WE have almost three clear years to go into the next General elections in Nigeria but as any discerning analyst would have learnt by now, Nigerian politicians will never be found wanting to display their legendary hunger and their incredibly expansive penchant for infamy and mischief so much so that they have begun holding subterranean and covert strategy sessions with the presidential project of the year 2015 in mind.
Only few weeks ago, the 2011 presidential candidate of the North West dominated Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) held a close door political parley in the Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos residence of the leader of the South West dominated Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the presidential election that is three clear years away in perspective.
The incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who belongs to the political party in power at the federal level -the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has used the opportunity offered him by the celebration or the May 29th Democracy Day to strike a master stroke by naming one of the Federal Universities located in the South West Nigeria- the University of Lagos after the memory of the late Chief Moshood Kashimayo Abiola who was the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993 presidential election, which was illegally annulled by the military dictatorship of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
The late Chief Abiola who was larger than life was renowned for his legendary philanthropy and his incurable love for sports. When the then Social Democratic Party (SDP) featured him as the presidential candidate in the 1993 poll conducted by the then military leader, General Babangida, a man who never planned to hand over power to civilians in the first place, he had little or no opposition from virtually the entire South West and his political tentacles and influence spread as far as Northern and South Eastern political blocs came in handy which made it easier for him to emerge as the top favourite even when he fielded another Muslim like himself, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe from Borno State as his running mate.
But late General Sani Abacha who took over power after a military palace coup that unseated the then civilian interim Head of Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan failed to hand over power to Chief Moshood Abiola and he consequently died in detention of suspected tea poisoning barely one month after the then military dictator, General Abacha reportedly died of natural causes. General Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar (rtd) was the military Head of State at the time that Chief Abiola was suspected to have died from tea poisoning while in detention in Abuja.
The military Government denied this version of the story preceding Abiola's unfortunate demise in state detention facility. But the late Abiola was known to have collapsed and died after he took tea that was allegedly presented to him by the current United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a well known Central Intelligence Agency's top flight chieftain-Miss Condoleezza Rice who was visiting Nigeria to mediate in the political impasse that followed the illegal annulment of the June 12th 1993 presidential election and the prolonged detention of the presumed winner, Chief Abiola.
Chief Abiola is respected as a political martyr who a lot of Nigerians from across every progressive and even conservative ideological schools of thought believed was killed to forestall a possible take-over of the Federal Government through a democratically free, fair and transparent manner because of the possibility that since he had the true love of the masses at heart, he may be compelled to introduce some revolutionary initiatives that may undermine the overall political objectives of the elite who are interested in protecting their business and political empires.
Till date, forget the reported students' protest over the renaming of the University of Lagos, Chief Abiola is still perceived as a well acclaimed political messiah who was stopped in his tracks before he actually emerged on the centre stage of Nigeria's politics. I strongly disagree with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Abiola's clans man who shortly before the military cabal dominated by Northerners railroaded him into the presidential position in Abuja, who stated that the late Abiola was not after all a political messiah.
Prior to 1993 and/or the emergence of the late Chief Abiola on the political stage, the
South West region has always played the role of the beautiful bride for most presidential or federal office seekers because of the unique political tendencies of the majority of the electorate who come from that geo-political area.
In the First Republic, shortly before the pogrom and genocide against the Igbos in Northern Nigeria by riotous crowds in the early 1960's, the South West region was the cynosure of all political eyes of all those who sought to dominate the federal political scene but the refusal and/or failure of the then Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group (AG) to go into political alliance with the Northern dominated Northern People’s Congress (NPC) compelled the temporary and/or informal marriage of inconvenience between the later and the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe-led National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and a small fraction of South West politicians led by Chief Samuel Akintola.
The exclusion of the Action Group was viewed during the ill-fated First Republic as the exclusion of the entire South West region from the centre of politics in Nigeria. The First Republic collapsed under the heavy weight of political machinations, scheming for power, subterfuge and contest for power by the leading actors of that infamous political era.
