By Emmanuel Aziken, Dayo Johnson, Gbenga Olarinoye, Charles Kumolu, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Ola Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—The validation of Chief Moshood Abiola’s victory in the June 12, 1993, presidential election will not fetch President Muhammadu Buhari any spectacular political mileage in the 2019 presidential contest, a cross-section of political and opinion leaders from the South-West have affirmed.
While the leaders generally applauded the President for doing what they claimed his predecessors failed to do, they, however, asserted that Buhari would have to do more in addressing other issues of governance to win the electoral contest in 2019.
Pa Ayo Fasanmi, Second Republic senator and chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, however, differed from the tide, with a resounding endorsement of Buhari’s 2019 political aspiration, saying the Yoruba will definitely repay his gesture on June 12.
Buhari had on his way to his historic success in the 2015 presidential election, polled 2,433,193 votes, representing 57% of the 4,254,609 votes cast for him and the then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
He won the polls in five of the six South-West states, with Ekiti being the only state that sided with Dr. Jonathan.
Buhari’s success was upon the strong backing he received from the South-West political elite, led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the machine of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
However, three years into his administration with mutterings here and there, the President’s prospects have come into question.
It is believed that last Tuesday’s recognition of Abiola’s victory and decision to declare June 12, Democracy Day and national public holiday from 2019, could have changed the perception of the South-West towards the President.
Besides the recognition of Abiola’s victory, Buhari also conferred the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, honours on Abiola, an award given to only former and serving Presidents.
It more than June 12 — Adebanjo
Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in his reaction, yesterday, said: “Buhari has just acceded to one of our agitations by recognizing June 12. We thank him very much for doing that, but after that, that is where it stops.
“It is a question of doing the right thing, no matter how belated. His political aides might have advised him because the election is coming. He should forget that.
“The next election will be based on performance and the trust we have in him. We can only thank him for all the things he has done that are good, and we are grateful to him. If he tries to expand the scope of June 12, he will be whipping up a lot of emotions.
“There are a lot of things to be done, the annulment of June 12, 1993, has done that they have to rectify. There are some others that are irredeemable.
“In court, there are damages that can be compensated for and there are some that cannot be compensated for. What about the lives that had been lost? What about the damages done to families involved? What about those incarcerated by the military junta under Sani Abacha? We acknowledged all that he has done on June 12, and that is where it stops.”
He needs to do more — Odumakin, Arogbofa
Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, speaking in the same vein, said: “Not at all, the national award has not validated anything! We have to separate issues here.
“We appreciate the honour done to MKO Abiola by President Muhammadu Buhari. There are other issues that have to be dealt with. For example, herdsmen are still killing people across the Northern states and over the country unrestrained.
“June 12 was about ethnic harmony, when all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic group, region, class, decided to vote for Abiola as President.
“Without stopping all these killings in the land, honouring Abiola is not enough to bring back the confidence. If our people are being killed like this in the first term and nothing is being done, what will happen in the second term?
“We have canvassed for an inclusive country. Nigeria is going down, and Nigeria should be re-arranged. And any other person can promise, I can restructure Nigeria if the government cannot do it.
“So, what the government will do about restructuring from now will determine where the support will go, but for now, they are not doing anything, it will be very hard to get the support of the South West.”
Secretary-General of Afenifere, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, said the validation was not a guarantee that the Yoruba would support him in 2019. What the President did for Abiola was just a starting point for him. There are so many bridges to cross.
“Before we start to think of supporting him, he must carry out all those things Abiola believed and died for. Abiola was a democrat; he was one of the last converts of Afenifere. He believed in democracy and the welfare of the common man and free and qualitative education for the common man.
“President Buhari has to work harder to implement what Abiola worked for and died for. He has to find solutions to human rights abuses, killings by herdsmen while he looks elsewhere. He must say something to stop the endless killings.
“The President should be fair to all and treat everybody equally. The nepotism in appointments should stop.”
Arogbofa said the validation was “belated and a sign of political desperation ahead of 2019 presidential election.
He queried the motives and intentions of President Buhari with the election less than a year.
“To us in Afenifere, the President should have done this earlier. The President has been doing a few things of late, and one begins to wonder that these moves have political tones.”
He advised Buhari to dust the recommendations of the 2014 CONFAB to inject some seriousness into governance, saying all the heroes of democracy died in giving the best to their people.
“Abiola died struggling for democracy, his election is one of the freest in the history of elections in the country and died for it trying to reclaim his mandate so that he could implement true democratic principles.
“It is when President Buhari starts implementing those ideals for which they died for, some of which are in the 2014 confab report, it is when he starts implementing them that we can say we are now injecting a lot of new seriousness into governance,” he said.
Restructuring, a must — Olajide
Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, speaking in the same vein said: “Personally, we thank him for validating June 12, but I think he has not done Yoruba any favour.
