S’West Comes into Play as APC Yoruba Leaders, PDP Mull Options


• Opposition party considers zoning vice-presidency to region

Tobi Soniyi

As 2019 draws near, some South-west leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are considering a number of options, including but not limited to an alternative political platform to the APC, in which to pitch their tent.

This is just as some of their counterparts in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who have been campaigning nationwide to emerge chairman of the party at its elective convention may have their dreams truncated, as the PDP is now believed to be considering rezoning the post to either the South-south or South-east geopolitical zones of the country, in order to pave the way for the South-west zone to get the vice-presidential slot of the party going into the 2019 elections.

Working under the shadow of what they have termed the “Yoruba Agenda”, several APC South-west leaders are said to be dissatisfied with the way the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has treated its leader, Bola Tinubu, who doubles as the National Leader of the APC and was one of those instrumental to the establishment of the party and delivering the zone to the APC in the 2015 elections, THISDAY has learnt.
Under the new arrangement, leaders of the APC in various states are expected to take charge since Tinubu, whom they all used to look up to, has in recent months appeared to be more and more subdued and may have decided to back Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.

Tinubu, they also believe, has lost grip of the stranglehold he once had in the South-west, especially outside Lagos State.
Pointing to his inability to foist his candidate in the Ondo governorship election a year ago, his whittled down influence in Ogun and Oyo States, and uncertainty over his role in the Osun governorship election slated for next year, certain stalwarts of the APC have moved in to fill the void.
Names like a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, former acting National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande, and a former Ekiti State governor, Chief Niyi Adebayo, among others, are being touted to take charge in their respective states.

An impeccable source told THISDAY that another issue motiving the Yoruba leaders of the APC is that they feel let down by President Buhari, given the role of the region in the 2015 elections.
He said: “Buhari has let the Yorubas down. Even if he rolls out board appointments now, we see it as a bait to railroad everybody. He wants to buy our support only to turn against us later. We are not fooled.”
He explained that since they have made it impossible for the Yorubas to operate in the APC and with the manner Tinubu has been treated, there may be no future for a lot of them in the party.

According to him, the concept of the Yoruba Agenda is about exploring their options, including seeking an alternative political platform, possibly the Alliance for Democracy (AD), under which they would operate.
Also, beyond the options being tinkered with by some APC leaders in the South-west is the broader Yoruba agenda to have a strong platform through which they can actualise their desire for the restructuring of the country.
The agenda is non-partisan and has the backing of the leading Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, which has been at the vanguard for the restructuring of the country.

Another source said that several Yoruba leaders in the party had expected that the National Caucus and National Executives Committee (NEC) meetings of the APC held last month in Abuja would have provided the perfect opportunity to voice their concerns and had they failed to extract certain promises, including pushing for the removal of the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the leaders of the South-west would have revolted.
However, they were surprised when Tinubu failed to convey the disappointment of the South-west during the National Caucus and NEC meetings.

Should the plan to break away to another party that could serve the interest of the South-west be actualised, this would not auger well for the APC which is an amalgam of about five political parties.
Already, said the source, managing the disparate interests of the parties has proved to be very difficult.
The thinking in the South-west is that without the support of the region, the APC might have problems winning the presidency, given the near absence of support for the party in the South-south and South-east geopolitical zones.
An APC leader in Ogun State said that nothing was certain yet but that it would be foolhardy for the Yorubas if they do not have a Plan B.

Although the APC NEC meeting passed a vote of confidence on Oyegun, followers of the party in the South-west do not approve of the way he has been running the party.
“They merely allowed the president to have his way,” a leader of the party said.
He also said that had the party adopted Buhari as its presidential candidate for 2019 during the NEC meeting, APC would have been thrown into confusion especially in the South-west.

However, another APC source explained that Tinubu might have other plans up his sleeve, coupled with the fact that it would be difficult for him to oppose Buhari because of his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo.
Another factor that may be paramount to Tinubu, said the source, is the fact that dumping Buhari at this juncture and supporting another Northern candidate for the presidency would mean that the North could end up remaining at the helm of affairs, possibly till 2027.
But if Tinubu and others back Buhari in 2019, this will improve the chances of the South-west zone securing the presidential ticket of the APC in 2023.

“If Tinubu abandons Buhari to back another candidate from North, that means he will be going against Osinbajo. Also, it would amount to handing over the presidency to the North for 12 years because there is a major likelihood that another Northern president may seek a second term in office, come 2023.
“But if Tinubu does not rock the boat and sticks with Buhari, then the South-west will be in the front of the pack to get the ticket of the APC in 2023,” he explained.

The president of late appears to have changed tactics by trying to woo disenchanted elements of his party to his side, with many interpreting this sudden change in disposition to the reality of 2019 elections.
During the NEC meeting, Buhari had promised to appoint more ministers to his cabinet and fill the vacancies on federal government boards with party stalwarts who have been aggrieved that they had been abandoned after working to unseat the PDP and deliver the presidency to Buhari.

Also last Friday, the president assured religious leaders and Nigerians that his administration would address rising concerns of corruption, insecurity and injustices in various parts of the country.
But many in his party see the new promises as a bait to get them to support his 2019 presidential bid.
In the case of PDP, THISDAY learnt that the party may be seriously thinking of jettisoning the zoning of the chairmanship post to the South-west zone and instead zoning it to either the South-south or South-east.

Should the PDP alter the zoning formula, this would improve the chances of a former Deputy National Chairman of the party Chief Uche Secondus, and the Chairman of DAAR Communications, Chief Ramond Dokpesi, who intend to contest for the post, irrespective of the subsisting zoning arrangement.
A party source explained that the reason the PDP is having a change of heart on the current zoning arrangement is so that the party can select a vice-presidential candidate from the South-west.

He said the thinking among party stalwarts is that by fielding a Northern candidate for the presidency and a running mate from the South-west, this will improve PDP’s chances in the 2019 elections.
“The South-west zone remains very critical to any of the parties going into 2019, and as it stands, we will be better off with a Northern presidential candidate, which is not in contention, and a running mate from the South-west.
“This means that we will be evenly matched with the APC and go into the contest seeking to split the votes in the South-west,” he explained.