The race for the 2019 general elections has started gathering momentum across the country and the South- West is no exception. On Monday, some Yoruba leaders gathered in Lagos and adopted the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the preferred candidate of the zone. WALE ELEGBEDE reports
They came from all the six states of the South-West, namely; Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos and Ondo with the intent to speak about one thing – the future of the Yoruba people in the Nigerian context. They never failed to mince words and at the end of the day they reached a consensus. Moving a motion after hours of intense deliberations, a former Commissioner of Agriculture in Lagos State, Dr. Remi Akintoye, urged the gathering to consider the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the zone’s adopted candidate in the face of the “failures” of the current administration.
With the level of disdain already expressed by the various speakers at the event on the state of the country, it didn’t require a rocket science to know that the motion would be unanimously adopted by the participants at the colloquium. They principally based their support on Atiku on his promise of restructuring.
Whilst it is not clear how the restructuring accord was sealed between the Yoruba leaders and Atiku, not a few think that the Yoruba nation would be shortchanged once again like it had always been. But the likes of the National Vice-Chairman, South-West (PDP), Dr. Eddy Olafeso; former National Secretary, Chief Ebenezer Babatope; PDP Chairman in Lagos, Dr. Adegbola Dominic and his Action Democratic Party (ADP) counterpart, Barr. Adewole Bolaji, assured that the restructuring deal with the former vice president have been signed, sealed and delivered. Also with that mindset at the parley were the PDP governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and his running mate, Mrs. Haleemat Busari; ADP candidate, Babatunde Gbadamosi; PDP governorship candidate in Oyo State, Engr. Seyi Makinde; former Minister of Solid Minerals, Mrs. Modupe Adelaja and Senate Minority Leader, Abiodun Olujimi.
Others were foremost historian and Second Republic senator, Prof. Banji Akintoye; Dr. Remi Akintoye; Senator Kofoworola Bucknor- Akerele; Chief Aderibigbe Shittu; Alhaji Bayo Lawal; Dr. Saka Balogun; Mogaji Gboyega Adejuwon; Erelu Olusola Obada and Chief Sunday Oguntade, among others. Aside from restructuring, the leaders premised their choice of Atiku in the 2019 elections on the current high cost of living in the country, poverty, religion and ethnic divisions, among others. They also insisted that Atiku has provided answers to the questions of the race. Although the leaders were mostly PDP faithful and their sympathizers, it was obvious that they believed the zone has experienced more challenges, just as it has equally been pulled backwards in terms of socio-economic progress under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, contrary to what it was during the 16-year reign of PDP.
The leaders, who flayed the incumbent administration for running a government based on ethnic agenda and sentiment as well as its failure in providing necessary security since 2015, also concluded that the coming elections is a big opportunity for the region to rescue itself by voting right. The well-attended forum tagged: ‘South West: Yesterday, Today and the Challenges of 2019’ and put together by former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, first observed a minute silence for the late leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun. In his opening remarks, Olafeso said the glory of the Yoruba nation, which he described as one of the finest civilizations in the world is waning and called on all sons and daughters of the zone to work together to arrest the drift. Speaking in his capacity as the father of the day, Prof. Akintoye said the Yoruba nation is going through a high degree of poverty, hopelessness, but expressed confidence that the people will rise and fight the endemic poverty and hopelessness bedeviling them. His words: “Many may not think or feel so, but Yoruba civilization is endangered. It is endangered to the extent that the country to which we belong is endangered.
It is not part of Yoruba to surrender to failure or poverty, but at present, we are going through a degree of poverty, hopelessness and failure that we have never seen before. So, the onus is on us to fight until we achieve success and overcome.” While arguing that the way to go about it is not through war or destruction, Akintoye said looking at all the indices of development, “Nigeria is lagging behind, likewise the Yoruba nation. And we have the right and responsibilities to use everything to defend our land, our families and our treasures and provide opportunities for our people.” He declared that the coming election provides a good opportunity for the South-West to redefine its destiny. In his presentation titled, “2019: The South-West Speaks,” George emphasised the need for Yoruba people to unite and forgive one another if they must make any meaningful achievement in the coming election.
He also insisted that the Yoruba race must never negotiate on the purity of restructuring. According to him, the South- West should critically assess their fortunes under APC since 2015 and PDP government to draw a conclusion on which of the parties to vote for next year. He said: “The Yoruba people will never negotiate on the purity of restructuring.
This federation as presently constituted is skewed, disproportionately unfair in the distribution of the national wealth. We insist on a balanced, equitable expanse where every section of the Nigerian society will be free and unhindered in the cultivation of their natural resources. “As it is now, the centre is wielding too much power to the detriment of those who produce the abundant wealth of the Nigerian nation.
This is unfair, untoward, destabilizing and anchored on a wobbly totality. Such drunkenly leaning apparatus cannot long endure. It will invariably tumble into a chaotic abyss and self-destruct.” He, therefore, charged the South-West zone to vote for the candidate with a strong agenda and determination to restructure the country. In her address, Olujimi said the Yoruba should take their rightful place in politics in 2019 and stop being given just what was left. She also urged all leaders to always ensure the rights of the South-West are protected in the Nigerian union. On the 2019 elections, the Senate Minority Leader urged President Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as that will help preparations for the elections and promote a successful conduct.
“The PDP presidential flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has indicated commitment to restructure. We must prevail on Buhari to sign the amendment to Electoral Act into law otherwise it means somebody has an ulterior agenda for the 2019 elections. If it is signed into law that is when 2019 election will be free and fair,” she said. On his part, Okunronmu, who was the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference, said Nigerians had not fared well under APC and expressed belief that the PDP will address the issues in the country if elected.
“I am not a member of any political party, but I believe between APC and PDP, the PDP is the only party that can deliver Nigeria and take it out of the woods,” he said Babatope, who also spoke, said Nigerians must reject the poverty syndrome, which the ruing APC has been distributing across the country since 2015, just as he called for the rejection of those trying to sell Yoruba nation cheap because of selfish gains. For Erelu Olusola Obada, who was a former deputy governor of Osun State, Yoruba land has been hopelessly plundered under Buhari and the only way out is to vote for Atiku, who has promised to restructure the country. “Some people are playing game with the challenges of the country and that is the reason 2019 is critical to Yoruba people because we are going to be the deciding factor,” she said.
Former deputy governor of Lagos State, Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Buknor, accused some Yoruba elite, saying they are traitors and that they have collaborated with other ethnic nationalities to betray their kinsmen. She said unless Nigeria is restructured, Yoruba risk being eternally displaced from their land considering what has happened in the last few years.
Former Minister of Mines and Power, Elder Wole Oyelese said: “Yoruba nation must concentrate on how to liberate itself from where it is currently sold to politically. Our present experience is signifying that if we fail to amend our ways, the younger generation will not care.” Although the endorsement is not total across the six states of the zone, it is only left to be seen what the adoption will translate to at the February 16, 2019 presidential election.
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