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Oyo APC and its leadership crisis

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The demise of former Governor Abiola Ajimobi has triggered a leadership crisis in the Oyo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Party unity is being sacrificed on the altar of personal ambition and sentiments, reports Southwest Bureau Chief BISI OLADELE

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State has not remained the same since the demise of former leader, Sen. Abiola Ajimobi, on June 25. Ajimobi was the governor of the state from 2011 to 2019. He contested and won on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which became the major building block of the APC during its formation in 2014.

Though Ajimobi’s leadershipwas characterised by crisis, his status as the leader was not questioned by the national, regional leaders, and even local dissenting forces. But, his death has created the bigger problem of a succession given the political stature of some other leaders and their antecedents. The real challenge is getting a political big-wig who is acceptable to all members and  groups as a go-to leader. For a political party with a former governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala and two deputy governors, Iyiola Oladokun and Moses Alake-Adeyemo, anointing Ajimobi’s successor should ordinarily not be a challenge. Yet, Alao-Akala’s antecedents along with personal ambition of some influential leaders are making the process of evolving new leadership complex.

The contending forces

The APC in Oyo State is made up of some power blocs. They are the Ajimobi political family, the Unity Forum, the Akala political family and the non-aligned forces.

Ajimobi Group

The group consists of those who aligned with Ajimobi until his death. They are those who held offices and remained with him until his death. Members of this group include the elected council chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors. Senators Fatai Buhari and Teslim Folarin are also considered members of the group along with other elected national and state lawmakers.

Members of the group are in the majority. They can not be wished away. They are currently in court against Governor Seyi Makinde over the dissolution of councils.

From its actions, the group is willing to embrace reconciliation with other blocs to strengthen the party ahead of the 2023 elections. This is more so, given the way the party was trounced in last year’s governorship. Members and leaders of the bloc are, however, opposed to a hijack of the party to  meet personal ambitions. They attended the reconciliation meeting called by Alao-Akala on August 29.

Unity Forum

The group is made up of those who opposed Ajimobi, particularly during his second term in office. They believed that Ajimobi muzzled them and that their interest was not served in any way. Coming together under the banner of the Unity Forum, they pulled out of the APC preparatory to the 2019 elections to work against the party. Most of them moved to the African Democratic Congress (ADC).

They are led by Sen. Monsurat Sunmonu. Except Sunmonu, most of them who held elective positions re-contested under ADC and lost. But they teamed up with Makinde in the governorship election. Some of them have been rewarded with appointments by the incumbent governor.

Those who either remained or have returned to the party include Prof. Adeolu Akande, Alh. Fatai Ibikunle, Sen. Soji Akanbi and Barr. Adebayo Shittu.

Members of the group who still want to be part of APC want reconciliation but seek privileges. They want to be considered as major leaders believing they deserve some privileges. Thy believe that their success in teaming with the PDP to defeat APC in the last governorship election established their relevance and political strength.

Akala Camp

Alao-Akala led his supporters out of the APC some weeks before last year’s general elections. He returned only one week to the governorship election, having recorded a loss as all his candidates for the national and state Assembly elections were trounced. However, he ensured the victory of the APC governorship candidate, Bayo Adelabu, in some of the  local governments in Ogbomoso, having withdrawn from the race on the platform of Action Democratic Party (ADP).

Akala can not be wished away in Oyo politics. Besides, his political stature as a former governor makes him tower above all in stepping into Ajimobi’s shoes. He has even assumed the leadership. But, the core progressives and regional leaders are cautious to accept his leadership given the fact that he had been a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) and ADP.

As a viable alternative, the core progressives and Unity Forum members are rooting for collegiate leadership, which Akala will lead. This, they believe, will prevent lone leadership which could breed autocracy and also prevent the former governor from paving way for his co-PDP folks from taking over the party for selfish interest. Senator Folarin also fired a salvo to the core progressives at the reconciliation meeting which held in Akala’s Ibadan residence on August 29. In his remark, he said:” Some people say they are core progressives, and that others only joined the APC. Let me tell you, APC is a hybrid party. So, no one can claim ownership of the party. We just need to work together as members of one political family willing to serve our people.”

Nonetheless, the former governor has pronounced himself the new leader of APC in Oyo State. When asked why he was at the empowerment programme organised by Buhari in Iseyin last week, Akala said: “I am not here to support him. I am here to perform my duty as the leader of APC in Oyo State.”

Also asked about those who stayed away and opposed his leadership, decsribi g the meeting as a grouping of former PDP members bound by personal ambition, Akala explained that he knew what they wanted. He said none of them his political stature. But, he promised to sustain dialogue with them to ensure all party members work together again.

Non-aligned forces

While the crisis of trust lasted under Ajimobi, some leaders remained somehow neutral, refusing to fully align with existing or emerging blocs. These leaders include a former deputy governor, Iyiola Oladokun, Niyi Akintola (SAN) and Bayo Adewusi.

With each bloc working hard to ensure its interest is well taken care of under the leadership that will emerge, the personal ambition of some gladiators and deep sentiments of the ‘landlord/tenant’ mentality of members must be well managed in the anticipated acceptable leadership.

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