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Quest for power and burden of defections in Oyo, Ogun APC

By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief) and Gbenga Akinfenwa
07 August 2022   |   4:16 am
Following disagreements over APC’s ward, local governments, state congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State and the governorship primary that produced Senator Teslim Folarin as the party’s gubernatorial candidate...

[FILES] Dapo Abiodun. Photo/facebook.com/ogsgofficial

• APC In Race To Reconcile Warring Factions To Boost Electoral Fortunes

Following disagreements over APC’s ward, local governments, state congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State and the governorship primary that produced Senator Teslim Folarin as the party’s gubernatorial candidate, some members of the state chapter of the party defected along with former Deputy Governor of Central Bank, Adebayo Adelabu, to the Accord Party. Fresh indications suggest that some of the defectors may be regretting their actions now.

Before Thursday, August 4, 2022 when the Southwest Zonal Executive led by the National Vice chairman, Mr Isaac Kekemeke dismissed the claim that the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was aware and also endorsed Adelabu’s defection to Accord party to contest for the 2023 governorship election, the euphoria among supporters of the former deputy governor of CBN was high that Oyo APC had become a stranded vehicle.

The belief within their rank was that Tinubu, former Governor, the late Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo elders and leaders, National Working Committee (NWC), Southwest Zonal body and other notable structures of the party, have withdrawn from Folarin and pitted tent with Adelabu. The thinking was that Adelabu would return to APC after he must have won the governorship election in 2023.

But when Kekemeke, along with other Southwest Zonal Executive members, declared that Folarin remained the authentic and endorsed candidate of APC for 2023 governorship contest, doubts must have been to rest.

In unequivocal terms, Kekemeke debunked the claims by Adelabu and his supporters that Tinubu endorsed his defection. Kekemeke, who addressed the media at the party’s Secretariat in Ibadan when the Senator Femi Lanlehin’s 24-man Reconciliation Committee submitted its report to the Southwest Zonal Executive, said Senator Folarin remained the Oyo APC governorship candidate and that he had the backings of all structures of the party, from the presidency, the National Working Committee (NWC), Southwest Zonal Executive, Oyo State executive and others, to fly the party’s flag in the next governorship election.

Adelabu, who defected from APC after he lost the governorship primary to Folarin, was on Wednesday affirmed by Accord Party as substitute to Mr. Ayodele Oyajide, who won the party’s governorship primary.

There had been reports earlier where Adelabu claimed that Tinubu was aware and also endorsed his defection to Accord Party. It was also alleged that the APC presidential candidate contributed financially to support Adelabu’s defection and realization of his ambition in Accord.

At the Liberty Stadium Ibadan, where Adelabu received the flag of Accord party, his supporters sang the popular anthem of Tinubu, which says: ‘On your mandate we shall stand, on your mandate we shall stand’, which was interpreted to mean that they would support Adelabu for the governorship on Accord platform but would vote for Tinubu on APC’s platform in the presidential poll.

There was also a kind of confusion over where the Ajimobi tendency, which is currently being led by the wife, Florence may pledge its support between Folarin and Adelabu.

While some core loyalists of the late Governor Ajimobi, who are still very close and are working with the family, were seen at Liberty Stadium on Wednesday supporting Adelabu, one of the children, Idris Ajimobi, is however contesting on APC platform. As of Friday, posters of Accord Party were pasted on the APC office built by Ajimobi along Oke Ado Road.

An inside source alleged that over 90 percent of the Ajimobi structure are already in Accord Party not necessarily because of Adelabu but in solidarity with Kola Daisy, an in-law to the Ajimobi family, who contested but lost the Oyo South Senatorial district ticket in APC before moving to Accord.

Speaking on the reconciliation committee’s report, Kekemeke said the party was taking drastic steps to ensure that all the warring factions in Oyo state chapter come together before February and March next year when the presidential and governorship elections would be held.

