By ‘Suyi Ayodele
THE Yoruba leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met in Lagos last week Friday with presidential aspirants of Yoruba stock. While the South-West APC leaders were busy with their prank they called a meeting, the APC at the national level, which in the last seven years of General Muhammadu Buhari presidency has become the nemesis of the nation, put a lie to one of the basic elementary governmental principles we were taught years back. I was tempted to ask my former secondary school Government teacher if he made a mistake, when he told us then that one of the characteristics of a civil servant is that “he must not be partisan”. Same Friday evening, the news broke on the social media platforms that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who goes by the alias, Mefi, has joined the presidential contest on the platform of the APC. That put an end to the months of speculation that the nation’s number one banker is interested in succeeding President Buhari in 2023. Months back, a group of individuals have been traversing the length and breadth of Nigeria, canvassing support for Emefiele. The same individuals were said to have picked the N100 million expression of interest and nomination forms for the CBN Governor. The indignation that greeted the news was drowning enough. From the political camps to the legal profession, everyone who commented on the matter described the act as not just perfidious, but one that cannot be justified.
Leading one of such condemnation, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, also of the APC, said it “is a joke taken too far”. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, turned governor said that while “Emefiele enjoys a constitutionally protected right to belong to any group or association and participate fully, just as any Nigerian, it is, however, difficult to imagine that a person who occupies the exalted and sensitive office of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria will be this brazen in actualizing his ambition”. He cited the Public Service Rules, CBN Act, and the 1999 Constitution, as amended, pointed out “the oddity inherent in this brash exercise of presumed right to associate”. Akeredolu added that such “also confirms the illegality of the act should he proceed to submit the forms while occupying the seat as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria”. The governor therefore called on Emefiele to immediately resign his appointment as CBN Governor or be given the boot by his appointing authority, President Buhari. The CBN’s reaction was to distance himself from the “Friends of Emefiele” and “Emefiele Support Group”, who were said to have purchased the forms on his behalf. He went further to say that if indeed he would contest, “I will use my own hard earned savings to buy my own nomination forms. I will do so without proxies, in an open and transparent manner in full compliance with the laws and Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria”. The only take away from Emefiele’s latest stance is the fact that integrity is in short supply in the country.
Pray, what has the CBN Governor done since the “Friends of Emefiele” and “Emefiele Support Group”, broke loose to campaign for him? Did he not see the fleet of vehicles, branded and draped with his campaign collateral on display all over the place? How does Emefiele rate the collective intelligence of Nigerians? What is his reaction to the position of the APC Ward Chairman of Ward 6, Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, Mr. Nduka Erikpume, who announced that Emefiele registered as a member in February 2021? If he registered as APC member in 2021, to achieve what purpose? Manage the central purse of the party? Who briefed Mike Ozekhome, SAN, to go to court yesterday, Monday, May 9, 2022 to restrain INEC from preventing the CBN Governor from his presidential ambition? We can see where the problems of the country lie – insincere leadership structure. Truth is that an average Nigerian leader thinks Nigerians don’t think and that we cannot even see through the shenanigans they dish out to us on a daily basis. In a normal clime, a person of Emefiele will not wait the next second before he will send in his letter of resignation the very moment his committee of friends began the campaign to make him the president. That is the noble, ideal and moral thing to do. Like Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, asked, Emefiele, as a card-carrying member of the APC, “is under the national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu. As a member of the party, he is also under the secretary of the party, Iyiola Omisore. How does a person regulating the activities of banks become a servant to politicians, who have disputes with these banks and have loans hanging on their necks”? But who will answer the question? How are we even sure that President Buhari is aware that his CBN governor is also running? If the man who holds our central purse is battling with an issue of moral integrity, do we need to wonder again why our economy has not risen above the valley?
