WILL TINUBU WIN THE SOUTHWEST? By Victor Anazonwu

Politics

Those who say that the Tinubu-Shetima ticket will out rightly win the Southwest in Nigeria’s presidential elections, come February 2023, are either playing mind games or using the wrong analytical tools.

Word on the street is that most BATists (as Tinubu’s supporters are called) simply want to humor the old man until the very last minute. By then, the theory goes, they might have extracted a maximum chunk from Tinubu’s famously deep pockets. Then, they can safely jump ship with enough kept away for the difficult days that lie ahead for most APC stalwarts. Then, they can also claim that they were loyal to the Jagaban (almost) to the very end. So for them supporting Tinubu is an optical illusion. A performance strictly for the stage.Then there are those who say the Jagaban will win the Southwest, strictly on the assumption that since he is from the Southwest region by birth, he will naturally get block votes from his kinsmen. They say it is the way things have always been. I say they are miles from the truth.

I have lived in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, for nearly half of my life now. Most of my close friends, colleagues, associates and neighbors are ethnic Yoruba. They are very decent and broadminded people. The vast majority are scandalized by Tinubu’s candidacy in the 2023 polls. Apart from the fact that Tinubu represents the heart and soul of a failed APC which has brought the country to its knees, they are embarrassed that at allegedly over 80 years, Tinubu chose to run for office himself rather than support a younger, better candidate to attempt to fix the Buhari calamities. They know that Nigeria cannot survive another tenure under a leader who should be in a retirement home.

But you see, Yorubas are one of the most politically sophisticated and diplomatic people I know. They do not shout their grievances, especially with elders, from the rooftops. They show respect and courtesy. It’s in their DNA. If you vehemently insist on a certain point of view which they do not share, they will let you have your say while they quietly have their way.

Even at his imperial best, the Yoruba political elite always treated Tinubu with suspicion. When dining with him, they prefer to use very long spoons. He never got on well with Afenifere (the Yoruba socio cultural organization) or the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). Both organizations accuse the Asiwaju of infiltrating and sabotaging their leadership cadres solely to ensure his own political hegemony.

They know that Tinubu is way past his best before date. They know that though a master political strategist, Tinubu’s dodgy antecedents, Machiavellian style and current health status do not inspire genuine hope for a redemptive presidency in 2023. They know it is not really “their turn” to present the next Nigerian president, given that Obasanjo was in the saddle from 1999 to 2007, and Osibanjo has been VP since 2015. They know that APC has failed Nigerians and has no business contesting for the top job this term. They know that in choosing Tinubu over more suitable and sellable candidates like Osibanjo and Fashola, the APC did not exactly do the Southwest any favors.Afenifere chieftain Pa Ayo Adebanjo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, medical doctor-turned-politician Dr. Doyin Okupe, lawyers Dele Farotimi and Femi Falana, on-air personalities Rufai Oseni and Seun Okinbaloye, as well as PDP’s Chief Bode George are only the visible tip of a long arrow. They represent the true conscience of a Yoruba nation in search of redemption for self and other members of the beleaguered Nigerian family. They are firmly in the trenches with other Nigerians seeking to put APC to sleep for taking Nigeria for a ride.

They may choose APC in some other positions where the party presents outstanding candidates, but certainly, that does not include the presidency this time.

The Southwest is not a political monolith as many wrongly assume. It has never been. In the early 1960s, when Obafemi Awolowo was in his prime, SL Akintola who was Awolowo’s deputy, emerged as a symbol of Yoruba political plurality. He found sizable followership in what is today Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states.

In 1999, the region did not vote en masse for Olusegun Obasanjo, one of their own, who was propped up by the retreating military junta using PDP as a facade. They preferred his rival, Olu Falaye. Infact, Obasanjo lost his home state (Ogun) and electoral ward. He managed to gain some respectability in 2003, with so much effort as a sitting president.

Bola Tinubu’s Alliance for Democracy (AD) did not win the entire Southwest in 1999 either. Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti remained in “opposition hands” for years. Even today, Oyo is PDP, and APC (AD’s current incarnation) has only recently lost Osun. Ondo was for years under Olusegun Mimiko of Labor Party. Ekiti, a well known swing state, was until recently a PDP state.

Like other metropolises worldwide, Lagos is an ethnic, socio-cultural and ideological cocktail in which large migrant populations significantly dilute the indigenous stock. Not to mention that Lagos is home to one of the most highly enlightened and cosmopolitan demographics on the African continent. Ordinarily, this would significantly affect political outcomes leading to greater competition and diversity.

But through a disingenuous suppression of settler votes and a unique brand of state-sponsored thuggery, Lagos has remained under the clutches of one party since 1999. Even so, the margins of “victory” have been consistently thin. Today, thanks to recent electoral reforms, especially the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Authentication System (BVAS), there’s a real chance that the 2023 polls will be hard to manipulate. In which case the forecast that APC will sweep Lagos may be more myth than reality.

The only demographics in the Southwest still vociferously supporting Bola Tinubu’s presidential bid are direct beneficiaries from his political career. These include political appointees, bag-carriers, motor park touts, street urchins (area boys) and other highly compromised or poorly educated groups. They have been recruited (and rewarded) as part of a fading oligarchy.

Most of them are seeking to keep their meal tickets, nothing more. This is not unexpected. There is hunger in the land. But they do not by any stretch of imagination represent the mainstream of Yoruba or Southwestern political consciousness.

The Yoruba intelligentsia can be relied upon to join the rest of the country to do what is best for Nigeria when the day of the ballot comes. They have invested too much in the struggle for a new Nigeria to do otherwise.