Ajimobi, Aluko split South-West APC leaders
TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE reports on the division in the South-West Caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the race to fill the vacant position of National Deputy Chairman (South) of the ruling party
he battle for the position of Deputy National Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has divided leaders of the party in the South-West geopolitical zone as they are yet to agree on who occupies the highest party’s highest position in the southern part of the country.
The position became vacant last year due to the appointment of a former governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, as Minister of Trade and Investment by President Muhammadu Buhari. Prior to his appointment as minister, the former governor was the APC National Deputy Chairman (South).
Since the position became vacant, there have been different calculations and permutations by political leaders in the region to present a formidable replacement. The contest became more interesting recently after APC South-West Zonal Executive meeting held in Oshogbo, the Osun State capital as the battle for the position was narrowed down to the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and a former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Gbenga Aluko.
Prior to the Oshogbo meeting, there was the belief in some quarters that some power gladiators in the party have endorsed Senator Ajimobi as a likely replacement for Adebayo. New Telegraph gathered from a reliable source that some top South-West leaders and elders of APC at a meeting held in Lagos, decided that the party’s Deputy National Chairman position be moved to Oyo State and agreed that Senator Ajimobi should occupy it.
According to the source, the Lagos meeting was attended by prominent APC leaders in South-West, they include the party’s National Leader and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former APC Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Chairman, South-West Governors’ Forum and Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.
Others are Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun); ex-Governors Olusegun Osoba and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); APC National Vice Chairman (South-West), Pastor Bankole Oluwajana and his predecessor, Chief Pius Akinyelure.
It was further gathered that majority of the party’s leaders unanimously agreed that the position of the Deputy National Chairman (South) should be zoned to Oyo/Osun division of the South-West zone and Senator Ajimobi was penciled down for the position.
The stand of those in support of Oyo State producing the deputy national chairman was on the basis that the state presently does not have someone in the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC while some other states in the region have about one or two people in the party’s national hierarchy.
It was also believed that the position should be given to Oyo State being the only state without an APC governor in the South-West zone. But despite the decision of the majority to back Ajimobi, it was gathered that some people including Fayemi and Amosun were against moving the APC deputy national chairmanship position from Ekiti to Oyo.
The division among South-West APC leaders was widened last week, when the Ekiti State chapter of the party kicked against moving the position of Deputy National Chairman (South) from their state to Oyo State. Their argument was based on the fact that the position was occupied by the Ondo/Ekiti axis of South-West and it was based on the micro-zoning that Adeniyi was elected during the last APC National Convention.
The Ekiti APC in its letter titled “Re: Replacement of Deputy National Chairman (South)” and addressed to the National Vice-Chairman and Zonal Chairman, South West Caucus of the APC, Pastor Oluwajana, informed the party’s leadership that going by precedence, the state’s should be the one to occupy the office, which was earlier occupied by Adebayo. They therefore nominated Senator Aluko to fill the vacant position.
The letter signed by Ekiti APC’s Chairman, Paul Omotosho, read in part: “We write to inform the zonal caucus that the Ekiti State chapter of the party met in Ado Ekiti today, February 2, 2020, to deliberate on the nomination of a suitable candidate for the office of the Deputy National Chairman (South) in response to the notification to fill the vacant position from the national headquarters of the party.
“We are pleased to inform the South-West Caucus of our decision to nominate Senator Daniel Gbenga Aluko to fill the vacancy of Deputy National Chairman (South). Our National Working Committee (NWC) represents a tremendous amount of talent, experience and wisdom and we are convinced that Senator Aluko will be an invaluable addition to this important party organ.
“Senator Aluko is an extremely well regarded and experienced party loyalist. He is an entrepreneur, industrialist and politician. He served as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and in that capacity; he became a Principal Officer as the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate between 1999 and 2003.
“The zonal executive may note that that the position of the Deputy National Chairman (South) became vacant on the appointment of Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo from Ekiti State as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Otunba Adebayo served almost two years of a four-year tenure as prescribed by the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress, 2014 (as amended).”
Stressing the need why Ekiti should be allowed to hold the position, Ekiti APC recalled how the party replaced past vacant positions at the national level without tinkering with the state and zonal arrangement.
“We wish to specifically draw the attention of the South-West Caucus to the existing precedence on the replacement of members of NWC in previous instances where vacancies arose when the incumbent office holders were unable to complete their tenure.
“It has been the practice of our party that where a vacancy occurs in NWC, it shall be filled on the recommendation of the State Executive Committee from where the vacancy arose. Members of the South-West Caucus may recall that when the position of National Publicity Secretary became vacant on the appointment of Alhaji Lai Mohammed from Kwara State as Minister, the party referred the matter to the North Central Zonal Caucus, which then nominated Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi also from Kwara State as Lai Mohammed’s replacement.
“Even in the wake of the party convention in 2018, the position was retained in Kwara State with the nomination of Lanre Issa-Oniru. Indeed, subsequent replacements of party officials with uncompleted terms have followed these sensible precedents.
“We humbly urge the South-West zone to affirm this precedent on the replacement of NWC members, who are unable to complete their tenure from the state where such vacancy occurred and to further support the nomination of Senator Gbenga Aluko as Deputy National Chairman (South),” Ekiti APC pleaded.
It is based on the outcome of the Lagos meeting and the Ekiti APC stand on the matter that the South-West APC’s caucus meeting held in Oshogbo, the Osun State capital, was allegedly disrupted by some Ekiti APC members, who insisted that their state should be allowed to retain the ruling party’s deputy national chairmanship position.
