Oyo APC on thorny road to state congress
The hope of Oyo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) to regain power and defeat Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 governorship election depends on the success of the state congress, scheduled to hold on Saturday.
Few days to the exercise, the party is sharply divided between the progressives and some new members tagged conservatives, apart from various tendencies in the party that are at loggerheads on how to share the 36 major positions across the 33 local governments in the state.
The faction of the late former Governor Abiola Ajimobi, now led by his wife, Florence, is said to be working towards ensuring that loyalists of her husband dominate the new executive with the aim to determine who wins the governorship ticket of the party come 2023.
It is also insinuated that former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, who is currently the Chairman, Elders Advisory Council, is manipulating the process leading towards Saturday to take control of the party structure.
In similar vein, the lawmaker representing Oyo Central District on the platform of APC, Senator Teslim Folarin, is also being accused of scheming to use the coming state congress to fester his 2023 governorship ambition by planting his surrogates in the next party executive.
Members of the incumbent executives led by Chief Akin Oke, are alleged to have been compromised, by Alao-Akala and Folarin. An aggrieved member of the party criticised Oke for being too soft and complacent to challenge the excesses of Alao-Akala and Folarin.
Oke and the secretary of the party Mojeed Olaoya, were alleged to have been bought over by Alao-Akala, who wants his son to be deputy governor in 2023 and Folarin, who is nursing governorship ambition.
There is also the Unity Forum group, led by the likes of former Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, Senator Femi Lanlehin, Prof Deolu Akande and others. The group is battle ready for Alao-Akala and Folarin as the congress beckons.
Another tendency is that of the incumbent Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Mr, Sunday Dare, who is believed to be eyeing the governorship ticket of the party. Both the Unity Forum and Dare are leading the opposition against the plots by Alao-Akala, Folarin and the incumbent executive, insisting that a minority conservative cannot be allowed to hijack the party structure.
Observers see the possibility of a parallel state congress on Saturday, if the leadership fails to resolve the crisis.
The crisis worsened last week when Alao-Akala-led Elders Advisory Council mandated a committee to decide on the zoning arrangement and how to share the new executive positions in the coming state congress, but the Unity Forum and other tendencies kicked, alleging that they were not carried along. They also accused the former governor and Folarin, whom they consider as PDP’s offsprings for trying to hijack the party structure, using money to buy their ways.
The development compelled Chief Oke to issue a statement last Friday to dismiss speculations of disunity and crises within the party ahead of the state congress.
Oke, according to the statement appealed to party faithful and members of the public to disregard rumours of internal wranglings in Oyo APC, but his appeal was countered by Shittu, who went on air last Saturday to express dissatisfaction with the planned arrangements by some “conservatives” to manipulate the process.
Although, Oke said rumours of the crisis was a figment of the imagination of some fifth columnists, who do not mean well for the party and Nigerian society, such rumours have not gone away. A stakeholders’ meeting fixed for Monday October 11 by the chairman could not resolve the differences but had to refer back to the council.
As at Wednesday, there was no sign that Shittu and his supporters are ready to cooperate with Akala’s led council, instead the former Communication Minister went on air to express displeasure over the alleged plot to seize the party structure.
One of the major contentions is that other some old members of the party no longer accept Alao-Akala, who joined the party on the eve of 2019 general elections, as their leader despite being the most senior elected member of the party, while the former governor was not ready to abdicate his position in a party where all the tendencies have equal stake.
But a party source, who is sympathetic to the acclaimed progressives described what is currently happening in the party as “inequality, where a minority group is lording themselves over the majority because of their wealth”.
He said the politics being played Folarin and Alao-Akala are strange to progressive politics where money is not a major determinant in deciding a leader or candidate.
According to him, “They wanted to hijack the structure. It is no more a hidden secret that Folarin is nursing governorship ambition while the former governor wanted his son to be deputy governor. They are thinking that once they take over the party structure, the progressive group would go to sleep. Everybody in APC knows that the progressives hardly want to rock the boat, but this time our people said they would not allow such to happen. It is traceable to the kind of politics which our leaders in Southwest are playing, where they say whoever wants to run must have money and you know the progressives within the party are not empowered financially.”
He lamented that Southwest leaders are supporting those who have financial muzzle against those who have imbibed culture of progressive politics. “They have gone to the Senate and now become richer, they now have the confidence that they can buy their way with money.
