Why Southwest will support Peter Obi for 2023 presidency
By Simon Njoku
Southwest Nigeria, populated mainly by the Yoruba ethnic group, like their Southeast Igbo brothers, is noted for her strong stance on justice, equity and fairness.
In this country they have been the greatest champions of human rights, fairness, equity and justice. We recall with a great sense of loss but with gratitude to the creator and immense respect, these departed heroes: Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, popularly known as the Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM), Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, Fela Anikulapo Kuti among others. Their fight for respect for the tenets of democracy, human rights, justice, fairness and equity still remains vivid in our minds, the younger generation. We are happy to note that their fighting spirit for democracy, equity and justice is still kept aglow today by people like Chief Femi Falana, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Sowores, among others.
It is therefore not surprising that a good number of the Southwest leaders and groups includingthe Yoruba Socio-Cultural organisation, the Afenifere led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, have publicly declared support for the 2023 Igbo presidential project. Also, former President Olusegun Obasanjo believes the Igbo should produce the next Nigerian president. They hinge their support on the fact that of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria only the Igbo have not produced an executive president and head of state since the nation’s return to democracy in 1999 – in tune with the spirit of justice, fairness and equity.
However, considering the enormous support the Southwest gave to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari which facilitated his coming to power in 2015 and his re-election in 2019, some notable Southwest groups led by Baba Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Asiwaju of Yorubaland, are already angling for the presidency come 2023. Recall that Baba Tinubu was one of those National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftains that fought against the annulment of the June 12 presidential election in 1993 by the military. They stoutly opposed the injustice surrounding the annulment and canvassed for its restoration on grounds of equity, fairness and justice. For this cause the Asiwaju fled to London on exile to escape the evil hands of the military authorities. Today, indications are that Baba has abandoned the campaign for justice, fairness and equity for which we know him. He seems to have fully defected to the camp of the oppressors ready to trample on any force on his way to attaining his personal ambition. The Asiwaju wants to be President in 2023. The South East whose turn it is to ascend the seat of power at Aso Rock, going by the principles of federal character as enshrined in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, for him, can go to hell. All that matters to him is the actualisation of his personal ambition, no matter whose ox is gored. The argument of his camp is that the North (Northeast, Northwest and North central) will reciprocate their support to them in 2015 and by so doing fast track their region’s return to the seat of power at Aso Rock which the region vacated in 2007 after enjoying two terms of office or eight years in power, and now almost eight years as Vice President (Yemi Osinbajo) under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. In other words, the group wants the power holders at Aso Rock to hand over power to them because the Southwest helped them, voted massively for them to come to power in 2015. That is an appeal to the conscience of the cabal holding sway in Abuja whereas the Igbo’s quest is a direct appeal to the conscience of the entire nation. But what is the Southwest region saying?
Now, in all honesty, since the Southwest has occupied that position for a period of eight years under Obasanjo, and almost eight years with Yemi Osinbajo as Vice President under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Southeast has a stronger claim to the seat of power than the South West. Justice, equity and fairness demands that Southeast should take the slot.
Just as the Southwest group believes that the North owes them a political debt that has to be paid back, the Igbo also believe that their Southwest brothers owe them a political debt that has to be reciprocated. We may recall that in 1999 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP contested against Olu Falae of the All Progressives Party, APP Obasanjo rode to power on the massive votes of the North with little or no support from the Southwest. The North used that to taunt and twist his arms politically. But in 2003 when Obasanjo sought re-election, he received massive support from the Southwest, Southeast and South south among others. With that huge support base he operated with greater confidence all through his second term. South has paid back this political debt to the North as in the election of Late President Musa Yar’Dua in 2007. The South South has also been paid back its political debt (President) with the election of Goodluck Jonathan as president in 2011. The Southwest’s political debts to the North were repaid with the election of Late President Umaru Yar’Adua (2007) and Buhari (2015). Their political debt to the Southeast is still outstanding!
The confidence of the Southwest group angling for Presidency is boosted by a supposed secret pact with the ruling class at Aso Rock which gave them assurance that power would be handed over to them at the expiration of Buhari’s tenure. Really? Well, the group should learn lessons from
their previous experience at the hands of the same people. Why was the Southwest not given the Senate President and House Speaker positions as agreed with them before the 2015 elections and why were all their efforts to remove Saraki as Senate President abortive? Why were they sidelined in appointments into key government positions? Why were they again ignored in the sharing of the spoils of office after the 2019 elections? Though they have now been offered the 2023 Presidential ticket of the party, they should use their tongues to count their teeth for all that glitters is not gold (See “APC 2023: The more you look the less you see” By Simon Njoku, Orientdaily newspaper, April, 2021, back page).
Rather than blindly pursuing just one man’s consuming political ambition at the expense of an age long relationship with an entire region and the overall interest of our great nation, our Southwest brothers and sisters will indeed do the needful, team up with their Southeast brothers to form a government in 2023. Of course, they will not only have a say in but also unhindered access to that government as true political partners.
