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• Southwest Leaders Upset Over Buhari’s Removal, Replacement Of Southerners

Stakeholders in Southwest have begun the campaign for unity and the need for the region to forge a common front ahead 2023 general elections, following series of questionable removal and replacement of Southerners with Northerners in crucial government agencies, since President Muhammadu Buhari returned for second term. Many leaders of the zone are still amazed at Buhari’s seeming harsh disposition to a region that staked all to ensure he (Buhari) won the 2015 presidential election, having failed four consecutive times and to also retain power in 2019.  
   
The insinuation that the moves were targeted at reducing the political influence of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu was dismissed on the ground that beyond the former governor of Lagos State, “there is also a surreptitious plan by some cabal in the North to jettison the gentleman arrangement of power rotation between the North and South, which the recent moves seem to suggest.”
 
Since Buhari took the oath of office for another four years on May 29 2019, some perceived Tinubu loyalists in government have become preys in the Presidency. Among these were the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and the immediate past chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, former Chairman of Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Muiz Banire and former Managing Director of Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Ms. Damilola Ogunbiyi.

 
Buhari’s move against the South started from the ministerial appointment, when he was accused of giving all sensitive slots to his Fulani kinsmen, including heads of security parastatals, just as he split the Ministry of Internal Affairs, removing the police commission, which he conceded to a Northerner before giving it to former Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.

Similar suspicion trailed Buhari’s removal of the power ministry, which he also conceded to a Northerner, which was formerly under the purview of incumbent Minister of Housing and Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
   
The ordeal of Osinbajo, who was the major face of Buhari’s re-election campaign and in charge of the TraderMoni across the nation started, when several of his key responsibilities were removed and given to the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari. Following Osinbajo’s trial was the removal of Fowler and his replacement with another Northern, despite the laudable innovations he introduced within four years. 
 
What was, however, worrisome about the Vice President and Fowler’s cases was the alleged attempt by some authorities within the Presidency to create a scenario of corruption against them. It was so bad that Osinbajo proclaimed his readiness to waive his immunity to defend himself, while the ex-FIRS boss at a point had to reply a query issued to him by Kyari on dwindling revenue target.
 
The dust over Osinbajo and Fowler’s removal was yet to settle, when Buhari hammered Banire. The one that generated serious concern was the indefinite suspension of Ogunbiyi by the Minister of Power, Alhaji Sale Mamman, a Buhari loyalist.The reason for the suspension was not revealed, the minister only accused Ogunbiyi of committing some “infractions.” He stated that the outcome of an ongoing investigation would determine her final fate. But Buhari, on December 31, 2019, without waiting for the outcome of the said investigation, fired Ogunbiyi and approved the appointment of Alhaji Ahmad Salihijo as her replacement. 

The major puzzle about Ogunbiyi’s sack and her replacement was the hurry with which Buhari acted, without even waiting for the conclusion of the investigation. Salihijo’s appointment has also created controversy, as some officials of REA have cried out that the new managing director, aside lacking experience, is a Level 12 officer, not capable of heading such an agency.

The appointment again raises questions about Buhari’s penchant for appointing people into positions of authority, not necessarily based on track records of excellence and expertise.Aside the qualification question surrounding Salihijo’s appointment, critical Southwest leaders could not understand the politics behind Ogunbiyi’s sack and the allegation of financial infractions against her, since she already secured an international appointment with the United Nations (UN) as Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) as far back as October 2019, and had since tendered her resignation letter in lieu of notice to end on the day the minister gave directives for her suspension.
 
So, the furore over the development is whether it was a deliberate attempt by the minister to smear Ogunbiyi’s reputation, with the sole aim of depriving her of the international appointment, or part of the agenda to get to Osinbajo in whose office she (Ogunbiyi) served as a Special Assistance to the President immediately she left as general manager, Lagos State Electricity Board in 2015 before she was seconded as managing director of REA.
   
Another concern regarding her suspension is whether the northern cabal is also after Fashola under whom Ogunbiyi served in the Ministry of Power, or could she have committed the infractions just within the few months Mamman became minister?An APC leader expressed worries, saying: “It is not out of place that Tinubu, Fashola and Osinbajo are among the personalities the Southwest may be looking up to as likely candidates the region may eventually present to succeed Buhari in 2023. Instead of looking outward, there is need for leaders of the zone to look inward, whether there is a kind of ‘pull him down at all cost politics’ among ourselves.” 

 
When asked about his view on the removal of Soutwesterners and their replacement with Buhari’s kinsmen, a federal lawmaker, representing Ajeromi Ifelodun Lagos State, Mr. Kolawole Taiwo, appealed to Nigerians not to bring in ethnic sentiments in appointments to public agencies “as far as it was not done in breach of the Constitution.” “Fowler served his term and Banire’s case has to do with a law passed by the National Assembly with regard to appointment of AMCON chairman. The President has prerogative powers to decide in such situations,” he said.
 
Meanwhile, not less than 25 leaders cutting across party divides and some elder statesmen in Southwest, who spoke to The Guardian off record on the issue, insisted the region is the only one in the South capable of producing Buhari’s successor on APC platform in 2023.
They said there is nothing wrong, if the Southeast aspires, “but that may be a difficult task, if not impossible on the platform of APC, although achievable on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform, if only the major opposition is appropriately repositioned ahead of 2023 to defeat the ruling party.”
 
The Guardian further learn from a credible source that the Tinubu camp is as puzzled as many other Southwest leaders over the misgivings in the zone, and is ready to sacrifice anything, if the need arises, to ensure that the region presents a common front, irrespective of who emerges from there as candidate to succeed the incumbent.The situation in the ruling party may have compelled some elements in PDP to start encouraging some Southwest leaders in PDP to contest the presidential ticket in 2023, if the rotational agreement will play out.
  
  


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