Penultimate Thursday, leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the South-west congregated in Ibadan, the unofficial political capital of the region, to discuss what they said was the unity of the region. Chaired by Chief Bisi Akande, one-time governor of Osun state, the meeting was hosted by Oyo State’s Gov. Isiaka Ajimobi. Reasons fly about as to why the meeting: There is the official reason given by the spokesperson of the group and former governor of Ogun state, Aremo Segun Osoba, to wit, to demonstrate that the group is united (“unity of purpose”, he called it). “We are together on all issues concerning the governance of this country”, he added. Really? It is not too difficult to know that smooth-talking Osoba was being more surrealistic than real. It is an open secret that leading lights of APC in the region have been at daggers drawn for a while. Things have so fallen apart between them that the falcons can no longer hear the falconer. It got so bad that they practically danced naked in the open for all to see and marvel at how are the mighty fallen! There is a sense in which Osoba’s make-believe can grievously hurt the group: Does “all issues concerning the governance of this country” include the genocide in southern Kaduna; the relentless rampage of Fulani herdsmen all over the country; the lopsidedness of the Buhari administration; its wobbling and fumbling over the economy; the rolling back of the gains of free and fair elections under ex-presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan; and its intolerance of the opposition? Osoba may be right, though: Not for once have APC Southwest leaders spoken out against the provincialism and excesses of the Buhari administration as well as its lacklustre performance that have combined to see it fritter the huge goodwill it brought into office within so short a time. There is a limit to which even the most gifted master of the garb can put a bright face on a dismal situation; APC’s score card in the Southwest in particular and the country in general is so bad that there is no way you can avoid telling it some home truths. Osoba admitted this much when he said “We have also discussed on what should be the role and influence to exercise as a group for the interest and progress of the country. We have examined the government and have reviewed all issues. All those to be taken to Abuja will be done by those concerned”.
They were wrong not to have told us the result of their “examination” of the Buhari administration. The outcome should not be for the eyes and ears of Abuja alone. We the people ought to also be privy to this very important examination to determine how competently it has been done, for, truth be told, the APC leaders in the Southwest have lost the confidence and support that the people bestowed upon them. They may not know it yet but they will soon do. They have not lived up to expectations at all and have betrayed the confidence reposed in them by the people. In that they have been cowardly when they ought to have demonstrated courage, and have placed their selfish interests over and above the interests of their people, they are as repulsive to the people as the Buhari administration itself. That could be why they went shopping for Chief Bisi Akande to help put their fallen house together. Baba Akande, as he is fondly called, remains, perhaps, the most credible Southwest APC leader today. He was decent enough to quickly withdraw into his shell when the shenanigans of the Buhari administration began to take firm roots. It is difficult to point at any other leader that the disparate group of rebels and discredited leaders could have deferred to. Bringing them together under one roof is some success to start with but it is doubtful if they achieved much at that meeting. Rather than truly come together as Osoba tried to make us believe, the Ibadan meeting was a Berlin conference of sorts where each leader reportedly carved out their respective spheres of influence. It is amusing that they could all not see beyond their noses. A leadership that is fast losing relevance and that may soon go into extinction like dinosaurs was behaving as if it still held all the aces. For the Old Brigade and so-called Young Turks, godfather and rebellious godsons alike, the Day of Reckoning is around the corner.
Talking big-name politics, attendance at the meeting was impressive, though. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the governors of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, and Osun states; Ministers and ex-governors Babatunde Raji Fashola and Kayode Fayemi; ex-Govs. Segun Oni and Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Ministers Kemi Adeosun, Adebayo Shittu and Lai Mohammed; Senate Chief Whip, Prof. Sola Adeyeye; House of Representatives Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila were among those in attendance. The absence of the House of Representatives Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yussuf, was explained away with “he travelled abroad” excuse. We all know leaders find one way or another to make themselves unavailable when they are not minded to attend a meeting. But why was the governor-elect of Ondo state, Rotimi Akeredolu, not at the meeting? Was he invited? The spat between Tinubu and Akeredolu over the Ondo state governorship primary of the APC should still be fresh in our memory. It is a minus for the meeting that Ondo state was not represented at the highest level. Someone said the conveners ran after two rabbits – Akeredolu and out-going Gov. Olusegun Mimiko – and missed both! It has been widely speculated that Mimiko had penned an accord with the APC as a result of which he reportedly sold the Ondo election. Appearing in Ibadan would have been a confirmation that the immediate past Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum had changed party again. But the Tinubu factor is said to weigh heavily on Mimiko’s mind. He is said to dislike Tinubu like hell. In this, he is likely to be on same page with the Young Turks who have started seeing the Jagaban Borgu as a liability and not the asset that he used to be. Although the absence of the vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, was also not publicly explained, I can risk a guess: Yoruba leaders always bend over backward to convince that they are “national” and not “sectional”; so they stay aloof from their people and their interests. Other ethnic groups don’t subscribe to this rubbish.
The Ibadan meeting provided the participants photo opportunities; they also were able to sell the dummy that all is now well in their fold. It may be that the uninitiated will fall for it but the discerning will have no difficulty in knowing that the meeting further cemented the schism within the group. The meeting failed to bring everyone under Tinubu’s wings. The rebels exerted their independence and blackmailed the godfather into accepting half bread or nothing. As it stands, the Southwest APC is leaderless. Segun Oni, the most senior party leader in the region, is too Lilliputian to step into the shoes. Who can? None of the rebels can, in that their electoral value is suspect even in their wards. With Tinubu divested of authority and power, the APC is forlorn in the Southwest. Since nature abhors a vacuum, this situation cannot persist for long. Both groups will go for broke very soon and my suspicion is they will both end up losers. Like the history of all kingdoms and empires, they rise, reach their apogee or greatest height, reign for a length of time, then decay begins to set in, after which objective and subjective conditions combine to produce a greater force and power which destroys the existing power and reigns in its stead. The Southwest APC stands at that threshold at the moment. A new centre of power that will take over in the Southwest in particular and the nation in general is in the making. Interestingly, it is what the decaying power fails to do right, more than what the emerging power does right, that propels this historic process. After having once led us astray, can we trust the Southwest APC leaders again? Once bitten, twice shy!
It is not the mistake they made in selling Buhari to us that rankles, it is their criminal silence when we realised that we have been conned. To err, as they say, is human but APC Southwest leaders acquiesced when they should have kicked. Buhari composed his government in a way that marginalized the South and they kept quiet. A flustered citizenry mustered opposition but their leaders had no stomach for a fight. We were told they were compromised with fat bones, which kept them engaged and busy. Many of them were satisfied with the bones they got. Those who thought they deserved something better were blackmailed into silence because they had soiled their hands anyway with the little that they got. We the people were thus left with no leaders to champion our cause. Can anyone please point out an APC Southwest leader fighting for the masses? Can we just mention one name standing with the people? There is none! Baba Akande spoke once or twice openly but when he saw that he was swimming against the tide, he quietly “retired” to his Oke-Ila country home but it was that little that he did that stands him in good stead today. Since nature, as we said, abhors a vacuum, leaders have emerged on other fronts; very soon, the people of the Southwest will queue behind their new leaders. I had thought Southwest APC had read the unmistakeable handwriting on the wall when its leaders decided to converge in Ibadan; I had also thought they would be clear-headed enough to take the bulls by the horns. It is their relevance that is at stake. It is their political future that is up for grabs. But they missed the moment and lost a great opportunity. Mark my word: They will soon be spoken of in the past tense.
Poser for Prof. Wole Soyinka: Is it religion that is ruining Nigeria or Nigerians that are giving religion a bad name?