Scramble for ministerial slot reopens cleavages in Southwest APC
Intense lobby for ministerial slots has exposed cleavages within top members of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Southwest, as politicians engage in last minute schemes to outsmart one another.
Sources among the party chairmen disclosed that the Presidency has not called for nomination, but the jostling has reached a frenzy because whichever group gets the bite will play significant roles in the geopolitical quest to give the presidency a shot in 2023.
So far, politicking along Abuja/Lagos divide has not been loud because of the seemingly close relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and the National leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But whoever makes the cabinet from the Southwest would define their relationship in the nearest future.
Analysts are quick to point at how the ministerial list caused crisis of confidence between President Buhari and Tinubu in 2015. Indeed, it was an open secret that former minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Raji Babatunde Fasola and former minister of Steel and Natural Resources, who is currently the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi were not on the list approved by the Southwest caucus and Tinubu. And how former minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu made the list was still a surprise to party chieftains in Oyo state.
Although APC governors had publicly declared that it was the prerogative of the President to nominate members of his cabinet, many are now of the opinion that as leaders of the party in their respective states, the governors should have a say on who represents their states in the cabinet.
Analysts are of the opinion that the APC governors’ declaration was to prepare the minds of the public for some shockers the President has up his sleeves.
A source said, “President Buhari has proved that he is independent minded and may not consider the interest of any leader in choosing his cabinet members. He did that even when he wanted a second term, you can now imagine what will happen now when he can no longer seek for election. But the people he chose will give you the picture of what to expect in 2023.”
Permutations already going on in Ogun State point to the way the scramble will go. We have the camp of former Governor Ibikunle Amosun and that of Aremo Olusegun Ososba, which has the support of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Governor Dapo Abiodun. In Oyo, it will be interesting to know whether the Shittu camp will still outsmart the formidable camp of former Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
While Dr. Fayemi looks good to decide who gets what in Ekiti, strong strings being pulled by the former Special Adviser to the Vice President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojodu and former National Vice Chairman (South) of the party, Chief Segun Oni, who has been suspended by his ward for anti-party activities, may upset Fayemi and his supporters.
The gulf separating APC leaders in Ondo State is getting wider and if Chief Olusola Oke springs surprises, then Governor Rotimi Akeredolu may have to work harder to secure ticket for his second term. It is also not certain whether members loyal to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola or the former governor himself will get the slot of Osun. Not to forget the camp of former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Yusuf Sulaimon Lasun.
In fact, in Ondo State, there are five prominent politicians are keenly interested in the Abuja job and their contributions to the success of the party cannot be overlooked. According to analysts, the ministerial slot for Ondo would be a twin-prospect, to also decide who becomes the party’s governorship candidate in 2020.
If offered to any APC chieftain from the South District, it would give such person the power and influence to contend with Governor Akeredolu.
Akeredolu has however stepped up his game to match whatever intrigues at play in Abuja, to ensure that the slot does not go to the South but given to any of his loyalists in the Central District. This calculation excludes the North District, where the governor hails from.
Apart from Oke, there are other two strong politicians from the South Senatorial District: Dr. Isaac Kekemeke, the immediate past state chairman of the party and Engr. Ife Oyedele, who is the Executive Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC).
It was learnt that Tinubu and mainstream Southwest APC are strongly behind Oke for the ministerial ticket, preparatory to causing a major shift in 2020.
Oyedele is said to be a close political associate of President Buhari. He is said to have designed the logo of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and also played a prominent role in the 2013 merger to form APC.
In Ondo Central District, there are only two prominent candidates jostling for ministerial position: Mrs. Olubunmi Ademosu, the Special Adviser to Akeredolu on Public and Inter-Governmental Relations and Engr. and Tunji Ariyomo-Light, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Utilities.
IF information filtering from the Ekiti State Chapter of the APC is anything to go by, the lobbying and political brinkmanship is already causing disquiet in the party.
