BY BEN AGANDE
President Goodluck Jonathan, penultimate week, spent almost one week in Lagos during which he commissioned some federal projects in the South-west as well as naval war ships to boost the nation’s maritime security. He also met with different segments of the society where he told them why he should be re-elected on March 28 when the presidential election will be held.
Meanwhile, the unspoken reason for the President’s five-day stay in Lagos where he met with several groups from the South-west was to redouble efforts at getting significant votes from the region during the presidential election.
With the release of the number of people who have collected their permanent voter cards, PVCs, so far nationwide, it was apparent that with the lack of disposition of voters in the North western to Jonathan’s candidature, it became apparent that because of its high number of voters, the support of the South-west was critical to his re-election.
In this context, the postponement of the general elections by six weeks by the Independent National Electoral Commission was a huge blessing to the Peoples Democratic Party PDP and especially the candidacy of Jonathan. Although conspiracy theorists have argued that the postponement of the elections was orchestrated by the PDP, the reason given by the INEC and subsequent events that followed have since given a lie to this theory. For instance, the postponement has given eligible voters more time to collect their PVCs.
But for the PDP, which appeared to have been doing so badly judging from the crowd that attend its rallies, especially in some northern states, the postponement offered an opportunity to cover lost grounds and the make some foray into the South-west.
Jonathan met with a cross section of Yoruba political and opinion leaders beginning with the Yoruba Council of Elders at the State House, Marina, Lagos. The President also met with market women groups under the aegis of the Iyalojas, the Oodua Cooperative Alliance from the six states of the South-west, as well as representatives of other ethnic groups and tribes in Lagos.
He visited the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III; the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Ajagungbade; and about 20 traditional rulers of Egba extraction from Ogun State. The significance of the meeting with the traditional rulers from Egbaland stems from the fact that this is same area which former President Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the worst critics of Jonathan, hails from.
The traditional rulers, who attended the meeting in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, were led by the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo. Others at the meeting included the Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Michael Sonariwo; and the Olowu of Owu, Oba Dosunmu. The Awujale and the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, and Olu of Ilaro and paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, were absent.
The meetings provided avenue for the President to solicit support of the various groups in a more personal manner for his candidacy at the polls. For instance, while at the palace of the Alafin of Oyo, Jonathan used the opportunity of the visit to inform the nation that he would implement the report of the National Conference. Bearing in mind that the South-west has been in the fore front in the demand for a National Conference, the President could not have chosen a better place than the Alafin’s palace to give his commitment.
Jonathan’s whirlwind visit to the South-west appears to be yielding dividends if the assurances given by some prominent Yoruba leaders are anything to go bay. For instance, the founder of the Odua Peoples Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, has publicly stated that Yoruba elders have decided to support Jonathan based on his promise to implement the National Conference report.
“The promise he gave us is that if he comes back for a second term, he will ensure that the decisions of the Confab are perfected and implemented as soon as he comes in. The Yoruba want self-determination within the federation that will ensure their form of government and politics and want to be able to develop their own region”, Fasheun said while justifying their support for Jonathan.
A meeting of Yoruba leaders in Akure, under the aegis of Afenifere with the theme: ‘’National Conference, 2015 Elections and the Yoruba Nation’, also endorsed Jonathan for the 2015 elections, citing his commitment to implementing the report of the National Conference as their reason.
The Chairman of the occasion, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in an elaborate explanation to justify the decision of the group, noted that the action was not borne out of partisan considerations but pragmatic assessment of the best interest of the Yoruba race.
According to him, “We are supporting Jonathan because of the consistency of the Yoruba to have this country restructured so that it can develop. People are calling for change. I want a change in the Constitution of Nigeria. Only a change in the Constitution can truly bring about the change that we need.”
But if the resurgence of hope on Jonathan from the South-west is reassuring, the change in tide in the security situation in the North-east, which has been under the grip of Boko Haram terrorists, has brought a new sense of renaisssance.
Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east took a dangerously different dimension when the group graduated from attacking military formations and government offices to occupying large towns and villages across the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. The large scale defection of members of the armed forces as well as the large number of security service being court martial send a bleak message to many Nigerians, especially those living at the epicentre of these attacks, that the government is either unable or unwilling to bring about their sufferings to an end.
Three weeks after the postponement of the election, the military has dealt a devastating blow to the Boko Haram sect as hundreds of its members have been killed in battle, several of their military hardware and weapons either captured or destroyed while Baga, Munguno, Diwa, Gwoza and other villages hitherto occupied by the terrorist group have been liberated.
With the supply of new weapons and ammunition to the army and the renewed cooperation between the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin Republic to fight the Boko Haram terrorists, the confidence of many Nigerians, displaced from their homes and villages by the terrorists, appears to be waxing stronger.
And with the assurance by the President that the Boko Haram would be defeated and its leader captured or killed by the military, there appears to be new hope for the candidacy of Jonathan. Whether these renewed interests will transform into electoral fortunes would be determined by moves that the ruling PDP and the opposition All Progressive Congress would make to convince the electorate who are yet to decide on who to vote for in March 28 presidential poll.