Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, represented Ijebu North/Ijebu East/Ogun Waterside in the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015. In this interview with KUNLE OLAYENI, he speaks on the crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State. Excerpts:
What is responsible for the current crisis in Ogun APC?
For me, I will not blame any person other than my governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, and what he did is also universal with most governors presently serving in the country. Until we are able to take the hands of the governors off party administration in the country, we will continue to have these problems. I think it is an aberration that the governors are called the leaders of the party in their states. I believe that governors, just like other office holders, should face their duties, rather than getting involved in party administration. Party administration, I believe, should be left with the party administrators as it was done in the days of the Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
What led to the crisis is just the high handedness of some of our governors particularly, my own governor. A lot of people are looking at the crisis from the last primaries, but I will take it from the congresses. Don’t forget that we had crisis in the party in 2014 which made some of us to leave the party with our leader, Chief Olusegun Osoba. By 2015, our leaders in Yorubaland, Senator Bola Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and all the governors in the South West reconciled all that were aggrieved and urged us to move on. It was based on the reconciliation that everybody returned to the party and as a follow-up to that, we also held a meeting with Amosun. When I say we, I meant members of the 7th National Assembly Caucus from the state. We met with him to tell him that there was no crisis and that we don’t want any more crises in Ogun State. At the reconciliation meeting which was widely reported in the media, the governor reminded us that we have had crisis and that he does not want us to have further crisis again in the forthcoming primaries and elections.
He said he was interested in the governorship slot and that he was looking at the Yewa-Awori zone of the state in producing the person to succeed him. He sought our cooperation in this regard. We were 12 or 15 at the meeting and he insisted that the governorship slot is his only interest. He told us that he would not get involved in other political offices. The governor said he knew that some people from Ogun East were eyeing the governorship seat; that he would appeal to them to see reason why they should support Yewa Agenda. The meeting was on a lighter mood and everybody was happy. We took the governor for his words. We prepared for the congresses. Party members indicated interest to contest for party positions. I know about two people that showed interest in the contesting for the party’s state chairman seat but, somehow, the governor muscled everybody.
On the day of congresses, he came with a prepared list for party positions and we were just told to vote and affirm and since we had made up our minds that we don’t want crisis again within the party in the state, we just allowed the sleeping dog to lie. It’s not that we loved it as democrats but because we already gave our words that we don’t want to fight again, we decided to go along with him for peace to reign. For the party primaries, The governor wrote 40 names for all the 40 offices in a state as sophisticated as Ogun State, calling it consensus arrangement. Who reached the consensus? Where was it reached? I don’t know because I was an aspirant for House of Reps for Ijebu North, Ijebu East and Ogun Waterside Federal Constituency. Nobody reached any consensus with me.
The governor has insisted that there was no primary election, except the one that produced Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, and that the primary which produced Dapo Abiodun was a sham. What’s your take on that?
There were two sets of primaries – governorship and legislative primaries. The governorship is the main thing the governor is fighting about, saying that he conducted a primary and it was going to be upheld, but we all know that is not correct. First, the governor’s camp resorted what the national chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, called self-help. They did not participate in the primary ordered and supervised by the NWC’s election panel, led by Mohammed Indabawa, a retired Commissioner of Police. In line with APC guidelines, the national headquarters of the party sent electoral panel to all the states, including Ogun. On the day the panel was to meet with the aspirants at MITROS Hall in Abeokuta, there was a shooting and everybody ran for his life.
Now, the primary was fixed for Wednesday, but the governor in his wisdom, went to self-conduct his own primary on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, they announced their own winner as Adekunle Akinlade. And you saw the state chairman of the party raising the hand of Akinlade as the winner of the primary. And the question you would want to ask yourself: does that fall within the purview of the state chairman? No! To conduct the primary is the sole responsibility of the national headquarters of all political parties. What was done in Ogun State was an aberration.
Secondly, the state party chairman and members of his exco had been barred by an injunction of the Federal High Court from participating in the conduct of the primary because of the congress I earlier talked about is now a subject of litigation. This is because some people approached the court that the conduct of the congresses was a nullity. Therefore, FHC Abuja restrained the state exco, even the LG excos, to participate in any activities of the party, including primaries. So, what the party chairman did that day is even in contempt of the court. But be that as it may, with backing of the governor, they claimed that they have conducted governorship primary. That was what was called self-help. So it was their in-house primary they conducted for their consensus candidate. I was not part of the arrangement.
