Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and one of his predecessors, Chief Olusegun Osoba, appear set for a showdown over the soul of the All Progressives Congress in the state, writes Sheriff Balogun
The running battle between Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and a former governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba, over who takes full control of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state manifested in full swing at the just concluded party congresses in the state.
Penultimate week, the party started to conduct its congresses ahead of 2015 elections in the state and nearly the whole process was characterised by controversies. And as the elections draw closer, the party is putting all machinery in place to ensure that it retains its place in the power equation in the state.
The congresses which started from the wards to the local government and state, climaxed during the state congress which generated intense controversies and resulted in parallel congresses and the emergence of two executives at all levels.
But only a passive observer would be taken aback by the recent developments in the party. The emergence of parallel executives was, indeed, the climax of series of turbulence fueled by needless ego within the party.
The relationship between Amosun and Osoba has been anything but cordial. The result was that a group led by an erstwhile deputy to Osoba, Senator Gbenga Kaka, held a separate state congress from the officially recognised and widely-accepted one held at the MKO Abiola stadium, and attended by Amosun.
Twelve officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from the state and national also attended the MKO Abiola stadium congress.
The present crisis dates back to 2003 when a certain Amosun inspired a little known Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to oust the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Ogun State, a political tsunami that swept across four other AD states of Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo with the exception of Lagos under Bola Tinubu, who was believed to have been tipped off on the pending crisis by a prominent PDP insider.
Although all the five governors claimed electoral heist by the PDP for their defeat, each of them was believed to have had peculiar reasons why their people rejected them at the polls.
In Ogun State for instance, not a few people were willing to re-elect Osoba in 2003 after they had previously voted for him in the 1993 and 1999 gubernatorial elections. More profoundly, his defeat was believed to have been informed by a factor of attitudinal disposition to the electorate but certainly not on the grounds of performance because he was believed to have changed the face of Ogun despite his meager resources.
Later, Amosun and Osoba found themselves in the same political boat when the Action Congress (AC) decided to attract like-minds for expansion. Amosun and his supporters in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that scared the day-light out of the PDP in the 2007 elections, teamed up with the AC and the DPA to become Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
But in the 2007 election, although many would still dispute the figures, INEC declared former governor Gbenga Daniel of PDP as winner, Amosun as runner-up while the late Dipo Dina of the AC came third. It was said that the 2003 issues were long gone and forgotten but events that unfolded later suggested otherwise.
Despite the fact that Amosun was said to have towered above other gubernatorial aspirants in the ACN, he was made to pass through hell before he could secure the ticket.
When he eventually did, Amosun was the only one out of the teeming members of his group that got any elective ticket. Osoba was said to have given other tickets, including the three senatorial seats, nine House of Representatives tickets and 23 out of the 26 House of Assembly tickets to his loyalists in the DPA and the AC. Also, while DPA got a senatorial seat and a House of Assembly seat, members of the defunct AC took the rest, including that of the deputy governor.
Thus, in the 2011 general election, the ACN trounced the ruling PDP and its alter ego – PPN. But no sooner had Amosun was sworn in than discordant tunes began to sing aloud from the ranks of ACN. The governor wanted to assemble a team he was sure would assist him in meeting his electoral promises while his party men insisted he must pick his aides from within their ranks.
The governor who was said to have tried to meet the demand midway, nominated several party men like the former speaker of the state House of Assembly during the Osoba era, Hon Muyiwa Oladipo, senatorial chairmen of the defunct ACN in Ogun West and Ogun East districts, Hon. Falilu Sabitu and Mr Daniel Adejobi as well as members like Ayo Olubori, Olu Odeyemi and Chief Sam Ayedogbon as commissioners and surrounded them with technocrats for the task of rebuilding the state.
Other loyalists of Osoba like Chief Mufutau Ajibola, his SSG, Chief Poju Adeyemi (his son), among others were equally given top positions in government. The governor also appointed several party men as Special Advisers as well as Chairmen and members of Boards, Parastatals and agencies in the state.
With the situation, the Osoba group accused the governor of marginalising the original members of the ACN. But a member of the APC, Mr. Sola Adelaja, who is on the side of the governor, dismissed the allegation.
He argued that “if you control three senators and seven House of Representatives members as well as 23 House of Assembly members, what are you looking for with common commissioners? What is a commissioner compared to a senator?
"How much does he collect every month when compared to a National Assembly member? A National Assembly member goes home with between N15 million and N20 million every month while a commissioner in Ogun State goes home with less than N450, 000.
“If you want to be a godfather and want to invest on anyone, will you invest in a commissioner who can easily be removed after six months or will you back a National Assembly member whose tenure is guaranteed? What money can you get from a commissioner earning that little? People should be realistic.
"By the way, do you expect the governor not to have competent friends and political associates whom he wants to put into positions? I think we are being unfair here. That accusation is very unfair. It is like giving a man a job and then insisting on picking those that must work with him, yet this man carries the blame if anything goes wrong?”
On the APC turbulence, many had thought that with the fusion of the ACN with the ANPP and the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) to form the APC, there would be a truce and meaningful rapprochement in the cold war between the governor and his in-house traducers. But the trouble refuses to abate.
Expectedly, the group that constituted itself as opposition to the governor comprised mainly of the National Assembly members and they formed themselves into a faction called 'Matagbamole' (don’t step on the elders).
They claimed they were fighting Osoba’s cause who they reasoned was not being respected or accorded the relevance that is due him by the governor. To them, the former governor was being trampled upon by Amosun.
But the charge is very curious because the governor hardly spares a moment to acknowledge the leadership of Osoba in public events. It could be that the lawmakers are just self-serving and trying to use the name of the ex-governor to settle personal scores.
In one of the rare occasions that Osoba spoke to the press, he told newsmen after Ogun APC Stakeholders' meeting on April 4 ahead of the congresses that "There is harmony between Governor Amosun and I. He is our governor and he is my own governor."
However, the first sign of trouble was in the attempt to appoint an interim committee for the new APC. It resulted in some fracas at the state headquarters of the APC due to misinterpretation of some instructions from the APC headquarters in Abuja on whether the management team was needed or not.
Next was the membership registration exercise. The group led by Kaka alleged that the governor attempted to hijack the exercise. It turned out that he was crying wolf where there was none. The exercise went seamlessly in all the 236 wards of the state.
Preparations towards the ward congresses were not without its hiccups and counter accusations. To address the mistrust, a Stakeholders' meeting was held on April 3 and 4, where it was agreed that all members of the party should go home and work for the unity of the party.
The lawmakers, including Osoba, Amosun and other party chieftains were in attendance. Osoba thereafter told reporters that "We met to put the house together and strengthen its unity to ensure that APC remains in charge in the state and for peaceful congresses.”
On that note, the governor worked assiduously towards attaining that peace that Osoba desired by meeting with chieftains of each of the 236 wards and ensured a list of all the wards where there were disagreements were ironed out amicably and harmonised.
On the state congress, party members mobilised for the exercise and headed for the venue of the congress. But they were shocked when news filtered in that Kaka and some NASS members held a parallel state congress elsewhere in the state capital which produced two different sets of executives.
An observer, Mrs. Tolulope Sobulo, who decried the development, worried that internal crisis might distract the administration in the state. She noted that unless the leadership of the APC immediately waded into the crisis, the party might have problems in the general election.
Dr Oreniyi Taiwo urged the parties to shield their swords in the interest of the masses. “Sincerely, I don’t understand the reason for this drama. Since the problem started, I have read all readable in the papers and I think Chief Osoba, a man I hold in high esteem, should call these people to order. Things should not degenerate.”