FEDERAL ELEMENTS THREATENING JAGABAN TINUBU’S STRONGHOLD IN THE SOUTH WEST

Following his inability to anoint his loyalist as governor of Ondo State last year and the ‘technical defeat’ he suffered during the recent All Progressives Congress primary in Ekiti State, the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, appears to be losing grip on the South-West politics, but his loyalists think otherwise, reports SUNDAY ABORISADE

The state congresses of the All Progressives Congress were held across the country penultimate Saturday with two different executives emerging in Oyo and Ondo states and a splinter group in Lagos State, all in the South-West stronghold of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

In Lagos, while the Tinubu’s faction of the party held its congress at the APC secretariat on ACME Road, Ogba, an aggrieved faction held its own at the Lagos Airport Hotel.

Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH revealed that the new APC faction enjoys the full support of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and the APC National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, who are both Senior Advocates of Niogeria.

However, Banire, in a statement, denied his involvement in the factional congress, claiming that he did not attend because he was at a lecture organised by Ansar Ud Deen somewhere in the Ilasamaja, Mushin area of Lagos.

The ex-Lagos commissioner also denied funding the faction, as the party constitution forbids him from being partisan as a national officer of the APC. Although Fashola had yet to speak on the allegation against him, some of his close associates said he had nothing to do with the faction.

The authentic APC elected Tunde Balogun as its chairman at the state congress at the party’s secretariat while Mr. Sunday Ajose emerged as the deputy chairman.

Wale Ahmed became the state secretary of the party while Mr. Joe Igbokwe retained his position as the Publicity Secretary.

There has been a serious cold war between Fashola and Banire on one hand, and Tinubu on the other hand since the national leader picked Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode as the state APC governorship candidate for the 2015 election.

Fashola had preferred his Commissioner for Justice and the state Attorney General, Mr. Supo Sasore (SAN), to succeed him but Tinubu, with strong support from the likes of the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, threw his weight behind Ambode and eventually ensured his victory.

The grouse of Banire is why every elected politician in Lagos, from the ward level to the federal, must have the blessing and anointing of the ‘governor-emeritus’ while other leaders of the party in the state become mere spectators in the choice of who occupies an office.

Critics of the Fashola and Banire coalition however dismissed their arguments, and wondered why they were condemning the same process adopted by Tinubu, to make them superstars.

Both Fashola and Banire had failed to identify with the splinter group in the state APC, led by Mr. Faud Oki, a former Director-General of ex-governors Tinubu, Fashola and Ambode’s campaign organisations.

Oki, at the inauguration of his group had said, “Today, our party in Lagos State is fading into insignificance. Massive membership exclusion is becoming the order of the day with members withdrawing from the political space and constituting themselves into internal opposition.”

The Henry Ajomale–led Lagos State chapter of the APC had earlier suspended Oki, who was also a vice chairman of the party, representing Lagos Central Senatorial District.

Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH revealed that no Tinubu’s loyalist had openly dumped him in Osun State.

An APC leader, Fatai Diekola, who defected from the party in the State of the Living Spring, was never a Tinubu loyalist, while the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yusuff Lasun, who is not on the same page with Aregbesola, could not be described as a loyalist of the former Lagos State governor.

Some of the key supporters of Tinubu in the state are Governor Rauf Aregbesola; Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola and Senator Babajide Omoworare.

There are however, some APC members in the state, who are aggrieved but had yet to speak up while waiting to see how the party would conduct its governorship primary on September 22, 2018.

Tinubu seems to have a growing list of aggrieved loyalists in Ondo State who have since abandoned him. They are Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Bode Ayorinde, Mrs. Omowumi Olatunji-Edet, Mr. Boye Oyewumi, Mr. Sunday Abegunde, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, Mr. Stephen Olemija, Mr. Lucky Ayedatiwa, Mr. Wale Akinterinwa and Ambassador Sola Iji.

His die-hard loyalists in the state, who are still standing by him are, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Mr. Bola Ilori, Dr. Segun Abraham, Mr. Babatunde Kolawole, Mr. Bamidele Baderinwa, Chief Pius Akinyelure, Dr. Paul Akinyelure, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, and Prof. Cladius Daramola.

One of the frontline loyalists of Tinubu, in both Osun and Ondo states, who is currently serving as the Commissioner for Regional Integration in Osun State, Mr. Bola Ilori, said in an interview with one of our correspondents that he had no reason to stop following Tinubu. He described the former Lagos State governor as a leader with sound ideas and a compassionate person who commands a large following in the South-West.

