As attention shifts to the 2023 general elections, the people of the South West geo-political zone have renewed their agitations to have the presidential ticket zoned to the region, TOPE SUNDAY writes.
In the last couple of weeks, the tempo of the debate on zoning of the presidency in 2023 has increased. The new trend is being championed by southerners in the two dominant political parties, the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The South West region has begun consultations with the formation of ‘The South-West Agenda’ by some politicians loyal to the former governor of Lagos, and the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The South West region is reportedly claiming that it had an unwritten agreement with the North when the APC was being formed, to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari after eight years in office.
The Afenifere declaration
In July 2020, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) declared that the Yoruba nation was ready to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari, come 2023, and called on prominent Yoruba leaders in the All Progressives Congress (APC) to urgently address the division among its ranks to ensure that the South-west region clinches the presidential ticket of the party.
The body’s publicity secretary in Ekiti state, Prince Michael Ogungbemi, while speaking with journalists, said the zone has both the human and material resources to prosecute its ambition, and asked the political leaders of the Yoruba nation to embark on consultations with a view to clinching the presidency.
He said: “ARG had met and we had concluded that the Yoruba nation is ready to lead Nigeria. We have a blueprint that we can present to any presidential candidate that can bring better democratic governance to all Nigerians. The South West is ready to take over, we have human and material resources. The political leaders must go on consultations. We have six geopolitical zones; South West is just a block.”
Ogungbemi specifically called on the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to lead the crusade, saying, “Tinubu must lead this bloc. Also, luckily, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is the NGF chairman, is from the South-West. They must move for a united family to clamour for the presidency for the South West and produce a unified front. If they can speak with one voice, we will actually clinch the ticket.
Barely four months after the Afenifere’s declaration, staunch supporters of the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, on December 16, 2020, in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, inaugurated a presidential campaign movement tagged, ‘The South-West Agenda’ in readiness for the 2023 presidency.
Ahead of the inauguration, a campaign committee led by the former Minister of Works, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, from Ekiti state, had visited the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, for prayers in their respective palaces.
Though, Tinubu was absented from the event, his political allies and disciples like the former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro; Chairman, Planning Committee of SWAGA 2023, Senator Adeyeye, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, representing Oyo South Senatorial District; former House of Representatives member, Otunba Abayomi Ogunnusi, all attended the event.
Speaking at the event, Adeyeye said: “For the discerning mind, 2023 election is already on the front burner of national discourse. The discussion right now everywhere in the country is about what should and should not happen in 2023. That being the case, it is imperative that we should be part of it.
“We are asking him (Tinubu) to come out and we are asking the entire people of the South-West to rally round him to make him the next president of Nigeria. Every geo-political zone in the South has the right to produce a candidate, but the one that works harder would emerge. Don’t forget, all the citizens of Nigeria will vote to choose the next president.”
Yoruba monarchs route for Tinubu
In what looks like the royal blessings to the South West Agenda for 2023 presidency, the traditional rulers in Remo Division of Ogun state have promised to support what they called “the Southwest Agenda in 2023”.
The Akarigbo and paramount ruler of Remo land, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, who called for unity in Yoruba land, said there is strength in unity and cohesion.
He spoke during the visit of members of the South West Agenda for Senator Bola Tinubu (SWAGA) at his palace.
He described the 2023 presidential ambition of Asiwaju Tinubu as a cause for stakeholders in South West, urging them ‘to gird their loins’.
Oba Ajayi said: “As far as Remo land is concerned, Asiwaju Tinubu’s cause is our cause. His agenda is our agenda. It is a matter of must. We will support Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu towards realising his ambition.”
Ekiti gov’s endorsement
While the former governor of Lagos state, Tinubu’s loyalists are rooting for him, the allies of the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, also endorsed him to contest for president in 2023.
Both Tinubu and Fayemi are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Fayemi was endorsed in December, 2020, during a programme organised by a chieftain of the APC, Olusegun Osinkolu, for 1,000 members of the party in Ekiti North senatorial district.
Speaking at the programme, the Ekiti state APC caretaker committee chairman, Paul Omotoso said Mr Fayemi is competent enough to be the flag bearer of the ruling party following his commitment to good governance.
Omotoso, who was represented by APC publicity secretary in the state, Ade Ajayi, said 2023 is Ekiti’s turn and the best candidate is Fayemi.
He said: “Ekiti would no longer play second fiddle in the South West’s politics. On the 2023 presidency, the time has come for president to come from Ekiti. That is why we are pleading with you to support governor Fayemi.”
“Though Governor Fayemi has never said he wanted to contest, we will force him to plunge into the race, because of his competence, dedication, and loyalty to APC.”
Fayose declares intention
Two members of the APC from the South West are being touted for presidency–Tinubu and Fayemi. But while appearing on one of the AIT’s programmes recently, the immediate past governor of Ekiti state, Mr Ayo Fayose, tactically announced his intention to run for the presidential election on the platform of the PDP.
He said: “The office of the president is a noble one and I will love to be the president of Nigeria if the opportunity permits”.
In January, 2021, the incumbent and former Houses of Assembly speakers across the South West geopolitical zone endorsed the 2023 presidential aspiration of former governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu, in 2023.
Rising from a meeting in Ibadan, Oyo state, the Lagos Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, formally introduced the Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) Foundation and Movement to the gathering.
The speakers, who were up to 20, at a meeting in Ibadan, agreed on some far-reaching resolutions to actualise Tinubu’s presidential aspiration.Obasa, who convened the meeting, said the BAT Foundation was meant to break the shackles of poverty in Nigeria and create a coordinated humanitarian image for the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The North West speakers too…
Also last weekend, Speakers of States’ Houses of Assembly from North-west Nigeria reportedly endorsed Tinubu for president in the 2023 general elections.
A statement issued by media office of the Speaker of the Lagos Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, said the speakers pledged their support at a meeting held at Kano on last Friday.
A former speaker from Kano state, Abdullahi Yanshana, reportedly said: “95 per cent of the votes from Kano in 2023 will be in favour of the national leader of the APC”, the statement said.
Obasa said both the serving speakers and their predecessors in the North-West zone declared their support for Mr Tinubu as the successor to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.