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Oyo APC … Storm in a teacup

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Head South West Bureau) and Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan
20 September 2020   |   4:21 am
They are bonded by one political platform, but Oyo State All Progressives Congress’s (APC) members are not pushing a common front. And efforts to unite the warring factions had been unsuccessful, decapitating the party ...

Adebayo Shittu. Photo/twitter/HMAdebayoShittu

• As Warring Factions Fail To Back Down

They are bonded by one political platform, but Oyo State All Progressives Congress’s (APC) members are not pushing a common front. And efforts to unite the warring factions had been unsuccessful, decapitating the party from playing its opposition role to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

Efforts to ensure peace returns to the party started after the 2019 general elections, when the late Isiaq Abiola Ajumobi set up a 16-member reconciliation committee headed by former Governor Adebayo Alao- Akala.

Some aggrieved party members greeted the announcement of the committee’s members with condemnation, saying the former governor was incompetent, wondering why a new entrant into the party should be saddled with such a responsibility. They also said Alao-Akala, a non-progressive, to them, was given the responsibility by Ajimobi to maintain the existing party structure, which they disagreed with.

Ajimobi’s death compounded the crisis, as oppositions against Alao-Akala grew in leaps and bounds, because of the fear that the assignment given to former governor may throw him up as the state party’s leader. This is despite the party’s constitution specifically allows for the incumbent or former governor to be the party leader.

Former Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, a political archrival of Ajimobi was emphatic that the former governor was unqualified to lead the reconciliation committee.

Shittu said: “I have all the respect for him, but I don’t think that the way and manner that committee was set up was made in good fate, why do I say this? Before the setting up of that committee, the APC National Working Committee (NWC) had set up a National Reconciliation Committee led by Chief Bisi Akande, our respected leader. NWC did not say Oyo State was not part of their mandate. But one of the people who were active in creating the problems now set up another committee to usurp the functions and responsibilities of the National Working Committee, then a big question mark arises.

“When Alao-Akala took up that job, I actually challenged him, that I thought it was not good enough for him to have taken up such responsibility, because he himself had been frustrated out of the APC. As frustrated as I was, I never left APC, he was so frustrated that he had to leave APC for ADP, when was he reconciled, for him to now qualify, as the chairman of the reconciliation committee.

Shittu further said that out of the 16 members reconciliation committee, twelve of them are known active acolytes of the late governor. “If you have two main factions in the party, and you seriously and in good fate wanted to set up a reconciliation committee, the wisest thing would have been to take perhaps from both factions, that was not done. So, I don’t see how we members of Unity Forum would have confidence in that, we prefer neutral persons.”

In his reactions, the former governor said those saying he is new and not a progressive are political neophytes and non-starters. I am not ready to join issues with them because they lack the political experience and exposure to understand that people command leadership and not demand it. I have not told nor begged anybody that I want to lead the party. The leadership of the party would emerge naturally. Those people are just privileged because they joined the party before me, not because they know what leadership is all about. By the special grace of God, I have been whatever I had prayed to be in this state. I have paid my dues as a politician of note.

“What is uppermost in my mind now is to take the party out of the woods, by making sure that peace and genuine reconciliation is achieved in the party ahead of future elections.”

On his part, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, the state representative at the Federal Executive Council, recently, called a stakeholders’ meeting, pleading for unity, for the party’s survival. Some of the persons at the meeting were former state Deputy Governor, Otunba Moses Alake-Adeyemo; House of Representatives member, Mr. Shina Peller, Mr. Musiliu Akinremi, Mr. Akeem Adeyemi, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), former Speakers Oyo State House of Assembly, Asimiyu Alarape, Olagunju Ojo and Senator Ayo Adeseun. Others include Prince Ayodeji Aleshinloye ALGON Chairman Oyo State; Professor Dibu Ojerinde; Member Oyo State Reconciliation Committee, Mr. Saheed Fijabi and Mr. Olumide Ojerinde, and Aare Okuta.

