The recent sack of three commissioners by the Oyo State Government side-by-side with the plan to restructure the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), amongst other happenings, may have signposted the battle for 2015 in the state. Tunde Sanni reports
Since coming to power in 2011, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, has set out Mondays for cabinet meetings. But last Monday’s cabinet meeting was with a difference. Expectedly, cabinet members had prepared for the meeting, which is normally hectic and sometimes, a full day affair.
Unfortunately, that particular meeting turned out to be a performance screening exercise for members. They were made to appear in batches before an executive panel headed by the governor. At the end of the exercise, three of the commissioners; Kazeem Adedeji (Trade and Investment), Yunus Akintunde (Works and Transport) and Bosun Oladele (Information and Orientation) were dropped while six others swapped positions.
The commissioners who swapped positions according to Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Akin Olajide, included Bimbo Kolade who moved from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Lands; Ajiboye Omodewu was moved from the Ministry of Lands and Housing to the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
Peter Odetomi, erstwhile Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs is now Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Lowo Obisesan, formerly of the Ministry of Establishment and Training, has moved to the Ministry of Environment.
The reshuffle also saw the erstwhile Commissioner for Applied Science and Technology, Adegbenro taking charge of the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Cooperatives, while the name of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Pastor Taiwo Otegbeye has been forwarded to the state House of Assembly for confirmation as a commissioner.
Olajide said the exercise was aimed at enhancing effectiveness and efficiency in line with the restoration, transformation and repositioning agenda of the Ajimobi administration. He clarified that those dropped have not committed any offence. “It is just to increase the tempo of governance in some key areas, so as to achieve the agenda we have set for ourselves within the time available.
Few hours after the sack of the commissioners, there were signs that the decision of the governor on Oladele might not have been popular among journalists who expressed shock and surprise at his removal.
The newsmen on a popular social network, facebook, recalled the success of the former commissioner in the past 15 months in office and described him as the best information manager since the creation of the state. They recalled the rejuvenation of the ministry monthly publication, the introduction of some programmes on all the electronic media in the state to key them into the policies of the government and the favourable feedback from the people of the state to the policies.
“Largely, he has succeeded in ensuring the acceptability of the government policies, especially the ones that could have posed some challenges for government, the journalists wrote on facebook.
Oladele who spoke from his Lagos chambers later said he had accepted his sack as part of democracy dividends. “If my boss felt that I have exhausted my goodwill, there is nothing I can do than to accept it in good faith.”
However, the sack of the commissioners may have been one of the many ways Ajimobi seeks to take his destiny in his hands in his bid to seek re-election as those sacked were part of those who were nominated for him or ‘forced’ on him by some interest groups during the stormy days of his cabinet selection.
For example, Adedeji, the sacked commissioner for trade and investment, contested the primary with him as a gubernatorial aspirant. He was said to have been persuaded to pick the commissioner post to break the rank of other aspirants who kicked against Ajimobi’s emergence as the party’s choice. The former commissioner for works was part of those who swelled the ACN rank from the PDP. He, along with others, used to be aides of former governor, Rashidi Ladoja, who left the former governor after a failed effort to persuade Ladoja to team up with Ajimobi to oust his successor, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala.
The ‘sins’ of Akintunde are many even to those outside the government. He was reported to have allowed the office to get into his head as he ignored the calls of even his friends and made himself inaccessible. His sack from the cabinet and the likelihood of its backlash in his Oyo constituency where he is said to wield enormous electoral influence is already being neutralised with the nomination of Muibat Adeyemi, one of the daughters of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, as a commissioner-nominee. She will be screened along with Taiwo Otegbeye by the state lawmakers.
Simultaneous with the full grip of his cabinet is Ajimobi’s new stronghold on the party. Sources confided in THISDAY that since his inauguration, pressures have been on him to take full control of the party but he has been reluctant to do so, due to the looming image of the now late former governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina, who is said never to have allowed him a breathing space each time he perceived any political ‘mismatch’ moves by the governor. Adesina died last Sunday morning after a protracted illness.
The late Adesina had been strident in his opposition to the romance between the governor and Ladoja, which seemed to have stabilised the Ajimobi administration, as the governor yielding to political pressures ensured an alliance between his party and Ladoja’s Accord Party in the state assembly. Adesina was said to have insisted that Ladoja’s men have no business in the ACN government and told the governor to offload them, an advice Ajimobi has consistently ignored.
Informed sources hinted that the emergence of the governor had worsened the relationship between Adesina and Ajimobi as well as widened the gulf in the party. This had resulted in the party breaking into two main factions of Lamist and Senaco. Lamist stands for Lam Solidarity group while Senaco is an acronym of Senator Ajimobi Campaign Organisation.
The governor has continued to pick his appointees from his Senaco group, leaving the Lamist out in the cold. But the Lamist did not fold their arms as they have full grip of the party structure then. It is the structure that the Lamist had planned to use against the governor in his second term bid.
However, with Adesina effectively out of the way as a result of his demise, it is time for the governor to move into action and on Tuesday, the party state caucus met where a vote of confidence was passed on the governor. The meeting itself served as a reconciliatory platform between Ajimobi and his estranged party men like Senator Femi Lanlehin and cerebral Dr. Ismail Adebayo Adewusi.
