I have watched with amusement how, since the postponement of the 2015 presidential election from February 14 to March 28, a horde of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, have swooped on Yoruba states in the South-West of Nigeria to canvass for votes. I then began to understand the coercion of Professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), through presidential powers, to postpone the election, as not simply a matter of election-phobia, but to allow time for the president to buy people’s hearts and votes in the South-West. Since then, Yorubaland has arguably produced more millionaires per square kilometre than any part of Nigeria, if not Africa. We learnt that some of our traditional rulers got sums ranging between $250,000 to $5 million, depending on Aso Rock’s perception of their individual worth in the Yoruba leadership architecture. Each time I remember these figures, my mind drifts to the Naira exchange rate and realise that the beneficiaries of this presidential vote-shopping continue to be multimillionaires as the Naira continues its free fall in the exchange market. This has been a transformation agenda devoted to making more Nigerians millionaires than in any previous administration. But the Kabiyesis were not lucky alone. Some of their subjects, such as the two rival leaders of the O’odua Peoples Congress (OPC), were luckier, coasting home with multi-billion naira contracts to protect oil pipelines. Chief Ganiu Adams and Dr. Frederick Fasehun at long last found something to unite them.
While I begrudge not those who got the humongous presidential patronage in these hard times when many federal contractors and staff are unpaid due to an alleged cash squeeze, my sympathy goes to President Jonathan who, unconscionably, has been misled into what is clearly a scam. Yorubaland is not a place where voters take orders from anyone, no matter how highly placed, on who to cast their votes for. My paramount ruler, Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland, was very straightforward about this when President Jonathan visited his palace recently to canvass for votes. The monarch said it was acceptable for Jonathan to campaign round Yorubaland and market his candidature, but to expect any Yoruba king to campaign for him was a tall order. He said any king who did that would be inviting trouble upon himself.
The plain truth is that in Yorubaland if you are a good leader, you do not need to bribe people to gain acceptance. Acceptance comes to you automatically. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of blessed memory, became the undisputed Yoruba leader throughout his lifetime because he was an excellent performer while he served as premier of the defunct Western region. By the same token, if a leader is bad, doling out stolen funds to a few influential persons on the eve of an election would neither translate into acceptance nor votes for him. As a matter of fact, when a bad and unaccepted leader tries to perpetuate himself in power or introduce unpopular policies, Yoruba people, are wont to resist his rule. This explains why Yorubaland has been the bastion of resistance to bad leadership in Nigeria, be it military or civilian.
Those who took President Jonathan’s money know this: that Yoruba people would not support a bad leader but rather use the constitutional tool of an election to reject him. This is why I consider their actions a scam. Yoruba people have reached a consensus to reject President Jonathan at the polls for sure. I reached this conclusion through two sources. First was the result of a survey I coordinated at the instance of the Buhari-Osinbajo Support Organisation (BOSO) national headquarters on a “Needs Assessment Survey” of each of the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory. At the state level, researchers included BOSO leaders like Dr. Almajiri Geidam (Yobe), Dr. Sadiq Yabo (Sokoto), Mr. Ramsey Ebam Ndep (Cross River), and Hon. Sunday Ibitoye (Ekiti), among others. The survey produced a compendium of people’s needs, as neglected by the Jonathan administration, which became a source of campaign talking points for General Buhari who, beyond the general content of the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC), wanted to acquaint himself with the special needs of each state. Based on the survey, it was clear that there was Federal neglect of Yorubaland, in terms of infrastructure and cabinet appointments, while it was also evident that there have been rises in poverty, unemployment, inflation, and insecurity in the region, etc.
On the issue of appointments, when you tell our people that Jonathan has some Yoruba in his cabinet, they would respond that he has to because the Nigerian constitution makes it compulsory for the president to appoint at least a minister from each state. But their angst is over the fact that none of the prime cabinet positions is occupied by a Yoruba; that we are experiencing our worst marginalisation in Nigeria’s history under Jonathan, and that they are not fooled by the belated appointment of Brigadier James Arogbofa (rtd) as his Chief of Staff only because the previous occupant of the office resigned last year. With the exception of two or so people, they also deplore Jonathan’s preference for the Yoruba of shady character in most of his appointments. Hence, they conclude that they would automatically vote for Buhari whose running mate, for good measure, is a distinguished son of Yorubaland. This was the consensus.
The second source of my discovery of the Yoruba consensus was my observations in the field when, two weeks to the February 14 date earlier set for the 2015 presidential election, I led the South-West BOSO on a campaign tour of Yoruba states with the imprimatur of the running mate of General Buhari, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who not only hosted leaders of the organisation from the six South-West states at the Lagos Airport hotel, but further gave a modest financial support to our campaign plans. Our campaign was meant to beef up the campaign of the APC of which most of us are members. On January 30 we kicked off BOSO campaigns in Oyo State, taking off from the BOSO South-West Headquarters in Ibadan, housed in a building donated by the sixth in rank to the Olubadan of Ibadan, Chief Hamidu Salaudeen Ajibade, who is a patron. We did a road show in Ido Local Government in the suburb of Ibadan, and from there went on to cover a cluster of towns collectively called Ibarapa, comprising Igbo Ora, Eruwa, Igangan, Lanlate, Tapa, Idere, Maya, and New Eruwa. The following day we fanned ourselves out for road shows in the areas known as Oyo North, comprising Igboho, Ago Amodu, Sepeteri, Iwere Ile, Saki, Iseyin, Oke-Iho, Ilero, Otu, Okaka, Ipapo, and Ago Are. It was tough. Subsequent days we campaigned in Ondo, covering major towns like Ore, Okitipupa, Odigbo etc; and in Ekiti. In Ogun we did road shows in Ijebu Igbo, Ago Iwoye, Awa, Oru, and Ijebu North East settlements, namely, Erunwon, Iworo, Oke Aye, Atan, Idorunwon, and Odosenbora. We also registered our presence in Osun.
In all the states, we were received warmly. I really fell in love with our party’s symbol – the broom – on these trips. Market women, children, artisans, students, farmers and diverse other categories of Nigerians in the Yoruba states identified with us by brandishing their brooms, shouting “change!”, “say Buhari”, “say Osinbajo”. They struggled to collect posters from us and in a twinkle you could see them pasting these on every available pole, tree, and wall. Local chapters of the APC welcomed us with fanfare. In Saki, the Arewa community swarmed our convoy, waving tons of brooms, so hard that I could not come out of my car. In these places if the PDP was campaigning, the people were wont to ask for money from them because they knew the party had huge stocks of stolen public money. This has been the situation before Jonathan came to take it to the next level. But in our case, they demonstrated solidarity and conviviality. The campaigns, though strenuous, were fun. Thus it dawned on me that the man on the street in Yorubaland, whether in Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun or Lagos, has made up his mind to cast his vote on March 28, 2015 for the Buhari-Osinbajo ticket to make up the bloc votes the region was known for in the first, second, and third republics. This is the consensus.
Dr. Femi Olufunmilade is a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, and can be reached on email@example.com, and 08057345436.