Feelers in some quarters show that former Senator Gbenga Aluko, who contested the 2018 governorship primary with the incumbent Fayemi; former deputy Governor, Prof Modupe Adelabu; former governorship aspirant, Kayode Ojo; former Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Otuoke, Bayelsa State, Prof Bolaji Aluko and Chief Diran Adesua, another governorship aspirant are all for likely consideration.
Another top party member said to be lobbying for the post is Senator Ojudu, who is said to rely on Prof Osinbajo and Tinubu for their push.
Gbenga Aluko is from Ode Ekiti in the Gbonyin Local Government area of the state. He was the only Senator elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the South West in 1999 – 2003. Among factors that appear to be working to his advantage is his perceived closeness to President Buhari. He is also from Ekiti South Senatorial District that needed to be pacified having lost the governorship to Fayemi, who is from Ekiti North, while his deputy, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, is from the Central. If fairness is to be the yardstick, the minister should naturally come from South. Besides, in 2007, he was the South West Coordinator of Buhari campaign organization. It is touted that the cabal in the Presidency favours Aluko in view of his antecedents.
Although, Prof Adelabu is at present serving on the National Board for Technical Education, she would have the nomination if the governor had his way.
However, the Deputy State Chairman of the party, Mr Sola Elesin, said the party in the state has not yet decided on the nominees to be forwarded to President Buhari.
Elesin, who said the state Chapter has not been asked to present a list said: “We will do so when they ask us to bring names. It is a party matter. When it is time, we will do that.
“The President will not rush to nominate candidates, he will ask us to present candidates. We are yet to decide, but that will be very soon because the Federal Executive Council will take off very soon.”
In Oyo State, the aftermath of the governorship election might have changed the calculations, as Ajimobi was believed to be at the centre of deciding who gets the ministerial slot in the state.
Sources in the party said Ajimobi is still the face of APC in Oyo State and he may either nominate himself to further consolidate the party or either of Engineer Joseph Olasunkanmi Tegbe or Chief Adebayo Adelabu for the cabinet office.
It was gathered that the party initially promised Tegbe the slot as one of the conditions for which he stepped down for Adelabu during the primaries.
Then, Ajimobi was the candidate of APC for Oyo South senatorial district, with the firm expectation that while he goes to the Senate, Adelabu would succeed him as the governor.
Unfortunately, the defeat of the duo changed the power equation and political permutations in the Pacesetter state. The change resulted in maneuvering by Adelabu to stage a comeback and be nominated for the cabinet position. Spurred by this development, the Tegbe group did not take it easy, leading to exchange of salvos between their loyalists.
Many APC chieftains in the state have ruled out the possibility of Shittu staging a comeback. To them, his four years in the cabinet did not add any value to the party; instead he allegedly worked against the APC in the last governorship election. But Shittu did not get the nod of the party leaders when he was nominated in 2015 and his loyalists have expressed optimism that he would return to Abuja to continue his “good work.”
But analysts say the slot is between Ajimobi and Shittu and whoever gets it will be saddled with the responsibility of holding the party in Oyo State.
In Ogun State a party source said President Buhari had told Governor Dapo Abiodun that he would handle the ministerial appointment himself. The reason might not be unconnected with the crisis that engulfed the party, leading to defection of Amosun’s loyalists from the APC to the Allied Peoples Party (APM).
According to sources, strong contenders for the ministerial job are former deputy governor of the State, Prince Segun Adesegun, Osoba’s political son, Senator Lanre Tejuoso and the APM’s governorship candidate in the March 9 election Adekunle Akinlade.
Akinlade, who is still contesting the governorship election at the tribunal is said to be Amosun’s preferred candidates. He is said to be in the race because, even though an APM member, his party worked for Buhari during the Presidential election, which Buhari won in the State. The source said: “Amosun is using his closeness to the President to push the appointment of Akinlade.
For Tejuoso, another source said President Buhari had promised him the ticket just before the election. According to the source, Buhari made the promise after Tejuoso rescinded his decision to defect to the PDP with other APC senators.
It is not clear the role Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, an indigene of the state is playing in this.
At present, the APC in the State is under the leadership of a three-member Caretaker Committee who are loyal to Osoba, the party leader.
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