Ironically, with Adesina’s death, the coast is clear for Ajimobi to take total control of the party structure as the former governor was the only influential party member that was standing, technically, in the way of the governor.
Both Lanlehin and Adewusi were gubernatorial aspirants who had contested the emergence of Ajimobi. The party moved to pacify the aggrieved party chieftains by offering Lanlehin the Oyo South senatorial ticket of the party which he won while Adewusi was assured of powerful cabinet position if the party won the polls. But 18 months after, Adewusi remained unrecognised by the government. But at the party meeting, the three chieftains made up their differences and promised to work together for the progress of the party.
Beyond these are hints that the party itself may be restructured. One instance was the dissolution of the Ibadan South West Local Government executive committee of the party. There were misunderstandings in the party in the local government over hajj slots accorded them by Adesina shortly before he was indisposed and eventually died. But the governor was reported to have ordered the party executive dissolved.
Already, chairmen of the party in the local government areas have been falling over themselves in the bid to register their loyalty to the governor and save their jobs. Council caretaker chairmen who were known to be unrepentant loyalists of Adesina had also abandoned the deceased former governor and now die-hard supporter of the governor.
A communiqué at the end of the meeting indicated that the caucus resolved to unify all the splinter groups within it with a view to further strengthening the party. A committee saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the splinter groups fuse into it to enhance unity and cohesion has been set up. The party also called on members to eschew rumour mongering but create room for proper integration of aggrieved members into its fold.
While acknowledging the cordial relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government in the state, the party charged members to support the two arms of government to ensure effective service delivery to the people of the state.
The party, in apparent reference to the recent rumoured arrest of Ajimobi’s wife, Florence, by the London Metropolitan Police, also lashed out at those it called unpatriotic elements engaging in politics of bitterness, saying they were only out to destroy the integrity of the governor’s wife.
The allegations of the involvement of the wife of the governor in a N500 million money laundering have been the subject of media altercations between the ACN and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ironically, in all these, Alao-Akala has told his successor not to feel disturbed by the allegations as such was meant to distract him. Alao-Akala at an empowerment programme of one of the party’s lawmakers in the state House of Assembly, Ayoola Adeleke, in Ogbomoso, advised his successor to develop thick skin and face governance. He said the PDP and its supporters did not believe in the pull him down philosophy.
"The truth of the matter is that the ACN leadership is just making baseless allegations against the PDP over the money laundering issue. I want Governor Ajimobi to know that those behind the rumour are not true and authentic members of the PDP. Rather, they are the ones who went to the ACN to support him when he was contesting the governorship election in 2011.
"I don’t know the source of information of that online medium whose name is not even familiar. However, I have been concerned about the continued dropping of PDP members’ name as the source of the information. As far as I am concerned, if any PDP member is to be concerned, it has to be those who betrayed the party by supporting ACN during the election. I am sure that he knows them. Those behind the alleged money laundry are the PDP members who donated some people to Ajimobi's cabinet. We have nothing to gain by witch-hunting or spreading rumour against the governor. Ajimobi should critically look inward to know those who are behind the insinuations," he said.
But the PDP has picked hole in the frequent visits of Ajimobi’s wife to the United Kingdom on the reason of taking her daughter to school and described it as a vote of no confidence on the free education policy of her husband’s administration. The PDP through its Publicity Secretary, Lukuman Agboluaje, said: “As much as we are not in a position to join issues with Mrs. Ajimobi on the alleged money laundering charges as reported by a local newspaper using an online publication as its source, we are constrained to ask some fundamental questions especially from her own defence on arrival.
The party mentioned the free education policy of her husband and expressed concern over the inability of the state’s first couple to allow their daughter enjoy the free education being dished out to the populace as against the first lady frequently visiting her daughter every three weeks in a UK school.
“It is also curious to learn through the online publication that the State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA) is now placed under the office of the first lady, an indication that either Mrs. Ajimobi is more qualified than officials of the supervising Ministry of Health or that the ruling ACN in the state is suffering from dearth of qualified politicians that could be saddled with such sensitive responsibility.
But the ruling government in its response accused the PDP of allegedly driving the first family out of the state to the United Kingdom because of state sponsored violence and bloodletting under the PDP-led administration.
Publicity Secretary of ACN, Dauda Kolawole, said it was the violence and gangsterism unleashed then on Senator Ajimobi, at the thick of the realization of his stolen mandate in 2007, that made him relocate his last daughter to the UK.
"This ugly day in 2007, Mrs. Ajimobi had driven to her daughter's school in Oluyole, Ibadan, to pick her daughter who was attending school in the Oluyole Estate area when PDP thugs stopped their car and stripped the school girls she had picked from school naked. She and her daughter ran to a nearby house and hid behind their rescuer's freezer. When the PDP assailants, holding cudgels and cutlasses, demanded her whereabouts from the owner of the house, he declined ever seeing her and her daughter. Shaken by the near-death of his daughter and wife, Ajimobi had to relocate his daughter to the UK to save her life," the ACN said.
Reiterating that this escape was a story in the public domain which could be verified, the ACN said the governor's daughter had been in school in the UK since 2007 and aside the violence, it was also due to the neglect of education sector by the then Government of PDP in Oyo State.