Was President Jonathan’s charm offensive in the South-west in the last two weeks belated? Is it a little too late or nail on the head in view of the recent postponement of the 2015 elections by six weeks? That issue was the subject of a discussion programme on an Ibadan-based television station last week. It is also the issue examined in this report by IBIDAPO BALOGUN in Ibadan and TEMITOPE ADEDEJI in Akure…
The seat of Federal Government in Abuja was temporarily relocated to Lagos, the old capital. President Goodluck Jonathan had come to Lagos with the paraphernalia of office and was holding court at the old Dodan Barracks. The president had moved to the South-west two weeks in a renewed move to woo the zone to back his re-election. He was holding meetings upon meetings at the place and granting interviews to some national newspapers. In between all that, he hopped on his helicopters to fly to crucial towns in the West for crucial meetings. He met with Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu and a few traditional rulers in Lagos State before moving to Ogun State where he met with traditional rulers at Abeokuta, the state capital. The traditional rulers who attended the meeting with the president in Abeokuta were said to be about 20. They were led by Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo. Some of those who attended included Akarigbo of Ijebu- Remo, Oba Michael Sonariwo and Olowu of Owu, Oba Dosunmu. The Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona and Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle were absent. It was also gathered that President Olusegun Obasanjo chose the occasion to travel to The Gambia for that country’s independence anniversary to avoid meeting President Jonathan.
The President was also in Oyo State where he met the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi; Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; and Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi Ajagungbade. A source in Oyo said during the meeting with the President, Oba Adeyemi was very warm but he was non-commital in respect of the presidential election as he was in the build-up to the 2011 election. The president’s message was the same everywhere he went: vote for me for re-election to continue from where we stop and redress the perceived marginalisation of the South-west at the centre. The president also promised to implement the report of the National Conference held in Abuja.
WESTERN POST sources said some traditional rulers complained about the marginalisation of the South-west in the scheme of things in the country and wanted the president to be commital with respect to giving the zone top positions in exchange for their support. One source said President Jonathan signed an undertaking with the traditional rulers, while another said he declined to sign any undertaking.
In the new move to woo the South-west, the presidential calculation is to grab as many states in the geopolitical zone as possible and garner a lot from the available 13 million plus votes in the South-west. The plan is to use such to checkmate the North-west, a strong base of the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate with 18 million plus votes. “ The President wants to use the South-west to counter Buhari’s support base in the North-west. You know after the North-west, the zone with the next highest voter base is the South-west,” said a source within PDP.
But will the visit yield much as the March 28 election draws near. Some said many in the South-west had already taken positions for and against the two major presidential candidates before the election was postponed and its unlikely if the visit would affect much. “Much has happened from 2011 to now and the voters have virtually taken positions. The South-west is about the most politically aware and active in the country and they can’t be swayed at this point. A majority of them is supporting Buhari across the states in the zone, just as a majority is supporting Jonathan as well,” one analyst who pleaded not to be named said.
Another said the President’s visit should be looked at “for what it is.” “It is not for vote-seeking; its to thank the people and th royal fathers for their support over time since he was first elected in 2011,” he added. A Yoruba leader, Olola Kasumu, however, said attempts by Governor Mimiko to use the confab and OPC to give the impression that Yoruba are for President Jonathan is an exercise in futility. Kasumu also called on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to, as a matter of urgency, check the excesses of the Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose.
Speaking in Ogbomoso, Kasumu said besides the fact that none of the leaders of both the Afenifere and OPC have the credibility to convince the Yoruba to vote for candidate of their choice in the March 28 election, “they are unpopular kings without subjects’’.
According to him, ‘’it is unfortunate that the so-called leaders of these two groups have lost touch of realities and have descended so low for a mess of porridge. I am one of the principal co-founders of the OPC and it is regrettable that the motives behind its formation had been ashamedly betrayed and derailed as well. Both Fasehun and Gani Adams are now running after pipeline contracts running into billions of naira. Is that how to fight the cause of Yoruba progress and development? What led to the split of Afenifere into two groups?
Was it not because of greed, self-centredness and betrayal of trust by the likes of Ayo Adebanjo and others that led to the emergence of a new committed and dedicated group called Afenifere Renewal Group?’’
He said the summit organised by the Afenifere and OPC in Ibadan was sponsored by Mimiko purposely to endorse Jonathan, thus creating the erroneous impression that General Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, is not recognised by the Yoruba.
‘’Honestly, I pity Jonathan because he would be thinking that he has penetrated, captured and eventually won the hearts of Yoruba to his side. That will be very untrue. To believe that, Jonathan must be told point blank that he is living in fools’ paradise and should as well stop building castle in the moon. Gani Adams said he has about six million members. Where are they? And who are the followers of these outdated Afenifere leaders?”
Some analysts said whether the president would achieve much from his new offensive in the South-west could be glimpsed from the caliber of the PDP leaders who followed him and their influence or lack of it in their states. Among those who accompanied the president were former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Minister of State for Defence, Minister of State for the Federal capital Territory, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, and Minister of Police Affairs, Mr. Jelii Awosiyan
President’s Jonathan’s foot soldiers in the South-west led by its Coordinator in the zone and Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko are also using the Abuja national confab reports, wherein delegates more or less agreed to true federalism, to draw support for the president. Mimiko convened a post national confab summit for Akure last week Thursday. It was attended by Yoruba leaders like Pa Ayo Adebanjo and senator Femi Okunrounmu whose committee midwifed the confab, and Founder of Oodua Peoples Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, and National Coordinator of Oodua, Chief Gani Adams among others. A similar summit was held in Ibadan on Thursday. Below is the communique issued at the end of the Akure summit of the group.