By Wale Akinselure
As major stakeholders in the Oyo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) step up spirited efforts to cement cracks in the party after its electoral setback in 2019, WALE AKINSELURE underlines some major obstacles impeding quest for enduring unity among the various power centres.
MAJOR stakeholders are deeply worried about the precarious state of affairs in the Oyo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Having been in power for eight unbroken years, they are pained over the raging cacophonies already taking a toll on the structures of the party. Of greatest concern to them is the apparent absence of a rallying force after the sudden demise of the late Governor Abiola Ajimobi, with old wounds remaining unhealed.
For instance, two years after former Minister of Communications, Chief Adebayo Shittu; former Senator Monsurat Sunmonu; former Honourable Dapo Lam-Adesina; former assistant to late Lam Adesina, Mr Fatai Ibikunle; former Oyo Chief of Staff, Professor Adeolu Akande; current Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr Wasiu Olatunbosun; and some others formed a faction known as Unity Forum, the crisis rocking the party in the state persists. The breaking away of the group was a crescendo of the battle among two warring factions for the soul of the APC, with one loyal to the late Governor Ajimobi known as SENACO and the other loyal to former governor of the state, the late Alhaji Lamidi Adesina known as LAMISTS.
The crisis then culminated in the factionalisation of the party, which made the two groups hold parallel local government congresses and state congresses. The subsequent decision of the LAMISTS faction, transformed into Unity Forum, to dump the Oyo APC, left open wounds that are yet to heal.
With festering factions and blocs, the party suffered the greatest injury in losing the governorship seat to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Mr Seyi Makinde in the 2019 general election. The defeat indeed brought an end to denials of crises and factionalisations in the party. Then leader of the Oyo APC, late Ajimobirealised this when, times without number, he demanded forgiveness from those he intentionally or unintentionally wronged. To attend to the demands of aggrieved members and resolve the crisis, Ajimobi set up a reconciliation team headed by former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. Some other members of the reconciliation team announced were Professor Dibu Ojerinde; Mr Mojeed Olaoya, Prince Gbade Lana, Alhaji Laide Abass, Mrs Mabel Williams and Mr Adefisoye Adekanye. When announcing the 16-member team, Ajimobi enjoined party members to forgive one another and accept that they jointly contributed to the 2019 loss. From May 2020 when the committee was inaugurated by Chairman, Oyo APC, Chief Akin Oke, members of the committee did set out to meet perceived aggrieved members of the party. Indeed, last Saturday’s stakeholders’ meeting convened by the committee gave pointers to the extent to which the Oyo APC can forge a united front for the 2023 general election.
The enlarged stakeholders’ meeting held at Alao Akala’s Ibadan residence had in attendance, various party members and no fewer than 10 blocs stated their grievances that should be addressed for the dream of the Oyo APC to come to a reality. The existence of those blocs at one meeting meant even the broader known factions of SENACO and LAMISTS had subdivisions. And the blocs: the APC Reformers led by Lowo Obisesan; APC New Era led by Dr Fola Akinosun; APC Aspirants Forum led by Akeem Babalola; APC Worldwide led by John Olaleru; APC Way forward Stakeholders led by Dipo Fawole; APC Oke Ogun 10 led by Emmanuel Adelowo and the CPC Coalition represented by Sulaimon Oyaremi; Oyo State Progressive Parliamentarians led by Akinola Sikiru, made presentations.
The presentations identified that the party’s woes emanated from the lack of open primaries and congresses, some members of the party being regarded as inconsequential, poor reward system and the failure to separate governance from party system. The Akin Oke-led executive council was particularly fingered for supervising the failure of the party with imposition of candidates, hence some members called for its dissolution. Amid such calls, some others sued for calm with a suggestion that the EXCO be allowed to serve out its term which expires in 2021.
Governorship aspirants in the last election also had their say, with Mr Niyi Akintola (SAN), advocating separation of political structure from party structure. Making reference to the dissolution of the national executive council of the party and the setting up of caretaker committee, Akintola held that such doctrine of necessity could apply in the Oyo APC. Promoting the slogan, another aspirant, Dr Azeez Adeduntan said that the SENACO and the LAMISTS groups must be buried for the party to have a new lease of life. He opined that the bane of the party was the “winner-takes-all practice. The cardiovascular surgeon argued that even losers should not be discountenanced. For Joseph Tegbe, the party’s rules must be strictly abided by, especially for primaries and congresses.
