Ogun 2023: Battle for APC political structure intensifies
Since the Saturday, October 16, 2021 state congress of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State, the intrigues in the battle for the party structure and political relevance in the state between the incumbent governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun and his predecessor in office, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who currently represents Ogun Central in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
Although, there were parallel state congresses organised by loyalists of the governor and Senator Amosun, the leadership of the APC’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) appears to be more at home with the governor’s side, which it sent representatives to supervise and which was monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The parallel state congress had reopened the face-off between Abiodun and his predecessor, who did everything possible during the build-up to the 2019 governorship election to stop the incumbent governor from winning the election. As the then sitting governor of Ogun on the platform of the same APC, Amosun worked against the ambition of Abiodun by encouraging his supporters to defect to another platform APM, where he sponsored his cronies, Abiodun Akinlade from Ogun West to contest against the incumbent.
It took collective efforts of the leadership of Southwest APC and the erstwhile National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole to salvage the situation by rallying around Abiodun, who did not only win the party’s governorship ticket but also went ahead to win the election against the will and desire of Amosun. Although Amosun succeeded in winning the Ogun State Central senatorial ticket to move to the senate after his eight years, the battle line had since been drawn between him and Abiodun.
Despite the fact that Abiodun holds the executive power, Amosun is perceived to still be influential in Ogun politics based on two critical advantages he has. First is his strong and personal relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari. These many observers allege enables the senator to get away with several misconducts. On the other hand, he is considered to have a very strong political influence across the grassroots, which the incumbent somehow lacks.
While Amosun is considered a grassroots politician, who understands the rudiments of Ogun politics and how to also deploy executive power, Abiodun is regarded as a technocrat, whose vision is to deliver dividends of democracy to the people.
Impacts Of Parallel State Congress
On congress day, the factions loyal to Abiodun and Amosun held separate congresses with the aim of producing the next state executive that would midwife the processes of the 2023 governorship elections in the state.
Abiodun, who is aspiring to rerun for the second term, would definitely need an executive he can rely on while Amosun, who is allegedly looking for means to become the godfather of Ogun politics is also aiming to have a stronghold on a state executive that would do his bidding ahead of the next governorship election.
As early as 8:00 a.m on Saturday, Abiodun’s loyalists gathered at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Kuto, while the faction loyal to Amosun converged on the Ake Palace ground to elect the party officials.
Amosun’s loyalists elected Derin Adebiyi as the state chairman of the 36-man exco through a consensus arrangement. In attendance at Amosun’s congress ground were the Minister for Mines and Steel Development, Olalekan Adegbite; the senators representing Ogun East and West in the National Assembly, Lekan Mustapha and Tolu Odebiyi respectively; and a former governorship candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, among others. The congress was monitored by Gbenga Opaleye, the chairman of the State Congress Committee.
For Abiodun, a former senator, Adegbenga Kaka, and other APC members loyal to the governor produced Yemi Sanusi as the state chairman of the party. The congress was conducted under the supervision of a seven-member committee, led by Wale Ohu. The faction also adopted a consensus approach shortly after some opposing aspirants withdrew from the contest.
Meanwhile, the State Congress Appeal Committee set up to address petitions and grievances said it did not receive any petition from the state indicating that the CECPC may eventually reckon with the state congress held under the supervision of the governor.
The five-man Appeal Committee, headed by former House of Representatives member, Patrick Obahiagbon, said there was no petition received within the two days of its sitting. He said the development implied that the APC leaders and all stakeholders in the state were satisfied with the conduct of the October 16 state congress.
Intrigues Ahead 2023
THOUGH party bigwigs always claimed that the party remains one indivisible body, the outcome of October 16, 2021, State Congress exposed their differences.
Currently, The Guardian can authoritatively say that the party is more divided than it was in the build-up to the 2019 general elections, based on recent happenings, including recent defection galore into the party.
There are currently at least five different factions in the party. Discernible is the Senator Ibikunle Amosun (SIA/PMB) group; former governor Olusegun Osoba splinter; those loyal to the Senator representing Lagos West senatorial district in the Senate, Solomon Adeola (Yayi); the incumbent governor’s group and former Governor Gbenga Daniel’s bloc.
Sources within the party disclosed that these lineups have surreptitiously commenced underground fireworks and antics, in their bid to clinch the state’s number one seat. This was manifested with the parallel congress held by the Amosun’s faction, where factional party leaders also emerged.
A chieftain of the party in the state confided in The Guardian that the battle to clinch the number of seat in 2023 has started, based on the various power blocs’ ‘insatiable’ craving, noting that Abiodun can never have 10 per cent of them when the time comes.
