By Femi Aribisala
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo is a relation of mine. My late mother, who was from Abeokuta, was Obasanjo’s aunt. I think that makes Obasanjo my uncle. Obasanjo was president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for eight years. In that period, I did not get any government contract. The road of our family house in Ibadan was not tarred. I did not become Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. So what advantage was there to me as a Yoruba man that Obasanjo, another Yoruba man; indeed my “uncle,” was President of Nigeria? Zilch, niente, nada: no advantage whatsoever.
If I, as a relation of Obasanjo derived no personal advantage from the fact that Obasanjo was Nigeria’s president for eight years, what advantage do you think the Yoruba man in the street derived from Obasanjo being president? Zilch, niete, nada: no advantage whatsoever. Nevertheless, the deception of Nigerian politics is to make people believe that if their ethnic kinsman were to become president, their life would suddenly take a turn for the better. That is a lie from the pit of hell. The only thing that gets better is the life of some strategically-placed politicians.
When a Northerner starts shouting that power must return to the North, it means he is looking for a job or lucrative contract. Don’t think for one minute that he will share the proceeds with you as a Northerner if his dreams come true. All the power that has returned to the North for 38 years of Nigeria’s existence has left the North as the most destitute part of Nigeria.
If 38 years of Northern rule did not even benefit Northerners, don’t believe the lie that another eight years of Northern rule will benefit the Yorubas of the South-West. Don’t believe the lie that Muhammadu Buhari who, as head of the Petroleum Trust Fund under Abacha only spent 24% of the fund building roads down South, as opposed to 76% up North; desperately wants to be president in order to promote the interests of the South-West.
The South-West is the beautiful bride of the coming presidential election. For this reason, the people need to be as wise as serpents. The truth must be told no matter whose ox is gored. An APC political alliance whose principal mainspring is that power must return to the North cannot at the same time be a vehicle for promoting South-West interests. When I was interviewed by Kadaria Ahmed on Channels Television, she asked me a disingenuous question. She wanted to know if I would be more amenable to the APC if it were to nominate a Southern Christian as its presidential candidate. I say the question is disingenuous because it represents a mischievous flight of fancy.
The truth of the matter is that it is practically impossible for the APC to endorse a Southern presidential candidate. To do so is to commit suicide. Northern politicians will leave the party in droves, and for understandable reason. Muhammadu Buhari formed the APC because he wants to be the goodluck president on the fourth attempt and not because he wants Rotimi Amaechi to be Nigeria’s next president.
Rabiu Kwankwaso left the PDP for the APC because President Jonathan refused to make a commitment that power would return to the North in 2015. Atiku Abubakar left the PDP for the APC because he wants to be president, not because he wants to be vice-president again, this time to Adams Oshiomhole. All these Northern folks are in APC because they either want to be president, or they want power to return to the North. Therefore, the idea of a Southern APC presidential candidate is out of the question. I throw the challenge to the APC to prove pundits like me wrong.
“Shine your eyes”
Granted, my question is this: what advantage is there for someone from the South-West that a Northerner must be the next president? How can there be any benefit for the people of the South-West in a party whose raison d’être is the return of power to the North? If the Yorubas of the South-West obtained precious little advantage from eight years of Obasanjo presidency, what advantage can they expect from eight-years of Hausa-Fulani presidency, or eight-years of Yoruba vice-presidency? My answer remains the same: zilch, niente, nada: no advantage whatsoever.
Yorubas really need to “shine their eyes” because some power-hungry South-West politicians are trying to sell them a fake bill of goods. The tutelage and legacy of Awolowo lies in the South-West recognition that it does not have to kowtow to anybody or group in Nigeria. From experience, the South-West has learnt to survive without political power at the centre. How then can the same Bola Tinubu who schemed Mulikat Akande, a Yoruba candidate, out of being the Speaker of the House of Representatives now tell us that the future of the South-West depends on a Yoruba man becoming vice-president to a Northern president with a “born-to-rule” philosophy? Don’t buy the lie.