So, as far as I am concerned, there was no primary. The only primary that was genuinely conducted took place on Wednesday and was supervised by the NWC’s election panel and that was the one that produced Prince Dapo Abiodun as the governorship candidate of the party. There was a primary election in my ward, in local government, Ogun Waterside, in Ijebu area and Dapo Abiodun won that primary hands down. That was the only primary conducted in line with guidelines and rules of the party.
What about the primaries for the legislative tickets?
For this, the NWC sent another delegation for the exercise. But again, my governor, in his own wisdom, hijacked the duties of the committee. Because the committee had guidelines to follow – they supposed to have called a meeting with the aspirants, brief them on the modalities, including asking them for the list of their agents to use. For instance, I am an aspirant for the Ijebu North, Ijebu East and Ogun Waterside Federal Constituency; nobody invited me to a meeting. I did not know any modality, I did not know what to be done. I was in my ward with my supporters on the day of the primaries, waiting for the electoral officers to come, only to be told that primaries were being held here and there without anybody being carried along. It was conducted by the governor and his team.
You have accused the governor of causing the crisis in the party, but the governor alluded to the fact that a Lagos cabal is in concert with former Governor Olusegun Osoba to disrupt the peace in Ogun APC. How will you react to that?
You know politicians can make claims a lot. Some politicians will tell you ‘good night’ whereas it is indeed ‘good morning.’ They would tell you it is black, whereas it is white. Some people that are making claims know inside them that what they are saying is not correct. What are you saying about Lagos cabal? I have taken you through what transpired in terms of reconciliation, that’s how we have been cooperating with our governor that we don’t want any crisis. But for God sake, the governor went and wrote 40 names without consulting the leader of the party, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, and we that are aspirants in the party. So, how does Lagos cabal now come in? Did anybody from Lagos come to conduct primaries for us? Did anybody in Lagos tell our governor not to meet us as aspirants for us to agree?
And what is Lagos cabal? Let me tell you: we have Yoruba leadership. There is nothing like Lagos cabal. We have no apologies for that. It has been, it will be and it will continue to be. Yoruba leadership at present includes Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Chief Bisi Akande, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, among others. These leaders drive the Yoruba progressive politics. We have to give them that honour. My governor, who gave him the ticket of ACN that he used to contest in 2011? Is it not this same Yoruba leadership that he now calls Lagos cabal? It was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and others that prevailed on the leader of ACN then in Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, to give the ticket of the party to Senator Ibikunle Amosun. Don’t forget that then there were 11 aspirants on ground in ACN. These leaders prevailed on them to step down in the spirit of progressive politics and allow Senator Ibikunle Amosun to fly the ticket. It is these same people that you are talking about now.
But Amosun is still insisting on handing over to Akinlade…
Once the governor is able to reconcile himself with the South West leadership of the party, don’t forget the national leadership of the party has empowered the South West leadership of APC to go and settle whatever differences therein. And going forward from there, I can see the governor is still pained; albeit, it is a self-inflicted pain, to have boycotted the primaries conducted by the national headquarters of APC. I am sure it has dawned on him that he made mistake boycotting that election. Yes, he wishes to hand over to his anointed successor, but unfortunately, the person did not win.
With the reality on ground, the governor, I am sure, will reconcile with himself and eventually work for Dapo Abiodun. There is nothing like I want to hand over to Akinlade; in which party? I hope it is not APC because APC, as we speak, has already submitted the name of their governorship candidate to INEC in the name of Dapo Abiodun. It can only be withdrawn under two conditions – death (and Abiodun will not die by the grace of God) or self-withdrawal. And I don’t see Abiodun withdrawing himself. With those two stringent conditions, definitely, the governor that is talking of handing over to Akinlade, will not be in APC. Abiodun is the governorship candidate and that is the person my governor is going to hand over to in 2019.
Are you not worried the crisis could affect the chances of APC in 2019, especially with the reported moves by aggrieved members to defect to the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP)?
I am also aware that many of the so-called aggrieved members that are being contacted have declined to defect to DPP. I learnt that they said that if Mr. Governor wants them to leave APC, he should drop his own senatorial ticket and follow them to DPP. Anything short of that, they won’t be pushed by anyone to commit political suicide. For me, I don’t see anybody leaving for DPP. Of course, there are issues but they will be resolved.
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