This report, extracted from Premium Times’ story on the crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Oyo State was edited with additional information by www.oyoinsight.com, for your reading pleasure.
The cracks within Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, became pronounced during the ward congress of the party held nationwide on 5th May, 2018
A sample ample of the forms used for the congress…
Apart from reports of how the congresses were marred by violence in many states of the federation, many people including son of late former governor Lamidi Adesina, Hon. Adedapo Lam-Adesina was beaten by thugs.
The crisis and infighting reached its crescendo penultimate Saturday when the party held its state congresses across the country.
The congresses, staged to elect new leaders for the party in Nigeria’s 36 states and Abuja, revealed that the ruling party has been unable to resolve its differences as parallel congresses were held in many states.
The split of the party in many states governed by APC and others showed that there is unsettled rift among top leaders of the party, including those holding sensitive elective and appointive positions in the federal government.
Sea of heads at the Liberty Stadium congress
While the state congresses revealed non-cohesive party structures across the states, the developments are fallouts of supremacy wars that had been raging within the party among the power brokers, long before the congresses were held.
In Oyo state, the battle for supremacy is between the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, and supporters of late former governor Lamidi Adesina, Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, 2 senators, 9 members of the House of Representatives, serving and former state lawmakers as well as former chairmen and aides of Ajimobi, who rallied together under the umbrella of what they called “Unity Forum”.
But the conflict dates back to the years of the ACN, before the formation of the APC.
The ACN, before the 2011 elections in the state, had two distinct camps: those loyal to a former governor of the state and leader of the party, Lam Adesina, and those in support of the gubernatorial candidate of the party, Mr Ajimobi. The late Adesina’s camp were known as ‘Lamists’ while those loyal to Mr Ajimobi were tagged ‘SENACO’ – a name purportedly derived from the governor’s campaign sloganeering.
Lamists Vs. SENACO
Dapo, son of late former governor Lam-Adesina and others acknowledging cheers…at Liberty Stadium.
Shortly before the death of Lam-Adesina, there had been insinuations in the party, ACN, that the ‘Lamists’ were being sidelined in the scheme of things. But the animosity was not pronounced until the death of the late politician and the formation of the APC.
The cracks became visible in December 2016 when some members of the ‘Lamist’ group alleged that the governor was planning to impose candidates on party members in the then scheduled local government election fixed for February 2017. The conflict later degenerated into sharp division in the party, snowballing into the full scale controversy that tore it apart in the violent ward congress held penultimate Saturday and the just concluded state congress.
Old ACN Vs CPC debacle
Shittu, the minister, is believed to be a loyalist of President Muhammadu Buhari from their days in the CPC. Shittu was the gubernatorial candidate of the party in 2011, when Buhari contested as president.
Since the formation of the APC, Shittu and Ajimobi have been at loggerheads in their struggle for the control of the party. Shittu, reportedly banking on ‘federal support’ has been wrestling the structure with the governor, after he was reportedly denied the governorship ticket in 2015.
In 2016, Ajimobi, reports said, stood against Shittu’s selection as the minister from the state on the ground that ”he didn’t work for the success of the party in the elections”.
Members of the Unity Forum at Oke-Ado patty secretariat
Meanwhile, events of the past few weeks showed that the Lamists found worthy allies in other aggrieved elected lawmakers in the party and other known former aides of Ajimobi like Professor Adeolu Akande, Dr. Yunus Akintunde and 24 of the 36 members of the state executives of the party. Collectively, they are known as “Unity Forum”.
Based on the composition of the “Unity Forum” faction, those against the governor include son of the late Mr Adesina, Dapo Lam-Adesina; members of the House of Representatives including Sunbo Olugbemi (Oluyole), Taiwo Akintola (Egbeda/Ona Ara), Sunday Adepoju (Ido/Ibarapa East), Abiodun Olasupo(Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Iwajowa), Segun Ogunwuyi (Ogbomoso North/Ogbomoso South/ Orire), Bosun Oladele (Irepo/Olorunsogo/Orelope), Gbenga Ojoawo (Ibarapa North/Ibarapa Central). There is also a senator representing Oyo Central, Monsurat Sunmonu; Dr. Kola Balogun, a gubernatorial hopeful, among others.
Ajimobi, Alao-Akala, Akin Oke and Folarin at the Adamasingba congress
On the other hand, Ajimobi has been able to mend fences with a former governor of the state, Adebayo Alao-Akala and former senate leader, Teslim Folarin.