Senator Ibikunle Amosun

While presenting the report, Lanlehin interrogated some of the issues that necessitated the formation of his committee, and the ones that cropped up during the party’s congresses and primaries.

He noted that notwithstanding the members’ grievances, their continued interest in the party made them receive the committee warmly, as well as offer valuable suggestions that could move the party forward.

He said, “Despite members’ understandable anger, one good thing I took away was their commitment to remain within the party; in fact, they only asked that the party took note of their grouse and be faithful to their recommendations.”

Urging the party to conscientiously take note of the recommendations, as doing so will go a long way in helping the party to succeed, Senator Lanlehin thanked the State Executive Committee for finding him and members of his committee worthy of such onerous yet lofty assignment, promising readiness to heed the call when beckoned on again.

The state chairman, Isaac Omodewu, appreciated the committee for their commitment to the assignment. He said the members have a lot to learn from their commitment. He said the reconciliation was an ongoing thing. “Until we achieve electoral victory in the 2023 polls, your assignment has not ended. Even after, I’m sure you’ll still have one or two things to do, for the sake of the party,” he said.

Assuring the committee that he would take the recommendations to the Elders’ Advisory Council (EAC) with a view to getting their buy-in, Omodewu disclosed that he would wish to retain the committee as a body to be consulted from time to time, subject to the approval of Senator Folarin, and in line with the party’s constitution.

Joining the State Chairman to receive the report were members of the State Executive Committee and some chieftains from the six states of the Southwest who were in Ibadan to attend the party’s zonal meeting. In attendance were Barrister Paul Omotoso, Ekiti State APC Chairman, Barrister Kola Majaro and Mrs Yetunde Adesanya, Southwest Zonal Legal Adviser and Woman Leader respectively, amongst others.

The Recommendations  
A source in the committee who preferred anonymity said, “The committee started its journey from Ogbomosho, Oyo, Ibarapa zone and came back to Ibadan Greater City, Ibadan Main City and we proceeded to Oke Ogun One and Oke Ogun two, where it ended the tour. The complaints we heard across the zones and areas are similar.”

The source said that in spite of their grievances, members expressed their love, commitment and dedication to the party and the governorship candidate, Senator Folarin. “But they were bitter that the party and its authority shifted from the primaries and congresses norms, which according to them, affected the last ward, local governments and state congresses negatively.

“They lamented that the deviation affected how candidates for the State House of Assembly, House of Representatives and the Senate emerged, which generated a lot of distrust and grievances among party loyalists and core party members. Based on this, some left the part to join other platforms. But the committee in its capacity and on behalf of the national leadership is appealing to all defected members to return to the progressives fold.

“We don’t want the party to scatter. We are still appealing to the aggrieved party members to stay. The reconciliation committee promised to do justice through its recommendations, which have been submitted to the state party chairman and the gubernatorial candidate.”

The source added that in some constituencies, there were recommendations that some candidates, who emerged through the back door, should reconcile or settle in agreement and to the satisfaction of those who contested with them and party loyalists. “This decision was taken because we wouldn’t want to lose any member again. What we are doing now is damage control. People have great hope in this reconciliation committee and if you look at the capacity and the integrity of the chairman of the committee, Senator Lanlehin, he is someone that wouldn’t want to give empty promises to the people.

Senator Teslim Folarin

“Lanlehin promised them justice and justice is what we pleaded for in our recommendations that we must be seen as delivering in all the affected constituencies.”

The committee also recommended that where party executive structures were fractured during the congresses, there must be a sincere harmonisation of the different lists. The source said, “The committee recommended that this must be done with the aim of expanding and accommodating all the aggrieved tendencies. The hope is that if we are able to resolve the party executive structures from the ward to the state level, this party will come out stronger and become a party to defeat in Oyo State come 2023. This is very critical in our recommendations.”

