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Amosun’s triple ‘wars’ in Ogun State

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[FILE PHOTO] Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun /Twitter/Govsia

Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s concerns in the last months of his eight-year stint at Ogun State Government House are not limited to his desire to finish strong.

Going by his track record of achievement in office, the governor must be satisfied with himself for living true to the promises he made to Ogun people, which apart from earning him a second term, helped him define his tenure.
 
However, before he breasts the tape on May 29, 2019, Senator Amosun has battles to fight and how he fares in the fight would help to determine his place in the history of Ogun State.

It is possible that of the three major battles before him, the outgoing governor could win some and leave the rest for posterity to judge.
 
In the first place, it is generally held that Amosun’s ride to the governorship was at the expense of Segun Osoba’s preferred candidate in 2011.

Perhaps on account of that political gambit, after more than six years in office, the governor saw the political stupidity of an outsider dictating for Ogun who should be their governor.
   
Therefore, fighting off what has come to be known as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s political expansionism in Southwest has come to be one of the challenges facing Amosun as he prepares to leave office and tries to remain politically relevant in the years following his exit.
  
Apart from fighting off political encroachment of Tinubu in Ogun State, Amosun is also technically fighting to ensure that Ogun, and not Lagos State, is reckoned with as the commercial capital and political headquarters of the Yoruba nation since Oyo seems to be enmeshed in crisis of financial stamina and ethnic divisions.
 
Then on the issue of his succession plan, Amosun is pushing back on the systematic dislodgement of his preferred candidate, Hon Akinwunmi Akinlade, from the All Progressives Congress (APC) by Tinubu and “his man Friday” and APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole to favour former governor Osoba.
 
It is in the area of effective execution of his succession plan that Senator Amosun wants to show his detractors that having served two terms as governor, he does not need political lessons from the former Lagos State governor.

Alternative platform

THIS would not be the first time Amosun and Tinubu would be crossing political swords. At the birth of APC Federal Government, when the issue of nomination of ministers cropped up, the Ogun governor exploited his closeness to President Muhammadu Buhari to thwart Tinubu’s recommendation of Mr. Babatunde Fowler by pushing forward his former Finance Commissioner, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.
 
At the governorship primary imbroglio that bedeviled Ondo State chapter of the party, Ogun State was said to have sided with the eagle political bloc in the Southwest caucus of the party, including Babatunde Fashola and Dr. John Kayode Fayemi in propping up Rotimi Akeredolu against Segun Abraham, Tinubu’s first choice for the governorship ticket.
 
During the politics of tenure elongation regarding APC National Working Committee (NWC), Amosun joined the camp that voted for its continuity, knowing that Tinubu was mobilizing for the exit vote against Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
 
There is no gainsaying the fact that the inability of APC leaders to manage the issue of reconstituting its NWC, especially the denial of Oyegun of a second term opportunity, contributed in no small measure to the crisis of confidence within the party.
  
While some chieftains of the party express the view, albeit in the closet, that refusing Oyegun the right of first refusal to the position of national chairman and allowing President Buhari a similar gesture smacks of double standard, which most members believe to be the root of the divisions within APC.
  
But while some of the prominent backers of ‘Oyegun must stay’, like Governor Nasir El Rufai carried on with their political progression, Amosun and Governor Abdulaziz Yari, are not finding things easy as Oshiomhole sustained political manovoures against Oyegun’s allies and opponents of Tinubu’s schemes to control the levers of the party.

At the height of the onslaught against his succession plan Amosun allowed his preferred candidate and his supporters to take their political destiny in their own hands, while he stayed back to brave the fight within APC.

Like his colleague in Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who despite the initial motion seeking Oyegun’s ouster, injured the godfather by his interest in the 2023 presidential race, Amosun allowed Hon. Adekunle Abdulkabir Akinlade and his grassroots support base to move over to Allied Peoples Movement (APM).

As if highlighting the nationalist flavour of the ‘movement’, APM has as its symbol a bunch of cassava, a staple mass produced in Ogun State, which gives Ifon its identity as one of the dominant garri processing zones in the country.

To demonstrate that his closeness to President Buhari has not been affected negatively by the adoption of alternative platform, Amosun accompanied Akinlade to a meeting with the President, where both of them handed over APM’s adoption of Buhari as its presidential candidate to the president.

Stung by that seeming political mileage, former governor Osoba decided to ferry his own candidate, Dapo Abiodun, to the Presidency for a closed-door tête-à-tête.

