Femi Ogbonnikan writes that Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State appears to be at a loss on how to deal with the disaffection that has torn the All Progressives Congress in the state to shreds
There appears to be no end or solution to the battle of wits that have attended the simmering crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State. Throwing all manners of tricks into the mix in order to curry empathy, Ogun State Governor, Sen Ibikunle Amosun, has resisted the urge to pander to pleas. He is aggrieved because the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party through the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, turned down the demand to return his preferred successor, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, as the APC governorship standard bearer, but rather decided to give the ticket to Prince Dapo Abiodun, his arch-rival. Also, the governor is miffed, because all the names of the 26 State House of Assembly candidates he unilaterally handpicked and submitted to the NWC to represent their respective constituencies were omitted on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) list, but replaced with the names of candidates of those he (governor) labelled “Lagos cabal”.
Against this background, it is believed that the governor has lost sight of the fact that, since the current dispensation was ushered in, in 1999, no sitting governor has ever successfully foisted his preferred successor on the people of Ogun state.
Aside for his (governor) bid to substitute Abiodun’s name with Akinlade’s, the APC’s hierarchy led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has been uncompromising to the chagrin of its traducers.
Thus, in making good his threat, close associates and aides of Amosun have begun to leave the party in droves to register their displeasure over the decision of the NWC for denying them their respective tickets. Mr Mukaila Kazeem and the governor’s preferred candidate, Akinlade who are both currently representing Abeokuta North/Odeda/Obafemi-Owode and Yewa South/Ipokia Federal Constituencies respectively at the National Assembly, took the lead of the defectors from the party, a week ago, when they moved their membership to a fringe platform, Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM). The aggrieved defectors had attributed impunity and undemocratic norms as reason for leaving their former party. At the home front, the same script played itself out when four (majority leader, Adeyinka Mafe, Chief Whip, Idowu Olowofuja, Tunde Sanusi and Ganiyu Oyedeji) members of the State House of Assembly pulled out of the APC and pitched tent with the APM.
Prior to the defection train, it was reliably gathered that Amosun and his close aides, including the names of Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Barr Taiwo Adeoluwa, who is to vie for Ogun Central; Consultant to the governor on Energy and Power, Mr Segun Gbeleyi (for Ogun West); Commissioner for Special Duties, Leke Adewolu for Ewekoro/Ifo Federal Constituency; Chairman, Local Government Service Commission, Mr. Rotimi Rahman (for Ado-Odo/Ota Federal Constituency); Commissioner for Forestry, Mr Kola Lawal, (for Yewa South/Ipokia Federal Constituency); and Special Adviser on Education, Bayo Adeyemi, (for Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency), had already perfected and concluded the plan to cross-carpet to APM, a position clearly confirmed by a top official of the INEC, in Ogun State. The source hinted that the names of the governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly candidates had already been submitted to the commission’s office earlier than now even before it became a public knowledge and he ruled out the need to publish a separate list of the APM candidates.
Distraught by the growing status of Abiodun’s camp, almost on a daily basis, and coupled with palpable fear of infiltration of moles in his group, it was gathered that the resignation of the Chief of Staff, Chief Tolu Odebiyi, and six other aides (Commissioner for Sports, Afolabi Afuape, Lanre Edun, Tola Banjo, Muse Lamidi and Mrs Adewummi Onanuga) last Thursday was informed by what a source described as a “gale of targeted purge” orchestrated under the guise of voluntary disengagement because of the refusal of the affected persons to defect to the new platform, APM. Besides, it was learnt that the former aides were branded APC top loyalists, who have been hob-nobing with the Abiodun’s camp, but the governor’s die-hard loyalists have still retained their respective seats in government.
Reacting to the legal implications of still retaining defected aides in the government, a Lagos – based legal practitioner and a former APC governorship aspirant in Osun State, Mr Kunle Adegoke, said the 1999 Nigerian constitution permits a member of any political platform other than that of the ruling party the right to be part of the state executive.
