The Big Battle In Ogun

OLAYINKA OLUKOYA and DARE ADEKANMBI look at the frequency of political alliances being born and re-born in Ogun State ahead of the 2015 general election, submitting that a clear picture will emerge after the conclusion of the parties’ primaries.

There is no doubt that politicians in Ogun State are revving up their machinery for the impending battle for the soul of the state in the 2015 elections. And so in the run up to the elections, they have started to deploy their arsenal in all fronts for the inevitable skirmishes expected in the build up to and during next year’s polls.

The ongoing consultations and horse-trading are therefore not unexpected. There has no doubt been in an upswing of activities on the state’s political turf; old and new alliances are being renewed and forged, even between hitherto sworn political enemies.

Their common goal of upstaging the incumbent administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has forced even perceived strange bedfellows to find accommodation on the platform of a political party that is daily becoming cramped with the influx of opposition figures from the various political leanings in the state.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state has suddenly become the most beautiful bride with politicians from the Labour Party and even the ruling APC repairing to its fold.With the defection of the former governor Gbenga Daniel to the PDP, the once burgeoning LP in the state has suddenly become decapitated and decimated.

Consequently, the political diagram of the state has been re-drawn with Daniel’s return to the PDP. But the final picture of the state’s political map will not be available until after all the main parties are through with their primaries and candidates, especially governorship candidates, have emerged. The battle of February, in the main, will be fought by the ruling APC and the PDP.

Whither Ogun LP?

Some members of the LP are still of the opinion that the party will not go into extinction, despite Daniel’sexit from the party. Daniel and his loyalists had moved to the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) and later LP when the crisis in the PDP became absolutely irreconcilable. However, some of his loyalists are still vacillating whether to join Daniel in the PDP or stay put in LP. A foremost governorship aspirant in LP, Gboyega Isiaka, had said he was consulting with his constituency on whether to join his leader in the PDP or stay back in LP. But another governorship aspirant, Mr Sina Kawonise, has vowed never to dump the LP for PDP.

Keen watchers of the politics of the state opine that there was little Isiaka and Kawonise could do on their own. If Isiaka decides to join Daniel and Kawonise in staying back in LP, he can be likened to a branch that stands aloof from the vine tree and which cannot do so much on their individual strengths? This view is strengthened by the fact that nearly all the gladiators in Ogun East and Ogun West Senatorial districts, from where hail Kawonise and Isiaka respectively, have followed Daniel to the PDP. Also, the entire campaign machinery of LP has been dissolved into the PDP, a reason Daniel said the umbrella party had now got the ingredient to be victorious in the state in 2015.

Largely, LP is said to have died naturally with the exit of Daniel and others. The state chairman of the party and former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Comrade Niyi Osoba, has resigned his position. Ditto, other members of the state executive of the party. The party’s secretariat along Onikolobo area, has been renamed “Legacy Building” against its former name as Labour Party Secretariat.

Three of the governorship aspirants of the party have joined Daniel in the PDP. They are former Minister of Mines and Steel, Alhaji Sarafa Tunji Ishola; former chairman Abeokuta South Local Government, Prince AdeyanjuLipede; and former chairman of Obafemi Owode Local Government, Mr Akeem Adesina.

The problem in APC

If there is any party that feels much of the heat being generated in the polity, it is the ruling APC. Since things fell apart and the centre could no longer hold in the party, the political equation in the state took a different dimension, with the PDP reaping a bountiful harvest from this misfortune hovering over the ruling party.

The PDP, once troubled by perennial intra-party crises, suddenly saw in the internal wrangling threatening to tear the ruling APC apart the opportunity to get its act together and put its house in order for the 2015 elections.

The alignment and re-alignment of political forces in the state is a clear indication that the general elections might spring surprises, such that the ruling party and the opposition parties will have to prove their might on the field.

Observers are quick to note that the Gateway State, unlike other states in the South-West, has its own peculiarity when it comes to seeking leaders to occupy elective posts. The people of the state are noted for their highpolitical sophistication in terms of choosing which political party to vote for or an individual to be voted for.

Genesis and crux of the Amosun/Osoba row

The APC in Ogun appears to be in a serious crisis as a result of the irreconcilable differences between a political icon and his political son, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Governor Amosun respectively. They had been on the warpath over the manner the government is being run and the alleged sidelining of loyalists of Chief Osoba. The problem started shortly after Amosun became the governor of the state and the bone of contention was leadership control.

In a bid to assert its authority and control over the party structure, the party leadership then said to be loyal to Osoba had conducted primaries to pick candidates for the July 2011 local government elections. The names of successful candidates were forwarded to the State Independent Electoral Commission, while another list was submitted from the governor’s camp to the electoral body.This issue generated controversies but, Amosun’s list, was duly recognised by OGSIEC for reason of the governor’s control of the management of the electoral body.

Another grouse was on the allegation of lopsidedness in political appointments. The Osoba camp was of the opinion that Amosun failed to consult the leadership of the party in the state before dispensing political patronage to those who got appointive positions. He was also alleged to have favoured only those who migrated to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with him. Thus, the council election was seen as an avenue to redress the imbalance.

The other issue was the outcome of the last congresses which was indeed the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is on record that two parallel congresses were held from the ward, local and state levels. This issue, which ought to have been managed internally, put the once big family apart. The party remained divided against itself and this development may stand as a clog in the wheel of progress of the party in the coming elections.

The state governor at different fora had recognised and acknowledged Osoba as the leader of the party as well his leader, but the party remains sharply divided against itself. In the camp of Osoba are the three Senators representing the state: Gbenga Kaka, Gbenga Obadara and Akin Odunsi as well as six House of Representatives members and some members in the state House of Assembly.

Osoba also had warned his loyalists not to desecrate the office of the governor or whoever is occupying it. He had argued repeatedly that he had no issue with Amosun as the governor of the state, but that he would never be part of injustice being perpetrated by some people within the party.

The group loyal to Osoba, Matagbamole Group, has vowed never to return to APC. The group has formed a political association, Action Group of Nigeria (AGN), which is yet to be registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). To avoid being caught napping, Osoba is also reported to have been discussing with the national leader of Accord Party and former governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, on the possibility of moving his loyalists to Accord. But just as ripples of his discussion with Ladoja were about to settle, Osoba was at the Wadata Plaza, national headquarters of the PDP, where he attended a meeting with the PDP national chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, under the Former Governors Forum.

Pundits’ verdict is that, if the Osobagroup eventually gets the nod of the INEC or the group might join either the PDP or Accord; the APC will be walking on a tight rope in the coming elections, if any of the three possibilities comes to pass.


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