The recent defection of prominent opposition leaders in Ogun State to the All Progressives Congress, APC, is an indubitable and invaluable testimony to Governor Dapo Abiodun’s charity and commitment to harnessing every human resource available to building a greater future for Ogun State, writes , Lanre Alfred
Even when politicking was at its most intense and injudicious with hate and half-truths flying hither, thither, he never returned fire for fire or wavered in his adoption of soft power – that sheer ability not to use force or coercion for political gain when you can shape the long-term attitudes and preferences of dissidents or the opposition by tact and diplomacy. The result is that he is heartily embraced by those on the other side of the divide.
The rock city of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital stood still last Tuesday when a coalition of opposition members formally declared for the All Progressives Congress, APC. Some of the notable defectors include Chief Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (GNI), the gubernatorial candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the March 2019 governorship election in the state; Mrs Salmot Badru, a former deputy governor under the Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration; Joju Fadairo, former state chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Chief Iyabo Apampa, former PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) member; Hon. Ayo Odugbesan, former Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly; and Hon. Dave Salami, a two-time member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP, among others.
A reception cum presentation of APC insignias was held in their honour and their thousands of supporters at the Ake Palace Ground, Abeokuta. Governor Dapo Abiodun led top members of his administration and the party including Chief Yemi Sanusi, state chairman of the Caretaker Committee; and Ayo Afolabi, SouthWest Zonal Secretary of the APC, who represented the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole; to receive them.
A visibly excited Governor Abiodun noted that with the defection, the state had become a one-party state while urging members to go back to the ward and local government levels to build the party. He said, “From now on, we should start building the party from the ward and local government levels. We should go back to our wards and local government and start holding meetings regularly. We are all one now under one united party.
“I want us to work together. I do not want discrimination between anyone in the party. We are going to join hands to build our future together. All those that have just joined us today with those of us that have been here before, we are now joining hands to build the future of Ogun State together and with all of us, Ogun State will achieve the greatest heights by the grace of God.”
The governor further assured the new members that he was not done yet with the appointment of political office holders because “We are aware that you are coming to join us and so we have kept some appointments just for you. We still have a lot, and we will ensure that everybody has a sense of belonging and a sense of participation. So, please, do not worry, we are now one and the same family.”
On his part, Isiaka stressed that his decision to join the APC was hinged on his determination to serve the people and contribute to a “Life of Abundance in Ogun State utilizing our God-given resources and potential; ensuring a legacy of growth and development for today, ensuring equity and fairness in the state development stride and secure the future of coming generation.”
Isiaka, who is popularly known as GNI said, “Our Movement (Believe Movement) is deeply progressive in its ideological orientation with focus on progressive programmes and policies such as human capital development (health and education), good wage policy, a functional and well-funded pension scheme, progressive economic policies, caring for the weak and vulnerable in the society (social welfare) and infrastructural development.
“It is gratifying to note that these same programs constitute the cornerstone of the All Progressive Congress, which we have decided to join the ranks of millions of its membership in the state today.”
He added that the outcomes of the last election, despite not going the way he wished, did not bow his head and that of his supporters, as they reckoned that once elections were over, governance must take centre stage. “It was, therefore, gratifying when His Excellency, Prince Dapo Abiodun – as a Governor-Elect at the time – extended the hand of fellowship to me and our people. Subsequent interactions afterwards were largely to evaluate his intentions and ideas for Ogun State people,” Isiaka said. As adduced to by Isiaka, leading opposition figures had been visiting with Abiodun even before inauguration lending immeasurable credence to his transparency and open-door policy. Before the formal defection, GNI had led his political movement to pay a courtesy call on Governor Abiodun to show solidarity for his administration.
He said, then, “We came to see our governor as a way of moving our relationship forward. We had interactions with our people all over the state and they mandated us to come and talk with our governor. All the areas that needed clarifications, we have gotten them. So we need to go back to them and within the next couple of days, the full outcome of this meeting will be made known to the public.
“We are very confident because the morning shows the night from what we have seen in five months. If we had not seen positive signs, we probably would not have graduated our relationship. I have come with the leadership of my political structure all across the state. This is to signify the fact that we are very confident and happy with the way the government is going about putting the state on a greater scale,” he said.