The committee also recommended that if it possible for the state to resolve, like three or four constituencies that are so critically damaged through the emergence of House of Assembly and Representatives candidates, that would settle all grievances while the fourth recommendation was the expansion of the elders and the leaders forum to accommodate all critical stakeholders in every Constituency. “We found out the need for people to be given ownership of leadership where they deserved to be recognised. There are some local councils that are so bitter that some elders have been controlling the party since 1952,” the source said.

MEANWHILE, a former Commissioner for Water Resources and Board Member, Federal Teaching Hospital, Gombe State, Azeez Adewale Adeoye, whose name was listed among the Unity Forum members that met with Adelabu over his defection to Accord party, has debunked having anything to do with Adelabu, the unity Forum and or anybody over Accord party or defection to any party.

A report recently circulated, which claimed that some top members of APC Unity Forum in Oyo met with Adelabu and endorsed his movement to Accord Party, mentioned Adeoye as part of the meeting.

He, however, said the story came to him as a shock and strongly refuted it and warned anybody against dropping his name without seeking his consent.

He said, “This story came to me with rude shock. I am still a revered strong and loyal chieftain of my dear party, APC. I strongly back both the state chairman, Omodewu and Senator Folarin, my gubernatorial candidate for 2023 elections and I also state clearly that I am an unrepentant follower of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

Adeoye, who hails from Ibarapa Central/North Federal Constituency, said APC is a party to beat in the next governorship election. “My appeal is that all those who had left the progressives fold out of annoyance, should return. There is still enough time for us to blend and work together before the election.”

In Ogun State, the defection of members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) faction loyal to the former Governor, Ibikunle Amosun (SIA) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State, seems to have brought a new vista to the one-time ruling party in the state.

Since the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which metamorphosed into APC ended the reign of the party, which led to the emergence of Amosun in the 2011 gubernatorial election, the fortune of the PDP had dimmed due to internal wrangling and political power play that culminated into several litigations that polarised the party into different factions.

Chief Adebayo Adelabu

The death of Senator Buruji Kashamu, a major financier of the party was also a serious setback to several efforts to rejuvenate the party and at a time when it was tilting towards putting its house in order, another pillar of the party, former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel left unannounced to the ruling APC to actualise his political ambition.

Though several efforts are being put in place to force the warring factions to sheathe their swords for a common goal, but the new development according to party sources, seems to be the needed impetus to return sanity to the party.

Currently, there are three factions laying claim to the leadership of the party – the gubernatorial candidate, Olubunkola Adebutu faction; Segun Sowunmi faction; and the Bamgbose-led faction, who have instituted suits in court to contest the party’s governorship ticket.

Stakeholders and party chieftains are optimistic that with the defection led by Amosun’s protégé, Abdulkadir Adekunle Akinlade (Triple A), the gubernatorial candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in the 2019 gubernatorial election, coupled with the position bequeathed to him as the running mate to Adebutu, PDP will be in a pole position to unseat the current Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who has been accused of under-performance.

Political analysts are of the view that Akinlade’s defection, coupled with Amosun’s support and the large followership he commands in Ogun West Senatorial District, might break APC’s hold on the state and pave way for the PDP to stage a comeback in 2023.

According to feelers, the party is arduously working on Abiodun’s weaknesses to take over the state’s number one seat, especially now that some of his ardent fans and followers across the local councils are aggrieved that the current administration had sidelined them in the scheme of things and are threatening to cross-carpet.

It will be recalled that a good number of the party members loyal to a chieftain of the party, Aremo Olusegun Osoba’s faction; SIA and OGD who were promised appointment in the current dispensation, are aggrieved that the Abiodun-led government had sidelined them, after using them to attain the exalted position.

According to sources, a good number of the APC members are on the verge of exiting the party in months to come, due to what they termed maladministration and lack of internal democracy in the ruling party in the state.

