By OCHEREOME NNANNA
THE post-election power sharing bun_fights among the various geopolitical zones are, indeed very intriguing. Of particular interest is the case of the South West where the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, zoned the post of Speaker, House of Representatives.
In fact, it was supposed to be a two-cornered tussle between two ranking members of the House from the Zone, Hon. Mulikat Adeola_Akande and Hon. Muraina Ajibola.
However, the voting pattern of the electorate in the South West during the general elections suggested that the PDP was no longer wanted there. The electorate of the zone decisively voted out all PDP governors. They returned only one senator and six members of the House of Reps on the PDP platform. The rest were given to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo States and Labour Party, LP, in Ondo State.
The PDP had performed very well in other zones, including South_South, South East, North East, North Central and North West (especially outside the presidential election). Majority of the people of the South East felt that keeping the post of Speaker in the South West, in spite of their low regard of the PDP, was misplaced, as some of the members of the House from their Zone wanted the post.
But the Presidency’s hasty offering of the post of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, to the South East and appointment of a preferred candidate of the Zone in the person of Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, initially took the wind from the sail of their agitation for the post of Speaker.
That, however, did not stop the chief campaigner for the post, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, rallying the rest of his colleagues from the zone in getting into a working arrangement with their peers from the North, where Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, was determined the “unfair” PDP zoning would not stand.
On Monday, June 6, 2011 when the seventh Session of the House of Representatives was inaugurated, the zoning agenda of the ruling party was shoved aside, as Tambuwal scored 252 votes as opposed to 90 votes given to Adeola-Akande to emerge Speaker. Ihedioha also emerged as the Deputy Speaker. Already, the Senate had returned four-term Senator David Mark as President of the Senate, while Senator Ike Ekweremadu was voted as his Deputy.
The net effect of this was that the South West Zone, which had always enjoyed a place of pride since the return of our democracy in 1999 (when it produced the President till 2007 and Speaker, House of Reps till 20110) found itself suddenly nowhere to be found in the line of official protocol.
The Tinubu factor
The failure of the South West to clinch the post of Speaker was not necessarily a result of any gang_up against the South West by other zones – as such. Rather, it was purely a play of democratic dynamics that led to it. The South West has the second largest number of seats in the House of Reps, and majority of them were won by the ACN in the last elections. While the defeated PDP camp wanted the Speaker’s seat for the Zone, the triumphant ACN did not want the PDP to have it.
They did not want to risk having a stump of the Party in the South West ranking high in the PDP Federal Government and posing any threat to their hold on power in the Zone. Thus, they decided to support Tambuwal’s quest for the post.
For the ACN leadership, building a solid national party that would in future present it as a credible alternative to the PDP was more important than helping their ethnic group to clinch a high office in the legislature.
The ACN leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has since 1999 displayed uncommon vision and political savvy. He knows how a short-term gain could torpedo a long-term strategic advantage – and how to sidestep it. In 1999, he was just one of the six Alliance for Democracy, AD, governors of the South West.
Towards 2003 when President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had no political base in the zone, sought re-election, he entreated the Yoruba socio_political umbrella, the Afenifere, to support him.
The AD governors then were high ranking Afenifere leaders. Five of them – Bisi Akande of Osun State; Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti State; the late Adebayo Adefarati of Ondo State; Olusegun Osoba of Ogun State and Lam Adesina of Oyo State, offered to support Obasanjo for president while keeping their posts for second term as governors.
It was only Tinubu of Lagos that distanced himself from the arrangement. For his recalcitrance, President Obasanjo mobilised all instruments of federal power – including starving the local councils of their legitimate federal allocations.
Tinubu hunkered down and eventually overcame. He left the AD and joined the effort to found the Advanced Congress of Democrats, ACD, which later renamed itself the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, when the party came under the full control of Tinubu. One after the other, the ACN won a string of court victories that brought Edo, Ekiti and Ondo into its fold after the 2007 polls.
By the time the 2011 elections turned the corner, most expectations were that the remaining two South West states – Ogun and Oyo, would fall into the ACN basket, and they did. The party made big impressions outside the South West, especially in Benue and Anambra States where they won many House and senatorial seats.
An interesting outcome of Tinubu’s political perseverance is that his former colleague South West governors and Afenifere chiefs who could not resist short-term goodies in the Obasanjo presidency – Adesina, Osoba, Akande and Adebayo – are now his followers in the ACN.
Building a strong political party
Right now, Tinubu’s ACN is intent on building a strong political party with national appeal. In doing so, he is careful to learn the lessons of history. He does not want the ACN to be seen in the colours of the Awoist Action Group, AG, which was perceived to be a “tribalist” political party.
This informs the support of the Party elected members from outside the South West to be placed in prominent positions to enable the ACN grow in other parts of the country. Otherwise, the ACN members of the Senate and the House of Reps from the South West have the number and clout to produce Minority Leaders in both chambers of the National Assembly. Perhaps, the Party has decided to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve a bigger objective in the future.
But, just as in the past, not every political interest group in the South West appears to go along with this vision. The Afenifere, which had supported Obasanjo with many of the children and relations of its leadership being offered jobs in that regime, is up in arms against what they perceive as the unlawful exclusion of their zone from the power sharing arrangement in the PDP.
Indeed, the factional leader of the Odua People’s Congress, OPC, Dr. Frederick Faseun, described what happened on the floor of the House of Reps as the “marginalisation” of the Yoruba people and their “excision” from Nigeria.
Between these socio-cultural interest groups and Tinubu’s ACN there is a divergence of interests in the unfolding power sharing processes. Afenifere and OPC are non-partisan platforms and agitators for the interest of the Yoruba people. On the other hand, Tinubu and the ACN are the custodians of the political trust and mandate of the people of the South West.
They are the ones who know the meaning of the voting pattern of the people of the Zone in the 2011 general elections.
Political promised land
They know that the Yoruba people voted out the PDP and voted in the ACN to lead them to the political Promised Land. They also understand the “poisoned chalice” tucked under the Speaker seat offered by the PDP. They know that beneath the innocent rose a hideous serpent could be coiled and ready to strike. They know that eating on the same table with the ruling party was the hammer with which the AD and the All Nigerian People’s Party, ANPP, were struck down.
The sacrifices that Tinubu and his Party are making will place enormous debt burden on the nation to listen whenever the leader of the Party (and the zone, Tinubu) make any demand on behalf of the Zone.
As the second largest political party unsullied by sweet_tooth prebends of the ruling PDP, Tinubu and the ACN are taking up a higher moral ground to assert themselves with great impact. Nothing that is important will be done by the PDP regime without their good graces being solicited and secured.
In the days ahead, the nation will find out if the ruling Party in the South West (ACN) and the socio=cultural umbrellas (Afenifere and OPC) will reach agreement on how to approach federal political issues or continue to run at cross-currents as in the instant case.