2023 Oyo Guber: Forces threatening to scuttle Folarin’s ambition
Reconciliation is yielding results says APC candidate
Seven months away from the March 11 2023 governorship election in Oyo State, some stakeholders in the major opposition party – All Progressives Congress (APC) – are still finding it difficult to reckon with the fact that Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin is their gubernatorial candidate.
The chairman Senate Committee on Local Content emerged as Oyo APC gubernatorial candidate in the party’s controversial primary in October last year after the crisis ridden ward, local government and state congresses. The Progressives group, made up of mostly members of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), claimed that the minority conservatives, who joined from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) manipulated the congresses. Folarin leads this group, along with former governor of Oyo State, the late Adebayo Alao-Akala. The duo was accused of using their resources and collaboration with the APC national headquarters in Abuja, to hijack the party’s structure in Oyo.
Some of the aggrieved stakeholders led by the party’s candidate for the 2019 governorship election and former Deputy Governor of Central Bank, Adebayo Adelabu, left APC in anger to join Accord Party, where he (Adelabu) is now the governorship flag bearer. But others who stayed back in the party did so with the rumoured intention to play divided loyalty among Accord, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and APC. The anticipation is that if Adelabu wins, they will return to APC.
Some of those who are yet to come out of shock over Folarin’s candidature are; wife of former governor of Oyo, Florence Ajimobi, immediate past state chairman of the party, Chief Akin Oke, one of the governorship aspirants, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), Mr. Joseph Tegbe and host of others. Tegbe on his part had also defected to take a senatorial ticket under the platform of the ruling PDP.
The party set up a reconciliation committee headed by former Senator Femi Lanlehin, which had submitted its report to the Southwest Zonal Executive of APC-led by Mr. Isaac Kekemeke but the effort of the committee’s effort only attained 50 percent success of resolving the crisis. Some of the aggrieved headed to the appeal from the committee but they gave some conditions. Some did not believe in the committee and they were obviously lackadaisical about working for Folarin, but they agreed to stay in the party and work for the Bola Ahmed Tinubu presidential outing come next year.
Former Minister of Communication, Barrister Adebayo Shittu and Lanlehin, who were prominent members of the Oyo progressives tendency, have been pleading with the aggrieved members to have a rethink, especially now that it is too late to change anything, their appeal seem unacceptable to one of the governorship aspirants, Chief Akintola (SAN), who from all indications is not ready to co-operate with Folarin but promised not to leave APC.
Recently, some Akintola’s loyalists defected to PDP, but the legal expert absolved himself, saying, his loyalists who left APC did so on their own volition and not on his directives.
Following the defection of the Akintola’s loyalists, a socio-political group based in Oyo, the Oyo Kajola Group (OKG), reacted to a radio interview Akintola granted and also lauded the defectors, who, according to the lawyer, have joined the PDP in Oke Ogun, stating that they have taken the wisest decision.
The group, which also hailed Akintola for his pro-development, patriotic political style and straightforwardness, said that it was not surprised that the senior lawyer has come under criticisms from his party members, who abhor the home truths about Oyo politics.
The group stated that Akintola had shown himself as a principled professional in politics and a true progressive by engaging in constructive criticism of some programmes of the Governor Seyi Makinde-led government, while also praising the administration for those programmes and policies he finds commendable.
The group said that Akintola has distinguished himself as a politician with a difference when he openly relayed the account of his encounter with some prominent Oke Ogun leaders, who have told him that the APC was engaging in a wild goose chase by contesting against Makinde in 2023.
A statement by the OKG’s Media Coordinator, Adebayo Ayandele, said the decision by the teeming supporters of Chief Akintola and many others across the state, to leave the APC has weakened the party the more, while the ruling PDP has been strengthened ahead of the 2023 general elections.
But the aide to the lawyer insisted that loyalists of his boss defected on their own volition after intimating their boss that APC could no longer offer them their desires in Oyo politics “nobody should therefore blame the SAN for the action of his loyalists.”
But by interpretation, Akintola may likely be part of those who chose to stay back in APC while their loyalty is elsewhere. Tegbe and Adelabu who had defected to PDP and Accord Party respectively, are still having their loyalists, who relate with them from time to time, within the APC’s fold.
While lambasting Akintola for anti-party activity, and especially the radio programme where he spoke, another socio-political group, Better Oyo Movement (BOM), accused him of double-dealing with APC and PDP.
Reacting to Akintola’s outburst during his participation on a radio programme on Saturday, BOM faulted Akintola’s submission that Senator Folarin, was not sellable, the group rather said Akintola is a bad loser, who is yet to put the fact that he lost in the APC primary behind him.
