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2019: How South-West will shape Nigerian politics

In what appeared like confirmation of underlying grumbling within the rank and file of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-West, vis-à-vis their relationship…

In what appeared like confirmation of underlying grumbling within the rank and file of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-West, vis-à-vis their relationship with the party at the centre, notable leaders in the region last week converged on Ibadan, Oyo State, with a view to thrashing out the issues. Evidently, the elaborate gathering was all about 2019; a review of what the South West-invested in the last three years in the political scheme of things, what it has gained so far and whether the outcome was commensurate with what its members invested. Analysts believe that the zone had already gotten enough, far ahead of other regions, a verdict that is being contested by some politicians in the Lagos-Ibadan axis.

In attendance at the five-hour closed-door meeting held in the Executive Council Chambers of the Oyo State Governor’s Office, at Agodi, Ibadan were the national leader of the APC, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos);  Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun); Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); Majority Leader of the House of Representatives,  Femi Gbajabiamila; the Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed;  Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu and Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.

Other party leaders at the meeting were Chief Bisi Akande, Chief Segun Osoba, Engr. Segun Oni, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Senator Sola Adeyeye, among others. At no time did the eminent politicians hold such a meeting since 2015. Almost all the South-West leaders attended the meeting with many of their lieutenants, a development that underscored its importance, at a time when many things are said to be going the way they should not.

There had been conflicting tones since the aftermath of the 2015 general elections. The triumph in the election is seen by some sections of the country as the product of their “personal feat” though at least four of the six geo-political zones in the country played one vital role or the other, without which the APC wouldn’t have been what it is today.

While there was a kind of consensus that the South-West had played an unprecedented role in the success story, and adequately compensated by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government in terms of appointments and allocation of projects, there are still complaints here and there in that part of the country. It is no longer news that some stakeholders in the South-West still feel short-changed, citing contributions they made that culminated in the dethronement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. Among other issues, the blame game that refused to abate is that relating to the leadership in the National Assembly and the aftermath of the 2016 elections in Kogi, Edo and Ondo states.

The outcome of the National Assembly and the elections somewhat collectively turned out to be in favour of a different camp, rather than a certain vested interest in the South-West. Some of these issues were reportedly discussed at the Ibadan meeting. Though the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting did not reflect some salient issues, including the elections in Kogi, Edo and Ondo, sources said some of the chieftains did not mince words in expressing their dismay. 

“It was actually the Asiwaju that calmed nerves; he doused the tension and played a fatherly role because many chieftains were angry and ready for anything,” a source at the meeting, said. From the communiqué read to newsmen at the end of the meeting, Chief Osoba noted that all those invited were present except the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives,  Lasun Yussuf, who he said was unavoidably out of the country on official mission.

According to Osoba, the discussions which centred on all socio-political issues affecting the South-West APC were amicably resolved “and there is now unity of purpose. The leadership is one, and we are all together on all issues,” he said, adding that the meeting resolved all issues concerning the governance of the country and what should be the role and the influence that should be exercised by a group for the interest and progress of the nation. He also said the meeting specifically examined governance at the centre and decided to formally present its position in this regard to Abuja.

Osoba said the meeting also discussed exhaustively, the relationship of the South-West APC with the National Assembly and the party leadership, and expressed the hope that henceforth, there would be harmony and consultation, especially with governors when it comes to decision making, for the development of the zone and the country at large. He said in conclusion, the meeting resolved that the South-West APC, “As leaders of the progressives in Nigeria, are determined to re-assert our interest in the progressive politics of Nigeria, for the betterment of the nation.”

Pundits posited that the last aspect of the communiqué, which revolves around “re-asserting the interest of the South-West”, would imply many things. “Yes, being in the progressive politics of Nigeria means the Yoruba Nation still believes in the APC as a party and by extension, President Muhammadu Buhari,” another source at the meeting, said. 

