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APC in Osun, Oyo plots to regain lost glory

By Seye Olumide, Southwest Bureau Chief
14 May 2023   |   3:04 am
Having finally lost Osun State to the political machinery of the Adelekes following the Supreme Court affirmation of Governor Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as having been truly elected in the July 16, 2022 gubernatorial poll, the leadership of the Federal Government-controlled All Progressives Congress (APC), is left with no choice than to reposition and reconcile its members ahead of the 2026 governorship election in the state.

Tinubu and Oyetola

Having finally lost Osun State to the political machinery of the Adelekes following the Supreme Court affirmation of Governor Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as having been truly elected in the July 16, 2022 gubernatorial poll, the leadership of the Federal Government-controlled All Progressives Congress (APC), is left with no choice than to reposition and reconcile its members ahead of the 2026 governorship election in the state.

The leadership of APC is also left with no choice than to find a means of re-arranging its disunited house in Oyo State following its woeful performance in the March 18 2023 gubernatorial poll in which Governor Seyi Makinde of the PDP trashed the APC governorship candidate, Senator Teslim Folarin in 31 of the 33 local councils in the state.

In fact, the outcome of the election results for the major opposition party both in Oyo and Osun, have left APC members in both states licking their wounds and also earnestly looking for means to reconcile ahead of the inauguration of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on May 29, 2023.

Although some members of the party in Osun and Oyo are of the view that no concrete reconciliation could be achieved now until Tinubu assumes office, others believe that having understood the dynamics that made APC lose both states, reconciliation process can start pending when the President-elect gets into office.

It also anticipated that Makinde and Adeleke may eventually dump PDP and defect to the APC and consequently assume leadership of the party in both states depending on their relationship with Tinubu as from May 29.

A source said the hope that Makinde will join APC is high while the party is working out modalities to work on Adeleke if he would also be open to decamping.

Taking a cursory look at reasons APC lost both Osun and Oyo to PDP, it would be recalled that the now major opposition APC ruled Oyo for two terms (2011 to 2019) under the leadership of the late Abiola Ajimobi. Unfortunately, the party later lost the state to the incumbent, Governor Seyi Makinde in 2019 due to internal wrangling.

It was learnt that Ajimobi’s preferred successor, Joseph Tegbe, who later defected to PDP was as at then sacrificed for the former Deputy Governor of Central Bank, Adebayo Adelabu, a decision that did not only cause dissatisfaction within the rank of APC members but also boosted the chances of Makinde, who later won the 2019 gubernatorial polls.

Two major factors were said to be responsible for APC’s defeat in 2019, namely infighting and the said coalition forces that helped the incumbent governor. Two major calamities befell Oyo chapter of APC between 2019 to 2022, which also led to its second defeat by Makinde on March 18 despite the success it recorded in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls, in which it cleared the three Senatorial seats and 10 out of 14 House of Representatives seats.

The first blow to the party was the death of Ajimobi on June 25, 2020. The former governor was the rallying figure and leader of Oyo APC. His demise caused a lot of setbacks to the party, which some members of the progressives claimed gave room for some conservative politicians to hijack the leadership process.

Secondly, former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, who assumed leadership role in Oyo APC after Ajimobi’s demise, also died in January 2022. The party didn’t survive that blow until the March 18 date for the governorship election.

To worsen the matter, the division and crisis at the national level of APC also percolated into the Oyo chapter and split it into two factions. The progressives’ faction aligned with Tinubu’s interest at the national level while the conservative wing now led by Senator Folarin, allegedly had the backing of those working against the president-elect’s interest.

Throughout the party’s ward, local councils and state congresses and the governorship primary that were conducted between 2021 to 2022, the conservative wing of the party had upper hand with the alleged support of the national leadership, which later went ahead to affirm Isaac Omodewu as the state chairman and later, Folarin, as the party’s governorship candidate. The development did not augur well with the progressives wing, forcing some of them to leave the party, while those who stayed behind ‘deliberately’ worked against the party’s interest in the election.

Even in the election proper, the President-elect was alleged to have aligned with Governor Makinde rather than with Folarin.

Similar infighting in the Osun chapter is also one of the factors that made APC lose the state to Adeleke despite the fact that the incumbent was quite popular.

Having ruled Osun for 12 years – former Governor Rauf Aregbesola ruled from 2010 to 2018, while immediate past governor, Gboyega Oyetola was in power from 2018 to 2022 – APC eventually lost the state to PDP. It narrowly retained the state in 2014 after a controversial rerun poll, which Adeleke also challenged up to the Supreme Court. But Oyetola could not manage the party within the four years of his stay in office.

Again, the crisis of the national headquarters also contributed immensely to the Osun APC matter, which sharply divided the Aregbesola camp and Oyetola’s faction.

Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola

Aregbesola’s loyalists accused Oyetola of sidelining them just as the incumbent Minister of Interior, Aregbesola, alleged that his successor was busy destroying the legacies he built for eight years while in office.

All efforts by the national leadership of APC and the South West zonal leadership of the party to intervene were to no avail.

Commenting on the implications, a writer, Professor Adebayo Williams said the two states are critical to the President-elect, Oyo being the second largest voting catchment area in South West and Osun, which is Tinubu’s home base, cannot also be left to the opposition.

According to him, it is imperative for the party to work out modalities of realigning with the centre either through overtures to the two PDP governors or repositioning itself to win the next governorship elections.

He said while Oyo seems a bit certain given that Makinde is currently at loggerheads with the national headquarters of PDP and the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar over how the South was disgracefully deprived the position of national chairman, Adeleke seems to be very strong and popular in Osun, and to unseat him (Adeleke) through whatever strategy may be difficult.

Already Oyetola, following the Apex court verdict, has set some machinery in place to reconcile the members of Osun APC. But some loyalists of Aregbesola said they are still studying the modalities of reconciliation.

While noting that though Oyo and Osun are the only states out of four in South West in the hands of the PDP, the don warned that despite Governor Dapo Abiodun having been re-elected in Ogun State, “the nature of infighting in the Ogun State chapter is as worse as the one in Oyo and Osun and truly reconciliation is needed there also, if the PDP governorship candidate, Ladi Adebutu, does not reclaim the state at the tribunal.”

Williams noted that Tinubu would need to focus on the three states for appropriate reconciliation and repositioning as soon as he is sworn into office.

The immediate past state chairman of Oyo State, Chief Akin Oke said not much reconciliation could be achieved until Tinubu becomes president.

He said, “Until we have a rallying figure in Oyo and Osun, whom all members will defer to, not much can be achieved for now. There is no clear leader through whom the national headquarters or presidency could relate with the two chapters. We are already talking.”

Yekini Olaniyi, a special adviser on media and publicity to Folarin, confirmed that discussion is ongoing on how to reposition Oyo APC but he was quick to add that his boss did not lose the March 18 governorship election to Makinde but to APC.

While he refused to apportion blame, Olaniyi said Oyo APC would get itself together when the stakeholders finally sit and talk.

Several other stakeholders who didn’t want their identity disclosed said Tinubu is the hope of reconciliation the party is looking up to.

According to them, “The party needs a serious surgical operation to rebirth itself in Oyo politics. The governance style of the outgoing administration also alienated it from citizens of the state. The same thing happened in Osun.”

Efforts to reach National Vice Chairman, Southwest zone of APC, Isaac Kekemeke for comments were abortive as he couldn’t be reached after many trials.