By Wale Adedayo
“They’ve taken the party, abi? Don’t worry; it is our turn to show them that we are the real power, because we are the government. Without government, there is no party,” roared a very close associate of Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, sometimes in August 2011. The cat and mouse game between the dominant groups in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, the Action Congress (AC) and Senator Ibikunle Amosun (SIA) Group had just begun.
Fast foward to 2014, only the discerning would know that the immediate cause of the current crisis was the unilateral decision of Amosun to solely appoint members of his government without any recourse to the party (ACN) shortly after he was sworn in as governor in 2011. The party hierarchy had prepared a list of candidates – three from each local government after the 2011 elections – for consideration by the governor as Commissioners and for other sundry positions in government.
A parallel list was prepared by the SIA Group with one name from each of the 20 local governments as well. Interestingly, while that of the party had AC and SIA nominees, that of the governor’s group contained only those loyal to him. The same thing was repeated towards the local government election of 2012, when the party organized primaries for aspirants with each of them picking nomination forms. All those subsequently picked as local government chairmanship candidates of the ACN had their names written from the Governor’s Office, while the list submitted by the party from each of the 20 local governments were disregarded.
Of course, the first seed of mutual suspicion was sown by the party leadership in the wake of ACN formation towards the end of 2010. The new executive of the party in Ogun State did not reflect the presence of new hands in the formation of ACN, especially the SIA Group. 95 per cent of party positions remained in the hands of the old AC, who claimed SIA members came to join them, thus should wait for their turn. It is the same executive committee members who are still in office today. It was the same issue towards the 2011 elections as only few SIA Group members got tickets to run for office, which was generously given to those of the old AC. Amosun waited and bidded his time, telling his supporters they’ll be amply rewarded once he is in office.
There’s no doubt it is not just SIA Group members alone who’ll campaign for APC towards the 2015 elections or vote in the same elections. Sidelining party members towards a general election to be organized by an agency of the Federal Government is different from local elections put in place by appointees of the governor. APC has challenges towards the 2015 elections, no doubt about that.
APC certainly needs to call its warring groups to order in Ogun State, because despite the perceived popularity of the current administration, negative undercurrents persist, which can pull the rug from under the party’s feet during the 2015 elections. In the three senatorial districts that make up Ogun State Amosun’s acceptance is about 20% in Ogun West. In Ogun East with its nine local governments, support for the governor hovers between 20 and 30%.
No one is certain what the reconciliation between APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, portends for the state. But one thing is certain, Daniel wants to run as senator in Ogun East Senatorial District in 2015. This is an area where Amosun is least popular. To make matters worse, the most visible leader of the party, who is also a former deputy governor, Alhaji Rafiu Ogunleye, has defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in anger against Amosun’s one-man show.
But the division within the PDP at the national level appeared to have helped Amosun a great deal. Virtually all those who belong to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s side in Ogun State have teemed up with the governor’s side as they they defected to APC. It served to boost his presence in many areas where Ogunleye took members to the Buruji Kashamu-led PDP in Ogun East Senatorial District.
The challenges facing APC in Ogun State range from sub-ethnic issues to intra-party problems with either of them being able to damage the electoral fortunes of the party beyond repairs. For instance, Amosun has an almost cult-like following in most of the six local governments of Ogun Central Senatorial District. Observers agree that even Osoba may not campaign openly against him should the political tide within the APC turn against the Aremo Awujale of Ijebuland. But even at that, the uncertainties remain due to sub-ethnic rivalry.
And to the undiscerning, he has Egbaland (Ogun Central) in his pocket. It is more than likely his Owu section of Egabland’ll be the only place where he is likely to get majority of votes if the APC decides to field him for a second term in office. Apart from the death of foremost Egba philanthropist, Apagun Oluwole Olumide, which is being blamed on Amosun, a number of Egba elites believe the Ogun State governor’s political war with Osoba is primarily due to a supremacy battle for Owu to become number one in Egbaland.
The Egbas are not monolithic. But most of the time, it is Amosun’s Owu people, who always insist they are not Egba, possibly due to the traditional ranking accorded them in the ancient town. Second to the Ake in terms of population, the Owus, who have Obasanjo as their number one modern product, remain number four in the traditional hierarchy of Egbaland. Ake is number one with the Alake being recognised as paramount ruler of all Egbas. Next to the Alake is the Osile of Oke Ona, followed by the Agura of Gbagura with the Olowu of Owu making up the rear.
While ordinary Egbas hardly know the difference between one from the other, about 80% per cent of the elites in Egbaland threw their weight behind Daniel while he was in office. Another 15% were with former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole. It was about one year to the end of Daniel’s tenure they began distancing himself from the former governor. Apart from Iyalode Alaba Lawson, there was hardly any person of substance in Egabland who supported Amosun before he became governor. Osoba hails from Ake. Long before Nigeria’s independence and shortly after, politicians who mess up with the Akes, especially the Alake, have usually lost the Egba votes. Sources confirmed Amosun was not happy with the Alake upon assumption of office, a situation that is visible till date. But the governor has been manging his anger against the revered monarch.
The Owus, to which Amosun belongs, constitute the majority in only one local government in Egbaland, which is Ewekoro. But there are substantial number of them in Ifo and Abeokuta North. They are also significant in Ado Odo Ota Local Government in Ogun West Senatorial District. An Ake traditional chief confirmed on Thursday, “We are waiting for Akinrogun’s (Osoba) signal to know what to do. The 2015 elections will show who the Egbas really support, because they (Owus) behave and say it all the time they are not Egba. Let them go and vote for themselves. Egbas will vote for their own. Wherever Osoba says we go is where we will go. That is certain.”
Strategists are certainly at work weighing options against the APC in Ogun State. But with almost all sides agreeing that only an Egba candidate should be presented for the 2015 elections, playing the sub-ethnic card in Egbaland could be a game-changer, which the APC needs to watch out for. The late Yoruba Leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, used his Ake card effectively against Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola’s deep pockets during the Second Republic. The ball is now in the courts of adroit politicians of the Awo mould.