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South-west and the ‘Afenifere trinity’

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When Yoruba leaders ‘tutored’ Buhari on people-oriented, balanced governance
The recent visit by Pa Ayo Fasanmi-led Afenifere to the Presidency could pass as an attempt by the Southwest leaders to avert a repeat of failed ‘Change’ agenda and ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari does not blow it the second time. The real import of the visit as an attempt at possible political restitution could be viewed against the backdrop of what transpired between the national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari’s inner men in the period spanning 2015 through 2019.

Despite the attempt to diminish the centrality of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s contributions to the electoral trouncing of octopus Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by then inchoate APC, most Nigerians believe that the former Lagos State governor was the owner of the vision, the deliverables on the ‘Change’ agenda, especially the performance strategies.

What the leaders of one of the two Afenifere factions did two days ago was therefore a bold move to bring to the table the Southwest’s compass for good governance, being the original custodians of progressive ideology.

Without doubt, the meeting could also be seen as a quick recapitulation of the essential ingredients of the ‘Next Level’ agenda and a reminder to President Buhari that time is running out on him again.

Past mistakes
BACK in 2015, a similar attempt by Tinubu and other stakeholders to sit down with Buhari to plot the performance graph and develop necessary timelines for the incoming APC administration to deliver on its lofty mandate was curtailed by the National Assembly leadership selection faux pas.

From the botched meeting at the International Conference Centre during which a straw poll would have been conducted to narrow down the principal officers of the National Assembly, to the serial failed attempts to uproot Dr. Bukola Saraki from his seat as Senate President, both Buhari and APC frittered the opportunity of its first term in office to make the difference.

Having lost the opportunity to structure the National Assembly leadership for united action on the ‘Change’ agenda, the second-guessing and policy implementation flip-flops became a common feature of the administration.

Delays in appointing and screening ministerial nominees dovetailed to budget delays, just as Mr. President carried on as a sole administrator. And in the absence of a central clearing house for the ruling party and the government it formed, it was not easy for citizens to grasp the ‘Change’ they hungered and voted for.

Although the Buhari administration announced some achievements, most Nigerians failed to see them amounting to much and worthy of trumpeting. By the very organogram of the merger of erstwhile fringe opposition political parties that formed APC, while the former Congress for Progressives Congress (CPC) donated voting strength, the former Action Congress of Nigeria (AC.N) brought ideas and momentum to the table.

All that was disorganised by the internal schism between the ACN/CPC and the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) faction that joined APC at the twilight of its formation for the 2015 election.

Resort to Southwest ideology, five actionable points
IT could therefore be inferred that the visit of the Afenifere leaders to the Presidency last Tuesday was the culmination of plans to engineer policy restitution and set out a work plan cum job outline for Buhari’s second term and his soon-to-be-formed cabinet.

With the heft of the policy document unfurled at the meeting, the impression was created that the Southwest leaders ferried their progressive ideas to the centre to ensure that its decision to join the mainstream was not negated.

As it were, the five-point agenda distilled from the Afenifere leaders’ presentation revolved around the time-honoured progressive ideology of Southwest politics, including true federalism, state police, free and accessible education, youth empowerment and steady energy supply.

An unmistakable sign that the visit was to school the President on the rudiments of people-oriented governance was the demand on Buhari to increase the number of policemen and deploy them to the 774 local government councils of the country to stem the tide of insecurity.

It would be recalled that shortly after his inauguration as civilian president in 2015, Buhari toyed with the idea of engaging 10,000 policemen to enhance internal security and preservation of lives and property of Nigerians. That promise and directive could not be executed as the administration battled with the internal contradictions of the formation of APC and calculations for political relevance and visibility.

Coming at such a time when the President and APC leadership are running round in circle over the nomination of possible cabinet members, the Southwest leaders’ visit was strategic as it signposted the original purpose of the ‘Change’ promise that ushered in Buhari into office. Instructively the delegation, with the presentation made by Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, emphasised the need for true federalism to address the mounting structural challenges threatening the body fabric of the country.

While summarising the intendment of the delegation, Tinubu had told journalists: “We seriously recommend clinging to the spirit and letters of our federal constitution. This is one sure way of achieving the desired goals of unity even in diversity, mutual respect, tolerance and giving true meaning to the opening phrase of our constitution, that is, ‘we the people.’

“We will be a greater nation if we sincerely practice true federalism, think and act as Nigerians rather than as champions of the smaller units we were born into. Our big size is an asset worthy of preservation. Good examples of big size, hard work and prudent spending are the U.S., China and India. It is not with violence or hate speeches but with mutual trust, self-respect and tolerance that we will speedily achieve the lofty destiny of the great country, Nigeria.”

Restructuring, end of 97-5
RIGHT from the colloquium celebrating his 67 birthday, during which he called for a moratorium in taxation, Tinubu has been intervening in spectacular ways to balance the paranoid disposition of President, especially the deleterious effect of his 97 versus five percent ration for reward and recognition, which accentuated the polarisation of the country.

Perhaps in order to downplay the possible connotation of the visit as part of a programme of national outreach to advance speculated presidential ambition, Tinubu remained in the background. But it was obvious that as a political strategist, he knows instinctively that should Buhari blow this second opportunity, it would be near impossible to market APC or its candidates in 2023.

That could also be why true federalism, a by word for restructuring, featured prominently in the presentation, such that at the end of the day, it could be easy to isolate Buhari’s failure, if he were to fail again in his second term, from the political sagacity of the Southwest leaders in APC.

Apart from Pa Ayo Fasanmi and Tinubu, other eminent persons on the powerful delegation included Chief Segun Osoba, Senators Adedayo Adeyeye, Abiola Ajimobi, Elder Yemi Alade, Chief Kemi Nelson and Laoye Tomori among others, showed the political inclination of the visit.

President Buhari used the opportunity to render a kind of update on his anti-corruption fight, explaining that contrary to insinuations the action against former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, was on account of huge sums of money in foreign and domestic currencies the former CJN did not declare. He announced that his administration was recovering stolen properties, adding that such “proceeds of corruption recovered would be sold off to safeguard the possibility of subsequent administration from returning them to the looters.”

It was possible that the Afenifere leaders’ visit was packaged and intended to expand the President’s focus beyond anti-corruption fight and recovery of proceeds of graft. Tinubu offered what came off as an apt summary of the tutorial when he spoke to State House Correspondents.

He said: “The first step on the security of the country is to really see a way to stem any speech of hate, intolerance across the nation and look at the problem of security holistically and from the grassroots level. No matter what, we have nothing but one country and that is the only way we can stimulate growth and understanding among various nationalities. It is not by division; it is not by promoting religious conflict, religious differences…

“It takes time to train people; you equally create employment from such an action. I mean, employment for the people and strengthen security intelligence from the grassroots.’’Having broken down the various components of ‘Next Level’ agenda for President Buhari and knowing that a supportive federal bi-cameral legislature is in place to churn out appropriate legislations for the executive, the Afenifere leaders have left the ball on Mr. President’s court. What he does or does not do in the days to come, especially in the nomination and calibre of persons he nominates for his second term cabinet would show how far President Buhari has assimilated and was prepared to implement the Afenifere work plan.

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