According to him, “the governor has the power under the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (As altered) to appoint anybody into his cabinet, not necessarily a member of the ruling party. The fact that some members of Amosun’s kitchen cabinet have taken ticket of another political party does not deny them the right to be in the cabinet, because such appointments are at the pleasure of the governor.
“The party has no power to determine the right of such persons to continue holding political offices once the man who appointed them is satisfied with them. It is only an elective office holder elected on the platform of one party that cannot cross to another, except there is factionalisation at the leadership of the party. What APC is embroiled in right now is worse than factionalisation and they must be ready to bear the consequences.”
To some political pundits, the emerging trends signal a death knell tolling on the disintegration of the party’s structure, with reference to the repeat of the intractable intra-party crisis that rocked the then, PDP, preparatory to the 2011 general elections. The party became polarised into two factions which led into inchoate groups with a faction led by Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the then governor, and fielded Gboyega Isiaka as the Peoples’ Party of Nigeria (PPN) governorship candidate, while the then, President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo supported Adetunji Olurin as the governorship flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The secenario threw up the candidate of the Action Congress (AC), Amosun, an Egba man from Ogun Central, as the, then governor – elect.
If care is not taken, it is envisaged that the anticipated sympathy votes may be split between the two strong contenders from Yewa-Awori zone, Akinlade, the APM governorship candidate, and Isiaka, of the ADC, thereby blighting another chance for the Ogun West Agenda of staking a claim to the Number One plum seat of the state.
Despite failing in several gambits, nemesis is magisterial in the governor’s pursuit, while Abiodun has become a survivor of the subterfuge to have him replaced by Akinlade.
Besides, the emergence of Ijebu-Remo Agenda (made up of a mix of notable politicians, business moguls, powerful technocrats and seasoned bureaucrats), as a potent mouth-piece for Ogun East, it was further learnt, is a thorn-in-the-flesh and a big headache for Mr Governor.
However, informed sources told THISDAY that the emergence of Abiodun, an Iperu-Remo born Prince, hit Amosun below the belt as he never thought of the apocalypse of his impending failed permutation through his consensus mechanism. It was learnt, he is adamant and has rebuffed every entreaty to pacify him into accepting Abiodun as the party’s governorship flag bearer, because of his pride.
“Apart from that, it seems he (governor) has some things he is concealing but which he is yet to tell the members of the general public. He has done some things in the secrets and that is why he wants to use Akinlade as a protégé in order to cover the tracks. It is not as if he has genuine interests of the Yewa-Awori people at heart. It is like crying more than the bereaved”, said a source who pleaded anonymity.
Besides, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State, Dr Femi Majekodunmi, has cautioned the state governor, Sen Ibikunle Amosun, to desist from acts capable of undermining the general interest of the party in the upcoming 2019 general elections.
Majekodunmi, who is Baagbile of Egbaland, appealed to the governor to play the role of a statesman in resolving the controversy trailing the outcome of the gubernatorial candidate which has pitched him against the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
He said Amosun cannot afford to let the party down by playing a spoiler game, warning that doing such can only be counter-productive with grave implications for the good name of the governor which he has built over these years as well as the state as a whole.
Majekodunmi averred that the governor has nothing to lose by accepting, at the end of the day, whoever is the governorship choice of the party whether Abiodun or Akinlade, but that the governor would rather gain a lot more, with the continuation of his good legacy of so many years to come and noted that the governor’s good name will be a reference point for those who desire the best for the state.
“According to him, “the governor who through his achievements has been regarded as the architect of a modern-day Ogun State, should not make mistake of a political decision that will consign his name into political oblivion.
He has served the people of the state diligently for over seven years with landmark achievements, littering all over the state and history would be kind to him if he allows reason to prevail and work assiduously for the victory of the party both at the state and federal levels.
