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KUNLE OLAYENI writes on the intrigues surrounding the ministerial nomination in Ogun State, the attendant reverberations for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and calculations ahead of the 2023 general election in the state

In spite of the failure to have his anointed governorship candidate succeed him, the immediate past governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, still remains highly influential in the scheme of things within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The unveiling of the ministerial list by President Muhammadu Buhari, recently, appeared to have reaffirmed Amosun’s political sagacity as the nominee from his state turned out to be the former governor’s trusted, long-standing associate.

The announcement of Olamilekan Adegbite, an architect and the immediate past commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Ogun State as the ministerial nominee for the Gateway State shocked many people, including loyalists of the incumbent governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.

Abiodun and Amosun surely had an axe to grind over the outcome of the March 9 gubernatorial election. The outcome poll is presently being contested at the courts. While the two gladiators are sweating it out on the judicial front, they are also at war on the political turf, the latest being the tactical tussle over Buhari’s cabinet.

Specifically, the governor and his predecessor desperately lobbied and engaged in high wire maneuvering and politicking over who picks the ministerial position of the state. Abiodun was interested in securing the ministerial slot to solidify and stabilize his administration politically. On the other hand, Amosun wanted the minister appointed from his camp to further boost his rating as the indisputable generalissimo.

Before the ministerial list was released, several names were touted as likely beneficiaries from Ogun State. They include Senator Lanre Tejuoso, the immediate past Chairman, Senate Committee on Health; Prince Segun Adesegun, former state Deputy Governor; Taiwo Adeoluwa, former Secretary to the State Government; Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, former Commissioner for Commerce and Industry; Alhaji Sarafa Isola, former Minister of Mines and Steel Development; Prince Gboyega Isiaka, three-time governorship candidate and Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, the Allied People’s Movement (APM) governorship candidate in the last elections.

Eventually, it was Adegbite that was the lucky man. Adegbite served for eight years as commissioner under the Amosun administration. A childhood friend of the former governor, he was seen in some quarters as the de facto deputy governor during the administration.

Apart from supervising a key ministry, which handled the flagship programme of the former administration – urban renewal and infrastructural development, Adegbite was perhaps one of the few individuals who have the ears of Amosun.

After the confirmation of 43 nominees by the Senate, President Buhari assigned portfolios to the new ministers on Wednesday last week. Adegbite was posted to man the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development. The ministry was superintended by incumbent governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, during Buhari’s first term.

Amosun’s loyalists went into wild jubilation over the appointment. They believed that despite the recent setbacks experienced within the APC with the suspension of the immediate past governor and dissolution of the state executive committee of the party by the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led national leadership, their camp still remains a formidable force.

Amid the euphoria, Buhari also announced another Amosun’s ally, Adeleke Adewolu, as the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholder Engagement) at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). He is a replacement for Sunday Dare, who was appointed as Minister of Youth and Sports by the president.

Adewolu is a member of APM, a party adopted by Amosun to field some of his candidates, who failed to secure APC tickets for the 2019 elections. He contested for House of Representatives seat in Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency but lost.

At Amosun’s instance, another former commissioner in the state, Mrs. Ronke Sokefun, had earlier been appointed as chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) after the former governor allegedly engineered the removal of Chief Bode Mustapha, who was originally nominated and screened for the position.

Mustapha’s substitution was apparently in retaliation against his open declaration of support for Abiodun as the APC governorship candidate. He was said to have been replaced with Sokefun, who served as Commissioner for Urban and Physical Planning in the Amosun government.

It will also be recalled that Amosun was instrumental to the appointment of a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and the serving Postmaster-General, Bisi Adegbuyi.

Now that Amosun seems to be cornering all the federal appointments for the state and with great prospects for more slots, the confidence level in the ex-governor’s camp is growing again.

On the other hand, there is some unease within Governor Abiodun’s camp. The new men in power at the state level are plotting measures to counter the emerging threat from Amosun, who is currently representing Ogun Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly.

However, the fallout of the politics of ministerial nomination has deepened the crisis rocking the APC in the state. The party is polarized with factions loyal to both Abiodun and Amosun.

Since taking power after a keenly contested gubernatorial election, Abiodun has been at daggers drawn with his predecessor. Although the governor and Amosun belong to same political party and had been friends for some 20 years back, political differences have inevitably pitted them against each other. Their feud became a major worrisome scenario for the APC before the 2019 elections were eventually won and lost.