Although details of what the former governor and his protégé, the APC governorship candidate discussed with President Buhari was not made public, it was obvious that Amosun displayed superior political gamesmanship.

It was also gathered that clips of the campaign flag off and rally to adopt Buhari as APM’s presidential candidate was made available to the president.

Apart from the mammoth crowd that graced the rally at M.K.O. Abiola Stadium, close to 60 other political parties joined in endorsing Akinlade, just as they decried the injustice meted out to him over the APC governorship primary in the state.

APM used the occasion to present the female governorship running mate, Princess Adepeju Adebajo, just as shouts of triple ‘A’ rang over the stadium.

Members of the state’s traditional rulers’ council also demonstrated their solidarity and goodwill.

The monarchs and leaders of Ogun Central Senatorial District voiced their support for a governor of Yewa extraction in 2019, “because it will promote unity and fairness in Ogun State.” They also expressed their desire for a governor that would continue with the infrastructure development programme of governor Amosun.

Bubbling with youth and energy, Akinlade, who went round the stadium to greet various groups and delegations, commended the people for turning out en masse to be part of the flag-off, even as he declared his avowed determination to continue the ‘Mission to Rebuild Ogun State’ started by the Senator Ibikunle Amosun administration.

The APM governorship standard bearer assured that if elected, his government would continue the infrastructure development programme of governor Amosun, adding that he had identified quality free education, healthcare service delivery, value-chain agriculture, integrated rural development and youth development driven by ICT, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship as priority focus of his government.

While tracing the origin of APM in Ogun State, Akinlade recalled with pain the injustice meted to him and winners of the APC primary elections by forces outside Ogun State, who he said were desperate to hijack the government of the state and use it for their selfish purposes.

While singling out President Buhari as a leader who stood for truth and justice, he maintained that some forces in APC frustrated all efforts at ensuring that the choice of party faithful reigned in the state.

Akinlade explained that it was based on President Buhari’s achievements, including removal of Nigeria from among the list of pariah states due to corruption in official circles among other reasons that APM in Ogun State unanimously resolved to adopt him as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 election.

He assured that APM members would traverse all the nooks and crannies of the state to campaign for the president and other candidates of the party.

The battle within

PERHAPS having seen that his travails in APC appeared as the product of a clandestine political scheme hatched in Lagos to limit his clout and relevance, Amosun decided to take “the battle to the enemies’ camp.”

Part of his strategies was to distract the APC governorship candidate favoured by Tinubu, Osoba and Oshiomhole, Dapo Abiodun, in the belief that with Akinlade’s victory at the March 2, 2019 governorship poll, he would regain the party structure.

Amosun seems to be succeeding in the proxy war. The APC candidate is yet to flag off his campaign for the March 2 election. Rather, he is enmeshed in a mandate threatening litigation over his academic qualifications.

In a suit he filed at an Abuja High Court, one Abdulrrafiu Baruwa, is praying the court to disqualify Abiodun from participating in the election on account of supplying false information about his academic qualifications to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The APC gubernatorial candidate was also accused of not participating in the mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme after his graduation from the university despite being under 30 years of age at that time.

It is not known whether Amosun or the runner-up in the APC governorship primary, Jimi Lawal, who was credited with the second highest votes in the exercise, instigated the hiccup in the APC camp. However, the issue of his academic record has greatly distracted the APC candidate such that in Ogun, only the campaign materials and billboards of the APM governorship hopeful, Akinlade, adorn the streets.

The glaring discrepancy in Abiodun’s academic records is underscored by the fact that when he ran as the APC Senatorial candidate for Ogun East in 2015, he claimed to have attended the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (graduating in 1986) and Kennesaw State University, Atlanta Georgia, U.S. (1989) in his INEC form CF001, backed by an affidavit he swore to at the High Court, Abeokuta.

It is popularly held that Abiodun’s decision to withhold the two degrees in the form CF001 submitted for the 2019 election was to escape sanctions for not undergoing the compulsory national youth service, which is punishable under the law.

While the APC governorship candidate is sorting out his tangled academic records, Amosun’s succession plan appears on a steady course as his adopted APM party goes about its campaigns for Akinlade and Buhari.

The governor’s Senatorial ambition as well as his membership of APC seems to be a master stroke as winning the Senatorial election on February 16 would not only enhance his decision to back Akinlade with incumbency powers, but also frustrate the planned hijack of APC structure in Southwest to advance the 2023 presidential ambition of those arrayed in arms against him.

If the election holds in the next five weeks, it remains to be seen whose cap, between Amosun and Tinubu that would survive the battle as leader of Southwest APC.


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