The above explanations and their implications are not lost on the Southwest group eager to take over power in 2023, a move which is more or less a slap on the face of South East. Even the way they are going about it attests to this. The general impression anyone can glean from their actions and strategies is that they believe they can do without the South East. That, certainly, is an erroneous premise on which to anchor a seemingly national quest for power. The South West and South East surely need each other to succeed. It was the failure of our past leaders to realise this fact that made our revered Chief Hon Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo not to realise their political ambitions. Chief MKO Abiola made the same mistake. He pursued his political ambition on the false assumption that he could do without the votes of the Igbo. Then the power holders used an Igbo to thwart that ambition. They instigated the South Easterner and his group to go to court to obtain a ‘frivolous’ court injunction that allegedly voided what was widely regarded as landmark electoral victory for the business mogul.
This bitter experience should not be allowed to repeat itself by any act of omission or commission by our leaders.
In this 2023 presidential election, the South East has put forward a formidable presidential candidate that seeks the support of all Nigerians to succeed – East, West, North and South. His name is Peter Obi. Fortunately, he has already received the endorsement of many groups across all regions of the country and the diaspora. Several Southwest groups and personalities have also lent their support to his presidential project.
The Southwest will support the Southeast presidential ambition for historical reasons. The historical affinity of Southeast and Southwest states such as Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun among others has not been disputed. One recalls a story by a friend who grew up in the Southwest city of Ibadan. As a student he had misunderstanding with his Southwest friend and which led to a fight. He got home and his uncle sought to know why his shirt was torn. He told him what transpired between him and his friend. The man was angry, then he asked: “What is his name?” “Seyi,” the boy replied. His uncle kept quiet, then went outside to report to his father who was sitting in the balcony. “Papa, see how Emeka’s friend tore his shirt…” his uncle complained. After listening to the boy’s story the man cautioned the boy. He ended his advice by telling the boy that right from time immemorial Igbo and Yoruba don’t fight in battle though they can quarrel. The old man added that a good proportion of the population of places like Ondo,Ekiti and Ogun states are Igbo who melted into the local population over time and today bear Yoruba names, first name and surname and have thus become indigenes.
In view of the above, is it therefore surprising that over the years, even since Nigeria’s existence, we have not heard of any major ethnic clash between the Igbo and the Yoruba? Even when minor misunderstanding arises, leaders of both groups quickly get together and resolve it. They compete in business, politics and for offices and these are seen as healthy rivalries. In the past, one group was easily played against the other by a third party desperate to achieve its purpose. But the present generations of Igbo and Yoruba have resolved to work together, to emphasize the bonds of unity rather than the forces of acrimony and antagonism and to shun all divisive tendencies in whatever form. The Southwest will therefore not hesitate to vote for Peter Obi for reasons of historical affinity.
In addition to the above, Southwest will support Southeast’s bid for the top seat because South easterners have contributed in various ways towards the development of the Southwest region especially Lagos. Huge investments of the Igbo in Lagos include the Ladipo auto spare parts market, the Alaba International electrical/electronics market, the Computer Village, Ikeja, the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex among others, including housing estates, hectares of farm lands etc. All these are because the Igbo feel more at home in the Southwest than in any other part of Nigeria with the exception of their ancestral home, Igbo land. In making these investments, their purpose is to contribute towards the development of the area in which they operate and not to uproot or supplant the indigenes from their land. They allow whatever material wealth they acquire in the area to also rub off on their host communities. Contrary to opinions held in some quarter, most Nigerians can testify that the Igbo are law abiding and peace loving people. Wherever they find themselves they make hard work and excellence their watch words. So, the South West and Nigerians in general should entertain no fears at putting Peter Obi in the saddle of power – Aso Rock – come 2023. Obi has all it takes to deliver political dividends to the people.
In the book, ‘Macbeth’, by William Shakespeare, the major character, Macbeth, tries to adduce reasons to convince himself on why he should murder his friend Banquo whom he sees as the obstacle between him and the throne. He sees no reason and declares: “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which over leaps itself and falls on the other”. The Igbo’s Southwest brothers especially the group contending with Obi for Aso Rock, has no strong reason to contest it with their South East brother. Is it a case of vaulting ambition? Certainly, yes. However, indications are that the Southwest will do the needful and work with their South East brothers when the time comes so that together they will approach the throne with unity of purpose.
Importantly, Igbo and Yoruba are not at war, the online warfare raging on many platforms notwithstanding. Every discerning political mind will not easily be deceived by the rantings and intrigues of political jobbers. Interestingly, not a few Southwest and South East leaders are already Obidient and are working hand in hand to ensure Peter Obi’s smooth journey to Aso Rock. The South West will certainly vote for South East in 2023.