Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare

Let me start by congratulating the Minister- designate from Oyo State Mr. Sunday Akinlabi Dare. The choice of Dare wouldn’t have been an easy task for President Muhammadu Buhari owing to the array of big names from the state. Immediate past governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; governorship candidate of the APC, Adebayo Adelabu and a host of other party bigwigs lobbied for the plum job. Mr. Dare, as uneasy as your nomination was, let me be the first to inform you that the task ahead is tough. You will be saddled with the responsibility of unifying an already fragmented APC family as the defacto leader of the party.

When Ajimobi as incumbent governor in 2015 opposed nomination of immediate past Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, I expressed my fears for the party. In an article titled, “Ajimobi, Shittu and the Politics of 2019” (published in THISDAY , October 2015), I admonished the APC family in Oyo State to eschew politics of winner takes it all and embrace tolerance.

In the same vein, as the party’s primaries drew closer in September 2017, I warned that the fear of PDP’s Seyi Makinde was the beginning of wisdom for Oyo-APC, and advised the party to put the overall interest of the people and collective interest of party members above individual interests. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed as APC lost the state to internal squabbles.

History has just repeated itself! Without ‘consulting’ the state chapter of APC, the choice of Dare over Ajimobi, the party’s governorship candidate, Adebayo Adelabu and several other aspirants who expectedly were to be pacified with ministerial appointment has thrown-up another challenge within the fractured political structure. This is where Mr. Dare must demonstrate exceptional qualities of a leader and unify all stakeholders.

Unlike in 2015 when the then governor and the state executive council of the party openly opposed Alhaji Shittu’s nomination, the situation here is slightly different and I honestly believe that the new minister can leverage on this advantage to calm all strained nerves and reposition the party.

Dare’s ability to manage the current situation will no doubt determine whether or not the Oyo State chapter of APC will be better prepared for future elections, particularly the 2023 major elections. Therefore it is essential for party leaders and our gentleman-minister to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Permit me to observe that despite seeming excesses of ‘Governor Ajimobi’, the immediate past minister did not take advantage of the edge created by his earlier relationship with President Buhari and his position as minister. I had expected that Alhaji Shittu would carve a niche for himself as star minister and watch the party fight his battle. This was not to be, owing to several needless controversies which could have been better managed.

Among other controversies, the incessant face off with committees of the National Assembly on oversight issues, particularly budget proposals and defense is a case in point.
Despite the fact that the ICT sector was entrusted in the capacity of Oyo State during the last administration, the Chairman Senate Committee on ICT, Abdulfatahi Buhari and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon Saheed Akinade-Fijabi both hail from our dear state. Yet, Alhaji Shittu could not take advantage of this factor to make his job easier as minister. This does not show leadership!

As National Assembly Correspondent in 2016, I watched helplessly as Alhaji Shittu was accused of sponsoring my observations on the face-off between his team from the Ministry of Communications and the Fijabi-led House Committee on Telecommunications.

I felt really bad that he was accused of sponsorship of an article he knew nothing about, and my feeling grew from bad to worse when it appeared that no member of the committee believed his denial. After the meeting, I sent Shittu an apology for the embarrassment he suffered before the committee. I did same to Hon Akinade-Fijabi and assured him that Shittu did not sponsor me to write against his committee.

In the end, my effort yielded little fruit; acrimony between the minister’s team and the committee reduced. But to my surprise, subsequent budget proposals and defense were presented in the same embarrassing manner. Then I concluded that Shittu doesn’t understand the principle of lobby, even when his party men from the same state called the shots in the parliament.

But Dare seems to understand the principle of reciprocal responsibility and he has, so far demonstrated it.
On the 23rd July, when the ministerial list was released, the minister-designate was at the National Assembly to meet APC lawmakers from the state. They had a robust discussion and devised strategies to ensure he find things easy during screening. Dare realised his new responsibility as the link-pin and the bridge-builder in Oyo APC. This feat, if sustained, signals a healthy realignment ahead of 2023 politics.

Adedapo Adebiyi, Abuja