This is not the best of times for the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Oyo State. And the party is like a time bomb waiting to explode. Majority of the party members are just being silent, waiting for an opportunity to send ‘signals’ with their thumbs. And the governor may be the loser. Some people may be living in denial but it is not good for our darling Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and the party, especially as the 2019 elections beckon. What concerns me, some people will ask? I’m concerned because the success of Ajimobi portends a good future for my state.
No doubt, Ajimobi has surpassed his predecessors put together but for him to retire peacefully after 2019, there is need to resolve some leadership problems bedevilling the party in the state.
A quick journey into how the problems started: In the build-up to the 2011 governorship polls, there were three major contenders within the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN- Ismail Adewusi, Olufemi Lanlehin and Abiola Ajimobi. Later, it became a battle between the duo of Lanlehin and Ajimobi. Lanlehin was heavily backed by majority of the old members of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, who are in the majority. Ajimobi, with his 2007 performance when he came second in the governorship election, also had strong backers. It was keenly contested but the party, through pleas from some external forces, resolved to back Ajimobi while Lanlehin was given a senatorial ticket. They both won.
Less than two years after government was formed, two known allies of late Lam-Adesina- Kazeem Adedeji and Oladele Olatubosun (now a member of the House of Representatives) were dropped as commissioners for no ‘just cause’. Other known supporters of the former governor were redeployed from ‘juicy’ positions, an action analysts saw as ‘weakening’ of the ‘enemies. Till date, the governor has not revealed why they were sacked. The governor wields enormous powers; he has the power to appoint and reject. Soon, the 2015 elections beckoned. Ajimobi mended fences with them. Primary elections were conducted but it was gathered that the governor and his ‘supporters’ were not happy with the outcomes; almost all known supporters of Ajimobi lost their primaries. Some even worked against each other during the general elections. The bitterness continues after the election.
There is no doubt as to whether or not the governor is the leader of his party in any state. But rather than exercise his power as the leader of the party, Ajimobi watched, helplessly, as things degenerated. Factions- Lamists and SENACO, emerged within the party. Lamists are old members of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, under whose platform former governor Lam-Adesina ruled. SENACO ( Sen. Ajimobi Campaign Organisation) members are those who joined ACN with Ajimobi from All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP in the build up to the 2011 elections. Ajimobi would later show his preference for ‘SENACO’ in the selection of those to be considered for appointments. The remaining council chairmen who were ‘Lamists’ were removed and replaced with the ‘Governor’s men’. The governor, it was learnt, heeded the advise of his people; that “we should hijack the structure of the party before the next election’. For the first time, the division within the party became obvious. Party members, especially from the 18 local government areas (LGAs) and local council development areas (LCDAs) in Oke-ogun came to Ibadan, the state capital, to protest the ‘injustice’. A ‘powerful’ female permanent secretary from the region was alleged of being the mastermind. The deputy speaker of the state assembly, AbdulWasi Musah and his former boss, Adebayo Shittu (now communications minister) also alleged the woman. Some even described it as an attempt to ‘wipe’ the Lamists’ elements from the party as they were in the majority in most of the council areas.
Later, members of the Lamists’ group, who had been ‘divided’, together with others, started extending love to themselves, saying ‘let’s come together, like we had done in the past.’ This was after members of their ‘faction’ had been neglected in the scheme of things. Unknown to Ajimobi, the wall has cracked; President Muhammadu Buhari, after over 2 years in office, released the names of governing board member and the governor’s ‘perceived enemies’ got juicy appointments. Though more than 20 of the governor’s men made it but their positions are not ‘juicy’. Rattled by the development, the governor was said to have made frantic efforts to seek redress, to get some people dropped. He was said to have told the party chairman to write petition against some of the nominees because ‘they are no longer members of the APC.’ But it was late; aso o b’omoye mo...
An attempt to remove the chairman of the party in Iddo local government was met with stiff resistance. It was foiled. Same scenario had played out in many LGAs. These are omnious signs that Ajimobi needs to look into. But what did the governor did right in his first that he is doing wrong in his second term? Two things may be involved: it is either he does not have good political advisers or he does not listen. For long, Ajimobi hasn’t deemed it fit to discuss regularly with members of the Oyo State caucus in the national assembly. They ‘mean’ nothing to him except he needs them individually. I learnt they are ‘aggrieved’ though they wouldn’t say it openly. ‘Unconfirmed report’ even has it that the governor and one of the senators from the state have ‘drawn’ the battle line. And there is nobody to settle these internal wranglings. Great Lam is dead. Chief Adeniyi Koleosho, who was said to have ‘delivered’ the ticket of Ajimobi in 2011, is no longer a member of the party. And election is coming.
Ajimobi’s numerous achievements are nothing without a good successor. And the governor is walking a tight rope. But his close associates will dismiss this as a ‘beer parlour’ talk. But it is not too late to mend fences as there are few months to the general elections.
Soon, Ajimobi will constitute membership of boards and parastatals. If I were him, I will let it reflect the various interests in the party. The council election is coming. If I were him, I will make sure all the interests within the party are happy at the end of the day. And above all, the number of those jostling to succeed Ajimobi, especially from the APC, is alarmingly crowded. He needs to engage them constantly so as to minimise post-election crises. Ajimobi needs to dispel rumour that he is backing any of them. Though we know there is no way a sitting governor won’t have a hand in who succeeds him. In the present scenario, Ajimobi has a lot to gain if the issues are resolved. He has a lot to lose if the issues are not resolved.
PEN-TA-GUN, Sikiru Akinola’s opinion about political event in Oyo State, is now published every Monday. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.