The western part of Nigeria has a long and discomforting history of political and social upheaval, so much so that it has become a dispiriting metaphor for political violence and social unrest in the country. From the crisis that engulfed the ruling Action Group led by the inimitable Obafemi Awolowo in the western region of yore, to the mind-numbing chaos that characterized the politics of the old Ondo State in the second republic, down to the state of anarchy that the region was enmeshed in the aftermath of the nullification of the eventful June 12 election won by Moshood Abiola.
Aside from the June 12 election crisis which was occasioned by the refusal of the military men to leave the corridor of power, other political crises that the region has witnessed started as a form of internal wrangling within the party and the desire of major actors — especially a leader and his deputy — to either hold on to power or wrest it from other.
From the conflict and power tussle between Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola — the enviable allies who later became vicious foes — in the 60s, a situation that became the tinderbox that sparked of the inferno that would later consume the entire region to the animosity and galling enmity between pa Adekunle Ajasin, One of Awolowo’s protégés, and his estranged deputy, Akin Omoboriowo in ’80s. Omoboriowo, having lost in his bid to clinch the governorship ticket of the United Party of Nigeria, for the general election in 1983, turned to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the party of the then President, Shehu Shagari.
Expectedly, he emerged the gubernatorial candidate of NPN and, in what many claimed to be widespread anomaly and irregularities, he was declared winner of the governorship election. What followed was a chain of unspeakable horror and violence that completely dwarfed the full-blown melee of “operation was” in the 60s.
Nearly 40 years later, it appears the specter of chaos and cloud of horror that hover above the political terrain of the southwest has not dissipated, the enclave has continued to witness pockets of politically induced violence.
As the 2023 general election draws close, political actors and major stakeholders are already scheming and plotting on how to outwit, outmaneuver, outsmart their rivals to achieve their ambition. A casual look at the situation of things gives a frightening de javu of happenings in the South West political milieu.
Last week, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, returned to the country after three months in the United Kingdom threatening undisclosed ailments. A day before his arrival, an elaborate political event tagged “Southwest Agenda 2023 (SWAGA ‘23)” was held in Lagos. SWAGA is a political movement building a support base for the former Lagos State Governor in anticipation of his interest to contest for president in the 2023 general elections.
As if on cue, a day after the flamboyant political event by Tinubu’s support group, news filtered in that the all progressives congress (APC) has given the nod to Progressives Consolidation Group, a support group pushing for the actualization of vice president Yemi Osinbajo’s presidency in 2023, to commence their campaign and canvassing of support for the vice president.
Now this is where it gets even more interesting, neither Tinubu nor Osinbajo has publicly declared their intention to seek the highest political office in the land, but even a casual observer of events in Nigeria politics knows that these support groups are not acting on their volition but based on the not-yet-publicized ambition of their paymaster.
Osinbajo is a smart, intelligent, and cerebral character who made his mark when he served as attorney general and commissioner for justice in Lagos during Tinubu’s tenure as governor. Tinubu was also said to be critical to the emergence of Osinbajo as vice-president in 2015, as he headhunted and recommended him to President Muhammadu Buhari and APC bigwigs.
Many Nigerians have known for a long time the aspiration of Tinubu to become Nigeria’s president, an ambition that many believed culminated into the formation of APC in 2014. What they’ve never envisaged, however, is Osinbajo’s — a long-time ally of Tinubu — ambition to lead the country.
Wherever the pendulum swings, one can only hope what we are seeing is a harmless try at seeking to be president, and not an inordinate ambition to grab power at all cost, hence turning dependable associates into ferocious adversaries who try to upset each other’s applecart.