“Nobody would dispute the fact that Governor Ibikunle Amosun has become the architect of modern-day Ogun State with many landmark achievements scattered all over the state. Indeed, whenever the history of the state would be written, his name cannot, but be in gold. And as the sitting governor, he is a major stakeholder whose views and interest must be important and paramount.
“But as a politician who has always been committed to the APC, I want to sincerely appeal to the governor to see the present issue concerning the gubernatorial candidate of the party as a test of his statesmanship in which the interest of the party must be supreme, not only because of the entire members of the party in the state but of President Muhammadu Buhari, whom the governor always holds in high esteem.”
Also, Majekodunmi stressed that as the leader of APC in the state, he should be the father of all who is desirous of handing over the government to a member of the party to continue his good works and admonished him that if he fails to have his candidate (Akinlade) picked as the gubernatorial candidate, his plan ‘B’ in resolving the controversy should be a total reconciliation with the candidate already picked by the NWC who has publicly announced his resolve to work with the governor, concede some grey areas to him and most importantly pledge to continue his good works in the state.
“Governor Amosun as the leader of the party ought to bring every aggrieved member back into the fold to ensure a united front, so that the party does not go in disarray in the upcoming 2019 general elections, just few months away,” said the APC stalwart.
Reacting in stout support of the state executive, an impeccable inside source hinted that the Ogun State chapter of the APC remains an indivisible entity and will not join the aggrieved governorship candidate (Akinlade) and the 26 State House of Assembly candidates in moving to the APM.
According to the source who craved anonymity, “we are not going to APM. All the executive members of the APC in Ogun State still remain in the party.
“Those who decided to go to the new party (APM) because of injustice meted out to them, not only limited to the governorship candidate (Akinlade), but also all the aggrieved 26 State House of Assembly candidates, that are not happy with the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC), following the imposition of Prince Dapo Abiodun, as the governorship candidate, are free to do so.
“So, their defection to the APM can’t and will not shrink the strength of the APC, even preparatory to the upcoming 2019 general elections.
“Though the executive members of the party in the state are not happy with the decision of the NWC, by imposing Dapo Abiodun on us, but one thing I want you to know is that, the governorship candidate, Abiodun himself, hasn’t reached out to us for our support. Once he does that, we will give him our unalloyed support.
However, in his riposte to the defection, APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the party is critically looking at the development and in due course, would take a position on it.
“However, in the interim, we will continue to encourage our members not to be driven by selfish ambition, but rather to be driven by higher ideals that the party represents.
“The unprecedented achievements the party recorded in the part few years are pointers that members should rise above personal interest. We will also continue to encourage them to think deeply to the larger implications of their actions and in-actions.
“We are, however, mindful of the fact that, at the end of the day, the generality of the people are happy with what we have done and what we are doing. We can never regret sticking by the rule of law and operating in accordance with what is good for the interest of other country.
“Let me emphasise that what we have done was for the best interest of the party, government and the generality of people of this country.
This has continued to encourage us to be focused. We will however take what happened into consideration and in due course, react appropriately.
“The reality is that, as a party, you can’t afford to lose any party member. But we also know that as some are leaving, many others are joining us. Regardless of what happened, I can tell you that the ruling party is very much secure.
“They won’t threaten our chances, especially as many more people are joining us have continued to see APC as a party standing on a solid and higher ground for the generality of the people. That exactly is the comfort.
“I will advise them to place party interest above personal interest, especially as it conforms to the overall and generality of members. Leaving a party because you didn’t achieve personal ambition is off the mark.
“Reconciliation process has started with the setting up of the panel whose members have started working round the clock to pacify the aggrieved members from every part of the country.
“Good enough, we have very credible and eminent personalities in the panel, like governors, elder statesmen. They are committed to bringing lasting peace within the party. Let me say that we don’t regret any action we took in the interest of the party that led to their exit. It was in the best interest of democracy”, said Issa-Onilu.