Chairman of BOM, Dr. Femi Fakunle and Secretary, Engr. Tunji Hammed, wondered why a lawyer like Akintola would say a three term Senator and former Majority Leader in the upper chamber is not sellable.
The group said: “Everyone knows Teslim Folarin and Niyi Akintola are not in the same category politically, even he (Akintola) knows that. For sake of clarity, at every election Folarin has contested, he has always presented himself for primaries, unlike Akintola who stridently seeks endorsements.
“We put it to Akintola that the statement that he is still in APC is patently untrue and the height of deceit.”
Angered by BOM’s outburst, Akintola Movement in a reaction signed by Prince Olumuyiwa Akinbiyi, Saheed Adanla and Abdulkabir Owolabi in a reaction titled: ‘Feeling the pain or enjoying it Jagba !!?’ described BOM as a faceless group that ought not to be taken seriously.
It alleged that the Folarin group, which it labelled ‘Jagba’ meaning one who snatched (Jagba) the ticket by crooked means, has gone panicking after Chief Akintola’s interview on Saturday. “A panicky Jagba side embarked on the recruitment drive of hired and hack-writers who will be willing and ready to do dirty jobs of dishing out denigrating articles, backstabbing, badmouthing and pushing libelous publication for a fee of despicable value.”
The group said the outcome of the gubernatorial election next year would vindicate the disposition of Akintola towards APC and Folarin.
According to the movement, “What Chief Akintola narrated on the radio interview was nothing but the basic truth. He only exposed the foundation of political recklessness, absence of internal democracy, lack of respect for the views and objectives of party members and leaders, imposition among other political vices as well as disdain for fear of God that characterized Jagba political group.”
The movement noted that those who supported Folarin failed to assess his personality profile via an objective opinion poll “the result of which shall answer the rhetorical question of whether or not the candidate is sellable. We will surely be vindicated by the outcome of an objective governorship opinion poll as it were in Nigeria and Oyo State today.”
The group also said Tinubu knew what he was doing during his last visit to Ibadan when he refused to raise the hands of Folarin but did so to other candidates.
However Oyo APC promptly replied to Akintola, accusing him of trying to sow a seed of disunity within the ranks of the party to pave way for the re-election of Governor Seyi Makinde, whom he currently romances. The party through APC Ward 9 Chairman – Ido LGA, Hon. Ismail Babatunde lambasted Akintola for deliberately de-marketing the party and Folarin.
APC also faulted Akintola’s disregard for the party and President Muhammadu Buhari, which it said has always been in the full glare of the public and was also on display throughout the radio programme.
The party accused Akintola of contemptuous outburst, by urging his supporters to vote for opposition parties in the upcoming polls only lends confirmation to an unholy alliance with Makinde.
When contacted the Zonal Organising Secretary, Southwest Zone Executive of APC, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, appealed to all aggrieved members to close rank with Folarin.
Ibirogba, one time commissioner of Information and Strategy in Lagos State, said it was only when they closed ranks by supporting Folarin that the party “could hope of defeating the incumbent governor and the ruling PDP, next year.”
He said the reconciliation of Oyo chapter would guarantee Tinubu, who is the presidential candidate of the ruling party victory against his opponents, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) in the state.
Ibirogba said the Southwest zonal executive headed by Isaac Kekemeke is building up on the last reconciliation meeting held in Ibadan between Folarin and other members and a lot of progress has been recorded after the first meeting. “We had another follow up meeting in Lagos yesterday where many of the aggrieved showed up.”
Ibirogba said though efforts are still being made to reach some aggrieved members within Oyo chapter “but for Adelabu, who is currently the governorship candidate of Accord Party, it might be futile trying to bring him back.”
According to him, “As APC members we still stand a better chance of benefiting under Folarin, who is one of us, than being under other parties. We can still join hands with him to build Oyo from within than when we are outside.
“In 2019 when some of us were denied the ticket because of Adebayo Adelabu, we took it as an act of God and I see no reason Adelabu couldn’t take it the same way we did when Folarin emerged.”
But when contacted, Folarin expressed confidence that reconciliation efforts are yielding positive results as all tendencies within the party are being carried along at ward, local and state levels. He charged all party members to remain united in the quest to return Oyo State to the progressives fold in 2023.
The governorship candidate promised to do everything within his capacity to ensure that justice, equity and fairness drives his policies and programmes when elected as governor of the Pacesetter State.
Some inside sources told The Guardian that the festering crisis in APC provides a big opportunity for Makinde to retain power next year, except the APC leaders take proactive action to intervene.
The hope that either Accord or New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP) stand a good chance to gain from the infighting in APC or ruling PDP may be false. The history of Oyo politics does not support victory for fringe parties since 1999.