Rumbles in Southwest APC over search for Deputy National Chairman
• Party leaders agree to move slot to Oyo, consider Ajimobi
Following the decision by some top Southwest leaders and elders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at a meeting held last Friday at the Lagos State House, Marina, that the party’s Deputy National Chairman position recently vacated by former Governor of Ekiti State and Minister of Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, be moved to Oyo State, with the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, is considered, the Ekiti chapter of APC has kicked against such plot.
The Guardian learned from a reliable source that those in attendance were the National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba, interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande, National Vice Chairman APC, South West, Mr. Bankole Oluwajana, Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), with the majority resolving that the deputy national chairman Southwest zone slot should go to Oyo State.
Others in attendance were former governors of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Ajimobi. Also present was Chief Pius Akinyelure and others. But from the grapevine, it was learned that only Amosun and Fayemi objected to the decision to move the position from Ekiti to Oyo.
According to a source, “Fayemi and Amosun’s position on the issue was clear and deliberate for obvious reasons, which may not be unconnected with their 2023 presidential calculations and ambitions.”
It was, however, gathered that on the strength and decision arrived at during the elders’ meeting in Lagos, there was a mild drama at the secretariat of APC, Osun State chapter, Osogbo, on Tuesday, when the meeting of the party’s caucus in the Southwest was disrupted by protests from members of Ekiti State APC.
But while digging deep into some of the reasons the elders and leaders concluded at the Marina gathering that the next deputy national chairman (Southwest) should move from Ekiti to Oyo contrary to the insinuations that it was Tinubu lobbying to plant Ajimobi ahead of his presidential ambition in 2023, sources at the meeting said, “In the first instance, the majority in attendance agreed that Oyo is currently the only state in the zone were APC does not have a governor and, as a result, something must be conceded to the state for it to have a voice and recognition at the national level in the party.
“Secondly, it was deliberated upon that initially when the position was zoned to Southwest in APC’s last national convention the leaders, in their wisdom, conceded the position to Ekiti on the premise that APC did not have a governor back then until Fayemi became governor. It is now rational to give similar consideration to Oyo, which does not have a governor now.”
The source also put a lie to the argument that it was Tinubu who suggested Ajimobi to succeed Adebayo for his selfish interests, saying, “When options were placed on the table and credentials, capacity and political weight of possible candidates from Oyo State were considered, especially the person that could have the political charisma to speak on behalf of Southwest at the national level, the immediate past governor was second to none. It was, therefore, the decision of the elders and not unilaterally taken by the national leader.”
In addition to the reasons above, it was also revealed to The Guardian that the elders also considered the fact that at present the Ekiti-Ondo States’ axis of APC currently has two governors, Fayemi, who is Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Akeredolu, chairman Southwest Governors’ Forum while Oluwajana as national vice chairman APC, Southwest is also from Ondo.
“It is, therefore, logical for the party hierarchy in the Southwest to carry Oyo along if the Ekiti-Ondo axis already occupies sensitive positions in the party.”
Another horse-trading that also transpired at the Marina meeting was the alleged position retained by Fayemi and Amosun that a former lawmaker, Senator Gbenga Aluko, who represented Ekiti South Constituency of Ekiti State on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform in 1999 but who later defected to Labour Party (LP) but now back to APC, should succeed Adebayo. However, this was resisted by the leaders on the ground that Aluko, who allegedly has a close relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, with his PDP background, could not be nominated for such a sensitive position.
But critical stakeholders at the meeting wondered, “What can a deputy national chairman do in a party like APC to help anybody’s presidential ambition in 2023? Fayemi and Amosun and their supporters may be following a wrong trend that will not favour the zone in the long run. This is the reason Akeredolu is somehow foot-dragging to play along with them.”
