Between Aregbesola and PMB
The 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections have come and gone. But their ripples are very much around, especially the underwhelming performance of the federal ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the South West, the traditional bastion of progressive politics in Nigeria.
Yes, the APC still won four of the six states (Lagos, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti; losing Oyo and Ondo only marginally); and also cleared most of the National Assembly seats (winning 14 out of 18 senatorial seats).
Still, the “dropped points”, to borrow that sports lingo, would appear galling to many. Indeed, many a fanatical partisan, with a “winner-takes-all” mentality, would insist it’s a good win that tastes like a bad loss!
Take Ondo State, with an APC governor in his second year. The party lost two key senatorial seats, just because Rotimi Akeredolu, the sitting governor, would appear warring with almost everyone in sight, in his party. The party, therefore, had itself for electoral dinner, in a fit of political cannibalism. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were clear beneficiaries.
The Oyo case was almost a replica, though APC still grossed two out of three senatorial seats — thanks to a dogged and determined electorate and party mobilizers; ranged against the election-time leprosy of Abiola Ajimobi, the Oyo State governor.
Ajimobi, contrasted to his predecessors from 1999, has been a near-excellent governor, raising the bar in polite and modern governance, security, urban renewal and sanitation, infrastructure and general quality delivery. But all that he smashed with a stupendous personality flaw, which peaked at the wrong time, and cost him his senatorial bid.
Ogun could have been another victim of such terrible governor’s character flaw, despite a near-stellar tenure, but for the maturity of elders like former Governor Olusegun Osoba who, election-eve, launched a campaign for party unity. Though sitting Governor Ibikunle Amosun was chief beneficiary of that rapprochement (he won his Ogun Central senate bid), his bad grace goaded him to brazen post-victory anti-party activities.
That essential bad grace, of Amosun’s post-victory campaign for his APM preferences, in the final run to the gubernatorial and state legislature polls, has earned him a suspension, which could well peak in outright expulsion — just as well! Alleged anti-party activities have also earned Akeredolu a query from the APC National Working Committee (NWC).
But the story behind the story, of intra-party friction from the Amosun-Akeredolu bloc, would appear an anti-Tinubu rebellion by younger Turks within the party, determined to push and position themselves as “new” South West leaders, that President Muhammadu Buhari must reckon with, en route to the 2019 elections.
Though that plan collapsed with the balance of power and influence in South West streets, with the president yet again settling for joint chair of the APC national campaign with Tinubu, the South West plot never really fizzled out. That would explain the Amosun show of shame, at the APC presidential campaign at Abeokuta, when his APM storm-troopers even pelted the president with stones.
But the plot was also to manifest where it would have hurt most: use the expected underwhelming results from Osun and the desperate challenge in Lagos, to undermine both Asiwaju Tinubu and former Osun Governor, Rauf Aregbesola.
Though both failed (APC still cleared the three senatorial seats in Lagos, while in Osun it won two, including Osun West, which APC had earlier lost to Ademola Adeleke, an APC defector to PDP, after the sudden death of elder sibling, Isiaka aka Serubawon), the Aregbesola target dates back to the Ondo gubernatorial nomination process that Akeredolu won.
Not a few accused Aregbesola of backing Olusola Oke, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate. Though Oke was an APC aspirant after defecting from PDP, he stormed out to AD to protest Akeredolu’s emergence.
But Aregbesola got repaid in alleged same coins, when the Akeredolu and Amosun lobby allegedly pitched tents with defectors from APC, in the 2018 Osun governorship election, which result turned out a bitter cliffhanger, with APC nicking it, with the slimmest of margins. — the closest governorship win in Nigerian electoral history.
Amosun’s grouse would appear to date back to the 2015 ministerial nomination, when he had a reported tiff with Tinubu over the Ogun nominee. Amosun, from his actions from then, seemed determined to press his “independence from Bourdillon”, leveraging his closeness to, and personal affinity with, the president. With his present bind, he seemed to have gone too far.
If all the plotting had succeeded, Osun election result would have been the excellent scapegoat to hit at Tinubu’s “declining influence”; and Aregbesola’s creeping irrelevance.
It would have been a near-perfect scape-goating, just as it was during the pan-Nigeria salary default crisis, which the media and Osun local opposition painted as Aregbesola’s sole failure, despite what could pass as Osun’s Renaissance, in almost every facet of life, under his charge.
Even with a 2:1 senatorial scorecard, APC’s loss of Osun West (the Ife-Ijesa senatorial district, and therefore Aregbesola’s home turf), could still be an object of political blackmail. But the analysis of the results shows that much of the faults came from the Ife segment of the district, though the commanding Ijesa support, that gifted Ife man, APC’s Jide Omoworare two senatorial terms, appears to have vanished. Nevertheless, APC still carried the Ijesa end of the tally, though with a much diminished margin.
But such putative blackmail lost its bite with the disastrous returns from Ondo, where ironically, Ajayi Boroffice, Akeredolu’s famous intra-Ondo APC “arch-enemy” it was, that saved the ruling party (state and national) from a total senatorial rout. Nor is it helped because of the Ogun triumph, which comprises Amosun’s personal senatorial triumph, despite the governor’s pre- and post-poll gracelessness.
If that plot had worked, it would have undermined the greatest heroes of the change in Nigeria’s electoral and governing landscape, since the APC triumph of 2015.
PMB’s re-election would have been seriously affected. Tinubu, whose re-alignment with the PMB bloc started it all, would have been greatly undermined, thus leaving the alliance with no effective South West political general.
On his part, Aregbesola would have been mocked and baited. Yet, without his clear thinking and more-than-doughty resolve, the schools feeding programme, which Osun patented and tested despite a very perilous economic environment, would perhaps never have been mainstreamed on the national front. But that is a classic South West welfarist agenda, planted on the Nigerian national front.
Still, this phase of election is lost and won. Despite all these wrangling, APC still triumphed in the South West, as it did nationally, given PMB’s renewed mandate. It’s time, therefore, to push for general reconciliation;. without compromise to sanctions for who did what, especially if the guilty are unrepentant.
•Matiluko, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos.
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