By G9ija

Prince Dapo Abiodun, a businessman, is the governorship candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State. Governor Ibikunle Amosun, whose preferred candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, lost out during the selection, has kicked against Abiodun’s choice. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU writes on the challenges of reconciliation in the troubled chapter, ahead of next year’s polls.

What next after the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Working Committee (NWC) has submitted the name of Prince Dapo Abiodun as the Ogun State governorship candidate for next year’s election?

Southwest leaders of the party, who reflected on the logjam, said the way forward is reconciliation. In their view, the parties to the dispute should make sacrifice, embrace one another and resolve to work harmoniously for victory in next year’s election.

They urged party elders in the zone to drive the reconciliation, pacify the aggrieved governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, and work out a concession for his camp to give his supporters a sense of belonging.

The APC Vice Chairman (Southwest), Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, observed that division and polarisation are risky. He called for a truce, cohesion and harmony, saying that there is unity in strength. “There is need for reconciliation and we will reconcile,” he stressed.

It is a very challenging moment for the troubled chapter. The primary conducted by the governor went awry, according to the NWC, led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. To the national chairman, Amosun erred by adopting consensus during his teleguided primary, which isolated the other camp rooting for Abiodun’s candidature. Although the disputed primary threw up Adekunle Akinlade, a House of Representatives member from Yewaland, Oshiomhole said it was a nullity, emphasising that Abiodun from Iperu-Remo was the duly selected candidate. A war of words broke out. Amosun attributed the cancellation of his “consensus primary” to the advice given by two powerful leaders from Lagos. He alleged that former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu and Aremo Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, were behind his ordeal. Osoba, the 80-year-old eminent journalist and elder statesman said he will not join issues with a 60 year-old governor on the pages of newspapers.

Amosun chided the national chairman for lack of fairness. But, Oshiomhole fired back, describing the governor as an emperor who wanted to impose his anointed candidate on the party.

In Ogun State, no governor has ever succeeded in his plan to handover to a preferred successor, since the Second Republic. Little did Amosun guess that his agenda will hit the rock when he sought to anoint Akinlade and 39 other candidates for the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly. While the governor has been in the forefront of the agitation for power shift to Ogun West Senatorial District, which has never enjoyed the slot since the creation if the state, many politicians from Ogun Central and East are not persuaded by his appeal. Besides, politicians, traditional rulers and community leaders from the East have maintained that what has existed is the zoning between Ijebu/Remo and Egba and Egbado (Yewa). Yewa, which is mobilising indigenes to get their permanent voter’s cards, is poised for a battle.

Amosun’s supporters are aggrieved because Akinlade was dropped and Amosun, who is perceived to be close to President Muhammadu Buhari, has failed to influence the national leader to upturn the NWC’s decision. Although defection is on the card, majority of them are opposed to jumping ship, saying that they cannot sek refuge outside the APC.

At the weekend, Amosun stormed Aso Villa to ventilate his grievances before the Commander-In-Chief. But, a source said he may be fighting a losting battle. During his previous visit, the President was said to have drawn his and other aggrieved governors’ attention to the provisions of the APC constitution. Later, he mobilised royal fathers, including the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo and the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle; and former Minister of State for Education Senator Iyabo Anisulowo to accompany him to the Villa. President Buhari was said to have maintained that the party’s decision was supreme.

On October 23, party elders rooting for Amosun’s candidate converged on Ilaro to reiterate their support for Akinlade. The supporters under the aegis of Ogun West APC stakeholder were led by Alhaji Yakubu Ajayi (chairman), Chief Kayode kajebora (Secretary), Sen Iyabo Anisulowo, Chief M.A. Olagbaye and Chief Jide Ojuko. In its communique, the stakeholders commended Amosun for standing firm in the struggle for the “Ogun West for governor agenda,” which, in their opinion, culminated in the emergence of Akinlade as governorship candidate.

However, it appears that Ogun West is not united. Legislators from the zone may have distanced themselves from the consensus option. Thus, the group fired salvos at them, saying Senator Gbolahan Dada, the three members of the House of Representatives and state lawmakers should make their position known on the Ogun West Agenda or risk being politically disowned.

