‘Progressives’ bemoan Omodewu’s emergence as Oyo APC chairman
The crisis rocking Oyo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) is far from being over. Less than three weeks to the national convention of the party, Oyo APC is still grappling with issues that resulted from the last ward, council and state congresses.
The recent presentation of certificate of return to Isaac Ajiboye Omodewu by the national secretariat of the party has further polarised the party between the self-styled progressives and the conservatives.
Curiously, Odunewu, who served as a commissioner during the administration of the late Governor Abiola Ajimobi, is considered a conservative. The progressives, who claim to control majority of members as well as foundation members of the party, are crossed with the Governor Mai Mala-Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) for recognising Omodewu as chairman of Oyo APC.
The progressives are headed by APC’s immediate past caretaker committee chairman, Chief Akin Oke and former Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, while the conservatives have the likes of the Senator representing Oyo Central, Teslim Balogun and until recently, former Governor Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala.
The group was labeled as conservatives because most of them defected from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC. Until Alao-Akala’s death, he was the only former governor in the party before the congress, as well as chairman, Elders Council Committee.
Since last year, when the party began its congresses, the progressives have continued to raise the alarm that the CECPC and a cabal within the party want to use the conservatives to hijack the state structure ahead of the national convention.
Aggrieved progressives believe that the scheming was to position Folarin as the next governorship candidate and to prepare the party structure in Oyo to get delegates that will do the biding of forces in Abuja at the coming national convention.
Party sources informed The Guardian that the progressives are contemplating to dump APC unless there is a prompt resolution of the issues. For instance, shortly after the recent inauguration of the state executive and 33 local government executives by Omodewu at the party’s secretariat in Ibadan, the Progressives issued a statement rejecting him.
In the joint statement, they insisted there was no congress from which Omodewu could be returned as state chairman, even as they questioned the basis on which the CECPC issued him “certificate of return.” Vowing to deploy all legal means available to return Alhaji Abubakar Adejare Gbadamosi, the Progressives said Gbadamosi remained the choice of majority of party members, who overwhelmingly voted for him.
The statement was signed by Minister for Youths and Sports, Chief Sunday Dare, Senator Adebayo Adeseun, former Minister for Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu; Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, Senator Soji Akanbi, Senator Fatai Buhari representing Oyo North Senatorial District, the 2019 gubernatorial candidate of the party, Chief Adebayo Adelabu; Chairman of the Nigeria Lotteries Regulatory Commission, Alhaji Fatai Ibikunle and Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Adeolu Akande.
Others include, Post Master General of the Federation, Dr. Ismail Adewusi; Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Sugar Development Council, Zach Adedeji Adelabu; Joseph Tegbe, former Commissioner of Health, Dr. Azeez Adedutan and Chairman, National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM), Wale Murphy Olatunji.
They said the inauguration of Omodewu is a threat to APC in Oyo. The group further declared that plots to enthrone minority group on majority cannot stand, stressing “It will only lead the party to electoral disaster in Oyo State.”
Part of the statement reads: “The details of what transpired on the purported state congress is an open book. At the stakeholders meeting held at the National Secretariat on November 4, 2021, the National Secretary declared that the purported congress conducted on October 30 at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan “was held in error” and without the knowledge nor approval of the National Chairman of the party.
“He openly apologised to the members for the error and the meeting resolved to complete the consensus election of a state chairman, which had produced Alhaji Gbadamosi as chairman. The purported return of Omodewu is the climax of a reign of impunity, which a tiny and minority section of the party in collaboration with outside forces had sought to impose on the party ahead of the 2023 general elections. As such illegalities will definitely fail.
“The stakeholders resolved to use every legal means to reclaim the mandate given to Gbadamosi-led state executive and establish a party leadership that represents the wish of majority members of the party in Oyo. What we are witnessing is a temporary distraction that would test our commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law. We will not fail the test.
“There are attempts to exploit sentiment to rally support for the illegitimate Omodewu executive.” Oke, while speaking to The Guardian lash out at the CECPC, saying the stance of the national leadership on the situation in Oyo APC was undemocratic and unacceptable to majority of APC members.
However, Omodewu has inaugurated the state executive with a call on well-meaning members to join forces with him and the CECPC to win back Oyo from PDP.
During the inauguration, which held at the party secretariat, Ibadan Omodewu urged party faithful to close ranks and work towards ousting PDP in 2023, even as he promised to discharge his duties to the best of his ability.
Immediately after the inauguration, Oke issued another statement dismissing Omodewu as the chairman of the party.
While calling for calm among members, Oke declared that Omodewu is not the harmonised chairman that both agreed on after the October 30, controversial state congress.
He said there was misrepresentation of facts and management of the lists generated by various stakeholders at the ward and council levels in conformity with the directives on consensus option as the basis for nomination of executive members.
The former caretaker chairman argued that the harmonised list of delegates that the CECPC eventually relied on to recognise Omodewu was different from the one agreed to by the stakeholders. He said the development portrayed the national leadership as not being fair to all concerned in Oyo APC.
He, therefore, appealed to the national leadership to consider treating Oyo APC issue the same way as those of Kano and Sokoto states, where more time have been devoted to resolving the lingering intra-party crises for true and genuine reconciliation.
It is believed that if any of the groups gets the edge, it will be able to determine how the delegates from Oyo would vote during the national convention.
One of the immediate past officers of Oyo APC, who pleaded for annonymity said, “The party will stay outside government for another four years after 2023. I don’t see how Omodewu and his minority will lead Oyo APC to oust Governor Seyi Makinde in the next governorship election.”
Explaining the implications of Omodewu’s chairmanship, he told The Guardian that CECPC had indirectly recognised the controversial illegal ward, council and state congresses, which have remained a bone of contention between the Conservative and Progressives since last year.
He said, “Ahead of the coming national convention, Omodewu has been empowered to inaugurate Oyo State executives of the minority and leaving the majority in the cold. He will also go ahead to inaugurate council executives of their faction and be the only one to determine those delegates that will go to the national convention.”
However, despite objections by the Progressives, Chairman Oyo State caucus at House of Representatives, Segun Odebunmi, has congratulated Omodewu and described the process leading to his emergence as chairman, as fair and thorough. He commended the party for accommodating different political layers within APC in the state.
In his congratulatory message, Odebunmi expressed optimism that Omodewu, a former commissioner in the state, is capable of leading the party to a greater height contrary to the claims by sceptics.
Noting that Omodewu will be fair to all, the lawmaker said the new state chairman’s progressive antecedents provides enough bases to conclude that he will perform his new assignments creditably, with equanimity and candour.
“As the new chairman of our great party, we are happy with your confirmation and all we requested from you is that you discharge your duty with utmost responsibility and fairness. It is also important that you work to reposition the party for victory in the coming elections,” he said.
Odebunmi urged Omodewu and his executive members to be conscious of the fact that APC must reclaim Oyo State in 2023, stressing that all hands must be on deck to achieve that critical agenda.
On the way forward, former spokesperson of the party, Dr. Abdulazeez Olatunde, said APC leaders would decide on the next line of action any moment from now.