On Sunday afternoon, some old folks of the progressive ideology in the South-west gathered at the Ikoyi home of one of their own, Chief Olusegun Osoba, in a somewhat activated reunion. But there was more to the reunion that has just begun to play out, writes Shola Oyeyipo
To the layman, 2019 is yet too far for anyone to begin to contemplate its politics. But to the active players, now is not in any way early to begin to scheme for even 2023. Thus, Sunday’s reconciliation and reunion between a former Lagos State governor and one of the national leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his former Ogun State counterpart, Chief Olusegun Osoba is seen as a clandestine move to begin to galvanise the South-west ahead of 2019.
To observers, therefore, 2019 is already on the minds of the progressives in the western part of Nigeria and the reconciliation is one particular action whose undertone is yet to be deciphered.
The questions in the minds of the people are numerous. First, since what culminated in the friction between Tinubu and Osoba was a product of some fundamental political differences between him and Governor Ibikunle Amosun, why was the governor conspicuously absent from the reconciliation meeting whereas other South-west APC governors were present at the meeting?
It was a well-attended meeting that had in attendance, Tinubu, former Osun State governor and former acting National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande; the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola; Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; former Ekiti State governor, Chief Niyi Adebayo and the Lagos State deputy governor, who represented Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Mrs. Idiat Oluranti Adebule.
Others present at the meeting were vice chairman, APC, South-west, Chief Pius Akinyelure; former Ogun State deputy governor, Mr. Segun Adesegun, who was later the deputy governorship candidate to Mr. Akin Odunsi of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2015 election; Senator Gbenga Obadara, Akintola Benson and Alhaji Bimbo Awofeso.
When Tinubu was asked about why Governor Amosun was absent at the meeting, he said the governor was part of the reconciliation and that people who are unavoidably absent could be excused from the meeting.
“Nobody is left out. It is all progressives and no one is left out. The governor of Ogun State is with us. The governor of Ogun State was elected on the platform of the APC and he is for the APC. This is not a leaderless revolution. Leaders are defined and identified and it is clear that we are all one including the governor of Ogun State. We are not in PDP,” Tinubu said as he left the venue of the meeting held at Osoba’s Ikoyi residence.
Although some sources claimed that Governor Amosun was out of the country, when the reconciliatory meeting held, it was impossible to confirm if he would have been absent if he was around, much as THISDAY was unable to confirm that he actually traveled.
Another question begging for answer is whether the Yoruba – or better still, the South-west, is realigning to be the most politically organised section of the country in preparation for 2019 and whether the purported presidential ambition of Tinubu would eventually fly on that platform.
But in explaining the motivation for the reconciliation, which also had its undertone, since the settlement of the rift actually took place at Osoba’s residence, a move that suggested that Osoba did not go begging to come back, Tinubu who said he was happy about the development attributed what happened to the quest for peaceful co-existence among the progressives in this part of the country.
Reacting to whether he was happy about the development, Tinubu said: “You see me here, what do you expect? My happiness is personal to me. What is crucial is forging on one front and for us to remain progressive in our party.
“I am an unapologetic progressive. I will remain a progressive. That is the only philosophy and principle I believe. Whatever it is, the progressives must unite with their vision. I am for it. What is very crucial is forging one front,” he maintained.
Earlier, Governor Aregbesola, who spoke with journalists immediately after the closed door meeting that lasted about three hours, said the discussions had brought Osoba back to the progressive fold in western Nigeria.
“It is my pleasure to address the band of media houses that the leadership of the progressive politics in the western part of Nigeria met today at the residence of Akinrogun Aremo, and have completely resolved all the differences with the leadership.
“We are happy to inform the world that the leadership of progressive politics is united and ready to jointly prosecute the agenda for purposeful leadership in western part of Nigeria as we plan to do at the national level; to revive the economy. I believe with good governance and purposeful leadership, West Africa and the black race will be better for it.
“A time was when Aremo switched to another party. He was with the SDP but with what we have done, Aremo is back in the progressive leadership of Yoruba race,” Aregbesola said.
He said the reconciliation was on the platform of the APC, adding that “With the leadership united, whoever subscribes to the leadership is part of this.”
Osoba was rather frugal with words. He actually did not make any categorical statement, when asked about the reconciliation. He sang a Yoruba song he referred to as one of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s political song, which says “The fight is over and the war is ended, the Lord has fought and won the war, halleluyah!”
Indeed, the battle might have been subdued amongst Osoba, Tinubu, Akande and other leaders of the APC but the real question is: has it ended between them and Governor Amosun? Though Tinubu made efforts to dissuade the people to believe that all was well between the governor and himself, that question is however best answered by Governor Amosun himself, observers reckoned.
Whichever side of the divide Amosun is, another issue the people are curious about is whether the not too rosy relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and Tinubu may have degenerated to an extent that the West might play the spoiler for him in 2019 or better still, unify to bargain from a position of strength.
At any rate, the APC would have to go the extra length to correct the impression in the minds of the people that the emergency reconciliation is not a gang-up against the Ogun State governor.
There are reports that Tinubu is not happy with President Buhari. And there are also reports that the president has started to woo the APC national leader ahead of 2019 presidential election. So, as it is, with time, the essentials of the forced unity will come to the open and the political whizkids will situate the respective issues in their apt context.