Southwest and Jonathan’s 2015 calculations

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Mar 11th, 2014
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President Goodluck Jonathan has visited some traditional rulers in the Southwest, ostensibly to seek their support for his second term ambition. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN examines the presidential moves, ahead of the 2015 election.

President Goodluck Jonathan was in the Southwest and Kano recently for consultation with traditional rulers. He held closed door meetings with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero; the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu; and the Oba of Badagry, De Wheno Aholu Menutoyi, Babatunde Akran.

Jonathan told reporters that the visits were private. What he discussed with the traditional rulers in their inner chambers was not disclosed. But, analysts said the President’s visit was political. They are of the view that he has embarked on nationwide consultation on his second term ambition. The fact that he held private talks with the traditional rulers in their palaces pointed to the fact that he was seeking royal blessing, ahead of his formal declarations, to run in the 2015 presidential election.

The President lent credence to this position when he told the crowd at the Alaafin’s palace that he came to thank the people of Oyo State and the entire Southwest for the support given to him and the PDP in the 2011 election. He said: “I thank, not only the people of the state, but the entire Southwest for the support we received in 2011. I have come to reciprocate the gesture with the hope that things will continue as well. We are one. I remain your own.”

Besides, President Jonathan addressed PDP supporters in Badagry, shortly after holding private talks with Oba Akran in his palace. He said: “For the PDP members, who have come out to receive us, we thank you most sincerely. I want to thank you for this warm reception and assure you that the glorious days of Badagry will be returned.”

Observers believe that President Jonathan owes the people of Southwest appreciation for the votes he got from the zone in the 2011 presidential election. but, they queried the timing of his visit because he had waited for almost three years to express his appreciation. They said Jonathan was going round the Southwest to solicit the support of the royal fathers and canvass for Yoruba votes, ahead of 2015.

In the 2011 presidential election, Jonathan polled 2,786,410 votes from the Southwest, the stronghold of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which has transformed into the All Progressives Party (APC). Despite the fact that the ACN fielded a presidential candidate, Jonathan came first in all the Southwest states, except Osun. A breakdown of the figure shows that he polled the highest vote of 1,281,688 in Lagos State, Oyo 484, 758; Ogun 309,170; Ekiti 135,009; Ondo 387,376 and Osun 188,409.

The question is: can Jonathan perform this feat in 2015 in the Southwest, which is APC’s stronghold? Can he penetrate the Southwest through the traditional rulers? Can the royal fathers influence their subjects to vote Jonathan?

Analysts said that it will be impossible for Jonathan to win in the Southwest, except Ondo State where he enjoys the support of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party. They argued that the emergence of the APC would make it difficult for Jonathan to make an impact in the zone.

Former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora described Jonathan’s visits to Yoruba traditional rulers as a diplomatic shuttle. According to him, the President came to prepare the ground for his formal declaration for the presidency in 2015. He noted that his visit is already causing a row among the Obas, as the Olubadan Oba Samuel Odulana, had kicked against President Jonathan passing through his domain without stopping over at in his palace.

On whether the President and his party, the PDP, can penetrate the Southwest through the royal fathers, Mamora said: “It is most unlikely because the Southwest is comfortable in the hands of the APC. We are not going to rest on our oars. We will double our efforts to ensure victory for the APC in 2015, not only in the Southwest, but throughout Nigeria. I am not against Jonathan’s diplomatic shuttle; he has the right to do that, but it will not make any difference.”

The Co-ordinator of the Coalition for Democratic Reform (CODER), Ayo Opadokun, said the political setting that made people to vote for Jonathan in 2011; irrespective of political affiliation, have changed. He said the political leadership of Southwest as at that time interacted with their colleague in government to give him solid votes in 2011, but that situation does not exist today.

Opadokun explained that the Southwest political leadership and those in government today are not on the same page with the President.

According to him, in any partisan setting, it is expected that the party in power at regional or state level would mobilise the people to vote for its candidate.