“We should thank him because all his predecessors failed to do what he has just done. I know it is not going to make any difference in his electoral fortune in 2109.
“What we Yoruba want is for each zone of this country to manage its affairs. We want to control our resources when we have a weak centre. Until restructuring is done and true federalism is entrenched, I don’t think this is going to change anything.
“This euphoria of June 12 will soon fizzle out. All Nigerians are wiser now, and Yoruba cannot be easily deceived. While we relish this, herders are still savaging farmlands in the South West.”
Professor Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education and now a chieftain of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, said Buhari and the APC would have to do more than conferring an award on the democracy martyr and other heroes of the June 12 struggle to convince the Yoruba that he truly deserves another mandate beyond 2019.
According to him, President Buhari has continued to evade pertinent questions on restructuring and fiscal federalism.
He added that in next general elections, those issues remained the key parameters agitating the minds of not only the South-West but also the rest of the country.
“I believe the Yoruba people appreciate what President Buhari did (GCFR on Abiola) even though it came a little too late but winning their hearts is totally out of the question. To win their hearts would require an end to the killings and general insecurity in the land, protection of the rule of law and human rights and promotion of equity and social justice. He would also have to demonstrate a commitment to true federalism and restructuring,” he said.
In the same vein, Professor Adedoja, a former Minister of Sports, said the South-West remained resolute in its demand for good governance, adding that the recognition would play no role in the choice of the South-West in 2019.
“We appreciate President Buhari for the belated honour but in no way would this sway the votes of the South-West. We will take our position, and regardless of the posthumous award, that position remains constant,” he stated.
But for Dr. Eddy Olafeso, Vice Chairman of the PDP in the South-West, President Buhari has only taken the first step in a long marathon that is the race to secure the support of the Yoruba people in 2019.
According to him, no amount of honour is sufficient to compensate for the anguish and loss suffered by the Yoruba and other advocates for the actualization of the June 12 mandate.
“We thank President Buhari for recognizing the sacrifice of Abiola to the growth of democracy in Nigeria, but no honour is enough to make up for the deprivation our people suffered, the beatings and what have you.
“The Yoruba people appreciate him (Buhari), but we are asking for Abiola to be declared the winner of the June 12 historic Presidential election. We are asking that he should be declared the President of Nigeria from the period the elections were concluded to the period he died while in government custody. We are asking that his portrait be hung on the wall alongside those who have been privileged to govern this country. Until this is done, they have not started,” Olafeso said.
Buhari’s gesture won’t influence S/West support —Babatope
A former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said: “The Southwest has its method. What the President did is not going to decide the voting pattern because the Southwest has its ways. It will be wrong to say that it will make Yoruba leaders to support Buhari. That does not mean that we should not commend Buhari for what he has done. Buhari has done well and I wish him well.”
We’ll reward Buhari — Fasanmi
Second Republic Senator and chieftain of NADECO, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, however, differed as he described the validation of the June 12, 1993, election as a political masterstroke that will enhance Buhari’s victory in the southwest.
“What Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar`Adua and Goodluck Jonathan failed to do has now been done. This calls for celebration by all Nigerians. It is a victory for democracy in Nigeria.
“It’s better late than never, the recognition came 25 years after the election. That’s to tell you that truth will always prevail and at the end of darkness come sunshine; light has come after many years of darkness.
“For what Buhari has done to the Yoruba race, we will also pay him back to let him know that we are not ingrates. For the 2019 general election, we will mobilise the people of South West to vote en mass for President Buhari.
It’s plus for him — Ajibulu, Faparusi
Secretary of Ekiti State Council of Elders Mr. Niyi Ajibulu, said the President would profit from the honour on Abiola.
“There is no way it will not affect Buhari positively; it is clear to everybody that the annulment of the result of the June 12 election was purely a selfish motive, not on any national interest, it was done to serve the personal interest of those involved in the dastardly act.
“People are not reading political meanings to the decision of President Buhari; rather they admire the president for the courage to actualize and nationalise what had become a Southwest affair.
“If he had done it a year ago, people would still appreciate him, and it will affect his electoral fortune in 2019. The validation was a masterstroke and it was well delivered. It has turned Buhari into an instant hero”, said Ajibulu.
Deputy Director General of the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation in Ekiti State, Bamidele Faparusi, on his part, said the decision would not just boost Buhari but also translate to support for the APC candidate in next month’s governorship election.
“We must reciprocate the gesture by embracing APC in the southwest region. We must start manifesting this by voting massively for Dr. Fayemi in 2018 election to give a sign that we are appreciative of what the government at the centre had done,” he said.
Speaking in a similar manner, an Ibadan-based business tycoon, Alhaja Karamot Bolanle, said she would take personally the responsibility to mobilise the market women to vote for all APC candidates in Yoruba land in the next year general election.
She said she would personally spend her resources to ensure that other candidates from other political parties apart from APC are rejected at the polls.