If I had taken the bet, I would have been some hundreds of thousands of Naira richer by now. Betting, otherwise known in my local parlance as kalokalo (literally swallow and vomit), cost me some whacks of cane in my formative years. That scene played again in my head when the offers were made; and I had a rethink. But I was dead sure that I would be right at the end of the day. My instincts told me I was right. The situation on the ground pointed to the fact that my argument was valid. The outcome indeed proved me right. I missed the money though but I earned the respect of my “co-debaters”. We got into arguments over the last Friday meeting called by the South-West leaders of the APC. I have been an advocate of getting the Yoruba leaders to intervene in the ongoing presidential campaigns among the sons of the region. I believe that the number of aspirants from the zone would be injurious to the aspiration to have a Yoruba as president in the 2023 general election. The south, generally, I had pointed out here on this page, is not standing on firm ground as far as 2023 is concerned. And that is where my co-debaters got it wrong. They mistook my call on Yoruba leaders for APC leaders. I tried to tell them that the Yoruba APC leaders are not necessarily Yoruba leaders. I argued that Baba Bisi Akande and Baba Segun Osoba are worthy leaders in their own rights. But the duo cannot do what I envisaged for the Yoruba leaders to do. I tried to project that many Yoruba outside APC are not likely to listen to the two former governors. I submitted too that even within the APC, there are some elements that will never honour any agreement brokered by the two statesmen. My strongest point is that no matter the situation in the Oduduwa Kingdom, when the chips are down, the Yoruba nation knows its leaders.
Trust the gentlemen; they would not budge. They would not agree that the APC Yoruba leaders’ meeting with Yoruba presidential aspirants in APC, held at the Marina House, Lagos, last Friday, would be a mere cosmetic approach to the drumbeat of self-defeat the party has been dancing to in the last two months or so. One of them was so particularly sure that at the end of the meeting, there would be “a directive to the younger ones to step down for their leader”. I was shocked by that level of reasoning. I asked who among the aspirants is less than 50 years of age? One answered that I should understand that “in Yoruba land, once a person is older than you by just one month, he is your ‘egbon’ and you cannot struggle with him. Just wait and see what will happen on Friday”. Another suggested that if I was sure that the meeting would achieve nothing, “put your money where your mouth is. Let us take a bet”. Shockingly enough, the other two guys agreed with him and they mentioned some hundreds of thousands of Naira. The three agreed that they would each contribute the money while I would only pay for just one slot. I saw good free money. Then I remembered the admonition against gambling in my cradle. I asked them to keep their money but assured them that they would know how close they were to losing their hard earned money later. We ended the debate.
The meeting has come and gone. The outcome is as I predicted. No concrete things was achieved. Baba Akande and Baba Osoba are two experienced leaders in life and in politics. They know that in Yoruba land, you don’t ask a child not to aspire to the chieftaincy title of his family. That was why at the end of the meeting, nobody could mention the idea of someone stepping down for another. Nobody gave “a directive to the younger ones to step down for their leader”. In fact, the meeting affirmed that the present political arrangement is akin to when hunters go a-hunting for game and they succeed in killing a squirrel. Nobody uses age to share the squirrel venison killed in a hunting expedition- ko si agba nigbo okere. The meeting, according to Saturday Tribune of May 7, 2022, “affirms the right of all aspirants to contest”. The paper added: “Chief Akande who briefed the press after the 2-hour meeting said the South-West chapter of the party was united on the presidency coming to the zone in 2023. He added that all those in attendance at the meeting had a fruitful discussion. He refused to entertain further questions from newsmen. It was, however, gathered that the meeting affirmed the right of all aspirants to contest the elections while advising them to be civil in their campaigns”, as Saturday Tribune reported it. I was not disappointed! I knew the meeting would not go beyond the surface. The issues involved are too deep and combustive. An old wise man would stylishly run away from a rampaging cow. How they intend to achieve the agreement that the presidency must come from the zone in 2023 still remains a mystery.
I called up my “co-debaters”. They are complete gentlemen. They all expressed their shock. I asked them if they saw Dimeji Bankole and Pastor Tunde Bakare, both presidential aspirants, at the meeting. They asked me who I thought could resolve the logjam for the Yoruba Race. I answered by asking them who our leaders are. We ended the discussions; all of us were more confused than when we started the debate. That is our lot as a zone for now. The APC primary is some days away. Our political field in the South-West is as rowdy as a Portuguese parliament. No direction, no rallying point; every aspirant is running around like a headless fowl. Our elders warn that our inability to concede leadership to a single person will make life difficult for all of us. Whatever happens to the “next president must come from South-West” affirmation should be blamed on those who destroyed the Yoruba leadership base for their personal ambitions. Now they have come to realise that a knife which destroys its pouch invariably destroys its home. Maybe at the end of this course, we would have learned a lesson. May posterity judge all of them accordingly. So long for Yoruba and its politics of “Orogun Adedigba”- unending home rivalry.
(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, May 10, 2022)