The fault lines in the 2014 formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have continued to widen in Oyo State with public disagreements between the state governor and Minister of Communication clearly threatening the success of the party in next year’s election.
The absence of Governor Abiola Ajimobi and Oyo State All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains at the official launch of the Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo (MBO) Dynamic Support Group and its Southwest zonal office in Ibadan, organized by the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, has worsened the supremacy tussle between the two gladiators.
Though the war of attrition between them did not just start, it is getting messier as the 2019 governorship election approaches. Shittu has not hidden his ambition to clinch the party’s ticket and vie for governorship, a move against which Ajimobi has shown opposition.
Analysts traced their political rivalry to lack of internal cohesion among the leaders of different political parties that formed the APC in 2014 and inability of Shittu to accept Ajimobi as his political leader.
Shittu, a die-hard supporter of President Buhari, was of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which members, since the amalgamation that gave birth to APC, have not been integrated into the party structure because of their insignificant number at the formation of the ruling party.
The appointment of Shittu as the Minister by President Buhari even when he was neither nominated nor selected by the party emboldened the CPC extraction in the Oyo APC to forge ahead with the hope of “capturing” the party structure and securing ticket for the governorship ambition of the Communication Minister. They rely on Abuja to achieve their ambition.
While preparing to launch the MBO support group, the minister petitioned the President and condemned Ajimobi’s leadership style.
He wrote, “It is an open secret that the fortune of the APC has nose-dived in the state due to Governor Ajimobi’s undue arrogance, grandstanding, nepotism, caustic and unguarded utterances and creating unnecessary divisions among party leaders and members, thereby balkanising the party along group lines.
“In doing this, I don’t have anything personal against Governor Ajimobi, but to stress the importance of him not destroying the very platform that made him governor. The signs that Ajimobi is set to destroy the party are glaring to political watchers as the voting population in the state is becoming disillusioned more than ever before.”
While Ajimobi has not made any public statement about the petition, the party leadership at Oke-Ogun where Shittu hails from, has denied the allegations and dissociated itself from the confrontational posture of the minister.
Also the state’s chapter of the APC, in a statement signed by its Director, Media and Strategy, Dr. Abdul-Azeez Olatunde described Shittu’s claims as ‘baseless and fallacious.’
The statement said, “Contrary to the reckless insinuations made by the minister, the APC is doing extremely well in the state. Rather than lose any member to the opposition, the state APC under the leadership of Governor Ajimobi has been moving from strength to strength.
“Barely one month ago, the rank and file of the party membership, which has continued to experience unprecedented growth and development, witnessed a bumper harvest when notable political stakeholders from major opposition parties in the state defected to the APC in an open rally and submitted themselves to the leadership of the governor.
“It is quite saddening, highly disheartening and a monumental disservice to our party that a serving minister of Oyo State origin will close his eyes to the reality of the rising political profile of not only our party but also of our leader. The fact is that his petition is rooted in falsehood and premised on cheap blackmail.
“It must be stated that while Governor Ajimobi and other leaders of our party have been working assiduously to develop our great party, Shittu in his characteristic manner has been moving from one local government to another sowing the seeds of discord all in the name of his desperate and inordinate ambition to govern the state.
“He was never part of the developmental process of our party. Having lost the governorship primary in 2015, Shittu abandoned every activity geared towards the victory of the party including the presidential campaign.”
Indeed, APC leadership in Oyo sees Shittu and his supporters as daydreamers and strangers to the politics of the state. To them, the minister has not identified with the political culture that made Oyo State politics unique, and the launch of the MBO support group was seen as an opportunity to let him know his political strength.
Since last December when news filtered to the state that Shittu has been made one of the Members of Board of Trustees of MBO, tongues had been wagging about his ability to sell the group in Oyo.
Chairman, Oyo State House committee on Employment, Labour, Productivity and Pensions, Segun Olaleye condemned the minister and described his roles in MBO support group as “an attempt to hijack the genuine work and political investment of party leaders and members of APC in Oyo state.”
In a statement, the lawmaker said, “Barrister Shittu wants to use Mr. President’s good image to polish his already dented and battered political image. He is embarking on a deceitful venture to be seen as blazing the trail in President Buhari reelection project. The truth however is that, rather than Shittu’s psychopathic antics, President Muhammadu Buhari’s good name will speak and is already speaking for him towards the coming election.”
Few hours to the launch of MBO support group, the state governor through the office of his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Dr Makanjuola Thomas organised another programme at the State Party Secretariat in Oke Ado, Ibadan to sensitise party leaders about the forthcoming council election.
Political watchers in the state see the clash of the events as a masterstroke by Ajimobi to let the APC leaders at the National level and people at the Presidency to know who controls the party structure in Oyo State.
While all the party leaders from the ward level to state stormed the Party Secretariat for the meeting, the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan (UI), venue of the launch of Southwest MBO was deserted by party faithful to the consternation of the former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani and former Abia State Governor, Dr Orji Kalu who pleaded with Ajimobi and Stittu to close ranks and allow peace if they are desirous of winning 2019 general election.
They specifically condemned the acrimony between the two gladiators, which they feared may affect the fortune of the party in the state.
Nnamani said, “I would say publicly without any fear or favour that here in the Southwest as a centre of excellence in Nigeria and centre of commerce and industry, I expect that their pre-eminent role in politics should anchor the peace and unity.
“There is a need for our party, APC to have internal decorum in which there is cohesion and people work together. Politics is not a game you play as an individual. You have a role to be part of that team. You are not the team itself. You are part of it.
“Since we are here to commission the zonal office, maybe after this we will go further, but it is important to understand that we cannot achieve much as a group without unity, and peace. It is so vital, not only in politics, but also in our families.
“We are not trying to prove any point by trying to be antagonistic and run one another down. We as members of one family must try and eschew every form of bitterness and excessive anger because nobody does anything right if we do it in anger or bitterness. The same thing if you are speaking and you speak with anger, you are likely to say things you will regret later.
Kalu, who said he was unhappy with the absence of the governor and the party executive at the programme, emphasised the need for unity and why the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and President Muhammadu Buhari must urgently broker peace between the duo.
His words: “For us, we are students, preaching peace and unity. We are students, who say the truth. We are students, who are not afraid of telling people what we feel that is not right. Everybody in this hall will agree with us that there is a break in the communication between our governor and the minister. We don’t want that to continue.
“If anybody inside this house today would say it is good for these two elephants to continue quarreling, I and my senior brother, Senator Ken Nnamani, would disagree that they should be quarreling. The minister and the governor should be the best of friends. And we are going to make that happen.
“We have already agreed with the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, that we are going to take it upon ourselves to the highest level of this party. If both of them are quarreling, there will be no peace and progress in this state
“We are going to be fighting a very big party, a party that knows how to do it. We don’t want to lose any vote in Oyo State. We don’t want to lose a single sympathy here. I cannot understand, the minister is very close to me and the governor is very close to me. They are also very close to Ken Nnamani.
“We came here to honour both of them. I am slightly not very happy what I have seen here that the governor is not here, the party officials are not here, the commissioners are not here, in the main thing that will make APC what it is supposed to be here. They are not here.”
While hopes of ceasefire appear on the horizon with the Bola Tinubu reconciliation task, as some APC members in the state described it as a timely intervention to rescue the party, others said the would-be mediator is a part of the problem because of his alleged leaning towards the side of the governor.
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