Southwest APC still in search of deputy national chairman
• Ekiti chapter rebuffs pleas to concede slot
Unless the leadership of the Southwest zone of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) handles the ongoing search for the deputy national chairman position that was recently vacated by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo with caution, the party stands the risk of running into a ditch capable of affecting it ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
While the Oyo State chapter has resolved to appeal to Ekiti chapter to concede the slot to it (Oyo) based on Southwest leaders and elders’ recent proposal, nearly all the stakeholders in Ekiti rebuffed the appeal, saying, “There is no room for sentiment in politics and neither does the party’s constitution give room for such.”
Chairman Oyo State chapter, Chief Akin Oke, has appealed to Ekiti State chapter for understanding over the controversy surrounding the decision of the Southwest leaders to move the slot to Oyo and possibly concede it to the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. Oke also blasted those condemning the decision to give the position to Ajimobi, saying they are not genuine and committed members of Oyo APC.
But in a swift reaction, the State Publicity Secretary of Ekiti APC, Mr. Ade Ajayi, said though Oke has the right to plead “but any appeal now is a waste of time.”
Following the appointment of the former Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Adebayo as minister by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Southwest leaders during a meeting in Lagos fortnight ago, conceded the vacant position to Oyo, which has no governor or high ranking personnel at APC’s national level, instead of retaining it in Ekiti as initially zoned at the party’s national convention when PDP held sway in the state.
Meanwhile, members of Ekiti APC have kicked against such decision, saying, it is only the national convention that can re-zone the deputy national chairman’s position “not some group of elders.” This led them to stage a protest at the Southwest caucus meeting held in Osun State last week where the Deputy Governor of Ekiti, Bisi Egbeyemi, presented a petition to the Vice National Chairman Southwest zone, Pastor Bankole Oluwajana.
However, Oke, who spoke with The Guardian on the telephone yesterday said, “Above all things, it is imperative of me, as the chairman of the party in Oyo, to appeal and plead with members of Ekiti chapter to concede the deputy national chairman’s seat to our state.”He said his plea was not just in the interest of Oyo but also for the larger purpose and benefits of Southwest zone in the national calculation.
Although, Oke said if Ekiti members insisted that the deputy national chairman’s position should be retained in their state “there is nothing we can do. It is necessary for members of Southwest APC to see reason; we need to work as a team that is fortified and strong on all fronts and not a situation where some axis are strong and others weak.
“If we are to place the interest of the entire zone above individual and parochial sentiments ahead of 2023, I think our members in Ekiti should allow the deputy national chairman position move to Oyo due to the fact the party is not in government at present in the state.“When the position was zoned to Ekiti, the state equally had no governor then. Former Governor Ayo Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in government and the same leaders conceded the post to Ekiti, just as it did in Ondo State with the position of National Vice Chairman (Southwest) because PDP was also in government under former Governor Segun Mimiko.”
Oke further appealed that Ekiti members of APC should also understand that Southwest is divided into three zones, namely “Oyo-Osun; Ekiti-Ondo and Lagos-Ogun axis. Currently, Ekiti-Ondo axis has governors in persons of Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) who is also the chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) who is the chairman Southwest Governors’ Forum just as the axis also fills the position of national vice chairman in person of Oluwajana.
“Fairness and understanding means that consideration be given to us in Oyo, where we currently do not have a national officer either as governor or any representative in the National Working Committee (NWC). It was in this same situation we found our self that Ondo-Ekiti axis was when the leaders zoned both the deputy national chairman and national vice chairman (Southwest) to the area.”
Oke specifically urged Governors Fayemi and other concerned stakeholders to appeal to APC members in Ekiti to allow Oyo have the deputy national chairman. The chairman said those contending against Ajimobi are not only unserious but lack what it takes to fill the post in terms of contributions to the development of Oyo APC.
According to him, “Let those who were ministers come and tell us what they did to assist anybody in the state when they were in office? It is true we lost the state to PDP in the last election, but the party also recorded some victories in other areas. Aside that other contenders are new in the party and those that were in African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the last election before crossing over to APC, is it the new entrants we will give such a sensitive position? Mention any other contender and I will give you their background in the party.”
Oke also disagreed with those faulting the National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu as the brain behind Ajimobi or the one orchestrating the plan to move the position to Oyo State because of his 2023 presidential ambition.