Political analysts claim that the return of Abiodun’s ‘fiercest rival’ in the 2019 governorship election, Abdulkadir Adekunle Akinlade (Triple A) and other members of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to join Amosun poses a serious threat to the possible reelection of the incumbent governor.
One of the factors that actually pointed to this direction was the declaration of the APM members when they returned to APC in 2019 when they categorically restated their loyalty to Amosun and President Muhammadu Buhari in defiance to the incumbent as the party leader.
The SIA/PMB faction seems to still have a good hold on the party in the state, as all federal appointees from the state are Amosun’s candidates, who have no doubt pledged their loyalty to the group, coupled with the support from the presidency, which the former governor enjoys.
Though Amosun’s camp has been lying low before the state congress, based on what a source claim ‘we don’t want to be seen as the enemy of the administration,’ but feelers show that very soon, the camp may roll out their campaign for the 2023 poll, as it was waiting for the conduct of the just concluded state congress.
What party sources consider as an added advantage that might work for the Amosun faction is the defection of late Kashamu Buruji’s group from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Though an unconfirmed report from party sources a few months ago claimed Amosun has promised not to present any candidate against Abiodun, chances of the faction producing Abiodun’s successor appears bright, especially now that those who supported the governor against ‘Amosun’s force’ to win the 2019 election, have accused the governor of abandoning them and have retraced their steps to their former roots.
Just as it was in 2019, Senator Olamilekan Solomon Adeola (Yayi), according to feelers, is planning to stage a comeback, though into the Red Chambers of the National Assembly from Ogun West. But if he decides to contest the governorship, some party chieftains said the senator might have a smooth sail as he still has a stable structure, which he reportedly used to support Abiodun to win the 2019 election.
In the build-up to the 2019 election, the Lagos Senator was touted as one of the aspirants that could upset Amosun’s succession plans, particularly his desire to foist his preferred candidate on Ogun APC then. However, the Senator withdrew from the race, choosing instead to pursue his re-election to the Senate.
Aside the fact that the structure is still intact, sources reveal that strong supporters of Yayi in the governor’s camp are gradually regrouping to make the senator realise his dream if he declares his intention.
One of the confirmations of this is the planned installation of the Senator as the Aremo Oba of Yewaland by the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, a development currently causing controversy in the area.
The power of incumbency ought to be an advantage for Abiodun to overcome all odds. With the state congress, the governor is also fortifying his structure across senatorial zones sensing the threats ahead.
A source within the party revealed that the defection of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, appear to be a step in that direction.
Abiodun and his faction believe that the political pedigree of the two men is enough to repel threats to his reelection bid. Daniel was governor of the state from 2003 to 2011, while Bankole was the Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2007–2011, all on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Feelers have it that the defection of the two ‘warlords’ is part of plans to beef up Abiodun’s structure. While Bankole will be used to check Amosun in Ogun Central, it is speculated that Daniel, who is also eyeing the Ogun East Senatorial District seat, may use ‘Ijebu connection’ to consolidate Abiodun’s efforts in the East, while calculations on how to tackle opposition from Ogun West is in the works.
But unlike in 2019 when Abiodun enjoyed the full support of Chief Olusegun Osoba, who joined forces with the Yayi bloc to enthrone him as governor, despite the threat posed by the then incumbent governor, the table appears to have turned, based on allegations that Abiodun sidelined the Osoba camp, as he failed to offer them any significant appointment in his cabinet.
Sources disclosed that regardless of the power of incumbency, Prince Abiodun might find things difficult in his re-election bid, particularly as he might have lost the three senatorial districts even before the election. For instance, in Ogun Central, despite the defection of Bankole and influence of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Taiwo Oluomo, Amosun still controls the grassroots, just as the aspiration of Yewa people to have a shot at the number one seat once again would lure them to support Akinlade, with a split of votes from the Ogun East, likely to be caused by Gboyega Nasir Isiaka’s (GNI) influence in the zone.
“Ogun West would be a battleground, and whoever can spend more money will win the district. Senator Tolu Odebiyi is back in Amosun’s lineup and ready to comply with the camp’s decisions in the next election. Bisi Otegbeye, Akinlade and Yayi are moneybags that GNI can never outspend, to win the zone for Abiodun. It will be a fruitless voyage for GNI and he might decide to pull out from Abiodun camp and go solo once again.”
When contacted, the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Tunde Oladunjoye, said the party held no parallel state congress. He accused Amosun and his followers of planning to cause chaos and throw the state into anarchy by heating up the polity.
When contacted, the APC chairman of the Amosun faction, Derin Adebiyi, told The Guardian that he doesn’t want to join issues with the Abiodun faction.