OGUN APC: DEFECTIONS, DEFECTORS AND MATTERS ARISING
By Kayode Odunaro
In my public service in Ogun State dating back to 1997, I worked professionally without registering with any political party. That changed in February, 2014 when I officially joined All Progressives Congress, APC as a foundation member from my Ward 2, Ilaro-Yewa, Yewa South LGA. I have never been appointed or elected into any political party or government position or sought election for public office. I am what can be regarded as an ordinary party member. And since my joining the political party, it has been the ruling party at the state and Federal levels till date.
Over the years the party has been assailed by serious divisive tendencies that at various points resulted in a faction pulling out of the party to another party and returning back. One recalled that Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba, a foremost leader in APC pulled out of the party arising from the way the then governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun hamstringed the internal democratic process of the party to scheme out loyalists of Chief Osoba who were instrumental to his emergence as governor earlier. The group moved into Social Democratic Party, SDP to contest the 2015 election but returned back to APC towards the 2019 elections.
Similarly, a faction of the party loyal to Senator Amosun dumped the party and headed for a hitherto obscure pocketed Allied Peoples Movement, APM, to contest for the governorship and other elective positions after the rug was pulled under the feet of the governor’s attempt to completely dictate who gets the tickets of the party from the state assembly to the National Assembly. Curiously, the leader of the new party, Senator Amosun refused to join his followers in their guided political audacity and brinksmanship. But sure enough the then incumbent governor made sure he fully opened a financial tap for what has now turn out to be a political miscalculation particularly in relations to the prime position of governor of the state. The desperate move of the then governor backing the APM while politically missing the real target of installing a governor, however won a couple of state and national assembly seats.
The rump of what was left of APC under Yemi Sanusi as chairman following the scheming out of the APM faction carried on the task of winning the 2019 elections with Prince Dapo Abiodun as candidate. With the support and help of loyalists of Senator Solomon Adeola aka Yayi, who was schemed out of the governorship race, and a complaisance PDP under late Senator Buruji Kashamu, APC secured victory for Prince Abiodun as elected governor of APC. It was indeed a sweet victory for a political party wracked by various powerful centrifugal tendencies. The rest is what can be regarded as the history of continuation of APC rule in Ogun State. As a participant observer of the politics and political parties’ development of Ogun State, one was worried about Prince Abiodun’s political dexterity in government and politics of Ogun State. Privately, I expressed my concern to some party apparatchiks and serving government officials on his ability to marshal a political unity that will ensure APC remains in power beyond 2023. My concern was on the need to have a fully manned battle ship against opposition attacks for another round of electoral victory.
As a watcher of recent Ogun State politics, the experience has been for incumbent governor to quickly poach major political figures from the opposition, whether internal or external to the ruling party to form a massive support base. This happened when Otunba Gbenga Daniel took over from Akinrogun Osoba in 2003. Many fair weather supporters of Osoba through various inducements of Otunba Daniel quickly jumped ship to join the Daniel administration. Again, when Amosun took over from Otunba Daniel, many politicians of the “any government in power” from Daniel and Osoba camp joined the Amosun administration as part of moves to consolidate the power of the governor and by extension the party he represents.
For the first year of Prince Abiodun not much happened in this direction as far as one can de-code on the political scene of Ogun State except for the defection of a serial gubernatorial candidate in the person of Prince Gboyega Isiaka who contested against Prince Abiodun on the platform of African Democratic Congress, ADC and came out as second runner up. The shine of his defection into APC was however dulled by the fact of all elected members of his ADC at state and federal level refusing to join their supposed leader to the ruling party. So my concern about the ability of Prince Dapo’s political magnetism of opposition figures whether genuine or not persisted.
But that soon changed a couple of weeks back penultimate to the registration and revalidation of party membership. It started with APM members in the House of Representatives beating a retreat to rejoin APC quickly followed by 5 members of the same party at the state house of assembly. Not to be outdone another group of legislators from ADC at federal and state levels, in what is rumoured to be linked to a political movement tagged “West to West Agenda” (story for another time) equally abandoned their make shift party, whose gubernatorial candidate had since started dining with APC, to join the ruling party.