The APC should be allowed to die a natural death in the South-West at the presidential level, simply because it is abundantly clear that it is the preferred party of those Northerners clamouring that power must return to the North. There is nothing progressive about this. Within the framework of Nigerian politics, it is as retrogressive as stale bread. These people are power-hungry. They are not clamouring for power to return to the North so that they can be of benefit to the South-West. They are clamouring for power to return to the North so that they can be of benefit to themselves. They are clamouring for power so they can feather their own nests. They don’t even have the interests of the North at heart, how much more those of the South-West.
We had this type of clamour under Obasanjo. “Power must return to the North!” they chanted. Well, power returned to the North. Obasanjo handed power back to Yar’Adua and what did we get? We got the same do-nothing retrogressive government that has characterised Nigerian leadership from the North-West. The Nigerian government was privatized to the North. Yar’Adua was so blatantly sectarian and Northern, it was shameful. People don’t like to hear the truth. When I pointed out the anomaly that APC national leadership was exclusively Muslim, I was not faulted on the veracity of my assertion. I was attacked on national television of being anti-Muslim. How can I be anti-Muslim when my grandmother was Muslim?
Let us see now whether this fact will make me anti-Northern. Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution clearly affirmed that appointments from the same state and ethnic group in a particular federal agency are unacceptable. Nevertheless, under Yar’Adua, strategic sectors of the national economy were zoned exclusively to the North. For example, the Minister of Finance, Mansur Mukhtar, was from Kano; the Minister for National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman, was from Kano; the Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was from Kano. The Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Taminu Yakubu, was from Katsina. Moreover, the National Security Adviser, Major General Abdullahi Sarki Mukhtar was from Kano. The Chief of Army Staff, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, was also from Kano;
The power sector of the economy was also zoned to the North. The Petroleum Minister, Rilwanu Lukman, was from the North. The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Sanusi Barkindo, was from the North. The Director-General of the National Petroleum Directorate, Alhaji Bello Gusau, was from the North. The Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Mustapha Rabe Darma, was from the North. The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Abubakar Lawal Yar’Adua was from the North. The Acting Director of the Directorate of Petroleum Resources, Aliyu Sabonbiri, was from the North. The Director of the Energy Commission of Nigeria, Abubakar Sambo, was from the North. The Chairman of the Transition Board of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Bello Suleiman, was from the North.
This is what happens when a Northerner becomes president under a “north must rule” agenda. This kind of regional nepotism does not happen under a Southern presidency. Under such circumstances, why should people in the South-West accept the presumption that the North is entitled to rule Nigeria? Why should they accept the fact that no Southerner has ever been appointed Minister of Agriculture, or Minister of Water Resources, or Minister of Federal Capital Territory, or Executive-Secretary of the PTDF? It is past time to break all these political taboos in the interest of national unity.
The agenda of the Boko Haram is that Nigeria must be ruled by a Northern Muslim or there will be no peace in the country. Yorubas of the South-West, whether Muslim or Christian, must categorically reject that insistence. Under the circumstances, this is no time to succumb to the demand for a Northern presidency. This is the very time to resist it.
When politicians like Ango Abdullahi and Junaid Mohammed insist the next president must be Northern, people do not conclude they are just interested in government patronage. But when I insist such Northern jingoism must be resisted, people are quick to presume I must be looking for a job from President Jonathan. But if I did not get a job when Obasanjo was president, did not even go to see him once during his eight years in office, why would I now be seeking a job from another president who is no relation of mine and does not even know I exist?
Herbert Ogunde wrote a seminal song at a critical juncture of South-West history entitled: “Yoruba Ronu.” It means there is need for deep reflection by the Yorubas. It is such a time once again. Call me names; abuse me; insult me: my position remains the same. When a certain part of the country insists on entitlement to political power, it cannot under any guise be called progressive. The progressive people of the South-West have no business forming an alliance with those Northerners whose body-language says they are “born-to-rule” Nigeria.