Tegbe also said the APC’s quest for a united front could only be achieved if those desirous of seeking political officers downplayed their aspirations, for now, until the party reconciled and was united. The party’s governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Bayo Adelabu cautioned against calls by some members for the party to refund monies to those who got forms but were not chosen as candidates to contest the past election. “We are all nursing various injuries as party members,” he said. Adelabu posited that the death of the former leader of the party, Ajimobi could be seen as a sacrifice for the party to get it acts together. Like Tegbe, Adelabu held that persons with aspirations should put them aside for now till the party achieved unity.
Giving his own analysis of the state of the party, Senator Teslim Folarin urged the members to be wary that the APC was the hybrid of several other parties. He, however, stressed that every member of the party must resolve to work together so as to succeed in the forthcoming political battles. In a stinging remark, a former federal lawmaker, Honourable Saheed Akinade-Fijabi, described the Alao-Akala reconciliation committee itself as faulty. Scrutinising the membership, Akinade-Fijabi averred that the body was replete with persons who caused the misfortunes of the party. He called for a resetting of the committee so that aggrieved members could have confidence in the reconciliation efforts. He also called on members to kill their political aspirations and focus on the unity of the party. Also expedient, according to the former lawmaker, is that the party sticks to a standard mode of selecting candidates for elections. Speaking in the same vein, Dr Fola Akinosun asked that the reconciliation committee be expanded and particularly decentralised to local government level.
Considering the various issues raised, Alao-Akala affirmed the resolve of the committee to be an unbiased umpire in the reconciliation exercise. To support efforts to launch the party to victory in 2023, he enjoined members to forgive misgivings of the past and reunite for collective success. He particularly urged them to be keen on building the party and not themselves.
Beyond the meeting
In the opinion of a number of observers, the meeting will only be a talk show except the attendees match their words with action in the coming days. For example, is the decision of Bayo Adelabu to reopen political offices across the state is not contrary to his position at the meeting that political aspirations should be put aside for the moment? Will members interested in vying for political offices suspend their overt or covert campaigns for 2023 in the interest of achieving a united Oyo APC?
Noticeably, some prominent members, especially of the Unity Forum, absent at the meeting convened by Alao-Akala included Professor Adeolu Akande, Moses Alake-Adeyemo, Yunus Akintunde, FataiIbikunle, Bayo Adewusi, Soji Akanbi, Ayo Adeseun, Dapo Lam-Adesina, Abiodun Olasupo, Taiwo Akintola, Sunbo Olugbemi, Sunday Adepoju, Isiaka Alimi, Iyiola Oladokun , Ajiboye Omodewu and Goke Oyetunji, while Chief Bayo Shittu was represented). However, there were knocks for the meeting convened by Alao-Akala with some describing it as one populated by those who benefitted from impunity of the last party primaries and those with an intent to hijack the party to drive their various ambitions.
At the dawn of the meeting, the current Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr Sunday Dare, similarly convened a reconciliation meeting at the University of Ibadan. It was attended by a former deputy governor, Moses Adeyemo; former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Honourable Olagunju Ojo; Ayo Adeseun, who alongside the convener were conspicuously absent at the AlaoAkala meeting. A section of party members regard the minister of youths and sports as a lone ranger, just trying to build his own political bloc and garner mileage by staging his own reconciliation meeting. AlaoAkala had referred to the Sunday Dare meeting as welcome as long as it was contributory to efforts to reconcile members of the party.
The ongoing reconciliation efforts in the state faces a crisis of confidence among the two major blocs of SENACO and LAMISTS/Unity Forum. The apparent absence of the LAMISTS at the AlaoAkala meeting shows the existence of the two blocs. When AlaoAkala was asked for reason of the absence of some members of the Unity Forum, he responded that he personally invited some who didn’t come while some excused themselves from the meeting. He was however tasked to use his clout to get more members to attend the next stakeholders meeting that the reconciliation committee will convene.