How It All Started
For long, many members, majority of those that are not sympathetic to SENACO, have been marginalised. Ajimobi, according to the aggrieved party members, had unilaterally run the affairs of the party without consulting anybody. Then came the council election. Many people obtained forms but it was obvious the governor’s men were going to lose if primaries are conducted. He resorted to ‘handpicking’ of candidates. All the 68 chairmanship and 602 councillorship aspirants were SENACO members. In Okeogun, for example, Insight Oyo gathered that all the 18 chairmanship and 180 councillorship candidates for the 18 local government areas and local council development areas as well as the 180 wards were allegedly selected the Head of Service, Mrs Hannah Ogunesan, who’s believed to be close to the governor. Ajimobi garnered more enemies. This was after most of the governor’s initial enemies had got juicy federal appointments.
Crowd at the Adamasingba congress
As this was ongoing, the national headquarters of the party announced dates for the ward, local and state congresses. Unknown to Ajimobi or due to what political analysts called ‘over confidence’, Ajimobi’s loyalists didn’t obtain nomination forms. However, members of the Unity Forum, which was formed few weeks to the congress, bought forms. The Unity forum got to know and were happy that their prayers have been answered.
On the day of the ward congress, Ajimobi got to know he had made a mistake. Members of the Unity Forum besieged the party’s Oke-Ado, Ibadan, State Secretariat for the pre-congress briefing. Many of them were wounded in the process. They later got forms for their loyalists despite violent attempts to deny them. Both factions held parallel congresses with representatives of the party and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in attendance.
The state congress was held simultaneously at Adamasingba and Liberty Stadium and it was attended by APC and INEC officials. It was obvious that day that members of the Unity Forum were in the majority.
While Chief Akin Oke was returned through voice votes at Adamasingba Stadium, his former deputy, Alhaji Isiaka Alimi was elected at the Liberty Stadium.
Copies of tellers used for payment by Unity Forum members
The Unity Forum had argued that Governor Ajimobi’s supporters did not pay for nomination forms in the ward congress which formed the foundation of the congresses at the local government and state levels. The SENACO had countered that their congresses were the ones conducted by the congress committees from the national secretariat of the party.
Members of the Unity Forum later petitioned APC, asking them not to recognise anything done by Ajimobi and his SENACO faction since they failed to obtain forms. Ajimobi’s loyalists were said to have allegedly provided a bank teller of N21m. Members of the Forum later exposed them, revealing the details of the three House of Representatives’ members who paid the money separately. In an advertorial, they revealed how the lawmakers paid on Monday, 7th May, 2018, 4 days after the deadline.
The Battle Shifts To Abuja
While members of the Unity Forum deployed everything they have, including the media to alert the public national headquarters of the party about the illegality of the congress conducted by SENACO faction as they failed to obtain nomination forms, Ajimobi relocated to Abuja, that his wife had to go join him. Reports have it that he sought audience with members of the NWC. When he arrived 6 days after, his supporters started jubilating that their faction has been recognised. The appointment of Ajimobi as chairman of media sub-committee of the national convention was a bad news to some people. The joy was, however, shotlived as the party has appointed its national deputy chairman (North) to harmonise the party in the state.
Meanwhile, the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who could have settled matter, took side. The youth wing of the Forum had to advise Tinubu to take Ajimobi to Lagos if he loves him truly.
Other Governors like Rauf Aregbesola, Rotimi Akeredolu and Ibikunle Amosun of Osun, Ondo and Ogun States respectively also waded in.
This was after leaders of Unity Forum had petition APC Over Fraudulent Payment By Ajimobi’s Loyalist. In the petition addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, they warned the party to be conscious of the legal implications of taking any decision that runs against the guidelines of the party.
According to the leaders, the petition became imperative following the relocation of “Governor Ajimobi to Abuja and his daily visit to the APC National Secretariat and his claims that the officers of the party are now all in his pocket.”
The petition reads: “The Unity Forum comprising 90 per cent of the elders caucus of the party; two of the three senators from the state; 9 of the 14 House of Representatives members; seven gubernatorial aspirants including the Minister of Communications; 15 former commissioners under Governor Abiola Ajimobi; 26 former local government caretaker chairmen, 18 of the 26 present state executive members of the party and the party executive committees in 25 of the 33 local government councils and thousands of party members have claimed that aspiring ward party executive members who are loyal to Governor Abiola Ajimobi failed to pay for collection of nomination forms for the ward congress as stipulated by the guidelines of the party. In response to this allegation, the loyalists to the governor submitted a Transfer Form of First Bank, Agodi Branch, Ibadan for the sum of N20, 060,000 as evidence of payment. However, available evidence has only confirmed that three loyalists of the governor namely Akeem Adeyemi, Saheed Fijabi and Segun Odebunmi paid N20,060,000(Twenty Million and Sixty Thousand Naira Only in five lump sums of Four Million and Two Hundred Thousand Naira Only) to the APC Account with the Agodi Ibadan branch of the First Bank on Monday, May 7th, a day after the ward congress. The questions that arise are:
“Could loyalists of Governor Ajimobi have paid twice for the same set of forms (On May 4th and again on May 7th, 2018?)