“What is going on in the party is not fair and that is why Sunday Dare and Adebayo are complaining that these people just came to take over the party.
“Oke is also accused of supporting Alao-Akala and Folarin. The contention is that no executive member has the right to support any aspirant openly but in the present situation some executive members are making open declaration that they were supporting particular people and the chairman could not checkmate them. This is the bottom line of the problem,” said a source.
The aggrieved party members said there is no way APC can win any election in Oyo State as long as the conservatives are in control of the party’s machineries. A source said, “We are indirectly allowing what Makinde prophesised that the center would not hold and with that he is going to win his second term, to come to pass.”
MEANWHILE, Senator Folarin, has dismissed the allegation that he is collaborating with Alao-Akala to hijack the party structure. He said there was nothing of such.
Folarin who spoke with The Guardian, however, accused Unity Forum of troubling the party, saying that they have nothing to offer despite being the major beneficiaries of federal government appointments.
Folarin disclosed that he has not openly declared that he wanted to run for governorship, hence he cannot be scheming to hijack the party structure and there is nowhere Alao-Akala has said that his son will contest as deputy governor.
“The fact is that the so-called progressives tendency in the party does not want to reckon with other tendencies, which is not possible”, Folarin said.
Dare in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, disassociated himself from having crisis with anybody but his concern is that the process in doing things must be transparent and everyone carried along.
He said there is no problem if anybody aspires to be anything, saying, “that is a normal thing in politics.”
Dare expressed displeasure with the conduct of some Oyo APC chieftains, which he described as inimical to the unity the party needs to win in 2023.
But in his reaction, Alao-Akala warned that there must be an end to era of impunity and disrespect for party supremacy.
The former governor made the statement while addressing party faithful, who went to his Bodija, Ibadan, residence to demand for a fair and just process during the state congress of the party on Saturday.
In his response to the demand, Alao-Akala decried the level of impunity and disrespect for the party’s authority, saying: “Henceforth the leadership of the party would no longer tolerate disruptive tendencies whose stock in trade is to put the sanctity and institution of the party to ridicule and disrepute at the slightest opportunity.”
He said no matter how highly placed any individual is, the party is supreme.
According to him, “Anybody that calls himself a politician can never be recognised without first belonging to a political party, which will serve as his or her identity.
“It is on the platform of that party that you will ply your trade. You can never use your surname to contest and win an election, so why can’t we abide by the rules guiding the party?”
The former governor said treating that platform that gave you leverage with disdain and disrespect will no longer be tolerated in Oyo APC. “The era of members of the party going on radio, granting newspaper interviews or going on the social media to tarnish the hard earned image of the party has come to an end.
“Anybody caught in this web of impunity will be sanctioned appropriately as prescribed by the constitution of the party. There are rules of engagement and it will henceforth be followed to the letter.”
He said the coming state congress would afford them the opportunity to decide and elect who they want as their leaders.
He stated that anybody clamouring for the party’s structure is wasting his or her time, saying, the party has returned to the people who are real owners and not any leader or stakeholder.
Alao-Akala said, “Without you followers, we cannot exist as leaders. This coming state congress will be an open affair and nobody’s ambition can supersede the interest of the party.”
He said there are 36 positions in the state executive and 33 local government areas in Oyo state “It is a simple arithmetic, each local government will have a slot in the spirit of fairness and equity unlike in the past where some local governments had up to three representatives in the state executive while some had none.
“The era of some local governments being disenfranchised in the scheme of things is over,” he said.
Former Special Adviser to Ajimobi, Mr Bolaji Tunji said it is not true that the wife of his late boss was planning to sponsor people to run for any election in the state.
According to him, “Mrs Ajimobi has always said that she is not a politician but the wife of a politician. She is not interested in any elective office herself and neither is she promoting anybody, including any of her children for any position. And that, even if any of the children is interested in contesting, it is their right but she is not promoting anybody.
“In terms of Ajimobi’s tendency, I don’t understand what they mean by that because it is not clear to me. The present executive of the party is a creation of Ajimobi in conjunction with other party elders and it is the mainstream today. The people in office today are the mainstream of Oyo APC. Those people saying she is doing this and that lack information and people always make a lot of speculations in politics, which in most cases are not true.
“ She has always emphasised the need to build the party and make it strong first before anybody starts aspiring for any position. She said she will continue to support the party the way she supported her husband when he was alive and that the major thing is to build the party. Make APC strong first and after, we can now look at the best among the aspirants.”