With the former deputy governor of the state, Alhaja Salmon Badru of PDP, Alhaji Waliu Taiwo, a former PDP commissioner, Chief Iyabo Apampa, also a PDP woman leader in Ogun State and Rotimi Paseda, a former gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 election also joining APC, it looks like Ogun APC is having a full house of political “Who is Who” in contemporary Ogun State. What with regards to the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo also registering in Ogun chapter of APC from his hitherto Lagos base.
But what I consider the unprecedented happened in the political transfer window of APC in Ogun State with the sudden entrance of Otunba Daniel into the APC fold. For sure I am aware of pleadings for him to make this move by some concerned individuals following his tacit support for Prince Abiodun emergence as governor dating back to over a year. But he balked. For a man of his political stature in PDP, it looks unreal that he was ever going to take the jump to join the ruling party. But he did and thereby present an unprecedented situation for Ogun State APC. Indeed, Ogun State may have achieved, through his joining APC, another first in its history of many firsts as the only state with three living former elected governors that have had and possibly still having unresolved political and personal altercations, domiciling in the same political party!
As it is Ogun State APC house is full anyway one looks at it particularly at the top. With a sitting Vice President and governor, three former elected governors in the persons of Osoba, Daniel and Amosun, four former deputy governors in the person of Senator Gbenga Kaka, Alhaja Badru, Prince Segun Adesegun and Yetunde Onanuga, Ogun State APC is brimming with a potpourri of their excellencies. Perforce all these former state officials have constitutional seats in many leadership organs of APC at national, state and zonal levels. For any discerning political pundits, the concatenation and agglomeration of these individuals with diverse backgrounds, political orientation and interests in a common house of APC is a potential recipe for a well garnish and delicious political dish or an unappetizing culinary political disaster come 2023.
For a start, if Prince Abiodun as sitting governor and leader of APC can manage to get a majority coalition of these powerful individuals with their divergent interests, as one cannot readily foresee unanimity of purpose, then all other political parties in the state may as well pack and go home till 2027 or later. This is more so as at present there are no serious opposition parties in Ogun State with any serious electoral value. PDP that ordinarily should fit the present void of opposition is afflicted with a seemingly intractable visceral division dating back to 201. The rump of a faction of the divide still of some relevance is under what amounts to a sole administrator-ship without much leading lights particularly with the demise of Senator Kashamu and Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye and now the exit of Otunba Daniel. A ruling APC at the state and at the federal level with the top heavy politically exposed leaders looks set to continue its rule in Ogun State.
Another seeming Janus faced dimension to the corralling of all former elected governors of the state of different political persuasion in one political party with a sitting Vice President and governor is the potential to promote internal democracy within the party in the emergence of elected government and party officials. With possibly no one of the powerful individuals and his group able to determine the way issues are determined alone, particularly for electoral positions, it is conceivable that democracy will be given reign to hold sway instead of one man lording it over the wishes of the people. This approach will help in strengthening party cohesion and unity. On the other hand, it is not inconceivable that a dominant force will emerge to control political party direction among the disparate forces that the powerful focal persons represent. The person most positioned to do this is the incumbent governor, Prince Abiodun. Historically most governors play this role to a lesser or larger extent with varying outcomes and if experience in Imo State, Rivers, Zamfara and indeed Ogun is to serve as guide, then the incumbent in Ogun State is best advised to base his control on a consensus among the powerful forces co-habiting the political space of APC in Ogun State. Such could be worked out with all the former governors or at least one or two of them. Ogun State APC must not be allowed to go the way of Zamfara, Rivers and Imo State before Supreme Court restored APC back to power.
At all events, Ogun State APC present a very interesting case study of the possibility of a give and take political engineering for APC to remain in power post 2023. There is also the possibility of building a coalition around the incumbent governor as an honest broker of deals with individuals and groups with electoral value within the party. His political sagacity will surely and sorely be tried as he decides how he dance to the political tunes from the Osoba, Daniel and Amosun groups as well as his critical political ally in the person of Yayi with his loyalists spread and having roots in all the former governors group across the state. Ogun 2023 will certainly present a must watch political movie for any avid watcher of unique political permutations. I have revalidated my membership of the party for a ringside seat for further commentaries. We move towards 2023.
Chief Kayode Odunaro
Ona Ola Compound, Ilaro-Yewa