The Oyo State All Progressives Congress (APC) post-primary crisis is far from being over. Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu, has vowed not to campaign for the governorship candidate, Mr Adebayo Adelabu. Can the minister’s threat affect the party’s performance at the poll? The Nation’s LEKE SALAUDEEN examines the implications of division in the ruling party.
The war of attrition in Oyo State All Progressives Congress (APC) over the governorship primary is yet to abate. One of the aspirants and Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, has threatened not to campaign for the flagbearer or work for his success in the election. Analysts believe the face off is an extension of the political rivalry that played out between Governor Abiola Ajimobi and the minister at the governorship primary.
An indication that the minister was not ready to abide with party supremacy emerged when he said the peace and reconciliation committee set up by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) was chasing shadow. According to him, there would be no peace in APC and the Oyo State chapter in particular without restitution and justice. He said: “I will be a bastard to support the APC governorship candidate in Oyo State, Adebayo Adelabu, after I was defrauded out of the party’s primary election held last October”.
Shittu narrated his ordeal in the hands of the APC leaders thus: “They asked us to pay N22 million for nomination form and didn’t advertise any condition other than as provided in the constitution. After we have been screened and certified, the chairman of our party, Adams Oshimhole, unilaterally and in violation of the constitution got me out of the way so that they can impose a new comer on the party; somebody who was barely two months in the APC.
“You cannot expect me at my level to support such candidate. I believe I gave enough warning. You don’t expect me to support such a candidate. Before you talk of reconciliation, you must talk of restitution. It is heartening to say we must have peace even if there is no justice. As for me, I don’t recognise the candidate of the APC. I’m in court and I believe I will triumph over those who were less than intelligent to foist a stranger on our party in Oyo State.
“You don’t expect me to support such candidate. Before you talk of reconciliation, you must talk of restitution. It is hearkening to say we must have peace even if there is no justice. As for me, I don’t recognise the candidate of the APC. I’m in court and I believe I will triumph over those who were less than intelligent to foist a stranger on our party in Oyo State.
“Of course, they had the opportunity and they had missed it and the party will certainly pay for it. I have passed that stage where any party will be threatening me. The temporary loss is not for me, but that of the people of Oyo State who deserves the best in governance. We are not going to beg them. They can go to blazes. If justice is not done, there will not be peace. If people will not talk about restitution, we will not talk about reconciliation,” Shittu added.
But, Oshiomhole explained that the APC disqualified Shittu to protect the party’s core values. He said the minister was not cleared because he did not participate in the compulsory one year National Youth Corps Scheme (NYSC). “He admitted that he did not do the mandatory NYSC as provided for under the law, and in his own judgment, his being a member of the Oyo House of Assembly and now as a minister of the Federal Republic were enough sacrifices,” he said.
Oshiomhole added: “But for us as a party, we know NYSC is a mandatory scheme. It is not something you may elect to do or abstain from doing. So, for us, not participating in the NYSC raises very serious moral issue as well as legal issue. If he did not do NYSC, that for us was enough to disqualify him and we had to find the courage to do so.”
Shittu said without him as governorship candidate, APC would lose Oyo State. He said he would not mind picking Adelabu as his running mate for the sake of winning the election. The minister said only him has what it takes to win the election.
However, the Oyo APC has described the utterances of Shittu as empty threat. The party’s Director of Media and Publicity, Dr Abdul Azeez Olatunde, said “Adebayo has no electoral value and should stop making empty threat”.
He challenged the minister to release the results of his polling unit, ward and local government in 2007 and 2011for the public to know whether he is an asset or a liability to the party.
According to him, Shittu was very ignorant of the party’s procedure in screening the aspirants. “The screening of National Assembly aspirants and governorship aspirants was handled by the APC National Working Committee (NWC). He was disqualified by the NWC because he failed to present NYSC certificate. Why should he transfer his aggression to the leadership of Oyo APC? It was not the state chapter that disqualified, but the the NWC for failing to satisfy the requirements for governorship ticket.
“He is making noise to create the impression that he is relevant in Oyo politics. The APC has decided to only watch the various utterances of the minister instead of joining issues with him.
“The party believes that Shittu’s contribution to the electoral victory of APC and the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 was not beyond his 30 minutes appearance in the public rally in ancient Mapo Hall, yet he is the greatest beneficiary by becoming a minister.
