Why Southwest will support Southeast for 2023 presidency
By Simon Chinedu Njoku
Southwest Nigeria, populated mainly by the Yoruba ethnic group, like their Southeast brothers, is noted for her strong stance on justice, equity and fairness. In this country they have been the greatest champions and defenders of human rights. We recall with gratitude to the creator and greatest respect to 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 among others. The legacy of human rights, justice and equity which they advocated, we are happy to note, is kept aglow today by people like Chief Femi Falana, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the Sowores, the Fani-Kayodes, the Fayemis among others.
It is therefore not surprising that a good number of the Southwest leaders especially the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) have publicly declared support for the 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 (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 are believed to be angling for the presidency come 2023. Their argument is that the North (Northeast, Northwest and North central ) will reciprocate their support to them and by so doing fast track their 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. 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. 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. Now, since the Southwest has occupied that position for a period of five years and the Southeast has not, which group has a stronger case in the court of public opinion? 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. Let’s recall that in 1999 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjoof 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 hand politically. But in 2003 when Obasanjo sought re-election, OBJ 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 (President Goodluck Jonathan, 2011) and again Nortwest incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, 2015/2019). The Southwest’s political debt to the Southeast is therefore 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 its 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 Senate President position and House Speaker in the current dispensation but they cannot effectively use those positions the way they would have wished after the 2015 elections because now Buhari has waxed stronger, like OBJ during his second term – no threat of impeachment or rejection or delay in the passage of budget and other bills. In view of the foregoing, what is the guarantee that their friends at Aso Rock will abide by the terms of whatever secret pact they must have entered with them before 2015 with respect to handing over power to them in 2023? Of course, not a few of our Southwest brothers are happy with the treatment meted out to them by their current political partners. Hence the need for them to team up with their Southeast brothers to form a government in 2023 where they will have greater say in and access to government activities as true political partners.
The above narrative and their implications are not lost on the Southwest group eager to take over power in 2023. Surely, they cannot but doubt the sincerity of their friends in power. Their Plan B could be to form another political party to pursue their ambition. But this is a trap their friends have set for them. If they pursue Plan B, they would be handing over the presidency to the cabal on a platter of gold. This is because that party will not enjoy the overwhelming support of the Southwest, the Southeast and the South South regions. Besides, the southern votes will be split between the Southwest and the Souteast presidential candidates while the northern candidate will rig massively in the north and parts of the south so as to get the required national spread. They may also sponsor strategic candidates in the South with a view to dividing the scattering the southern votes. This is why the Southwest and the Southeast should work together to present a common candidate and together push northwards.
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 out and came back with his father who was sitting in the Veranda. “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 the time of their grand grand fathers 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 were Igbo who melted into the local population over time and today bear Yoruba names, first name and surname and thus became indigenes. So, is it 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.
In addition to the above, Southwst 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 is because the Igbo feel more at home in the Southwest than in any other part of Nigeria with the excetion of their ancestral home, Igbo land.
In the book, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, the 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 overleaps itself and falls on the other”. Macbeth compares his ambition to a horse leaping over an obstacle (‘vaulting ambition’). The Igbo Southwest brothers especially the group rooting for the throne, have no strong reason to contest it with their South east brothers. Is it a case of vaulting ambition? Certainly, not. Indications are that the Southwest group will do the needful and work with their Southeast brothers so that together they will approach the throne with unity of purpose. Interestingly, no one from Southwest has so far publicly declared intention to contest for the crown come 2023.