Except things change later, political leaders in the Southwest and the President are not together. They have different political agenda. So, what happened in 2011 would not play out this time around,” Opadokun said.

Public Affairs analyst Bernard Briggs is of the opinion that President Jonathan has chosen a wrong place to kick off his consultation on his re-election bid. Briggs said one million visits to Yoruba traditional rulers would not make Jonathan and his party to win more votes than they deserve.

He described the Southwest as the traditional home of the progressives. He added: “I don’t see a situation whereby the Yoruba would for any reason this time around abandon the APC, which was co-founded by their leaders and other like minds across the country.”

Besides, Briggs noted that the politics of the Southwest is based on principle and people’s interest, adding: “That explains why the leaders have been consistent, pitching their tents with progressives. I am also aware that traditional rulers in Yorubaland have no influence as regards the political direction of the people.”

Briggs wondered why the President decided to pay a thank you visit to the region, three years after the Southwest voted for him. “To me, it is belated. The visit was politically motivated. The President should know that the Yoruba voted for him in 2011, not because of his personality or that his party manifesto was better. They probably voted for him because of where he comes from- the Southsouth – the region that had never produced the President,” he said.

A lawyer, Ajibola Bashir, queried: “Despite the goodwill the people of Southwest accorded him in 2011, what did they benefit from his government?” He said Jonathan’s approach to governance is negative.

Bashiru lamented that Jonathan had squandered the opportunities that came his way.

Bashiru warned the President against polarising the Southwest by sponsoring “dead woods” and promising to bring them to political limelight because, according to him, such a plan will fail.

One issue that is working against Jonathan’s interest in the Southwest is the marginalisation of the region under his administration. The allegation emanated from the Yoruba elders who are known to be sympathetic towards Jonathan Administration.

Chief Olu Falae alleged that the President’s pattern of appointments with no consideration for the Yoruba suggested that he does not appreciate their contribution to his emergence as the President.

Falae said the Yoruba were sidelined in appointments and control of political offices. He listed the topmost positions as that of the President, Senate President, Vice President, Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Federation, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, President, Court of Appeal, Secretary to the Government of the Federtion, National Security Adviser, and Head of Service of the Federation.

Falae said none of these offices was being occupied by a Yoruba, stressing that the absence of Yoruba in the power hierarchy had adversely affected the zone. He also cited the sack of eight General Managers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, six of whom were Yoruba, by the former Minister of Aviation, Mrs Stella Oduah.

Another Yoruba elder said that the relegation of the Yoruba is not just in higher hierarchy of government, but also in agencies, parastatals and corporations. He said: “A situation where the total appointments for the entire Southwest fall short of those of certain individual states suggests either a deliberate effort to ignite ethnic resentment or a glaring outcome of total collapse of co-ordination in the machinery and records of government.”

According to him, “available data indicate that the Yoruba have lost more than half of their appointive positions since demise of President Yar’Adua.

He observer listed areas where the Yoruba were marginalised as follows: the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Chairman, Federal Civil Commission, Chairman Police Service Commission and National Security Adviser

Also there is Yoruba among the entire 10 executive chairmen of the Federal Executive bodies such as Federal Character Commission, Federal Civil Service Commiasion, Federal Judicial Service Commission, Independent National Electoral Commission, National Population Commission, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

Out of 12 top government agencies, none is being headed by Yoruba. The top Corporations and Heavy Budget Agencies include Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), National Health Insurance Health Scheme, and Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

There is no Yoruba heading any of the Revenue Related Agencies like Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Customs Service and Auditor General of the Federation.

The story is similar in security and anti-corruption Agencies which include the Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences (ICPC) and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

When the Southwest leaders of PDP met the President over the lopsided appointments in the Federal Service, he promised that his administration would rectify the anomalies in 2015 when he would commence another term in office. How Jonathan would convince the Yoruba that his pattern of appointment with no consideration for the most educated and enlightened group in the country was not deliberate is known to him.

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