APC and the Return of Osoba

Former Ogun State Governor Olusegun Osoba returned to the All Progressives Congress last Sunday at a ceremony in Lagos. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes on the circumstances surrounding Osoba’s decision to come back to the party

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.

Unlike Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, whose deputy, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, represented at the meeting, the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was conspicuously absent. But the national leader defended Amosun’s absence from the meeting and insisted that Amosun “is with us. He was elected on the platform of APC. We can vouch for him.”

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.

In the letter, Amosun disagreed with the process of picking the party’s candidates that contested different state and federal legislative elections. He claimed he should be given the opportunity to make some input, being the party’s governorship candidate. He argued that the process of picking candidates “should be based more on electoral value and acceptability of aspirants.”
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.
But the crisis became escalated with the conduct of the APC congresses in 2014. Before the congresses, both Osoba and Amosun agreed on the modalities for the process. But it was alleged that Amosun’s camp jettisoned the process and compiled the names of preferred candidates to form the party’s executive committees at the ward, local government and state levels.
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.

The Return
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 APC leader, who was part of the reconciliation process, explained that the northern leaders from the APC also played a role in bringing Osoba back. He said the northern leaders “have been engaging Osoba to return to the APC after they discovered that he did not collect $1 million from the President Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, as widely report.”
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.”
The APC leader said the process of what happened last Sunday actually did not start on that day, stressing that what culminated in the Sunday reconciliation meeting “has been going on a very long even before Osoba finally decided to leave the APC for the SDP. The two monarchs, especially Awujale of Ijebu Kingdom, were crucial to the whole process.

South-west Unity
“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.”

The APC leader explained that the monarchs were motivated “to ensure unity in the rank of the South-west APC leaders because of the antecedents of the region. Our political antecedent shows that the South-west will suffer if it does not have a united political front. It happened between 1964 and 1965 during the federal parliamentary elections.
“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, he acknowledged that the whole process was kept secret from some political interests within and outside the geopolitical zone. He explained that the reconciliation process was kept secret because “those who did not want it happen would have scuttled it for their selfish political advantage.”
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.”

Consequently, he said, the progressives “are happy to tell the world that the leadership of progressive politics in the western part of Nigeria is united and ready to jointly prosecute the agenda for growth, purposeful leadership, development and good governance in western Nigeria. With Osoba’s return, the progressives are charged to harness our efforts and reposition our land and integrate with others nationwide to put Nigeria in its proper footing.”
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.”
The APC national leader said he had conducted a research on Nigeria and the outcome showed that Nigerians wanted “to see the economic policy and be certain about their future. Nigerians do not want to continue in the hopelessness of the past 16 years. Nigerians do not want to continue in leaderless and directionless state the PDP government bequeathed on us.”
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.

Though constitutionally speaking, Osoba cannot be denied the right to freely associate or join any political party, many think the APC leadership needs to tie up any loose ends in the relationship between Osoba and Amosun in order to fully reap the benefits of the former governor’s return.