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The Art of Negotiation

by Ahmed Yahaya Joe
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Ahmed Yahaya – Joe

You don’t have to read Mario Puzo’s, “The Godfather” nor watch the film adaptation trilogy to know that there is no longer any safe hiding place for Sunday Igboho. Even Don Vito Corleone was compelled to negotiate his son, Michael’s immunity from the long but slow arms of the law.

Back in January 2021, and in his own words, Babafemi Ojudu the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Political Matters recollected his 2009 meeting with Mr. Igboho alongside Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at Sunview Hotel in Akure, Ondo State at the eve of the Ilorin Appeal Court sitting ordered rerun in the election between Segun Oni of PDP and Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the now rested ACN.

The meeting was called to solicit Igboho’s cooperation to help ACN secure victory at the polls.

Mr. Ojudu went on, “Tinubu ordered food and drink for him. He will touch neither. He however overtime became comfortable in our midst and regaled us with several anecdotes from his career as a political enforcer.”

‘Thank you Baba’, Igboho said with a smile across his face as soon as he received a golden handshake from Tinubu.

This was my encounter with Sunday Adeyemo alias Sunday Igboho, lately crowned a hero in Yoruba land, by the reign of terror by herders and bandits.

He has that occasional conscience you can appeal to. Let those who can rein in the herders do so and make the forests and highways safe again.”

Understandably, the presidential aide did not dwell on how Igboho was instrumental to the APC in the 2015 and 2019 election cycles across the South West (SW).

Participating in Nigerian politics is like being in the Mafia. The law of silence – “Omerta” is crucial. If so why is such a highly placed person in government singing like a canary over a Pancho Villa of sorts?

Ojudu’s account shows Sunday Igboho has friends in the highest echelons of the former Western Region now six states of the SW. I doubt if the wanted man, will ever allow himself to go down alone. When eventually caged there is no telling on how “that occasional conscience you can appeal to” will play out.

Pancho Villa (1878-1923) was a Mexican soldier turned bandit and eventually a political mercenary. He brazenly crossed into the United States shooting and looting in March, 1916. He left a trail of 18 American corpses. President Woodrow Wilson acted swiftly by sending 100,000 marines that spent 4 years unsuccessfully hunting for Villa. That over reaction reinvented Panco from a much hated bandit to a folk hero.

 By 1920, he had become so influential despite in hiding that he negotiated with the Mexican government for a comfortable retirement at public expense as long as he restricted himself to legitimate pursuits. The Americans would have simply ignored him. Villa would have lost relevance. Then the Yankees would have sponsored another set of bandits to take him out. End of story!

Anyway, without crucial votes from the SW of Nigeria, President Buhari would never have made it to the Villa in 2015 nor return in 2019. If so why is the clamor for Oodua Republic under him so stringent?

There is currently large scale despondency and widespread apathy towards the Villa in the South West. This is a legacy minus for PMB.

While I doubt if any descendant of Oduduwa is seriously contemplating breaking away from Nigeria, Mr. President and his supporters therefore need to tread very carefully concerning Sunday Igboho. He is not as brazen as Nnamdi Kanu who spurned the Ohaneze. Igboho in contrast is the grassroots leader of what Afenifere orchestrates.

Perhaps what is at stake is the presidency come 2023. If so my take is that Oodua is a bargaining chip.

That Arewa is not ready to concede power in 2023 is obvious. But this can only be pulled off if the North successfully plays one part of South against the others in a classic divide and rule maneuver using the Vice Presidency as bait.

According to provisions of the Electoral Act for any presidential candidate to be elected into office a simple majority of votes is first of all required. Secondly, the candidate must be able to rake in 25% of the votes cast in 24 states of the federation. With 19 states in the North what any candidate from the North would require are 5 states in the entire South.

Remember elections are won at INEC collation centers and not in polling units.

The chief worry of the North is that if power is conceded to the SW, fiscal federalism would be implemented. Federal largesse is the oxygen that keeps Arewa alive. Without it the Northern intelligentsia would crumble.

On the other hand, the main challenge of the SW is elite failure. Their political actors ensured President Buhari got the prerequisite votes without detailed negotiations for the future. 

Sunday Igboho provides another opportunity for a negotiated settlement least he becomes the nemesis of several political leaders in that geopolitical region.

Some pertinent questions still bother me. What if the SW can’t nail the presidency in 2023 and Oodua Republic doesn’t become achievable? What next?

It would become like entering into a wrestling contest with one arm tied to your back!

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