With less than 10 months to the general elections, the All Progressives Congress in the state is bogged down with intra-party crisis. The party, which currently has two parallel executive councils, seems to be heading for an implosion. The gulf between the two factions seems to be widening as the relationship between their respective leaders – Governor Ibikunle Amosun, and a national leader of the party, Chief Olusegun Osoba – seems to have been severed. There are many sides to the story of the party’s leadership crisis. A version of the story claimed that Osoba wants a more inclusive executive in order to accommodate those that worked for the party during the election of Amosun in 2011 while another version said Amosun had done everything to satisfy Osoba.
Osoba, a former governor of the state between 1999 and 2003 is said to have on his side the three senators, nine members of House of Representatives, some members of the state House of Assembly. In Amosun’s camp are the local government chairmen, 15 state legislators and a good number of the councilors, among others. Clashes had erupted between the two factions on some occasions. One of them occurred at Wasimi and Ewekoro, resulting into the shooting of party members, who attended the inauguration of a community project facilitated by Senator Gbenga Obadara.
For the two camps, it has been a cat-and-mouse affair. Peace moves to reconcile both Osoba and Amosun by traditional rulers have not yielded any positive result. Sometime in January, the Awujale, who is the paramount ruler of Ijebuland and the Chairman of the Ogun State Council of Obas had invited both leaders to a peace meeting, where he had appealed to them to sheathe their swords and call their supporters to order. The move failed to produce the desired result. The gulf got wider by the day. On April 15, Osoba who had watched what he termed ‘government of exclusivity’ by Amosun for some time broke his silence. With numerous party supporters at his Ibara home, he told them not to be disenchanted since “he knows what to do at the right time.”
He said, “This is the battle of 2003, 11 years ago. They have started again. The agenda of 2003 is still very, very much alive and that agenda was to destroy, rubbish, and finish Osoba politically. The agenda was an agenda that was started in 2003 and the same pattern, the same route is being followed.”
Though he said he had forgiven those who wronged him then, he stressed that he would not be deceived again. He put it more succinctly, “For eight years, the government of the Peoples Democratic Party never wanted us to live. I did not know it is an offence for me to forgive and forget and let us start afresh like brothers. I have no regret because I have been deceived twice and will not allow that to happen again. I decided to forgive and forget so that we could wrest power back and I’m grateful to all of you. 10,000 of you were employed as agents in 2011, we gave only N2, 000 as agent fees each. This is just a chicken feed but you did not compromise, you stood like rock. We won the elections, where are those 10,000 agents? You are here; did you benefit anything from this government?”
Last Thursday, Osoba held another consultative meeting with his loyalists at the usual venue – his Ibara home. He drew the line and ruled out any form of reconciliation with Amosun. He made it clear that there was no way he could work with those who breached the guidelines of the party for the state congress.
He also rejected any move to harmonise party positions between his loyalists and those of Amosun. Osoba told them to shun any job offer from the governor. He warned, “They may call you to come and pick up jobs now, don’t answer them. After three years in office and few months to election, they are deceiving you.”
And to show that he is a progressive, he pulled his agbada, and the vest he wore underneath bore ‘Action Group’ a political party founded by the late sage and father of progressivism, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
He had more for them, “Your executive members came to me and said they are afraid of me; that when the chips are down, I might say I have forgiven and that everything has been settled. They said they were told that some obas (traditional rulers) have appealed to me. I was shocked and asked them what led to this. They said they have concluded and their decisions are: First, that everyone should go his own way. Second, they said they are not ready for any harmonisation, even if is 70-30; 80-20; 95-5. Where we are now, no room for harmonisation or reconciliation. I then told them that if it has got to that, it means we have drawn two parallel lines. I asked them again if they have fully concluded and went into an inner meeting. I vowed to them that I will not forgive or reconcile with anybody. As I stand before you, I swear before God and Jesus Christ my Lord, I promise you all that the issue of forgiveness is no more.”
To further reinforce his stand, on Saturday, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, Osoba re-echoed this position. He said, “I have no problem with him. He only has to make peace with the party members, not me. I have said it, let nobody moot the idea that they are bringing him to me. Let him go to the party members whom he is joining issues with.”
Amosun has maintained complete silence over the issue. An anonymous source in his camp, however, said, “The governor is not in competition with anybody. The governor recognises Chief Osoba as the leader of the party. There’s nothing Chief Osoba wants that the governor has not done. We have left the matter in the hands of God to resolve. There’s nothing you leave in God’s hand that would go wrong. God is in control.”
Observers are worried that with the current situation may lead to defections and re-alignment. There are unconfirmed reports that Amosun and his loyalists are planning to move to Accord Party.
Questions on the lips of the party’s supporters are: Will Osoba and his group remain in APC? Will he join forces with those in either the Labour Party or the Peoples Democratic Party? Nothing is impossible in politics. But some political pundits in the state are saying the likely defection of Amosun will be of no consequence to APC.
A chieftain of the APC in the state, Chief Remi Bakare, said the alleged planned defection of the state governor to another party would not affect the fortune of the ruling party.
Bakare, who stepped down for Amosun in 2011 governorship election on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, said the party leaders regretted fielding Amosun as the party candidate.
He said, “The truth is that, almost everybody in Ogun State seems to have just one common goal and you will be shocked that if today ,they decide to leave I can tell you almost four or five times number that leaves the party will come back to APC. Whether we call it crisis or not, the truth is that we have a stranger in the house and I see the stranger leaving the house very soon when the heat is on; the heat is on already. When it becomes unbearable, the stranger will probably relocate and we will take things from there.”
The Interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lai Mohammed, however, said the national leadership of the party had stepped into the issue. “The issue will be resolved,” he said.