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Oshiomhole’s travails dictating Ondo APC politics ahead of October poll

By Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure
19 March 2020   |   3:30 am
In the past few days, uncertainty enveloped the camps of the two factions within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State. This is due to the national leadership crisis rocking the party

In the past few days, uncertainty enveloped the camps of the two factions within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State. This is due to the national leadership crisis rocking the party, especially with the courts going back and forth on the fate of the embattled National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole. His current travail is already impacting the fortunes of the state’s APC, particularly who gets the party’s ticket for the October 10 governorship election. 

For the governor of the state, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the High Court judgment, which stripped Oshiomhole of his position as the national chairman of the party, came as a big relief to him and his supporters. It bolstered his chances of getting a second term ticket. But that was until Monday evening when the Court of Appeal also sitting in Abuja granted a stay of execution and vacated the FCT High Court order restraining Oshiomhole from parading himself as the national chairman. The 4+4 maxim by Akeredolu’s supporters had begun to rent the air.

However, the judicial twist in the tale from the Appeal Court restating Oshiomhole has again dampened festivities in Akeredolu’s camp. For Akeredolu’s political rivalries in APC, who have sworn to wrestle the party’s ticket from him under the aegis of Unity Forum, led by a former deputy governor of the state and member of APC’s Board of Trustee (BoT), Alhaji Ali Olanusi, the High Court judgment was a huge setback. But the appellant court’s pronouncement has restored frayed nerves and they have gone back to the trenches.

Nonetheless, a leading aspirant of the party and former state party chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, has urged the two warring factions to close ranks for the interest of the party, saying a divided APC could not win any election. 

Kekemeke, who is a former Commissioner and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), lamented that the present political crisis might impede the chances of the party at the poll. He has distanced himself from the Unity Forum due to the recent aspersions it cast on the National Reconciliation Committee and personality of its chairman, Chief Bisi Akande. Kekemeke, just like the president of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Dayo Faduyile, who has also declared his governorship intention, stressed that all political gladiators in APC must prioritise the interest of the ruling party above personal ambitions.

According to him, those fighting dirty within the party are those who never laboured to build it.

“I will not join them to scatter what I laboured for years to build and to put in place this present administration led by Oluwarotimi Akeredolu,” he said. “The party is sacrosanct and we must realise that without the party, no matter how huge and great our ambition is, we cannot achieve it. So, we must be careful not to destroy it. Anyone fighting dirty is an enemy of the party; all factions must sheathe their swords for the sole interest of our great party.”

Meanwhile, the resolve of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to use direct primary option for Ondo and Edo States continues to stir criticism against Oshiomhole. 

Many anti-Oshiomhole chieftains within the ruling party, including Governor Akeredolu, who was earlier suspended alongside other governors for anti-party activities in the last general election, made frantic moves to oust and replace the National Chairman in the botched emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting. Aligning with other forces outside Ondo State, the Akeredolu faction, which was sure of a second term ticket upon the sack of Oshiomhole, had accused the embattled national chairman of highhandedness in running the affairs of the party. 

Ondo State’s APC Assistant Publicity Secretary, Mr. Gbenga Oladimeji, attributed the losses the party suffered in the last general election to the insensitivity and highhandedness of the current party chairman. Oladimeji, who is loyal to the Akeredolu faction and gloated over Oshiomhole’s temporary removal, said it was their belief that the chairman would have consolidated on the 2015 achievements of the party but that he proved disastrous instead. 

According to Oladimeji, “Party members have been working for the success of the party, only for the national chairman, out of laxity, kept wasting the energy and efforts of party members. The case in Zamfara State was unimaginable. The party had won the elections massively, garnering votes, trust and support of a majority of the people of Zamfara. Only for these to be forfeited, surprisingly due to administrative ineptitude of Oshiomhole.

“A similar embarrassing outing for the party happened in Bayelsa State. The party had worked assiduously to win the majority votes, and was thereby declared the winner of the election.”

While speaking on the direct primaries option for Ondo State governorship election, which many political observers believe is the final handwriting on the wall against Akeredolu’s second term, Oladimeji described it as a “charade”.

“Even when the constitution of the party makes provision for direct primaries in determining the candidates of the party, it is ordinarily expected that an administrator puts in place the mechanisms for the direct primaries before embarking on its usage,” he said. The structures should be open, transparent and foreclosing all forms of manipulations so that it can reflect the true choice of party members. It should be ensured that party members across the wards and units are allowed to have a traceable membership card to avoid duplication.”

Many political observers have interpreted Governor Akeredolu’s moves during his third year anniversary against his political adversaries as a giveaway on the orchestrated plot to oust Oshiomhole. The embattled governor had rebuffed the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu-led peace move and the National Reconciliation Committee headed by the former interim chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande. 

Akeredolu had assured his supporters that there was no need to exercise any iota of fear over the forthcoming governorship election in the state, boasting that he had delivered his electoral promises to the electorate. Without mincing words, Akeredolu expressed optimism that he would defeat members of the Unity Forum who are against his re-election bid. He added that he won his first term without their support and would not need them for his re-election campaign.

The governor urged his supporters to be wary of members of the Unity Forum led by Olanusi, especially the third term Senator representing his district, Prof. Boroffice. He noted that he had drawn a battle line with the group. He taunted and threw jabs at the Olanusi-led group, saying a deputy governor and chairman of a political party could not tar a kilometre of road in his community but claimed to control the majority of the electorate.

While relying on the projects his administration has completed across the 18 local councils, the governor boasted that his achievements would fetch him a second term with or without the group’s input.

