WORRIED by the growing disaffection towards the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari from the SouthWest zone, some northern leaders have begun what has been interpreted as a deft move to placate the Yoruba people through notable leaders in the zone.
Sunday Tribune gathered that the move has the blessing of President Buhari. The northern leaders, who are known in power corridors as Buhari’s men, are said to be in the vanguard of the effort.
They are Governors Mai Mala Buni of Yobe, who is also the national caretaker chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa and Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi states.
In the last three weeks, they have met with some notable Yoruba leaders and men of influence including the Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, his predecessor, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Olu Falae, former Oyo State governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, former leader of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Ayo Opadokun, secretary general of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Alhaji Dawud Akinola and others.
After the closed meetings which were held in Akure, Ibadan, Lagos and Abeokuta, neither the visitors nor their hosts spoke to the press about what was discussed.
But contrary to the speculations in a section of the media that the northern governors were trying to woo some of the Yoruba leaders to join the APC, Sunday Tribune gathered that discussion with the Yoruba leaders was not about 2023 elections or politics.
Sources at the meeting told Sunday Tribune that the northern governors discussed the state of the nation with the leaders and tried to solicit their support for the Buhari administration.
One of the sources at one of the meetings in Ibadan with Senator Ladoja told Sunday Tribune that the former Oyo State governor asked the visitor on whose mandate they were in his house and was told the meeting has the backing of President Buhari.
The leader of the delegation and Kebbi State governor, Bagudu, was said to have told Ladoja that the visit was to seek ways to douse the tension in the country, particularly in the South-West.
It will be recalled that a pressure group known as the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), a multi-ethnic alliance body chaired by the famous Yoruba Emeritus historian, Professor Banji Akintoye, is set to lead a protest to the United Nations General Assembly coming up next month.
Ladoja, in his response, was said to have strongly condemned the manner the country has been configured under Buhari, the unbridled impunity and high level insecurity in the country as well as the appointment of largely incompetent people in strategic offices because they are northerners.
It was gathered that he told his guests that Buhari has been redrawing the map of the country and treating the Yoruba people as though they are conquered slaves.
He was said to have mentioned the closure of borders in the Southern parts of the country, while the borders in the North were flung open, adding that it was a calculated attempt to weaken the South economically.
The Osi Olubadan, it was gathered, also chided the Federal Government for the manner Custom officials have been invading markets in the South-West, querying why they gave exemption to the border closure in the South only to owners Dangote and BUA who are businessmen of northern extraction.
“Ladoja was very angry about goings-on in the country. He chastised the Federal Government for obvious abuse of power in clamping down on the like of Sunday Igboho. He mentioned the ultimatum issued by the Emir of Mubi to Bororo Fulani to vacate his emirate and asked if that was different from what Igboho told the murderous Fulani in Ibarapa area of Oyo State.
“The former governor told his visitors that the North is already preparing for break-up with the manner the Buhari government has been borrowing money in the name of Nigeria only to deploy the largest chunk to build infrastructure in the North and going as far as Niger Republic. “As his irreducible minimum, Ladoja told the northern governors to tell President Buhari to open the borders in the South if he must be seen to be a listening leader and direct security operative to stop the clamp down on Southerners perceived to the opposed to the president’s leadership style,” the source said.
The former governor confirmed to Sunday Tribune that the meeting was on how to seek his suggestion on how to address the myriad of challenges confronting the country.
A source at the Akure meeting which was held at the residence of Pa Fasoranti told Sunday Tribune that the meeting was to seek ways to douse the tension in the country.
“They told Pa Fasoranti and Chief Falae and others that Nigeria is in difficulty. The Yoruba leaders replied that they knew that Nigeria is in problems. It was Chief Falae who spoke for the Yoruba leaders they met.
“You know the people who came are politicians. So, I am not sure it is the same thing they told the Yoruba leaders that they met. These people have different agendas up their sleeves,” said the source.
Chief Falae, in a telephone conversation, told Sunday Tribune there was virtually nothing worth talking about on the meeting. “Yes, they came. But there was no substantive discussion. They came to alert about the crisis in the country. We told them we knew before they came. That’s all,” he said.
In an interview with Sunday Tribune, YCE secretary general, Olajide confirmed what the northern governors discussed with him.
“Last week [about three weeks now], I received some visitors. They were with me for more than two hours or so. They were concerned about the instability in the country and the challenges.
“I told them quite frankly that the issue of the 2023 elections does not even arise now. The country is in the fringes and for me, the bane of our problems is the 1999 Constitution,” he said.