In this report, Tunde Sanni situates the recent passing away of former Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Lamidi Adesina, in the light of the prevailing scheming and maneuverings within the ranks of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state as 2015 approaches
By the time the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was rounding up its caucus meeting last Tuesday with its attendant scheming, one prayer that would be uppermost in the minds of the supporters of Alhaji Lamidi Adesina, deceased leader of the party in the state and former governor was his speedy recovery. They needed his return so badly because of the need to return to reckoning in the state’s party politics.
These supporters had every cause to fret. Eighteen months into the administration controlled by their party, some of them remained at best, outsiders who only hear of political appointments and allocation of party offices, but not beneficiaries of any. Their offence: they are sympathizers of the former governor’s group otherwise called Lamists and for that; they must wait till eternity for their own share of the dividends of democracy.
Informed sources in the party confided in THISDAY that the party had been torn between the Lamists and the Senaco groups. The Lamists prided themselves as the ‘landlords’ of the party, having been there from inception. From their days in the Alliance for Democracy (AD), to Action congress for Democrats (ACD), Action Congress (AC) and now ACN, the Lamists had weathered the storm, praying for a time their party would return government since 2003 when the late Adesina could not secure a re-election.
However, the Senaco are dubbed the joiners or visitors, having migrated with the incumbent governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) on whose platform he contested the 2007 gubernatorial poll but lost narrowly to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Adebayo Alao-Akala. Ajimobi later abandoned ANPP for ACN with his structure. And since his election, Senaco has been favoured in all political appointments in the state. From personal aides, to commissionership, special advisers, caretaker chairmen of local councils and supervisory councilors, Senaco holds sway all through to the chagrin of the ‘landlords”.
But Ajimobi, since his emergence as the governorship candidate of the party, knew that he was in a strange environment and has been craving for time to entrench himself, even if it meant waiting till his inauguration. His emergence, like that of his Ogun State counterpart, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was greeted with discordant tunes from party supporters who were unhappy that he clinched the ticket on a platter of gold rather than queue to pay his dues. After all, he met a horde of gubernatorial aspirants in the party, most of whom had spent fortunes in their bid to corner the ticket.
Thus, his coming into the party altered the power equation while his emergence vindicated the popular speculations that he came into the party to become the governor. The effect of his emergence is still reverberating in the party till date because despite the ‘settlement’ of some of the vocal aspirants, certain prominent politicians in the state are still not on talking terms with the governor even though they were believed to have made up their differences during the caucus meeting of the party.
But signs that all is not well with the party emerged with the nomination of commissioners and special advisers which was trailed by protests from partymen who laid siege on the state assembly for the two days the nominees were screened. Then the angst of the party stalwarts was the sudden romance between their governor and the leader of the Accord Party (AP) in the state which led to the accommodation of Ladoja’s party men in the commissionership slots. The protest forced the governor to back down from further alliance with Ladoja’s party while some ACN supporters were later accommodated in the appointments. Sources hinted that the protest was traced to Adesina’s supporters and since then, they have not been forgiven.
The governor, however, was tactful as he pulled out two of the former governor’s aides into his cabinet. One of them, Fatai Ibikunle was made the Special Adviser Political while the other, Wasiu Olatunbosun became the caretaker chairman for Ibadan North West local council. Popular demand for the compensation of the former governor led to the appointment of Dapo, one of the children of the former governor as the Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development in the state. The cold war between their mentor and their principal was not lost on them but they appeared helpless. There was an unconfirmed report that one of them in order to keep his job has distanced himself from Adesina and his residence, preferring to stay put at his duty post if that would signal loyalty.
Notwithstanding the accommodation of some of Adesina ‘boys’ the cold war between the governor and his predecessor was discernible. Any politician identifiable with Felele, the home of Adesina would be alienated from the government. Not even crumbs were allowed to fall on their table. The development has widened the gulf in the party. It has made the politicians who having waited endlessly for government’s support to retreat and count on the days to extract their own pound of flesh. The development has also increased the of political patronage on the elected office holders, most of whom have also shut their doors against the frustrated party men.
At the inter-personal level, Senator Femi Lanlehin, has distanced himself from the governor and the government. In all his empowerment and constituency briefing, the photograph of the governor was always conspicuously missing in the programmes. Ajimobi confirmed this when he confronted Lanlehin at the caucus meeting and told him about the contempt he nursed against him as governor. He also allegedly reminded him that he could be of immense benefit to him as governor than the benefit Lanlehin thought he could garner on his own. The federal lawmaker was absent in all the funeral programmes of the mother of the governor, Alhaja Dhikratu, who died in August.
The intra-party ill feelings are now being aggravated with the scheming for the 2015 gubernatorial contest. Speculations are rife that even with 2015 three years away, there are jostlers for Ajimobi’s job. Rumours have it that the two senators from the state; Lanlehin and Senator Ayoade Adeseun, from Oyo North senatorial district, have their eyes on the Government House in 2015. There has been mention of Dr. Ismail Adebayo Adewusi. All these aspirants had taken the deceased former leader as their rallying point.
However, the communiqué issued at the end of the caucus meeting gave the party away as an already factionalised political platform. The communiqué stated that the party has resolved to unify all the splinter groups within it with a view to further strengthening the party. ACN in the communiqué read out to newsmen by the state secretary, Mojeed Olaoya, hinted that the party has set up a committee saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that all the splinter groups fuse into it to enhance unity and cohesion. The party also called on members to eschew rumour mongering but rather create room for proper integration of aggrieved members into its fold.
The party acknowledged the cordial relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government in the state and charged members to support the two arms of government to ensure effective service delivery to the people of the state. The meeting, characteristic of such, passed a vote of confidence on the Ajimobi administration and expressed confidence in the leadership of the party.
But beyond the confidence vote on the leadership of the party is the fear that the leadership might have to give way now, especially with the passage of the party leader. The offence of the state executive is their loyalty to the former governor. It was learnt that the governor was not happy with the manner that party leadership has managed the initial crisis of the party on the nomination of the commissioner designate at the time.
Away from the party politics is the general discontent in the state capital over the inability of the government to make immediate re-settlement plan for those hundreds of traders whose shops and stalls were demolished. The oversight has attracted several harsh remarks in the media on the government but the governor seemed not bothered.
Also, there is the six months extension of the tenure of local government caretaker chairmen in the state. The opposition has already kicked against this. Again the feelings are that the governor is afraid of going to polls hence the recourse to legislative stamp to legitimize the stay of the council chiefs. By the end of the six months, the council chiefs would have spent 18months in the saddle.
Part of the criticism was that the ruling party then as an opposition party would not brook such action which in every intent and purposes is illegal. The argument of the litigation of the defunct State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) as the reason for the frequent extension of the council chiefs tenure have been faulted by legal experts who blamed the governor for deliberately allowing the litigation to fester and suggested out of court settlement with the aggrieved members to set the stage for democratically elected governments at the grassroots.
The death of Adesina ought to throw up a leadership crisis in the party but with the governor effectively taking charge, it is doubtful if anybody could dare him, besides, he is the most senior elected office holder in the state. The general question is that will his dual role as both governor and party leader guarantee him the party ticket and of course, victory at the polls in 2015. The answer seems early in the day. But with a deluge of events currently playing out, it might take no further time to situate the true picture of Oyo in 2015.