HOWEVER, another narrative was that the Southwest APC’s caucus meeting held in Osun State on Tuesday ought to have been held in Oyo State but was deliberately shifted to Osun at the instance of Tinubu so that Governor Oyetola could use his influence to provide cover in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
When contacted on why some Ekiti APC members disrupted the caucus meeting in Osun, the spokesman of the party in Ekiti, Mr. Ade Ajayi, dismissed the claim that members of Ekiti APC rebelled against the leaders or disrupted any caucus meeting, saying, “We respect and honour our leaders and, at the same time, stand by our right.”
Ajayi insisted that the position of the deputy national chairman vacated by Adebayo, who is from Ekiti, must remain and should not be moved to Oyo.
According to him, “When we learned that some leaders of APC wanted to move the slot to Oyo, we set up a five-man committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Bisi Egbeyemi, to go and interface with the party’s leaders that are meeting in Osun on the need to retain the position in Ekiti according to the zoning reached at the last national convention. We articulated our position in a letter but unfortunately, some of our female members, who were aware of our going to Osun and the purpose, decided on their own to follow and make peaceful protest on the need for the party hierarchy in the Southwest to respect the decision of the national convention.”
Ajayi said even if the post of the national deputy chairman Southwest zone would be relocated to another state, “it must be at the next national convention. But for now, it is our slot and we must produce Adebayo’s successor. That is what the constitution of the party says and it must be strictly adhered to.”
He dismissed the insinuation that the protest was a rebellion against Tinubu or any individual in the party and neither was it orchestrated or sponsored.
“We simply went to demand our right based on the constitution of our party,” Ajayi said.
Meanwhile, Oluwajana who was supposed to chair the APC’s caucus meeting in Osun said the meeting was not purposely scheduled to deliberate on who replaces Adebayo nor was it masterminded by anyone as some people claimed.
“It was our normal periodic meeting to review the activities of APC across the zone,” he said. “I am not aware of any rancor or rowdy protest other than some members of Ekiti APC presenting a letter of request to the caucus.”
Oluwajana also denied the allegation that Tinubu is scheming to plant Ajimobi, saying, “I don’t want to be associated with the word scheming. Yes, there is room for lobbying in politics but I am not aware, at least as the national vice chairman, Southwest, that anybody is fronting for a particular candidate.”
As to whether the position would be retained in Ekiti, Oluwajana said, “Discussion is ongoing on that.”
BUT aggrieved contenders said Oluwajana was only playing politics and would not divulge what really transpired in the inner circle. The excuse that Oyo is the only state in the Southwest that has no governor or representatives in the national hierarchy of APC might just be part of the shenanigans of Southwest’s APC elders, who always plant their stooges.
For instance, it was pointed out that when the incumbent Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was appointed by Buhari in 2015, while he was serving as National Publicity Secretary, the party replaced him with Bolaji Abdulahi, who is also from Kwara State and when Abdulahi left, his successor and current spokesman of the party came from the same state.
But the struggle to determine Adebayo’s successor from the zone may not be unconnected with part of intrigues for the 2023 presidential race of which the presidency is deeply interested. For instance, according to a narrative, the chances of the incumbent National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, surviving schemes for his removal from office are said to be remote and whoever is the Deputy National Chairman may be the one to act peradventure the former governor of Edo exits his current position.
The source said, “Tinubu is interested in Ajimobi not because of the reasons adduced earlier but should he succeed, the national leader can now use the former governor to achieve what he is using Oshiomhole to do at present in the party. However, if the likes of Fayemi and Amosun bulldoze their way and plant their candidate, the national leader may find it difficult to scheme appropriately for 2023. However, the presidency itself is much more involved and the game. It may not be as easy as people are looking at it.”
The development has, however, exposed the extent to which Southwest APC is divided and the northern hegemony may just be enjoying the bickering and also masterminding the usual divide-and-rule tactics they deploy to destabilise APC in the South so they could again field another of their own for president in 2023.
But from all indications, except a truce is reached, the Ekiti chapter of APC might stand its ground and produce Adebayo’s successor or perhaps head to the court if the contrary happens. Some powerful personalities in the party, even beyond the South, are bent on adopting Ajimobi. Lobbying is said to be at a high level to convince and placate those that are against him so they could shift ground.
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