According to him, “The same set of leaders, who in their wisdom, zoned the deputy national chairman and vice national chairman’s positions to Ekiti-Ondo axis initially for the fact that there were no governors in those states then are again saying let’s give it to Oyo due to the same factor. How is that Tinubu’s making? We need to leave sentiments and play developmental politics at least for the benefit of our zone at the national level.”
Meanwhile, Ajayi insisted that the position must be retained in Ekiti and if there was going to be any changes “it must come from the national convention.”
According to him, “We cannot be treated like second class citizens in Southwest. We have also sent the name of our nominee, Senator Gbenga Aluko to the leaders for an onward transmission to the NWC for ratification and anything short of that is unacceptable to us. Governor Fayemi, as a democrat, came to brief us about the elders’ meeting that transpired in Lagos and our stand is ‘no’.”
He said those accusing Fayemi of being the one instigating us in Ekiti “got it wrong. As a democrat, he called a stakeholders’ after the Lagos’ meeting where he gave us feedback and we took collective decision to retain the post in our state.”
AS the week runs, there seems to be no end in sight to the logjam in Southwest APC over search for Adebayo’s replacement. And the leaders and elders body appear to be confused; there’s palpable feeling that they had approached the matter wrongly. Oyo State chapter, which the elders are trying to favour, is confused as some of its members are saying they don’t want “as long as Ajimobi is the preferred” candidate while Ekiti chapter is adamant, vowing that nobody could trample on their right. They noted also that the era when the supreme arbiter of the Southwest zonal party ends somewhere in Lagos, with a warning that “we are now at the national level.”
There are, however, strong indications that Fayemi might shift ground and appeal to his people. The Guardian reliably gathered that the governor is in a fix at present over the matter, as he does not want to offend his people. At the same time, he doesn’t want to been seen as going against the decision of the Southwest leaders.
However, Publicity Secretary of Southwest APC, Mr. Dapo Karounwi, also dismissed Oke’s plea and was quick to remind Oyo State APC chairman that even his members had come out to say they don’t want Ajimobi or the slot. “A statement was issued in this regard by one of the active members of Oyo APC,” Karounwi said. “What is Oke therefore pleading for that the party should go against its constitution or decision of the national convention?”
Karounwi also lampooned those sharing the sentiment that Oyo needs to have a senior representative in the NWC and National Executive Council (NEC) since it has no serving governor at present. Karounwi disclosed to The Guardian that Senator Aluko’s name had already been forwarded to Southwest APC caucus, NWC, NEC, the presidency, and the leadership of the party at National Assembly. If there is going to be changes, it is either the party calls for an emergency national convention or they wait till June, when the party will hold its mini-national convention.”
He said any arrangements outside this could not be done by any set of leaders or elders “because we are not in an animal kingdom. APC has a constitution.” He further put a lie to the sentiment that Oyo has no representative in NWC, stressing, “As we speak, Oyo State has the Deputy National Youth Leader, Hafiz Bolaji Repete. Now, if the deputy national chairman is retrieved and given to Oyo, the state would now have two national officers while Ekiti would be left with none.”
GOING by the dicey situation, it is now imperative of the national leadership of APC to intervene by summoning the parties involved to appeal whether Ekiti or Oyo chapter would rescind their positions. Failing which, Ajimobi and Aluko should also be invited, with one prevailed upon to step down. But if the two arrangements fail, the party may have no choice than to summon an emergency national convention to vote for either of the two contenders – Ajomobi and Aluko.
Karounwi vowed that any option outside this or if the national leadership believes it can foist any candidate “such decision would be tested in the court.”
But the national vice chairman assured that the issue would amicably be resolved soon, saying such tension was inevitable in politics. None of the leaders or elders that met in Lagos was willing to comment on the issue except one, who admitted the fact that the approach to the matter was wrong ab initio.
In the long run, Ajimobi stands a better chance if at the end the issue is put to vote in Southwest. The calculation that will favour the immediate past governor of Oyo State is Lagos, Ogun and Oyo, Osun axis will vote in one direction against Ekiti’s while Ondo might chose to remain neutral of perhaps follow the majority. Even at the national level, Fayemi may find it difficult if not impossible to antagonize Ajimobi, a two-term governor and senator.
Those proven adamant over the matter, especially from Ekiti might eventually end as ‘political causalities.’ Meanwhile, incumbent Deputy National Youth Leader has issued a statement in support of Ajimobi and he has allegedly expressed readiness to rescind his current position peradventure the deputy national chairman is conceded to Oyo.