“It is common knowledge that his two elections (2007 and 2011) were colossal failures. So, his threat not to support Adelabu lacks condiments of substance and it’s in fact an empty threat. A Yoruba adage has it that: ‘A tree which one rest upon but could not support one, if such a tree decides otherwise, its impact would obviously be minimally felt.
“Barrister Shittu is expected to know that Oyo State APC did not screen him as such we are aghast at his transferred aggression to us. As a self acclaimed Islamic cleric, we thought he would live an exemplary live and be a role model, going by Quran 3: 26 where it was explicitly stated that ‘Allah giveth power to whom thou pleaseth’, the APC spokesman concluded.
A chieftain of APC from Oke-Ogun where Shittu hails from, Chief Adebimpe Ajayi, blamed the media for promoting the minister. According to him, Shittu has no political base, even in his home town, Saki; he can’t win councillorship election in his town.
Ajayi said if Shittu had been allowed to participate in the governorship primary, he would have failed woefully. “He is just making noise in the media. Ask from people of Saki if they reckon on him as a political leader, they will ask you who bears that name. He has no link with the people at the grass root.
“In fact, APC leaders in Oyo State should ignore him. He doesn’t have electoral value. If he leaves the party today, it won’t affect the fortunes of APC come 2019. The good work of Governor Ajimobi will win election for APC in Oyo State. The people of Oke-Ogun are solidly behind APC “
A lawyer, Mr Tunde Olajide, cautioned the party against what he called over confidence. He said politics is a game of number. The election is won by simple majority; APC should not feel comfortable with many of its leading members that defected to other parties at the height of the crisis over the party primaries.
His words: “APC leadership in Oyo State should not shut its door against aggrieved party members. Agreed, Shittu has his own excesses, but the party should find a way of accommodating him. I will advise Adelabu to reach out to those who left the party for one reason or the other to consolidate the APC chances in 2019. This is not the time for celebrating exit of members. All hands must be on deck.”
APC youth leader in Oke-Ogun, Mr Adedayo Ayoola, corroborated the statement of the APC spokesman on the performance of Shittu during the 2007 and 2011 elections when he contested for governorship election. According to him, “Shittu was floored in his ward and unit on both occasions. It is annoying that a political liability is now boasting of being a political juggernaut. In 2007 and 2011, Shittu scored about 5,000 votes as governorship candidate”.
Ayoola said he was lucky to have been appointed a minister by President Buhari. What qualified him was because he was governorship candidate in 2011 on Buhari’s former political party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Shittu is not popular in his ward, unit and Saki his home town. He should stop deceiving people that he was political leader of Oke-Ogun.
“His loyalty to APC is in doubt. He was the ring leader of the so– called APC Unity Forum in Oyo State that attempted to destabilise the party. Most of his foot soldiers have defected to Obasanjo led– African Democratic Congress (ADC). Shittu should summon courage and join his political associates in their new found political party. He should stop making ridiculous statements that without him, APC can’t win in Oyo State. I don’t expect a loyal party man to make such statement. It’s subversive. That is enough to prove that Shittu is no longer a committed APC member.”
“The leadership of APC should sanction him for predicting electoral defeat for the party. He had closed down the campaign office he purportedly opened in Ibadan for the re-election of President Buhari in 2019. He did that because he lost governorship ticket and he was not sure of political appointment in the next dispensation, given the baggage he’s carrying. I wonder why he should stop campaigning for Buhari the man that rescued him from misery”.
In his defence, Shittu said: “I think the whole idea that I stopped campaigning for Buhari is nonsensical. I was the first cabinet member who started campaigning for Buhari’s re-election. I’m still part of this government and part of the APC. In fact, I’m a foundation member of the APC. My interactions and relationship with Buhari are not just starting. I was his party’s governorship candidate in Oyo State in 2011. President Buhari has continued to earn my respect and adoration because he is one President who was either the first or second to willingly reduce his salary by half. I think the first leader to do that was Gen. Murtala Muhammed, who is late now.
He added: “If Buhari can reduce his legitimate salary so that Nigerian state can utilise that second part for the good of this country, why would I do that? I think the story is mere mischief. We had a rented apartment which is not my property. We rented it for three million naira (N3m) per annum and we simply could not afford to pay that and the landlord was impatient with us. He said we either pay or get out and we simply took the most sensible option by vacating the place.
“We are in the process of looking for another office space for the campaign. We hope to get something cheaper. So, it is not true that for whatever reason, I would say that I’m no longer campaigning for Buhari. It was the handiwork of mischief makers and a section of the media cannot be exonerated from that.”