After extensive deliberations, it was resolved to let go the past and work together to restore the fortunes of the party. They appealed to party members to henceforth desist from deploying inflammatory words against fellow party members in the name of factional wrangling.

But immediately after Dare’s meeting, Alao-Akala-led peace committee held its first enlarged meeting with the party’s leaders and stakeholders, where he disclosed he would not be part of future governorship election, but would ensure a sellable and acceptable candidate emerge through primary elections in 2023.

He said the seat of power in the state is open for the APC to grab in 2023, maintaining that he is currently not in support of any gubernatorial aspirant in the state.

At the reconciliation meeting, held at his Bodija, Ibadan residence, Senator Teslim Folarin lauded the committee for its efforts, because reconciling a party is not easy. On the call that the party’s Executive should be dissolved, Folarin said: “I have been in the party for a year, I don’t have a representative in the Exco. Senator Buhari does not have a representative in his 13 local governments. I don’t even have a councilorship slot then, but we have to put that aside.

“APC is an hybrid. The challenge is how would we work together but luckily we have Alao-Akala, we have someone who can lead us. You all know my history with him, but the truth is that, a leader is a leader. He is my leader.”

Folarin also revealed that the former governor was reluctant to lead the reconciliation committee, but he is the only one qualified to lead.

But a party chieftain, Asiwaju Rotimi Ajanaku dismissed the peace meeting held by Alao-Akala as a mere jamboree of position seekers, which would not bring the desired result. Specifically, he accused former governor of not inviting key APC stakeholders to the meeting, noting that the meeting was one sided, without extending invitation to all aggrieved members.

Also, the APC Core Progressives Forum faulted the peace meeting by Alao-Akala, alleging that over 95 percent of the attendees were strangers to the progressive family.

Pastor Olayemi Emmanuel, who issued a statement on behalf of the group, disclosed that the intention of the meeting made up mainly of ultra conservative politicians was to hijack the structures of the party with the aim of foisting one of them as the leader of the APC in Oyo State to hand over the party back to the PDP, where they all came from.

Reacting to the allegation, Oyo State APC Publicity Secretary, Dr. Abdulazeez Olatunde described the group as faceless, stating that the Reconciliation Committee headed by Akala is the one recognised by the party. “And whatever the committee has done has the blessings of the party in Oyo State.  So, if anybody has any reason to disagree with them, he should either get across to the reconciliation committee or get across to the party. It is not the media that comes first. 

“Since 1999, I have been a bonafide member of this party, from the legacy era. There is nothing like Core Progressives in our party. They are faceless group. They are the ones even being used by the PDP to destroy and destabilise our party. Whatever is there grievance, they should come out open. They should not destroy our party.”

Chief Niyi Akintola SAN, said he does not belong to any faction, noting that as a leader, whosoever is in the vanguard of ensuring unity, peace and harmony within the party is welcome by him. Sunday Dare was here. All in a bid to resolve the logjam within the rank and file of APC. We have known each other for about 40 years. He grew up under my watch. And following this, I attended the reconciliation meeting being spearheaded by Alao-Akala.  People must appreciate that laws guide our party. The Constitution of the party empowers the governor of the state, who is a member of the party to lead. The same Constitution says in the absence of a governor, a former governor, who is a member of the party can lead. I’m a lawyer and I’m expected to stick to the rule of law. To me, Alao-Akala, say whatever you like, he is a former governor and he is a member of our party.

“Unless you can show to me that he is not a party member. We are guided by the Constitution. I agree with a school of thought that says it is an anomaly to make the governor the state leader of the party. It has brought about confusion and disharmony. But as long as that clause is there, I’m afraid there is nothing anybody can do.”

Indeed, some APC chieftains have expressed fears that if the crisis continues till December, the party may not field candidates for the local council elections that may hold in January next year.