“If the loyalists of Governor Ajimobi actually paid on Monday May 7th, could that have sufficed for the claim that they satisfied the guidelines of the APC Congress which stipulates that candidates must pay for, collect nomination forms and return the forms 24 hours to the congress?
“If loyalists of Governor Ajimobi actually paid for the nomination forms a day after the congress, what was the basis on which they claim to have participated in the congress?
“What, against this background, forms the basis that the loyalists contested and won the ward congress?.
“If it is established that the Bank Transfer Form dated May 4th paraded by loyalists of the governor are fake, has the financial laws of the country not been contravened and crime committed?
“Should the culprits involved in such falsification of banking documents and grand deception of the APC not be handed over to the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies in line with the anti-corruption stand of President Muhammadu Buhari?,” added the petition.
Speaker’s Death As A Litmus Test For Ajimobi
Before the congress, the speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Barr. Adesina Michael Adeyemo, died. Adeyemo, who was completing his second term, was a core loyalist of the governor. He was one of those spearheading the Ajimobi for Senate campaign. After the burial, how to produce another speaker and how to outshine members of the Unity Forum members in picking the candidates for bye-election occupied his mind. It was obvious he was not going to allow the deputy speaker, Barr. Wasiu Musah, who has been a torn in the flesh of the HoS, Ogunesan, to become speaker. He threw the ethnic card, saying that the Musah, the HoS, Deputy Governor as well as the Minister hail from the same zone. He later settled for a Labour Party, LP, member, as speaker. Sixty-eight years old Hon. Olagunju Ojo, a former deputy speaker between 1999 and 2003, made history as the first minority leader to become speaker of a House dominated by APC members.
Rather than conduct primaries to select who flies the party’s flag in the bye-election, the governor settled for the speaker’s younger brother, Kunle Adeyemo. How he arrived at that, most of the party leaders don’t know. However, notable party leaders in the constituency were conspicuosly missing last Thursday when the governor led party members, which included House of Representatives’ members, council chairmen, councillors and political functionaries to the ancient towns of Eruwa and Lanlate.
Harmonisation or Reconciliation?
Yesterday, Insight Oyo exclusively reported how the NWC of the APC rose from its meeting in Abuja yesterday, appointing its Deputy National Chairman(North),Sen Lawan Shiaibu to reconcile the two factions of the party in Oyo State and share party positions between the two factions.
Sources at the NWC disclosed that the committee established from the party’s bank documents that the governor’s supporters did not purchase forms for the ward congress. It was however of the opinion that it would be “awkward” for the governor’s supporters to be totally shut out of the party.
“If the party is to apply the rules strictly, the governor’s supporters will be disqualified for not complying with the party’s guidelines and this will invalidate the local and state congresses involving the delegates from the invalidated ward congress”, said the source. He added that this would mean the governor will not have any of his men in the party executive committees at all levels. This will be awkward.”?, he concluded.
A source said 10 members of the 15 member NWC proposed that a Caretaker committe be set up for the state with a chairman from outside the state because of the deep division within the party in the state but the National Chairman pleaded that the members be given an oppurtunity to sort things out themselves.
The NWC thereafter appointed Shuaibu to head a Reconciliation and Harmonisation Committee to Oyo State. The committee is scheduled to be in Oyo State next week.
“What we concluded was to have a political solution to the problem in Oyo State. While it would be awkward to shut the governor out of the party structure, we also couldnt hand over the party to the governor which is the prefetence for states where APC is in control. The problem with Oyo State is that if we dont tread carefully, we will end up with court cases that will jeopardise our chances in 2019. Besides, there is overwelming evidence that those fighting the governor are in the majority in the party. Handing the party over to the governor will kill the party in Oyo State”, the source concluded.
It is however unsure, as at the time of publishing this story, if the Unity Forum will accept harmonization.
This is just as the governor’s spokesperson, Bolaji Tunji, in a facebook comment, rejected harmonisation.