Penultimate Tuesday’s defection of Senator Olufemi Lanlehin from the All Progressives Congress, APC to Accord completely erases the foothold of the Oyo State chapter of the APC in the Senate. It only foretells some negative omens for the ruling party in the state.
By OLA AJAYI, IBADAN
THE defection of Senator Lanlehin was predicted from the first days of the Abiola Ajimobi administration. His cat and mouse relationship with Governor Ajimobi even preceded the 2011 election. Senator Lanehin had been hopeful of securing the governorship ticket of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN before the eleventh hour defection of Ajimobi from the All Nigeria Peoples Party.
So, he obviously had reasons to be miffed as he controlled the largest number of followers among the contestants at that time. Besides, he was closer to the former state leader of the party, late Lamidi Adesina and was generally believed to be the preferred candidate of the former governor.
However, when pressure was mounted by some Ibadan elites on a national leader of the party based in Lagos, Lanlehin became a sacrificial lamb even though he was subsequently compensated with a Senate ticket.
From then the bad blood seemed to have almost continuously flowed between the two senior officials and both men have almost always avoided themselves.
Before his formal defection, he abstained from the party’s meetings and rarely contributed anything to the party. The gap was especially noticed during the events to mark the first anniversary of the death of Adesina.
While notable chieftains of the APC including Senator Tinubu had an elaborate ceremony at the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba, Lanlehin and some few APC chieftains gathered at the deceased’s house to honour the dead politician.
Among the issues between the senator and Ajimobi were the alleged failure of the governor to carry other party members along in most of the policies he made.
Due to the alleged unpopular decisions which the governor took, Lanlehin said it with all emphasis that he was on his way out of the Agodi Government House.
He further explained that some party members who worked for the party in the 2011 elections were totally marginalised in distribution of political offices in the state noting that he favoured most people who did not contribute to the party’s victory at the poll.
“I complained so many times that policies were formulated without having the input of party members and that many members of the party who worked for the party in 2011 are not benefitting from the government. He did not listen to all these,” the senator said.
But responding, the APC state Chairman, Chief Akin Oke said it was ambition that drove the senators away. He said they were afraid of failing to secure the second term ticket because they had written off the governor saying he would not be allowed to run for the second term and by so doing their own ambitions may be jinxed. But, I know that the governor will break the jinx this time around.”
Lanlehin, however, dismissed the claim saying he is not over-ambitious as claimed saying he would be ready to pitch his tent with a party that has the love of the masses at heart.
In his letter which was addressed to the Senate President, David Mark, he said, “I contested and got elected into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria. The said political party sometime in 2013 merged with other registered political parties and known as the All Progressives Congress.
“In exercise of my constitutional right to freedom of association under the 1999 Constitution as amended and pursuant to proviso contained in Section 68(g) of the said constitution, I decided to transfer my membership of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria to the Accord Party with all the rights and duties accruing thereto”, he stated.
Though, his political opponents see him as political Lilliputian, there is no doubt that he has several followers from his constituency, Oyo South. He has sunk several solar powered boreholes and empowered hundreds of people with his poverty alleviation programmes.
His defection to Accord Party has no doubt, depopulated the APC and has dimmed the hope of the party in the 2015 elections because most of his followers went with him to his new party.
While some say he has taken the right decision, others are of the view that the step he took to defect to Accord could spell doom for his political future. Those who support his move on their own part claim that had he remained in the APC that Governor Ajimobi would have done everything to deny him a second term ticket in the Senate.
Apart from the governor, the party leadership is also said to have issues against Lanlehin. Has the senator entered into political doldrums or has he wrenched himself free from oppression, it is the 2015 election and his treatment in Accord party that will tell.
When the going was good, the APC or rather the ACN could boast of two senators out of the three allotted to the state, but, the party has after the earlier defection of Senator Ayo Adeseun to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP now lost the two.