Women were also instigated to take to the streets in Abeokuta, the state capital, where they gave a one week ultimatum to the APC NWC to retrace its steps and pronounced Akinlade as candidate. In fact, the women threatened to storm Abuja naked, if Oshiomhole does not eat his words. The women were allegedly led by the Chairman, Ilugun Local Council Development Authority (LCDA), Mofoluke Soremekun.

To reputable Yewa leaders, caution is the watchword. To halt the escalation if the self-induced crisis,  “Ogun West APC Elders,” led by Chief Mufutau Ajibola, Yahyah Fadipe and Chief Samuel Ayedogbon, held a meeting at Ilaro where they warned against further inflammatory statements capable of aggravating the crisis and fanning the embers of discord and and disaffection in the party.

Also, former Governor Gbenga Daniel, who had supported power shift to Yewa while in office, admonished Amosun to thread softly, shun personal ego and avoid statements that could heat up Ogun State, ahead of the poll.

To the Ogun West APC elders, any form of third term under the guise of imposing a crony as successor is objectionable, warning that any move to withdraw the governorship ticket from Abiodun could be disastrous. They said Abiodun is more acceptable as flag bearer because he emerged as the shadow poll organised by the Electoral Panel set up by the NWC and led by a retired Commissioner of Police, Mr Muhammed Indabawa.

The elders also listed the qualities expected from the candidatye of their choice. According to them: “No one can claim to be more of Ogun west than these stakeholders. The purest and cleanest of Ogun west blood runs in our veins. Yewa-Awori governorship candidate of our dream must be credible, have the full virtues of Yewa Awori, without any blemish. He must be acceptable to the vast majority of other equally important stakeholders across the state and responsible to the citizenry, and not to a selfish cabal under the leadership of tyrant and emperor.”

The elders expressed worry over the controversy that trailed the primary. In their view, the crisis was unnecessary.”We recognize the rights and opinions of few members to be dissatisfied, but we urge them to implore decent approach to vent their dissatisfaction. We therefore, appeal to them to stop pockets of embarrassing and old-fashioned de-marketing of our great party.

“Intimidations, threats and harassment of members loyal to Prince Dapo Abiodun must stop immediately. We strongly believe we are all members of the same political family. We appreciate the efforts and salute the courage of the governor in the quest for “Yewa-Awori for Governor”,  but we equally want to remind him that in democracy, the power belongs to the teeming party members.

“We appeal to the governor to respect, support and rally round the choice of the party members in Prince Dapo Abiodun (his bosom friend) in the overall interest of our great party APC.

“We are solidly behind the national body of our party and urge them, not to be distracted by sponsored gatherings and belated empowerment in some areas.”

According to the group, the comments by Amosun and Anisulowo against Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Asiwaju Tinubu, Oshiomole and Akirogun Osoba were in bad faith.

A party chieftain, Bolaji Akinola, said NWC had done a great job of averting electoral doom for Ogun APC in next year’s election. He said Amosun was wrong to have handpicked and imposed a governorship candidate, adding that the action violated the tenets of internal democracy. “Only those hand-picked by Amosun were returned to office,” he fumed.

Akinola said it was a double tragedy because an unpopular candidate was imposed as successor. “The real primary election in Ogun State was the one that produced Dapo Abiodun as our governorship candidate,” he added.

But, why did Amosun’s succession plan failed? Sources said the governor made a mistake by turning his back at those who played major role in his ascension to the throne, particularly Tinubu, who prevailed on Osoba, the leader of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to support his governorship bid.

Also, Tope Kuyebi, who was backed by Ogun West Elders, and other aspirants-Prof Remi Razak Bakare from Ogun Central, were prevailed upon to step down for Amosun.

Allegations of marginalisation and alienation of important party leaders and chieftains, including Kayode Soyinka, Senator Gbenga Kaka, Senator Akin Odunsi, Senator Gbenga Obadara and other prominent stalwarts were rife. Some of them were spoiling for a political pound of flesh.

Can Ogun APC afford to go into election as a divided house? A new twist to the controversy is that some supporters of Amosun made the list of candidates for elections on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) released last week. To them, this is a ‘Plan B” that may guarantee their relevance in Ogun politics. Pro-Abiodun forces have frowned at the anti-party activity, alleging that the ‘defectors’ wanted to play a spoiler’s role. Will Akinlade also defect to the DPP?

Oluwajana offered a ray of hope. Reconciliation is not forclosed, he said.

“We are going to reconcile. We will reconcile. We are working to make reconciliation possible,” he added.