In his words “We will fight them no matter their age. How could a man of over 70 years be ganging up against a performing government? We will win with or without them.”

DESPITE the previous High Court judgment, which ordered Oshiomhole to step down as chairman, the APC Unity Forum had already constituted a Candidate Emergence Committee to produce a consensus candidate against Akeredolu. The seven-man committee, include Senator Yele Omogunwa and Professor Wale Ehindero as Chairman and Secretary respectively. It has Mike Adeyeye, Ajiroba Boye Adegbemisoye, Solagbade Amodeni, Afe Olowokere, and Mrs. Bose Iyantan as members. 

The committee is expected to pick a consensus candidate from among the aspirants, namely: Chief Olusola Oke, Mr. Ife Oyedele, Chief Bukola Adetula, Banji Ayiloge, Jimi Odimayo, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, and Boroffice, who said he was not interested, and Chief Dapo Adelegan, from Owo, who is said to be a candidate sponsored by the Abuja mafia as a strong replacement for Akeredolu, his kinsman. 

Chairman of the group, Olanusi, urged the committee to take their membership as a call to duty because the state needed to stop the torrential of capital flight that characterizes the present administration in the state. He decried the ravaging poverty that has pervaded all spheres of human endeavour through the insensitivity of Akeredolu government to the yearnings of the people. 

Though Unity Forum was rattled by Oshiomhole’s High Court-ordered ouster, as disclosed by a member, who pleaded anonymity, the prompt intervention of Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari, which eventually led to the suspension of the emergency NEC meeting on Tuesday, was a huge relief. However, Tolu Babaleye, a staunch member of the forum, had averred that the coup against Oshiomhole would fizzle out and die a natural death, saying that the court process against Oshiomhole was unconstitutional. 

Speaking on the Unity Forum’s consolidation on a consensus candidate, Babaleye said: “They said Unity Forum does not count, yet on hearing the outcome of just one meeting, they are becoming jittery. They call the meeting a gang up. I wish to ask them, what is politics? Is it not about ganging up? They said they are no more interested in peace meeting yet they expect people that they have chased out of their own party to fold their arms and do nothing.

“The stakes will become very high soon when the real masquerade is revealed and when we have ‘white smoke’ coming out from the meeting of the cardinals to choose the next ‘Pope!’ You shall all be surprised when we shall arrive at the answer without rancor and the real campaign will start from there! The naysayers who believed we cannot agree will be awestruck.

“They cannot kill all of us at the same time and we are now putting on red based on their threat so that even when they pour the “oil” it won’t show on our apparels.”

However, secretary of the fact-finding sub-committee of APC Advisory Council, Chief Bode Sumonu, instituted to look into how to resolve the crisis, assured that the ruling party would amicably resolve its internal crisis. Sumonu stated that the committees put in place by the leadership of the party, both at the national and state levels, would be able to resolve the internal crisis before the October 10, 2020 governorship poll. 

Sumonu, who described the internal wrangling as “a game of power,” said “I want you to know that what we are seeing in Ondo State APC is nothing new in politics. It is a game of power, and when doing that, everybody will want to do everything humanly possible. But we have our own internal mechanism that can resolve these little challenges and this is exactly what we are doing now. We all know we cannot destroy this platform if really we want to win this election; even the national leaders of the party are aware of this. 

“The Advisory Committee met of recent and we noticed that the issues surrounding the crisis in the party are resolvable. On the issue of how to put forward, a committee of five people was put in place. We were asked to call people to come out with their grievances and see how we can move forward and I happen to be the secretary of that committee.

“We put up an advertisement and contacted party members, chairmen of the party at the ward level, asking them to come forward with memoranda on what they believe caused the crisis within the party and how to resolve it and move forward. We have received beautiful responses and we are analysing, and maybe in the next one or two weeks, we will be able to advise the Advisory Committee on the way forward.

“At the end of the day, only one person will be chosen as the party’s standard-bearer or candidate and I believe, if we address all the challenges the people raised in their various papers sent to the committee, it will be easier to call people, pacify them, beg them and plead with them that we have only one party and I am sure they all need this party.

“It’s a family issue and we have nowhere else to drive ourselves because we do not have any other party. And more importantly, APC is the only party in Ondo State, the most viable party.”

He also spoke on the rejection of Chief Bisi Akande as the head of the National Reconciliatory Committee of the party by Unity Forum, saying the group spoke of anger. He said the allegation leveled against Akande could not be substantiated, adding, “What I understand is that when you’re angry, don’t talk. And when you’re very happy, don’t make promises. So, I am sure they (Unity Forum) talked when they were angry.

“You will notice that in their communiqué they passed a vote of no confidence in the national committee too. Who will then reconcile them? So, I am of the opinion that the statement was made out of anger. But we all need to come together; there is no doubt about that. I believe the challenges in Ondo APC can be resolved but through dialogue; there’s no two way to it. 

“If you ask me of any Unity Forum, I will refer to the Advisory Council, led by Chief Akinyelure and Chief Isaacs Kekemeke as the Unity Forum where all aggrieved members come together to resolve issues. If these people had been patient enough, maybe they probably won’t say what they said. If you take a look at their communiqué, they said Chief Akande is on the payroll of Akeredolu.

“I don’t know how that can be substantiated anyway and I don’t know what effect that would be to anybody. Akande is the chairman of the reconciliation committee and it is not the governor’s committee. It is an independent committee put together to see to the challenges of APC in Ondo State and find ways of resolving the issues and it is not as bad as people look at it.”