With the campaigns for the 2019 general elections about to kick off, one salient issue bothering Nigerians is if Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, can muster enough clout to influence the South West geo-political zone to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari as was the case in the 2015 election.
Already, there is a general lethargy in the region as many feel strongly that that South West did not get enough in terms of democracy dividends under the current administration considering the massive support President Buhari received from the region during the last election.
This is as all the regions, except the core North, have been crying of neglect by the APC administration since it mounted the saddle for over three years and six months.
It is against this backdrop that Chief Ayo Adebanjo, elder statesman and Afenifere chieftain, said the Yoruba nation would not be deceived again by Tinubu to vote for Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
Adebanjo, who has thrown his weight behind Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said Tinubu succeeded in selling Buhari to the South West in 2015 due to his claim that the president had integrity and had the will power needed to turn the fortunes of the country around.
The elder statesman lamented that three years down the line, Nigerians, especially the Yoruba, had realised that the president’s so much touted integrity had become questionable, even as he had failed to keep to his promises, one of which was restructuring, as contained in the APC’s manifesto.
According to Adebanjo, Tinubu himself had realised he made a great mistake entering into alliance with Buhari, but had been ashamed to say so openly.
Hear him: “Do you think we are stupid people in the South West? Yoruba people are more intelligent than all that. Tinubu succeeded in 2015 because of the fake integrity attached to Buhari. He succeeded in bringing Buhari because of the fake integrity attached to him, but the last three years has exposed him to be fake.
“People have seen him to be fake. He is not somebody anyone can rely upon and I have no doubt in my mind that Tinubu would have seen the stupidity of aligning with him. By now, Tinubu must have realised the foolish mistake he made by aligning with him but he will not come out to admit it.
“Yoruba people are too intelligent to be used again. Once bitten, twice shy. Tinubu has sold the Yoruba by aligning with Buhari, even at this stage. He agreed with Buhari to do restructuring, to do federalism. When the man now got there and he is not doing it, has Tinubu got the courage to pull out?”
Adebanjo continued: “I have said it to him (Tinubu) and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. They are unfair to the Yoruba because everybody is thinking that because they represent the Yoruba, all the things against the race, they would address them. But, they are quiet on them all.
“There are killings right and left, but they are quiet. They are quiet on the issue of revenue allocation. Even the case of local government under this restructuring, Tinubu took Obasanjo to court, it is part of restructuring programme and the man who handled the case in court was Osinbajo.
“They won the case at the Supreme Court. Under what principle did they take the then President Obasanjo to court? They sold out and the same Osinbajo, who took Obasanjo to court for not following the federal system, is now saying he does not understand what the federal system means.”
Adebanjo also berated Osinbajo for keeping quiet on the issue of restructuring, saying his desire to remain in Buhari’s cabinet despite the government’s insincerity on restructuring showed how insincere and disloyal he had been to the Yoruba people.
“The unfortunate thing about Osinbajo is that he was born into federalism. His father and I were followers of Awolowo. Osinbajo is intelligent and well informed. It is a sad story that all the Yoruba we believe would be protecting our interest sold out, led by Tinubu.
“I have told him that when you agreed with Tinubu to restructure Nigeria and to allow everybody to develop at their own pace and he is no longer doing that, why don’t you get out if you are sincere and loyal to Yoruba people?” he asked.
“He organised the APC manifesto and put restructuring there to deceive the Yoruba that their interest would be protected and when their interest is no longer protected, why is it that he is still there?” Adebanjo queried.
Buhari, before winning the presidential election, had been a serial contestant for the position. In 2003, he contested under the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), but lost to former President Olusegun Obasanjo of PDP.
Also in 2007, Buhari contested again, but lost to the late former President Umaru Yar’Adua, also of the PDP. Then came the 2011 election, after he had formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and contested under the platform. During the campaigns, Buhari vowed not to contest again if he failed. And failed, he did.
However, following the realignment of forces before the 2015 general elections, the CPC, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), being led by Tinubu, the ANPP, a faction of the PDP, called the New PDP, and a splinter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), led by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, fused to become the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Having seen a brighter chance of emerging the nation’s President, which had eluded him for three consecutive times, Buhari recanted on his earlier decision not to contest the position again. This time, luck shined on him. Following a tough campaign mounted by the APC against the then ruling PDP, which had controlled the reins of power for 16 years, Buhari won the presidency this time around.
