Ahead of the 2019 elections, two major players in the Buhari-led All Progressive Congress (APC) administration with respectable law backgrounds, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola have attempted to appeal to ethnic sentiments while canvassing for votes.
Backstory: On a recent visit to the Alaafin of Oyo in Ibadan, Osinbajo, a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, told his Yoruba kinsmen that working towards the re-election of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, was the surest way of ensuring that power returns back to the south-west in 2023.
Osinbajo urged Yorubas to support the president in his attempt to get in for a second term as, according to him, it will pave way for a Yoruba person to succeed him, the first since the end of Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure in 2007.
“The 2019 general elections is our own. We are not looking at 2019, but 2023. If we get in 2019, Yoruba will get in 2023. Because if we don’t get it in 2019, we may not get it in 2023 and it may take a very long time to get it. We need to look at tomorrow and not today. What we are doing now is for tomorrow and not for today,” Osinbajo said in a worrying dog-whistle to his Yoruba base.
But Osinbajo is not the only high profile cabinet member relying on ethnicity to sell their reelection plans. Similar sentiments have been shared a couple of times by former Lagos State governor and current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who once used to be a big poponent of meritocracy.
While speaking at a town hall meeting on infrastructure organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency in October, Fashola called on the people of South West to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 elections as they stand to benefit politically in 2023.
“A vote for Buhari in 2019, means a return of power to the South West in 2023, I am sure you will vote wisely”, Fashola said.
Then in November, in Lagos, while inaugurating 5,000 foot soldiers for the Buhari/Osinbajo campaign, Fashola once again urged the crowd to vote on the basis of their ethnicity in order to secure the future of the region. He said that the re-election of Buhari would guarantee that power would come to the South West in 2023.
“The South West is at present occupying the position of the vice president. We have three sitting ministers and many different appointments from the present administration which we cannot afford to lose.
“As a South West indigene, I will vote for the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket because my people stand to gain more from it.”
Backlash: As expected these comments by men who previously used to speak about the need to focus on performance than tribe has generated lots of interest.
The presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Kingsley Moghalu, condemned Osinbajo in a statement last week.
“Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s reported recent statement at the palace of the Alafin of Oyo that ethnic Yoruba should vote for President Buhari in 2019 so that the Yoruba will produce the President of Nigeria in 2023 is a sad and disappointing appeal to tribalism in leadership selection in the 21st century,” Moghalu said in a statement.
The Yoruba Youth Council (YYC) an umbrella body of the Yoruba youths, also described the statement made by Fashola during his town hall meeting as absurd, noting that the current administration had not done enough to qualify them for another shot at power.
In a statement signed by its National President, Eric Oluwole, the council said, “Yoruba youths also remember with consternation, the statement credited to Fashola that Nigeria’s power problem would be fixed in six months. Three years of his reign, the minister in charge of power has not solved our perennial power problems. We want him and his like, who are feeding Nigeria with propaganda from the seat of power to know that the youths have learnt from history and will strive hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past in our resolve to revamp the economy of Nigeria.”
Key point: Painful to watch the unraveling of Osinbajo and Fashola, men who had a solid reputation as performers and detribalised Nigerians before their party formed the government at the centre.
Empty promises: To show the dishonesty in these calls for Nigerians to vote on the basis of tribe, the minister of labor, Chris Ngige, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, are asking the South East to support Buhari’s reelection so that power may come to the region in 2023. The Yoruba jingoists in the cabinet and the Igbo jingoists cannot both be true, so one (or both sides) are giving false hopes.
The APC should try a campaign of issues instead.