Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: The Yoruba and Their Self-Marginalisation

Aside from the fractionalization of the PDP in the South-West, which has affected the fortunes of the zone, Yoruba leaders and elders appear to be staunchly divided among themselves

At a press conference in Ibadan last Wednesday, Yoruba elders, under the aegis of Yoruba Unity Forum, YUF, accused President Goodluck Jonathan of favouring other sections of the country to the detriment of the South-West geo-political zone in the appointment of top government officials. According to the group, the marginalisation of the zone in the current political equilibrium, particularly in the distribution of political positions, "is an attempt to excise the zone out of the federation". The elders alleged that the President's pattern of appointments, with no consideration for the Yoruba, suggested that Jonathan did not appreciate the contribution the Yoruba people made to his emergence as the president in the 2011 general election.

Olu Falae, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the Yoruba were sidetracked in the appointment and control of the apex political offices. He gave a rundown of such plum appointments as that of the President; Vice-President; Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives; Chief Justice of the Federation, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives; acting President, Court of Appeal; Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Chief of Staff to the President; Office of the National Security Adviser; and Head of Service of the Federation. He noted that none of these offices was being occupied by a Yoruba person and that the absence of Yoruba in the current power equation, had adversely affected the zone.

Falae went further to justify the need for the President to redress these anomalies. He said, "In the days of the late President Umar Yar'Adua administration when he was incapacitated by illness and there was reluctance to make Jonathan acting President, it was predominantly Yoruba activists who led the march on the National Assembly to force our lawmakers to pronounce Jonathan acting President. When he chose to run for the presidency, he got the enthusiastic endorsement of many Yoruba progressives, especially the leadership of Yoruba Unity Forum..."

While Falae was lamenting the marginalisation of the Yoruba in Ibadan, simultaneously on the same day, leaders of the South-West states converged on Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, at the opening ceremony of the regional Grassroots Business and Investments Forum christened EXPO 2013. There, the leaders called on all the governments and people to join hands in building a prosperous zone. Prince Bola Ajibola, a former Attorney General of the Federation, who was chairman at the ceremony, said political tendencies should be de-emphasized in plotting the road to the future. He said the achievements of governors in the zone in the recent time were good enough to attract investments to their states.

The two governors in attendance - Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo - toed the same lines. Of particular reference was the view canvassed by Ajimobi that the issue at stake transcends party politics. According to him, "This is not about party politics. It is about governance. It is about the region. Each of the states has an area of strength. What we need is to develop areas of comparative advantage for the overall interest of our people."

Ajimobi enumerated the benefits accruable from regional integration to include "consensus-based decision-making processes, elimination of conflict and unhealthy rivalry, holistic articulation and effective mobilisation of varieties of resources, and the utilisation of community resources to facilitate optimal delineation of development roles among the integrating units."

Looking at the current political dispensation in the country as it relates to the sharing of political offices, one cannot but agree with the views and fears expressed by Falae. It is apparent that the Yoruba has lost out in the political calculations of the current rulers in the country. But the reasons may not be far-fetched. In the first instance, the PDP, the ruling party at the centre, was overwhelmingly humiliated in the last general election held in 2011. The loss of the party, no doubt, was due to the desire for change by the people of the South-West who were obviously fed up with the misrule, brigandage and shenanigans of the leaders of the PDP in the zone between 2003 and 2011.

That era witnessed a free-for-all 'buffet' on the common wealth of the zone by those in power without any appreciable thing to show for the depletion of the resources at their disposal. As it is always canvassed under democratic rule, the only legitimate weapon available for a traumatized people is to use their voting power to right whatever perceived wrong wrought on them. And this was exactly what happened at the 2011 election. That election saw the PDP losing its grips on such states in the South-West as Oyo and Ogun. Before then, Osun and Ekiti States had also slipped away from the dominant PDP.

By the loss of almost all the states of the South-West to the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, with the exception of Ondo State, which is currently under the control of the Labour Party, it was clear that the people had resoundingly rejected the PDP. Perhaps, in simple terms, this was a matter of choice of which party the zone wanted to entrust its destiny. Today, the price the zone has to pay for that decision is its obvious marginalisation by the party at the centre in the scheme of things. This situation is buoyed by the intractable internal wrangling that has pervaded and further decimated the ranks of the PDP leadership in the zone. Anywhere you turn; there are several factions and groups within the party contesting for the control of power. To put it succinctly, the party is at 'war' with itself in the zone.

Of course, the other political zones have reaped bountifully from the burgeoning confusion in the zone with the attendant collateral damage. It is astonishing to note that the leaders of the PDP in the zone do not only quarrel among themselves, they also use the schism among them to run down their members when it comes to political patronage at the centre. Not only this. When it comes to the matter of appointments to choice political offices, the zone has never presented a common front. All manners of interplay of forces, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, are brought to the fore whenever the opportunity to present a qualified and capable individual for appointive office at the centre, comes up. The consequence of this and many others is the glaring maginalisation of the zone in the scheme of things.

Aside from the fractionalization of the PDP in the South-West, which has affected the fortunes of the zone, Yoruba leaders and elders appear to be staunchly divided among themselves. For quite some time now, the zone has witnessed the formation of several groups with each group jostling for the control of the zone. And there is no need to start mentioning names here. The effect is that this also has an overbearing implication on the fortunes of the zone. This stems from the fact that members of these pluralistic groups are, in many instances, fighting for individual spoils rather than regional or group interests, as the case may be.

Therefore, the irony inherent in what took place simultaneously last week, in both Ibadan and Oshogbo, which is less than one hour drive in-between, is a sort of self-manipulation of a people by the people themselves. Otherwise, how do you explain the staging of a strategic economic summit that is targeted at the development of a region in one part of it, and another gathering on the present and future of the same region on the same day and perhaps, the same time elsewhere within the zone? If not self- marginalisation, what else?

At any rate, there is the need for Yoruba leaders and elders of the zone to go back to the drawing board and fashion out new strategies to realize the aspirations of the zone. A starting point is the bond of unity which must exist among them!

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