Southwest’s frontline assets for 2023 presidency
One of the tasks for the polity towards 2023 is how to source for President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, one who has capacity, and drive to heal the country’s ailments – rising insecurity, troubled economy and national cohesion.
Major parameters for the search are: geo-political issues, age, state of health, capacity/integrity and religion.
Although, some pundits have said zoning and religion should not be listed as conditions, the counter argument is that the north cannot finish eight years at a stretch and still want to occupy the Presidency.
Recent development in All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) indicate the likelihood of the two parties coming down south. The PDP’s choice of new national chairman, Senator Iyocha Ayu, from North-central, while only northern aspirants have so far shown up for 2023, it does not represent what will eventually. Those who have paraded posters at the PDP convention are merely testing the waters. Even in APC, the Young Turk in Kogi, Gov. Yahaya Bello, who has not hidden his desire to occupy Aso Villa, will need to convince APC stakeholders that he has all the requirements for the job. He needs to know that forming a national government requires far more than it takes to manage the Confluence State.
At the end of the day, the game should return to the Southwest, where there is no shortage of men and material to contest a national election. Names have been mentioned, for instance, national leader of APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President, Professor, Yemi Osinbajo, Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, even though they are all keeping quiet and reasonably so.
Recently, the chairman of APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mai Mala-Buni, met separately with some Southwest leaders behind closed-doors, but the details of the meeting have not been disclosed. However, Secretary General of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide, told The Guardian that the discussion was simply about Nigeria and its future.
Watchers of political events in the Southwest say it’s up to the zone to put its house in order and decide what to do with 2023. They say that the political family Tinubu has put together over the years is good enough to influence political support across the country.
They urged the APC leadership in the Southwest to close ranks as it did in 2015 when it was crucial to present a vice presidential candidate for the party. At that time, the Leader, Tinubu, was the first choice in every ramification, except for the religious factor, which marred his pairing with candidate Muhammadu Buhari, a fellow Muslim. And so, the lot fell on Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, while others in the line up – Fayemi and Fashola, were later given ministerial appointments.
In 2023, should the criteria for selecting and pairing of candidates include religion, it will mean that a southern candidate has to balance the ticket with a northerner of opposite religion. Should the north demand a southern Christian to pair with northern Muslim, the Southwest must creatively sort it out as it managed a similar scenario in 2015.
Watchers expect the process to be seamless. With recent events and mutual distrust across the country, it appears the Muslim/Muslim scenario of 1993, when the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) produced the late MKO Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, two Muslims, cannot fly in 2023.
At present, only the pro-Tinubu Southwest Agenda 2023 (SWAGA) is making ‘audible’ noise about 2023, having gone round the country to market his candidacy.
In terms of capacity, some political observers are convinced that Tinubu can turn Nigeria around, the way he did for Lagos State when he was governor from 1999 to 2007. He selected a good team, well spread across Southwest and beyond, with which he made a mark.
Despite his frail posture, having gone for medical vacation in the UK, his followers have not given up on him. They say Tinubu still has so much to offer the country.
As for Vice President Osinbajo, some groups are also marketing his potential for 2023. They say the Law Professor has discharged himself very well.
His admirers say he stands a fair chance, should the party desire a Christian southerner who is tested and can be trusted. Although, he may not have a separate political structure, but his movements during the 2019 re-election campaign showed he has capacity engage voters.
An average grassroots voter would always want to remember Osinbajo for the Trader Money they benefited from. It is also to his credit that the few times he stepped in as acting president, when his Principal was away, there was always some natural peace experienced across the country.
In terms of capacity to rule Nigeria, he took a lot from Tinubu, under whom he served as commissioner for Justice and Attorney General for eight years.
The governor of Ekiti State, Fayemi is another powerhouse of ideas available for the Southwest to present.
The former Minister of Solid Minerals Development is very mobile, as he is at home with a cross-section of Nigerians on core matters of growth and development of the country. As a civil society person, he has a nuanced knowledge of international development and how the country should engage at critical times, especially now.
His handling of affairs of governors of the Federation has equally broadened his perspectives on national as well as regional challenges.
He made use of this opportunity when he addressed the northern elite at the Arewa House Forum on October 30. On that occasion, he spoke on: ‘Unfinished Greatness – Towards a More Perfect Union in Nigeria’, and assured all that the notion that the amalgamation of southern and northern Nigeria 1914 was a mistake, was wrong, rather, he said what Nigerians need to do is to conquer “the demon of mutual suspicion and distrust that has poisoned Nigeria’s politics and subverted its will to forge the necessary consensus crucial to marching confidently towards our destiny as a great nation.”
Babatunde Raji Fashola is one man the motley crowd of Lagos has come to see as their friend or foe. Friend, when he governed them with uncommon passion, and foe, when he refused to tell them lies. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and was harsh when he needed to be harsh. Getting the job was what was uppermost to him and less the politics of it. For that reason, he is hardly in contention for grassroots space and hierarchical displays.
His experience in Lagos is a lifetime of examples to draw from. He confronted insecurity and social menace in places like Oshodi, where others preferred to tread with caution and political correctness. Should his party agree to deal with the demons of insecurity in high and low places, they needn’t look far. And if the consensus is to search for a southern Muslim to pair with a northern Christian, they needn’t search too far.
SPEAKING on the issue on putting the right leg forward as far as 2023 is concerned, the Secretary General of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide, said there is no reason to doubt the capacity of any of the names that have been projected so far, while more are out there in the zone.
He said the unfortunate thing is that the present constitutional arrangement does not enhance performance. He is worried that no matter how good the leader may be, especially if he is from the South, he is already disadvantaged.
He said that is why the Yoruba are not that keen about the presidency but total restructuring of the polity to give every region the needed autonomy and space to develop at their pace.
The Chairman Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Wale Oshun, said it is not appropriate to discussing the weaknesses and strengths of possible Southwest contenders on the pages of the media now. “The fact is the Southwest is the most organised region, at least now, to present Buhari’s successor in 2023. With that, we should first put our house in order to see who is the best to support.”
The President Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, Mr. Akin Malaolu, said his concern is overall well being and survival of Yoruba nation and not the ambitions of individual political actors.
According to him, “We don’t want a situation where any of the contenders will enter into any behind-the-scene agreement with hegemonic power brokers that would turn a candidate into a puppet president at the end of the day.”