Various members of the LAMISTS group hold that the state executive council and AlaoAkala reconciliation committee are populated by members of the SENACO hence cannot be trusted to provide a fair reconciliation. The LAMISTS demand a fair share in running the affairs of the party, especially with 2023 elections ahead. There however are those who are undecided about whether to belong to the SENACO or LAMISTS. Ahead 2023 elections, there however is bound to be realignment of blocs as the SENACO bloc is perceived to have people with the war chest to effectively prosecute elections. Though members of both blocs are not averse to reconciliation and having a united party, a crisis of trusting one another is a challenge. The Lamists/Unity Forum are reported to also be planning to organise its own stakeholders meeting soon.
When asked of reasons his absence at the AlaoAkala meeting and his view of ongoing reconciliation efforts, member of the Unity Forum, Senator Soji Akanbi simply said “No comment”. On his part, another member of the forum, Professor Adeolu Akande said most members were eager to see the party united and strong to take its place as a viable opposition in Oyo state. “Our prayer is that all the efforts shall be successful,” Akande said.
With some not trusting the Alao-Akala committee, there are calls on the National Caretaker Committee of the party led by Mai Buni to intervene in the crisis in the Oyo State chapter of the APC. The Abuja intervention is seen as neutral and will be considered acceptable to all blocs. Moreover, the crisis rocking the state APC is well known to the national leadership of the party as Oyo was listed among the three states for which a five-member reconciliation committee chaired by Governor Abubakar Badaru, is mandated to reconcile aggrieved members of the party. Badaru, while reporting to the vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, last week, said that its reconciliation efforts were targeted at making sure that the party was strong in Imo, Ogun and Oyo states.
The cleavages of the Oyo APC leadership were left open following the death of former Governor Abiola. And according to some observers, the chairman of the party in the state, Chief Akin Oke, who should lead the party is also not trusted by some sections of the party. In fact, while some members are strong on their call on the national leadership of the APC to immediately dissolve the Oke-led executive council, there are arguments that notwithstanding the dissatisfaction, the current executive council should be allowed to see out its tenure.
With Alao-Akala as head of the reconciliation committee, some members opine that the former governor has the clout to assume the leadership of the party. Some, however, argue that Alao-Akala is not ‘core progressive’ and not deserving to lead the party.
Meanwhile, some progressives in Ibadan believed to have been relegated by the late Ajimobi, who hijacked the party structure, are expected to resurface to command leadership of the party. A national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu and Senator Ibikunle Amosun, are also said to possess the ace on who becomes the leader of the APC in Oyo. In promoting their speculated 2023 ambitions, both Tinubu and Amosun will be keen on having their own at helm of affairs of the party in the state.
However, a member of the Unity Forum and former minister, Shittu argued that Oyo rather than have a one-man leadership needed a collegiate system of leadership. While stressing that the Unity Forum was also keen on unity and reconciliation in the party, he said that the state needed an all-inclusive state executive council that all blocs could trust and have confidence in. “We used to have a one-man leader which didn’t help us. It brought us to our knees. Now I am not encouraging a one-man leadership. I am rather encouraging a collegiate system of leadership. Let us have a council of elders who will be in an advisory capacity. More importantly is the need to have a state executive committee of the party to which people will have a sense of belonging which will have the respect of everybody, have the trust and confidence of all party men, not the SENACO state executive committee that we have now which was not lawfully put in place which has outlived its usefulness. We must have an all-inclusive state executive committee where everybody will have a sense of belonging,” Shittu said. Though efforts towards reconciliation and having a united Oyo APC, a quick resolution of the crises will only be quickly achieved with sincerity of purpose by the various stakeholders of the party.
Each power bloc in the Oyo APC has so far remained uncompromising in its agenda. Their inability to rise above group interests constitutes a major stumbling block towards breathing a fresh air of commonality. Though frantic efforts are ongoing to strike a compromise in the quest to return the party to a better pedestal, issues of ego, ideological inclination and affinity are deployed to deepen disaffection and division within the rank of the leaders. How the state chapter of the APC overcomes these and other challenges remains in the belly of time. In the meantime, who leads the APC in Oyo?