Saturday, March 26, 2022 11:55 am
By Funmi Branco
AHEAD of the 2023 general election, things are shaping up in the Ogun State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Confronted, just like the main opposition parties, with internal wrangling and shenanigans, the party has had to make critical choices that will reflect on its performance at the polls. For some time, the party was enmeshed in a power tussle between the camps of the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and the incumbent governor, Dapo Abiodun. For one thing, the former governor, an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, had made no secret of his desire to install one of his cronies at the Oke Mosan governor’s office and appeared to have latched unto the agitation by the Yewa/Awori section of the state to produce a governor to perfect his craft. On the other hand, Abiodun, a long-time friend and ally of Amosun who was said to have deployed his political structure in his (Amosun’s) service while the latter ran for and won the governorship seat for two consecutive terms of office, seemed to have felt hard done by Amosun’s volte-face and resolved to upset the establishment.
The ensuing political fight saw the APC standard-bearer getting no rostrum for campaigns and finding his campaign posters torn up and his team attacked. For Amosun, having lost out in the battle for the APC ticket, the strategy was two-fold: run for a senatorial seat under the APC platform while imposing his governorship candidate through another party, the Allied Progressives Movement (APM). As a testimony to his political influence, Amosun won the senatorial election but predictably lost the gubernatorial battle. But even then, he still wielded considerable influence, especially with his connections to the Presidency, and was reported to singlehandedly nominated all federal appointees. For Abiodun, though, consolation seemed to have come from the fact that he had at least realized his governorship ambition. The Iperu-born prince was reported to have declared that he had no interest in contesting Amosun’s assumed influence in Abuja but would rather concentrate on his work as governor. He was said to have further added that his works would speak for him, a prophecy that seems to have come to pass when President Muhammadu Buhari visited the Gateway State in January this year to commission the projects he had executed and spoke about glowingly about his performance. The president was amazed at the level of work done even during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to sources, the word in the Amosun camp was that the president could not visit Ogun except by his (Amosun’s) persuasion. By that visit, therefore, Abiodun is perceived by many analysts to have shown steely resolve despite his gentlemanly mien.
Indeed, recent events point to Abiodun’s consolidation of influence on the Ogun APC strongholds. For one thing, he was able to step into reckoning within the APC structure in the state and expand its scope of influence. New entrants into the APC fold include former governor Gbenga Daniel; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and the major opponent of Governor Abiodun during the 2019 governorship election, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, among many other heavyweights. Again, his influence seems to have been confirmed by developments during the last congress of the party when his faction was recognized by the leadership of the party as the de facto APC in Ogun State, notwithstanding the “kangaroo exercise” staged at Ake boulevard by the ex-governor and his lieutenants. At the Ake primary, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) was not present and chaos reigned with political thugs openly wielding machetes and guns to do damage to perceived enemies within the unrecognized faction. The Ake exercise produced Chief Derin Adebiyi as State Chairman and the APC national secretariat set up a Reconciliation Committee led by Abdullahi Adamu to mediate in the crisis. The committee has since concluded its assignment to Amosun’s chagrin.
On February 3 when the Interim National Secretary of Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), John Akpanudoedehe, presented Certificates of Return to 34 state chairmen of the APC at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja, it was Abiodun’s faction of Ogun APC that was recognized as the authentic APC in Ogun State. At that event, the party’s leadership reiterated that it would only recognise the results of the congresses supervised by the Congress Committee deployed by the national headquarters of the party. The Yemi Sanusi-led executive loyal to Abiodun has since been sworn in by the then acting chairman of the party, Governor Sani Bello of Niger State. Besides, the March 11, 2022 inauguration of the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party by Sanusi marked the end of the battle over control of the party’s structure. Inaugurating the other 19 members of the SWC, Sanusi extended an olive branch to Amosun’s men, saying: “We must all be ready to wear our leadership gown and work very hard to lift this party to victory in 2023. Let us all shun factionalism and blueprint that can divide our party. We must show leadership quality, we must display maturity and tolerance to carry everybody along so that we can build a united party that can face the challenges ahead of us.”
The point has been made that Abiodun now has firm control of the party structure in the state. The delegates that voted during the state congress are the same people who are going to vote during the primaries leading to the 2023 general election, whether for presidential, National Assembly, governorship or state assembly elections. When all of this is juxtaposed with Abiodun’s achievements in making the state an industrial haven, the 2023 governorship election promises to be a walkover for the incumbent governor. As President Buhari noted while inaugurating five of the governor’s major projects in January, they could not have materialised without his huge investment and commitment to the security of lives and property, which had made Ogun State one of the safest and most peaceful states in the country and investors’ destination of choice.
The president had said: ‘‘Just across the road is the 42-kilometre Sagamu-Interchange-Abeokuta Road which the state government has reconstructed and equipped with street lights. That road enjoys direct linkage with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that the Federal Government is rebuilding. I am particularly impressed by the quality and standard of your road projects, and the creative way you have deployed resources to reconstruct and rehabilitate them…These roads also fit well into our rail transportation masterplan that connects Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital to Kano, with Ogun State having more rail stations along the Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor. When state governments deliver impactful projects, in consultations with stakeholders, as we have witnessed in Ogun State, the trajectory of our national development will be enhanced.”
As a measure of his national influence within the party, the Ogun helmsman has indeed been assigned a prominent role ahead of its national convention. That gestures points clearly to the shape of things to come in the Gateway State.
*Branco contributes this piece through [email protected]
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