Abiodun was backed in the contest by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and former governors in Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, among other power brokers.

The support of these political heavy weights for Abiodun, notwithstanding, Amosun has continued to latch on his cordial relationship with Buhari. The former governor is seen as one of the henchmen of the president and he appears to be savouring the relationship, resulting in the haul of federal appointments for his loyalists.

” The ripples generated by the rift between Abiodun and Amosun continued to manifest in the polity of the state. On Friday, loyalists of the governor took over the control of the state secretariat of APC in Abeokuta. The secretariat, situated at Iyana Mortuary, Abeokuta, was until the incident occupied by a faction of the party loyal to Amosun.

The Amosun-backed faction, headed by Chief Derin Adebiyi, was dissolved in December 2018 by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) which immediately put in place a caretaker committee led by Chief Yemi Sanusi.

Ostensibly on the orders of the governor, Sanusi led some APC chieftains and government functionaries, accompanied by armed policemen, to the party secretariat and ejected members of staff found within the premises.

The caretaker chairman, while addressing reporters, stated that the party chieftains were at the secretariat to assess the condition of its facilities as the party was set to start work immediately. He justified the action of the caretaker committee, saying the party is expected to swing into action now that the election was over and new government already put in place. 

He assured that the secretariat will be given a befitting facelift, in preparation for the forthcoming local government elections in the state.

But the development did not go down well with the Amosun camp. Addressing a press conference in Abeokuta, Adebiyi condemned the invasion of the party secretariat, saying it was illegal and contravened the extant party laws and the nation’s constitution. 

He said his executive remained the authentic leadership of APC in the state. He accused Abiodun and ex-governor Osoba of allegedly masterminding the takeover of the party secretariat.

Adebiyi said, “The governor’s band of marauders arrived the secretariat in a war-like manner and ready for a showdown. They were accompanied by a detachment of fierce-looking mobile police officers. They damaged all the property at the secretariat and illegally broke into offices and carted away vital documents.

“The illegal occupation of the secretariat took place despite the fact that the State Executive Committee of the party under my leadership had gone to court to challenge the illegal dissolution of the State Executive Committee by the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee at the Federal High Court, Abuja in suit number CV/363/2018.”

The factional chairman wondered why the governor’s supporters resorted to self-help rather than abiding by the rule of law.

He said, “We have refused to resort to self-help because we believe in the rule of law. We are products of a congress held on May 19, 2018 and these people who are fighting were part of the congress. The Osoba group came from SDP and we accommodated them.

“But we have taken legal steps by going to court. Let the court decide. The next date is October 8, 2019. Why can’t they wait till that time before they invaded the secretariat?”

Adebiyi also lashed out at Oshiomhole, saying the national chairman would leave his position in ignominy. In the battle for the soul of the state party, the faction loyal to Amosun believed Oshiomhole played some dirty roles. 

But a former House of Assembly member, Biyi Adeleye, advised loyalists of Amosun to rather face the reality on the ground after their preferred candidate lost the 2019 governorship election to Abiodun.

Adeleye, who is Consultant on General Matters to the incumbent governor, warned Adebiyi to stop playing on people’s intelligence with unfounded claims. He claimed that Amosun, who is backing the sacked chairman, was allegedly sponsoring litigation against the governor to keep his (Amosun) followers in the APC intact ahead of defection.

He said, “Let Chief Derin wake up from dreamland. This election has come, we have won and it has gone. That somebody is giving them hope that they are going to claim their mandate back; we know Amosun, the man that is already talking with PDP. He’s just taking his time, giving them hope for 2023.

“Amosun himself knows that Governor Dapo Abiodun won that election clear and clean. If we are in a clime where people who won election go to court to challenge some irregularities, we should be in court first to ask them where they got all the votes from Ipokia. But because we are not doing that, he now has the leverage to start going round and tell his people that they are going to claim their mandate back.

“But the good people of Ogun State know better; they have experienced him, they have seen him, they are tired of him. There is no way Amosun can come back again through window or the roof or anywhere, he will always meet brick wall.”

However, the battle may have just started within the Ogun APC. With governance gradually picking up at federal and state levels, and the politicking for 2023 race still in the works, the actors in the party’s feud are poised to plot every move to outdo one another for personal or group survival.

New Telegraph