Last Sunday, a three-hour hour meeting was held at the Ikoyi residence of former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba. It was a meeting of the leaders of All Progressives Congress in the South-west. The meeting was designed to end frosty relationships in their ranks and bring Osoba back to the fold.
The meeting brought together APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former APC national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, his Oyo State counterpart, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, former Ekiti State Governor, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, and the APC vice chairman (South West), Chief Pius Akinyelure, among others.
Differences over Nomination
At a session with journalists after the meeting, Aregbesola acknowledged that Osoba had once switched to the Social Democratic Party. He also acknowledged that he was a foundation chieftain of APC and pointed out that Osoba was in the party throughout his second term election in August 2014. But Aregbesola did not explain why Osoba switched to SDP.
What culminated in the Ogun APC crisis was detailed in a nine-page letter Amosun addressed to Osoba just before the 2011 general election.
Despite Amosun’s position that many of the candidates for federal legislative elections lacked electoral value, the then Action Congress of Nigeria – which later joined other parties to form APC – won three senatorial seats and nine House of Representatives seats in the state. But the case of the state legislative contest was different. Of the nine slots ceded to him in 2011, Amosun only won four while those who emerged from Osoba’s camp won all their slots.
After the APC national convention, the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, constituted a reconciliation committee headed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to resolve internal rifts in all the 36 states. The Atiku committee met with both camps. But the committee never came up with a definite position, despite proofs that APC adopted a doctored report on the Ogun APC crisis.
When the crisis festered beyond the party’s control, the Alake of Egba, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, and Awujale of Ijebu Kingdom, Oba Sikiru Adetona, intervened. The monarchs convened series of reconciliation meetings in the build-up to the 2015 general election. But the intervention of the two royal fathers did not yield much fruit before the general election.
However, the royal fathers did not relent in their efforts, not just to resolve the Ogun APC crisis, but equally to ensure that division was put to an end in the ranks of the progressive leaders in the South-west. With the support of the APC governors from the region, an APC leader, who did not want to be named, disclosed that both Awujale and Alake facilitated the return of Osoba to the ruling party.
The source explained how the northern leaders acknowledged Osoba’s contribution “to the formation of the APC. Osoba was the chairman of the APC Constitution Drafting Committee. Despite pessimism in some quarters that APC would not work, leaders like Asiwaju Tinubu and Aremo Osoba worked together to prove pessimists wrong. So, Osoba should not be outside the APC.”
“In fact, Awujale made it happen. He invited Aremo Osoba and Asiwaju Tinubu to his palace at different times to end the political differences. Aside, the monarchs had also been talking with Chief Bisi Akande and Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo among others to ensure that there is one common political front in the ranks of the South-west APC leaders.”
At the peak of the process, the APC leader disclosed how Awujale personally came “to Osoba’s residence in Ikoyi on three different occasions to plead with him on the need to return to the APC. Awujale was really involved in the reconciliation process. So, Osoba’s return has nothing to do with Ogun politics, neither does it have anything to do with Amosun.”
“It also happened in 1993 before and after the annulment of the June 12 presidential election. Among others, these antecedents motivated the monarchs to reconcile them so that the region will not lose out. The Sunday meeting was a formality. The issue is not about Amosun and Osoba. Amosun was not part of us. But Osoba supported him to become governor.”
However, some believe Osoba has been persuaded to return to APC by Tinubu to create a counter force in Ogun State against Amosun, who is alleged to be pandering to Buhari’s political predilections to the dismay of Tinubu.
Beyond Royal Intervention
Apart from the Awujale and Alake, the South-west governors, even before he finally decided to leave the APC for the SDP, played a strategic role to resolve issues within Ogun APC. Another APC chieftain noted that Aregbesola and former Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, started it before other APC governors from the region eventually joined them.
The chieftain acknowledged that Osoba’s exit from the APC dealt a terrible blow to the “Progressives because it caused division in the South-west. If the APC must make inroad into South-east and South-south, it is imperative to forge a united political from in the South-west. Even in the South-west, the APC is not fully in control.”
This reality, perhaps, was evident in Aregbesola’s explanation while briefing the media after the Sunday meeting. He disclosed that the leadership of progressive politics in the western part of Nigeria “met at Osoba’s residence to resolve all the differences within the leadership.”
Tinubu also noted that the progressives had resolved “to stay focussed in ruling Nigeria. We want to reverse the decay of the past 16 years. We want to clear the mess. For 16 years, the Peoples Democratic Party had destroyed Nigeria. We should not be lamenting over fuel scarcity, erratic power supply and deplorable conditions of roads, among others.”
He said the quest to build a new Nigeria was the rationale for the reconciliation meeting, which ended the frosty relationship among the region’s progressive leaders. But he said what “is now crucial is the need for the progressives to strengthen our front and remain in the wing. I am an unapologetic progressive. I will remain one. That is the only principle I abide. So, wherever the progressives are, they must be united with their vision.”
Osoba was certainly happy to return to what has been described as his original constituency. Rather than speaking after the meeting, he rendered one of the songs the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, loved to sing after surmounting challenges. Osoba sang, thus, in Yoruba: “The fight is over. The war has ended. The Lord has fought the battle. And the Lord has won the war. Hallelujah!”
But Osoba’s return is not without opposition from some elements in Ogun APC. Some individuals have denied knowledge of Osoba’s return to APC on the ground that he denounced and renounced the APC at a public declaration in Abeokuta. Even though Osoba once left the party on principle, many believe it does not suggest that he can no longer return.
Constitutionally, Osoba cannot be denied the right to freely associate politically, socially or religiously, as enshrined in section 40 of the 1999 Constitution. Besides, the 2015 Electoral Act guarantees the right of every Nigerian above 18 years to join any political party of his/her choice. Specifically, the Act states that no political party shall deny any Nigerian above 18 years the right to join.