Like what obtains now in Nigeria, the First Republic collapsed for the aforementioned systemic ills, which were captured by a foreign journalist, Dilian D. Graft who recorded it in a special book publication titled "Politics/leaders and issues", a Daily Times Publication, according to an account reported by a university teacher Dr. Ndubusi Acha. The foreign journalist wrote thus; "The story of the initial promise and prospects of the First Republic and its subsequent floundering as a result of accumulated problems of corruption, patronage, disunity, sectionalism, factionalism, primordialism, and many others have often been told..."
The foreign journalist and political historian also recorded other reasons for the collapse of the First Republic as follows; "Indeed what is surprising about Nigeria's First democratic regime is not the fact that it went under after only five years, but that it was able to survive as long as it did. Notably lacking was an overriding sense of nationhood...."
Is anybody in doubt that politicians in our own time are busy scheming for prime positions and competing for which of the political platforms will carry the overwhelming votes of the entire region and especially the South West that is arguably the political beautiful bride even as the nation's economy is on the brinks of collapse and the state of insecurity has reached feverish dimension? Was is not only recently that the 85 year old Chef Edwin Clark, the regional political leader of the Ijaws in the oil rich Niger Delta from where Goodluck Jonathan hails, confirmed to doubting Thomases including Goodluck Jonathan himself that the incumbent President will vie for the Presidential slot in 2015?
So the renaming of the University of Lagos after the late democracy martyr, Chief Abiola is a clearly calculated political master stroke executed by President Jonathan to curry political favour from the South West in the next two and a half years when he is expected to face the biggest challenge to his presidential ambition especially from the Northern region that clearly believes that Jonathan usurped its turn after he succeeded the late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua who died while in office in May 2010.
I am in no way shocked to hear from those close to the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja that the protest by some students of the University of Lagos against the decision of President Jonathan to rename their famous UNILAG to reflect the name of Chief Moshood Abiola may have been sponsored by some political rivals.
This is because the PDP led Federal Government, conscious of the delicate nature of winning election in the South West in 2015 given the current political domination of that region by the opposition ACN thought that one of the ways to win the hearts and minds of the electorate in the South West is to try to ingratiate them by naming a popular academic institution after their political icon.
It must be noted that right now the ACN is not seeing eye to eye with the PDP dominated Federal Government which it helped to win the bloc votes of the South West (minus Osun) in the April 2011 presidential polls even against their own candidate from the North East, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who ran with one of the most visible business executives in the South West, Chief Fola Adeola.
The ACN is no longer in any kind of political partnership with the Jonathan's PDP so now that a working alliance seems imminent between ACN and the Buhari-led CPC and other major political parties in the country at the moment.
The party in power at the centre is already afraid of suffering defeat come 2015 even though we still have over two years ahead. For Nigerian politicians who care less about the welfare and wellbeing of Nigerians and Nigeria as a corporate entity they would rather go about their pedestrian and grossly partisan politics even if the country is burning as it is now from coordinated terror-related attacks by the Northern insurgency-Boko Haram. Boko Haram insurgency has been ascribed to perceived injustice against the Northern political interest by Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election when he refused to concede to the zoning arrangement which hitherto apportioned the position to the region for eight years from 2007 before the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar'adua. Jonathan’s former Security Adviser late General Andrew Azazi had confirmed that politics of zoning is responsible for the ongoing insurgency.
The renaming of UNILAG is all about the presidency project come 2015 to counter the in routes and achievements perceived to have been made by General Buhari. But if the government in Abuja is alleging sabotage in the students' protest over its decision to rename UNILAG after Abiola; is it the ACN that is behind this protest and is the 2015 presidential project the bone of contention between PDP and ACN?
ACN blocked the chance of the South West from producing the number three position in the country, Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011, thus leaving the entire zone in the cold without any political clout in the current dispensation. This of course is to the ACN advantage as it is left alone in the Southwest to range freely. There is nobody from the zone from the number one to the tenth position in the political hierarchy of the country. The same thing obtains in the civil service and the military top brass.
This is a big minus for the PDP as the South West is understandably angry about this apparent marginalisation. How the PDP manages this and how the opposition manipulates this to its own advantage will determine where the pendulum will swing in the South West come 2015, which of course is just around the corner. Well, only time can tell.