When Yoruba leaders offered their votes to Atiku
It was an unusual gathering of eminent Yoruba leaders and a plethora of posers as part of the agenda. What could the Yoruba nation point to as its gains since 2015 when the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office? How far has the Southwest geopolitical zone fared in terms of development under the government of All Progressives Congress (APC) compared to what the region enjoyed during the immediate past administration of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
These, among others, were the questions some Yoruba leaders that gathered at MUSON Centre, Lagos, last Monday, put before their people as they urged them (Yoruba) to do a comparative analysis between the 16 years of PDP and four years of APC.
They based their inquiry in terms of poverty, cost of living and opportunities to progress and development, saying it is necessary to provide answers to the questions so as to make informed choices during the 2019 presidential election.
Although the leaders were mostly PDP faithful and their fellow Yoruba sympathizers, it was obvious that they believe their zone has experienced more challenges, just as it has equally been pulled backwards in terms of socio-economic progress under the Buhari administration, contrary to what it was during the 16 year reign of PDP.
The leaders therefore urged Yoruba people to opt for any candidate that promised restructuring, particularly former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the only way the present quagmire facing the ethnic group can be resolve.
While the leaders flayed the incumbent administration for running a government based on ethnic agenda and sentiment and its failure in providing necessary security since 2015, they also concluded that the coming election is a big opportunity for the region to rescue itself by voting right.
Speaking one after the other at a well-attended Southwest forum colloquium tagged: ‘South West: Yesterday, Today and the Challenges of 2019’ and organised by former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, the leaders lamented the prevalent rate of poverty, insecurity and other socio-economic vices in the country, which they said are fast dragging Nigeria to the precipice.
In his remark, Second Republic Senator of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Prof. Seth Akintoye said the present generation of Yoruba people have a responsibility to preserve the dignity of the black race, just as he raised the alarm that Yoruba culture and civilization are endangered.
According to him, “Many may not think or feel so, but Yoruba civilization is endangered. It is endangered to the extent that the country to which we belong is endangered. It is not part of Yoruba to surrender to failure or poverty but at present we are going though a degree of poverty, hopelessness and failure that we have never seen before. The onus is on us to fight until we achieve success and overcome.”
While arguing that the way to go about it is not through war or destruction, Akintoye said looking at all the indices of development, “Nigeria is lagging behind, likewise the Yoruba nation. And we have the right and responsibilities to use everything to defend our land, our families and our treasures and provide opportunities for our people.”
He declared that the coming election provides a good opportunity for the Southwest to redefine its destiny.
In his presentation titled, ‘2019: The Southwest Speaks’, George emphasised the need for Yoruba people to unite and forgive one another if they must make any meaningful achievements in the coming election, nothing that the Yoruba race must never negotiate on the purity of restructuring.
He said the Southwest should critically assess their fortunes under APC since 2015 and PDP government to draw conclusion on which of the parties to vote for next year.
According to him, “The Yoruba people will never negotiate on the purity of restructuring. This federation as presently constituted is skewed, disproportionately unfair in the distribution of the national wealth. We insist on a balanced, equitable expanse where every section of the Nigerian society will be free and unhindered in the cultivation of their natural resources.
“As it is now, the centre is wielding too much power to the detriment of those who produce the abundant wealth of the Nigerian nation. This is unfair, untoward, destabilizing and anchored on a wobbly totality. Such drunkenly leaning apparatus cannot long endure. It will invariably tumble into chaotic abyss and self destruct.”
He therefore charged the Southwest zone to vote for the candidate with strong agenda and determination to restructure the country.
Urging the Yoruba people not to allow themselves be misguided in the coming election like what happened in 2015, Minority Leader in the Senate, Mrs. Abiodu Olujimi, said whatever the challenges facing Nigeria today, restructuring is the way out “The PDP presidential flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has indicated commitment to restructure. We must prevail on Buhari to sign the Electoral Act into law; otherwise it means somebody has an ulterior agenda for 2019 election. If it is signed into law that is when 2019 election will be free and fair.”
In their remarks, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference, Senator Femi Okunrohunmu, and former Minister of Transportation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said what the Yoruba nation stands for in the coming election is restructuring and the redefinition of the present system of government.
While the duo emphasised on the unity of Yoruba race, they said Nigerians must reject the poverty syndrome, which the ruing All Progressives Congress (APC) has been distributing across the country since 2015
Babatope on his part called on Yoruba people to ensure that Atiku defeats Buhari in 2019, while Okunrohunmu called for the rejection of those trying to sell Yoruba nation cheap because of selfish gains.
Former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Mrs. Erelu Olusola Obada, questioned the benefits the juicy ministerial appointments conceded to Yoruba nation under Buhari’s government when the region is currently experiencing the type of poverty and threat to its communities unlike before?
She said Yoruba land has been hoplesly plundered under Buhari, and the only way out is to vote for Atiku, who has promised to restructure the country.
According to her, “Some people are playing game with the challenges of the country and that is the reason 2019 is critical to Yoruba people because we are going to be the deciding factor.”
Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Buknor, accused some Yoruba elite, saying they are traitors and that they have collaborated with other ethnic nationalities to betray their follow kinsmen.
She said unless Nigeria is restructured, Yoruba risked being eternally displaced from their land considering what has happened in the last few years.
Former Minister of Mines and Power, Elder Wole Oyelese, tasked leaders like Akintoye, George and Senator Bode Olajumoke and few remaining Yoruba leaders to work to unite the people irrespective of their political affiliations.
According to him, “Yoruba nation must concentrate on how to liberate itself from where it is currently sold politically. Our present experience is signifying that if we fail to amend our ways, the younger generation doesn’t care.”
But how far the gathering can influence the coming election, especially in the Southwest, to favour their preferred candidate, Atiku, remains distant possibility.
One, PDP, which has majority of those present at the colloquium seem to be supporting for 2019 polls has little or no foothold in the region.
At the moment, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu political machinery is controlling Lagos politics, with no possible assurance it can be dislodged in the next election.
The states of Ekiti and Osun, where PDP had hopes of winning, slipped out of its hands in the last governorship, to APC. As it is currently, the entire states of Yoruba land are under the firm grip of the ruling party.
Another challenge the group will face is funding. If at all the Yoruba people are willing to change the change mantra as desired, these PDP faithful lack the financial muscle to fight, as election in Nigeria is somehow all about money.
It was one of the significant factors that humbled PDP in Ekiti and Osun during the recent governorship contests.
Others present at the occasion are former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s long-term ally and PDP stalwart, Otunba Oyewole Fasawe; the party’s governorship candidate for Lagos, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, and his deputy, Alhaja Safurat Abdulkareem; Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo; PDP governorship candidate in Oyo State, Mr. Seyi makinde and Chief Okalawon Somuyide among others.