Unlike the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode who conceded return ticket in the interest of peace, his Ogun counterpart, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and his allies took advantage of the All Progressives Congress’ preaidential campaign in Abeokuta last Monday to protest the injustice they suffered in the hands of some powerful interests in the party, Gboyega Akinsanmi writes
Amid deep-seated anger, the All Progressives Congress (APC) held its presidential rally in Abeokuta last Monday. Unlike other states where the APC held presidential rallies, the Abeokuta’s event was, for most observers, one of the worst the party ever organised since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the 2019 political campaigns officially open.
Two reasons explained the poor rating of the rally, which to a fault portrayed the APC as a party that lacks a reliable conflict management mechanism. First, a number of party faithfuls converged on the MKO Abiola Stadium to welcome President Muhammadu Buhari. Yet, the crisis, which has been an enduring feature of Ogun APC, escalated to a point of public harassment at the rally.
Ordinarily, the gathering of party faithfuls should have been used to sell Buhari’s candidature to the undecided voters in the country’s sophisticated region. However, it became an avenue for a show of strength for the two factions in Ogun APC – the incumbent governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun on the other hand and the state’s former governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba.
Evident in different reports, Amosun’s allies from the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and supporters still remaining in the APC took over the MKO Abiola Stadium, the venue of the rally. They protested the outcome of the primaries that produced the APC governorship candidate, Mr. Dapo Abiodun on October 2, 2018 and denied Osoba’s supporters access to the venue of the rally.
Second, Osoba’s supporters were not just denied access to the venue of the rally. Amosun’s supporters, especially those who defected to the APM, pelted the APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole with stones and booed the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the point the president was about to present the party’s flags to the APC governorship candidate in the state.
And so rapidly, the situation degenerated to the throwing of objects at the party leaders. Even, the security agents could not bring about order easily. As a result, Amosun promptly intervened, appealing frantically to calm his supporters down. At that point, his intervention could not produce much result, which indeed x-rayed the depth of frustration the party faithfuls were going through.
For many Nigerians that watched the rally alive on Channels TV, it was nothing, but a true show of shame for the ruling APC. But for Amosun and all his allies across the political divides, it was a reward of injustice, which they claimed they had suffered in the hand of powerful forces that allegedly manipulated the outcome of the primaries that produced the governorship candidate.
Is Amosun’s call for justice actually just? This question cannot sufficiently be answered without an inquiry into what transpired prior to the conduct of the APC primaries between September 29 and October 2. Amosun had come up with a list of consensus candidates for over 40 elective positions without the input of the Osoba faction. But the Osoba faction rejected the list, which they claimed, did not represent the decision of the majority members of Ogun APC.
Consequently, the Osoba faction ignored the consensus list. It also conducted the primaries for all elective position in the state, which it claimed, were in accordance with the guideline of the APC National Working Committee. Like it did in all its state chapters, the NWC set up a panel to observe the primaries and determine whether the process was in line with the guidelines.
One of the leaders in the Osoba faction, Senator Akin Odunsi claimed that the NWC panel did not just observe the process, but indeed supervise the conduct of the primaries that produced all candidates contesting about 40 elective positions in Ogun APC. On this ground, the NWC rejected the consensus list and accepted the outcome of the primaries the Osoba faction conducted.
To the face of the national leaders, Amosun had threatened to work against the APC in the state’s governorship contest. He had equally declared support for Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, the APM governorship candidate in Ogun State. He had also said he was still in the APC “to ensure Buhari win landslide” in the state and protect his allies contesting on the APC platform.
Even though its guidelines only recommended primaries and not consensus, the NWC could not convincingly resolve the internal crisis of Ogun APC in a win-win situation, which analysts argued, could have helped unite the warring factions rather than bring the party to a point of national ignominy last Monday. Otherwise, this does not suggest the NWC will oppose consensus candidates, especially in a situation where the party stakeholders subscribe to it.
However, the case of the Ogun APC is not different from the case of Lagos APC. Although there is no faction in Lagos APC, the chapter is as divisive as that of Ogun State. Like Amosun’s case, the panel of the NWC never supervised the process the produced, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the APC flagbearer in Lagos State. Yet, the NWC accepted Sanwo-Olu and rejected Akinlade, whom the Amosun camp produced as the consensus candidate and later emerged the APM candidate.
But in Lagos, the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode conceded return ticket in a statewide broadcast, which according to findings, unsettled his supporters across the state. Ambode’s reason for concession is plain and clear. In his concession speech, Ambode claimed that he had conceded to avoid a crisis situation, which he believed, might bring down the platform that offered the opportunity to be the governor of the country’s most strategic state in terms of investment and population.
After Sanwo-Olu’s emergence, Ambode held different strategic meetings with principal officers of the State House of Assembly, cabinet members and the APC leaders in the state. His message at the meetings was simple and direct. It was a message of assurance and commitment to the APC and its victory in the 2019 elections. It was a message of peace and unity, which he said, were only conditions essential for the APC to win elections at the state and federal levels.
Ambode’s approach is better captured in his concession speech, which the party stakeholders described as patriotism.
In the speech, Ambode made it clear that the time “has now come for the state to move forward in order that the gains of the last three and half years are not lost… The APC is a great party, and the interests of our beloved state must always supersede that of any person or group.”
It was on this ground that he made a solemn pledge “to support our party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 elections and work for the success of our dear party.” Likewise, Ambode promised “to ensure a smooth transition in the remaining period of this administration and ultimately to the new governor, come May 2019.”
Despite his concession, reports showed that Ambode had become a punch bag for Lagos APC. The governor had been accused of funding the state’s leading opposition candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje without proofs. At different times, he had been threatened with impeachment, the last of which almost brought governance to a standstill in the state. Aside, he had been accused of not funding the APC candidate.
Yet, from all indications, the APC never did anything to address the extreme case of injustice and unfair treatment that Ambode, one of its most trusted patriots, had been suffering in the country’s most politically ambivalent state. This is exactly what Amosun cannot tolerate in Ogun State, even when the emergence of his consensus candidate did not satisfy the guidelines the NWC set for the conduct of the primaries.
With the disruption of its rally in Abeokuta, however, the NWC had decided to discipline Amosun. The reward of anti-party activities, according to the APC Constitution, is expulsion. By implication, according to an APC leader, Amosun may be expelled or at least suspended for a period of time after the 2019 elections. But how will his suspension or expulsion bring the party together and re-unite foes that the party’s flawed primaries produced in almost all its state chapters?
Already, an APC leader said the crisis “is fast eroding the support base of the APC in the state, and it may cost victory.” Aside, the party leader claimed that the failure of the APC leaders to compromise in certain situations and shift grounds when necessary “has cost the party victory in Rivers and Zamfara State, even before the elections. It is a clear case of self-defeat.”
In Lagos, Ambode willingly conceded to Sanwo-Olu in the interest of peace and unity. Ordinarily, the APC leader said, Ambode’s approach should be a lesson for key actors in other states. But that was not the case in Rivers, Imo, Ondo, Osun and Zamfara States, where its erstwhile aspirants “are now contesting on different political platforms to realise their political aspiration.” Across all its state chapters, the ruling APC is entangled in intractable conflicts, which was purely due to the clash of some entrenched political interests and the quest for the presidential ticket in 2023. But one of the APC leaders observed that the crises “brazenly threaten its victory at all levels. 2019 must be sure for the APC before talking about 2023.”
Even if it eventually wins the presidential contest at last, as some well-respected opinions revealed, the party will definitely lose some governorship and legislative seats in some of the crisis-ridden states and may not even survive the rage of its chieftains and members aggressively seeking fairness and justice within and without.