But according to him, unfolding events in the polity would determine the disposition of the South-West leaders to the present arrangement. He said there was a clear message when the issue of the National Assembly was brought to the fore during the meeting. “Obviously, everybody knows what happened during the leadership tussle at the National Assembly in 2015 but things are gradually taking shape. We’ve indeed received a fair share of important positions in the polity but we’re still looking for more. The president had hundreds if not thousands of appointments to make,” he said.

But other insiders insist that the Ibadan meeting is a pointer to how important the South-West has become in Nigeria, and how obvious it is that political heavyweights from the region are putting together a grand plan for the 2019 elections, which is already being discussed in political circles. 

“Study the patterns as they unfold. The Ibadan meeting, the power and influence wielded by people from the South-West, and all the intricate political dramas playing out and you will know there is something epic in the offing,” a major political player from the region told Daily Trust on condition of anonymity.

Before the Ibadan meeting, the crave for the purported mega party was said to be gathering steam in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo states, heightening fears that the popularity of the APC would be decimated in that region, at a time when the PDP is equally struggling to regain its balance. Another problem discussed in Ibadan, according to insiders, was the alleged “side-lining” of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the scheme of things.

Though the APC won the gubernatorial elections in Kogi, Edo and Ondo states, none of Tinubu’s preferred candidates were able to sail through to the government house. It was gathered that Tinubu had during the meeting, repeatedly affirmed that he nursed no grudge against anyone and urged the party leaders to remain strong and resolute. Towards the end of last year, various groups in the Lagos axis had voiced their disaffection for long, including the call for a new sense of direction by their leaders.

In November 2016, a group, #IStandWithTinubu, staged a rally in Lagos during which the members expressed reservations over how Tinubu was allegedly being treated. The group also paid a visit to the APC state headquarters in the state. In an interview with Daily Trust a few days after, the state chairman of the party, Chief Henry Oladele Ajomale, said the party did not sponsor the rally.

“They were the ones who organised the rally, not us. But they wrote to me that they were ending the rally at the party secretariat. So, we had to receive them since they are members of our party. And when they came, you heard what they said; they were having this solidarity walk because of the way they are treating our leader. We cannot listen to them commending the efforts of our leader without making some reciprocal response to their gesture. After all, they spent their time and money to get to that stage, having realized the tremendous contributions of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to democracy. Without Tinubu’s efforts in galvanizing his members, his loyalists and supporters in voting in the 2015 elections, I don’t believe that we could have been where we are as a ruling party,” he said.

Pundits believe that for now, to align themselves with the floating of a new party will be politically suicidal for the South-West, bearing in mind that they have a huge stake in government. 

For now, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is from the region, specifically Lagos. The region also has key ministries, or Grade ‘A’ as Nigerians have tagged them. These include Works, Housing and Power, Finance, Communications, and Solid Minerals. The South West also have the Minister of State for Health (Isaac Adewale) and his counterpart for Niger Delta Affairs (Cladius Omoleye Daramola). The region also has the headship of important parastatals of federal government. 

In terms of developmental projects, the South as a whole has been favoured by the 2017 appropriation bill. For instance, The South-South and South-West region will get N138 billion (equivalent to 51.45 percent) of the federal government total spending of N268 billion on construction and repairs of 171 roads across the nation. Specifically, South West zone has N64bn for 26 road projects in the 2017 budget. The zone which had the lion’s share of N67bn in the 2016 Appropriation Act had 18 projects which included the Lagos-Ibadan road (N49.4bn), Apapa-Oshodi, Lagos (N5.2bn) and the MMI Airport road (N4bn). This is in sharp contrast with what will go to the North-East, which will get N31bn to do 28 projects. Also, the North-East got N33.1bn for 17 projects in 2016. 

It’s now left to be seen if the Ibadan meeting will assuage the supporters of the South-West leaders as more political realignments continue to unfold across the country ahead of 2019. 

 

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