But it is not only Isiaka that is the opposition figure that has openly embraced Governor Abiodun. Senator Buruji Kashamu, who flew PDP’s governorship flag, was jubilant when the election swung in Abiodun’s favour. So was Ladi Adebutu, who was at the receiving end of the high-wire intrigues in PDP. He also embraced and promised to support Abiodun. In fact, there were reports that some aspirants shelved their ambition as a result of Abiodun’s excellent soft power. Those who had carried on very far with their governorship ambition but later saw in Abiodun a man who symbolises greatness and carries the aspiration of the generality of the Ogun electorate, entered a pact with him to deliver the votes on election day. It is also on record that Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a major opposition figure, jettisoned his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), to ensure that Abiodun won the election. He was reported to have told some people in confidence that he would rather synergise with Abiodun whom he described as a man of uncommon honour and do away with the likelihood of being appointed a Minister by Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Abubakar if he had won the presidential election. Such is the awe-inspiring belief people have in Abiodun.
Not surprisingly, Hon Adekunle Akinlade, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s anointed successor for the Ogun State governorship seat, recently, announced his return and that of his supporters to the APC from the Allied People’s Movement, APM, on which platform they had contested for the last general election. Akinlade’s suit challenging Abiodun’s victory as the duly elected governor of Ogun State was nullified at the Supreme Court in the last week of December 2019. According to him, it became imperative for them to set the grievances that led them out of the party aside and return having used all available means to fight what he termed the injustice meted out to them by the National Executive of the APC.
Similarly, a coalition of 80 political parties in Ogun State has also passed a vote of confidence on the administration of Governor Abiodun because, according to them, he had remained passionate about matters that bring development to the state. Speaking when he led members of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), to Government House, the chairman, Comrade Abayomi Arabambi, lauded the state government for identifying policies of the past government that brought failure and discomfort to the state and putting in place machinery to correct them.
“You have extensively identified policies and programmes that brought us failure as a state and set up various interventions using the instrumentalities of the law to pursue the aspirations of the people of Ogun State. These various remarkable interventions have highly impacted on the performance of your government in key sectors like education, health, housing, security, agriculture, financial discipline and other core government businesses,” he noted.
While expressing confidence on the ability of the governor to steer aright the ship of the state, Arabambi said, “You have consistently and strongly justified your rating as a big name in the business of managing men and resources. In a short space of time, you have remained committed to all matters of development in the state. It is now clear that the destiny of our great state is in the hands of a capable, prudent and competent manager of resources. Your government shall not just make a difference, but shall be different,” he said. Comrade Arabambi called for the establishment of a joint Government-IPAC platform for an inclusive partnership that would include major stakeholders in the state and that the council was ready to work with the government to take the state to the next level.
Also speaking, a foremost politician and chieftain of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dr. Gbolade Osinowo noted that the governor has already written his name in gold by deliberately promoting inclusive governance that embraces all political divide. “You are making a difference by deliberately promoting inclusive governance. You are not a lone ranger who claims to know it all. Your actions show that you want to tap from the experiences of the people, irrespective of their political leaning, to run your government and we, at the IPAC are able, ready and willing to contribute our quota to move Ogun State forward,” Dr Osinowo promised.
Indeed, the sincere and magnanimous way Governor Abiodun is going about having everybody in his corner for the betterment of the state is a road hardly travelled by politicians especially those who have attained a political peak such as governorship. He knows he cannot do it all and has been reaching out to every Ogun indigene irrespective of party affiliation to join him in rebuilding Ogun State. And it is easy for the opposition leaders to trust Governor Abiodun because even when he was constantly and deliberately provoked in the run-up to the March 2019 governorship election, he kept his cool and enjoined his supporters to dwell on issues, not on personality attack. This did not only endear him to many who saw this as a novel approach to politics; it also disarmed some who were spoiling for war with him. This ideological bent is paying off for him, and in the long run, for the state with everybody now wanting to identify with the APC.
Taking it all in his strides, Governor Abiodun noted that it was imperative for all hands to be on deck if the state was to make any meaningful progress as no one is a repository of knowledge. He expressed his delight with the openness of the oppositions to his hand of fellowship. “Our doors are open to persons who previously opposed our people-oriented governance approach and now wish to join hands with us by contributing their share in creating a better future for the Gateway State.
“May we also applaud the sincerity of all the other 80 parties that have, even before now, responded positively to our hands of fellowship? Like true sportsmen and women, they have continued to identify with our Government and only last week passed their vote of confidence in us. We will continue to keep open the window of fellowship to all political actors and indeed all interest groups,” Abiodun assured.