During the election, apart from the support he got from the North, Tinubu, who had emerged the APC leader in the South West, rallied the region to deliver all the states there, accounting for the overwhelming victory Buhari received in 2015.
However, since Buhari emerged the sole candidate of the APC for the 2019 presidential election, there had been divergent views on if he could make it at the end of poll. Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP spokesperson, said he would not. According to him, the President “has become grossly unpopular among Nigerians, as sole Presidential candidate,” adding that the APC was “irredeemably doomed for a crushing defeat in the 2019 general elections.”
PDP scribe pointed that President Buhari’s “fear to contest an elective presidential primary, for which he and a few APC leaders scared away other presidential contestants within their party with threats and high nomination form fees, ended up ruining APC’s chance of fielding a good candidate for the election.”
Ologbondiyan said, “Had President Buhari shed his desperation for power and allowed for internal democracy within the APC, particularly when it became clear that Nigerians across board have become averse to his re-election, due to his incompetence and insensitivity to the plight of the citizens, there would have been little hope for the APC.
“In muzzling contest in APC and gleefully emerging a sole candidate, President Buhari has merely won a Pyrrhic victory; a General without a troop, with no capacity to face a general election, as the army of stakeholders and the masses that supported him in 2015 have since left him because of his unfulfilled promises and many failures in governance.”
Also, a coalition of APC presidential aspirants, who could not have their aspirations fulfilled, rejected the party’s primaries of September 28 that threw up Buhari as the party’s presidential candidate. Alhaji Mumakhhai Unagha and Dr S.K Ogbonnia, in a statement, said it was wrong for the party to declare Buhari as its sole presidential candidate.
“We, the presidential aspirants under the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2019 general elections, henceforth, referred to as the Coalition of the 2019 APC Presidential Aspirants, hereby reject the APC presidential primary election purportedly held on the 28th day of September, 2018”, the statement said.
According to them, the claim that Buhari is unopposed as the flag-bearer of the APC for the 2019 elections was not only grossly disingenuous, but also a figment of the imagination of what they described as “latent lackeys grandstanding as presidential handlers. The truth is that we neither stepped down for the president nor suspended our ambition to be president under the platform of the APC in 2019. Buhari is merely being imposed, but such plot will fail.
“Second, denying qualified citizens their right to seek public office is constitutionally ultra vires. Neither the Constitution of the Federal Republic nor the Constitution of the APC promotes prohibitive nomination fees, which the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Executive Committee is employing to exclude thousands of party faithful, particularly the youth and women, from exercising their right to seek public office.
Iyorchia Ayu, Third Republic Senate President, had also expressed disgust over the the “unholy alliance” between Tinubu and Buhari. He said in a recent a interview: “I talked to my friend, Tinubu, we are very close. I told him that we need to develop the progressive party in Nigeria. He didn’t believe me, he preferred to go and link up with the most right wing group in the North. And that right wing group was headed by Buhari in the name of CPC… I have known Gen. Buhari when he was the military Head of State. I was a university lecturer then.
“I know the tyranny that was visited on this country. I warned Tinubu that he will regret bringing Buhari and imposing him on the party. I believe he is regretting silently without telling Nigerians. But, more is to be expected. I am sorry to say that if Buhari is re-elected in 2019, it will not only consume Tinubu, it will consume so many other people. It may even lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.”
However, with Atiku emerging the PDP presidential candidate, with the promise of restructuring the federation, his aspiration has caught the nation like a wild fire. Already, South West leaders, and their counterparts in South East, South South and South East, are united in their insistence on restructuring, which Atiku has committed himself that he would begin six months after his election.
The regions had been crying aloud over the neglect of the regions by the Buhari administration in terms of infrastructure and appointment into top political positions, even as the posts of Service Chiefs had been reserved for the North.
Also, the massive killings in the Middle Belt by the Fulani armed herdsmen, which had sent farmers in region packing from their homelands, the inability of the administration to assuage the feelings of neglect in the Niger Delta, as well as the long cry of marginalization of the South East, in addition to a catalogue of failed promises by the APC administration had all combined to diffuse the massive support Buhari received in the 2015.
Thus, with an indication that Afenifere and the Yoruba elders would be backing Atiku in the 2019 presidential election, the road for Buhari’s second term might have been littered with landmines that might make his dream a mirage.