics.
The import of his observation would later play out when the late MKO Abiola, chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) Board of Trustees, decided to contest in the 1983 presidential election. He was denied the right of fair contest, the NPN having prevented him from obtaining nomination form. Umaru Dikko, then minister of transport, simply told him he would not be allowed, since the presidency then was not meant for the highest bidder. Abiola was then one single largest financier of NPN. He resigned in anger and was commended by Chief Obafemi Awolowo for so doing.
A group known as South-West Elders Forum had spelt out the implication of a relegation of South-West in national politics, contending that such has always provided a backlash effect. The group in an advertorial said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Political antecedents have revealed that the Nigerian Federation usually suffers serious political backlashes and setbacks in the event of relegation of Yoruba to the background in national political arithmetic,Ã¢â‚¬Â a reason it called on President Jonathan to quickly make amends.
It added: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We use this avenue to urge the Federal Government and the PDP not to leave in the lurch, the South-West zone, a major pillar in the Nigerian tripod in the present political dispensation. The president, we believe, could rectify this anomaly by appointing capable hands from Yoruba into the new cabinet for the purpose of helping to rekindle the fire of the ruling party in the zone.Ã¢â‚¬Â