Speaking on the South-West APC’s caucus meeting in Oshogbo, Pastor Oluwajana said it was not purposely scheduled to deliberate on who will fill the vacant position in the NWC of the party. He said the meeting was a normal periodic meeting by South-West APC caucus to review activities of the party across the zone.
But despite Oluwajana distancing the Oshogbo meeting from nominating anybody as APC Deputy National Chairman (South), there was a report that the party caucus endorsed Ajimobi for the position and the report generated a lot of reactions as many supported and kicked against Ajimobi’s rumoured emergence as APC’s National Deputy Chairman (South).
To save the situation, the South-West APC Caucus penultimate Friday, denied endorsing Ajimobi. In a statement issued by its Zonal Publicity Secretary, Karounwi Oladapo, the caucus stated that the party never approved nor endorsed any candidate at its Osogbo meeting and that the APC National leadership will at the appropriate time, resolve between Ajimobi and Aluko, who occupies the vacant position.
Speaking to New Telegraph on the matter, a reliable source said the party leaders are yet to agree on whom to support between Ajimobi and Aluko. He said a lot of things are attached to the matter, which explains lots of attention on it. He also attributed battle for the 2023 presidency as one of the reasons why the party leaders have not unanimously agreed on whom to support between the duo.
His words: “Some APC leaders met in Lagos some days ago. The meeting was attended by key APC leaders in South-West and during the meeting, many of them agreed that the position of Deputy National Chairman (South) should move from Ekiti to Oyo State and they nominated Ajimobi for the position. The reason for their decision was based on the fact that the Ondo/Ekiti axis of South-West have people holding key positions at the party’s national level, while the Oyo/Osun axis is not well represented.
“Governor Fayemi, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) is from Ekiti State, while Governor Akeredolu, the Chairman of South-West Governors Forum and Oluwajana, the APC National Vice Chairman (South-West) are from Ondo State. This is the main reason the majority suggested that the position of the APC National Deputy Chairman (South) should be moved from Ekiti to Oyo State to balance the equation and they nominated Ajimobi for the position.
“But the decision to move the position to Oyo State and nomination of Ajimobi didn’t go well with some people such as Governor Fayemi and others, who were of the view that the status quo should be maintained for Ekiti State to retain the seat of APC Deputy National Chairman (South). Ekiti APC is also insisting that it must remain on the seat since Otunba Adebayo, the last occupant, is from the state. So, there is no conclusion on the matter.
“You can’t rule out the battle for 2023 presidency as the main reason why the party leaders are divided on the matter. You know Tinubu, Fayemi and many others have ambition for 2023 presidency and therefore they are all interest in who will become the APC National Deputy Chairman (South). There is ongoing negotiation on the matter.
“There are two major issues. Some people are saying that the internal arrangement should be allowed to stay by allowing Ekiti to produce the Deputy National Chairman from South. But some are of the view that Oyo State should be considered and some of the party leaders are lobbying to achieve this.”
As the source pointed out, there is no doubt that the division over the position is not far from the tussle for the APC’s presidential ticket for the 2023 election. At present, there is a debate over which region – North and South – that should produce the party’s candidate, but the South-West is not losing any stone unturned to ensure that one of its own flies the party’s flag.
Though no one has officially declared interest, among those being rumoured to be interested in the 2023 presidency are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Tinubu, Fayemi, Amosun and the Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
It is believed that these gladiators, who know the role party leadership plays in determining, where the pendulum will swing to in 2023, are determined to ensure that they have people who are loyal to them in the APC executives at the national, zonal and state levels.
Between the two candidates, Ajimobi seems to be the most experienced in leadership position having served at the federal and state levels. He is a founding member of defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) and APC. He represented Oyo South Senatorial District between 2003 and 2007 on the platform of AD in the Fifth Senate and served as its Deputy Minority Leader.
He contested as Oyo State governorship candidate of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) during the 2007 general election, but lost to Otunba Adebayo Akala of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He re-contested on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) during the 2015 poll and won the election.
He also broke the second term jinx in Oyo State by becoming the first governor to serve for two consecutive terms of eight years as he won the 2015 polls on the platform of APC. But his quest to return to the Senate during the 2019 elections didn’t see the light of the day as he lost to Senator Kola Balogun of the PDP due to the internal wrangling in Oyo APC.
Besides the failed bid to return to the Senate, Ajimobi also failed to install a successor. Mr. Seyi Makinde of PDP defeated Ajimobi’s anointed candidate, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, who contested on the platform of APC.
Aluko, son of a prominent Nigerian Economist from Ekiti State, Prof. Sam Aluko, on his part, is not a neophyte in politics, having spent over 20 years in active politics. He was the only PDP senator in the South-West during the Fourth Senate, when he represented Ekiti South Senatorial District in the Red Chamber between 1999 and 2003.
While in the Senate, he served as the Deputy Chip Whip and also served in different Senate committees. He was Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Prior to the 2007 general election, Aluko left PDP for Labour Party and contested for Ekiti State governorship but his ambition did not materialize. In December 2009, he returned to the PDP, but later dumped the party to pitch his tent with the APC.
No doubt, politics is a game of number and interest, however, it is expected that the South-West APC leaders will resolve their differences and present a consensus candidate for the position, so that it would not be thrown open for election in the forthcoming mini national convention of the party, a situation which may lead to many aspirants joining the race.