For instance, in his resignation letter, Akinlade hinged his resignation on the failure of the national leadership of the party to intervene in the internal crisis in the state chapter of the party. He said he could not in good conscience continue to participate in a process that is characterised by injustice.

Reliable sources told The Guardian that his decision might not be far from the proposal of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party via a confidential memo issued few weeks ago.

Daniel

The letter, written in form of a proposal from the party headquarters to seven states – Kano, Abia, Kebbi, Gombe, Imo, Ogun and Zamfara, where the party is having internal wrangling, gave automatic slots to some of the aggrieved players.

As it pertains to Ogun State, the letter reads: “His Excellency Adedapo Oluseun Abiodun should be supported to have a second term. Other suggestions are as follows; Senator Ibikunle Amosun should have preference over the Ogun Central, and Ogun West Senatorial District tickets.

“Senator Amosun should influence four House of Representatives tickets – (two in Ogun Central and one each in Ogun West and Ogun East). The Governor, His Excellency Adedapo Oluseun Abiodun should have the majority of the members of the State House of Assembly i.e 15 while Senator Amosun should nominate 11 State House of Assembly members,” the secret letter read.

A reliable source from the SIA camp revealed that while they wait patiently for the governor to sign the proposal for the agreement to be actualised, he delayed till the electoral umpire – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) closed its nomination portal.

“Since the party cannot settle its internal wrangling successfully, we need to move to a place where we are respected to actualise our aspiration,” he said.

Based on the development, like some of his colleagues who failed to pick the presidential ticket, Amosun has completely lost out in the race for the Ogun Central Senatorial seat by the singular act of non-signing of the memo from reclaiming the ticket already picked by the Chief of Staff to Governor Abiodun, Shuiab Salisu.

It would be recalled that Amosun stepped down for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to emerge as the party’s presidential flag bearer. With the move, the top echelon of the party were bent on offering the former governor the ticket, as part of the reconciliation move ahead of the 2023 election in the state.

It was gathered that since resolution could not be reached on the proposal, Akinlade and members of his faction exited the party for PDP.

Akinlade, a former House of Representatives member, who also contested the APC’s governorship primary held in May and lost to Abiodun, said he agreed to run with Adebutu as the deputy governorship candidate for the next election.

He said, “This decision was not an easy one to take. It might not be the most popular decision to take, but I believe it is absolutely necessary. The maladministration in Ogun State requires that every sensible indigene of this state must be ready to make a sacrifice and must be ready to do whatever it takes to change the course and the trajectory of government come 2023.”

The state Chairman of PDP, Sikirulai Ogundele, described the defection as a plus for the party, noting that Akinlade is a very formidable, upright, dependable, responsible and responsive politician, needed to change the fortune of PDP.

Ogundele said: “He was at a time a gubernatorial candidate of a political party and came second in the poll, so it’s an advantage for the PDP, considering his management of the APC, not only him, but the reasonable ones that defected with him. APC has not made any significant impact in the lives of Nigerians, a reasonable person will no go to the poll and vote APC, considering what we are currently experiencing.

Akinlade

“I have said it in different fora that Abiodun should start preparing his hand-over note, considering the hardship in the state. Look at the projects he has embarked on, they have not reflected on the people, just as the economy of the state has nosedived. Abiodun should be ready to leave the governorship seat in 2023.”

However, a chieftain of the PDP, who doesn’t want his name mentioned expressed displeasure with the way Akinlade emerged.

“Adebutu did not recognise the leadership in the party. Though they may be pretending to be at home with his moves, but they are not happy because he’s the main financier of the party. He failed to carry the leaders in the senatorial district along on his plans for them to express their minds. It was after he picked Akinlade as his running mate that he called the meeting of the leaders. There are things that have not gone down with the party leaders, but they couldn’t open up, that’s my grouse. We have over 30 different cases in court now and that should be our concern now. We have all the opportunities and chances to win the state but we are the problem, no thanks to Adebutu because he doesn’t manage the structure with him well.”