Ilori said Tinubu was not only very relevant in the South-West politics but also a big factor in the Nigerian politics. He argued that no political party would want to lose the support of such an influential politician.

He stated, “Only a few of his loyalists have left him. Even with the expertise of Jesus and his proficiency in spiritual matters and ability to see the end from the beginning, one out of his 12 disciplines, Judas, still betrayed him. So, for every team of 12, there must be one Judas. The betrayal did not stop Jesus from accomplishing what he came to the world to do.

“If Tinubu moves to any political party today, that party will have members in every ward in the South-West within 24 hours and he is the only politician who has such influence. There is no other politician who has that capacity except President Buhari, and it is because of his position. ”

When reminded that Tinubu’s former ‘boys’ like Fayemi, Fashola and Banire among others, have had reasons to dump him, Ilori said those who were antagonising the Jagaban Borgu now were not facing him directly but are doing so “under the table.”

He added, “Muiz (Banire) still accepts Tinubu as his leader. Even Fayose, who is in the Peoples Democratic Party, will tell you that Tinubu is his leader. Fayemi and Fashola acknowledge Tinubu as their leader. So, who else are we talking about? Akeredolu, who said something contrary the other time, immediately reversed himself.”

In Ilori’s calculation, the APC would not be able to win any election in the South-West without the support of Tinubu.

He stated, “APC will not try to win in the South-West without his (Tinubu’s) support because that will be suicidal. If today, Tinubu pulls out of the APC, the party is finished in the region. Tinubu is not God but God has given him the grace to be listened to.

There are no known hard-core Tinubu’s loyalists in the Ogun State APC except the Senator representing Lagos West in the Senate, Solomon Adeola, who is from the Yewa area of the state.

Speaking with one of our correspondents, the senator noted that Asiwaju remained relevant in national politics and the politics of the South-West, describing those who might think otherwise as reading things wrongly.

Adeola, who spoke through his media aide, Kayode Odunaro, argued that it was Asiwaju who evolved the coalition of political parties that brought an opposition party (APC) to power in 2015. He equally noted that Tinubu played a major role in ensuring that the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria produced a governor in Ogun State in 2011.

He said, “Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is relevant not only in national politics but also in the politics of the South-West.

“Asiwaju ensured that President Muhammadu Buhari emerged as a presidential candidate of a coalition of political parties which became the All Progressives Congress, and the candidate became the president after he had failed in three consecutive attempts.

“He also ensured that the ACN won the governorship seat in Ogun in 2011. He was relevant to the emergence of Governor Ibikunle Amosun. With these, whoever is saying Asiwaju is not relevant in either national politics or politics of the South-West, is reading things wrongly.

“Those of us who are believers in his actions and policies are still loyal to him today because Asiwaju Tinubu has a large heart and flesh that attract people to him. He is a family man and knows how to keep his family together. His politics and policies are what make people to go along his line and around with him.

In Oyo State, the main Tinubu loyalists are Senators Adesoji Akanbi, Olufemi Lanlehin (who is no longer in the APC) and Mr. Fatai Ibikunle. While Akanbi is still standing like the rock of Gibraltar behind Tinubu, the duo of Lanlehin and Ibikunle have deserted him.

Ibikunle has pitched his tent with the Unity Forum wing of the APC in Oyo State.

Attempts by one of our correspondents to speak with Ibikunle failed. Another friend of Tinubu, who is a legal luminary, Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), also remained silent on the issue despite the crisis rocking the party on which platform he is planning to contest the 2019 governorship election in the state.

Findings by our correspondents revealed that Akintola does not want to identify with any faction but he has yet to deny being a friend of Tinubu, though he refused to talk with SUNDAY PUNCH on record on the issue.

Members of the Unity Forum, a factional group working against the leadership of Governor Abiola Ajimobi in Oyo State APC, said they could not come out now to say they were no longer with Tinubu.

Their spokesman, Wasiu Olatubosun, said the group was waiting to hear Tinubu’s position on the crisis. He alleged that Tinubu’s advert, where he alleged that saboteurs were behind the crisis in the congresses of the APC was causing more crisis in Oyo State.

One of them said, “We want confirmation from Tinubu on the target of the advert because we have done a lot for him. Tinubu is now in London but on his return, he will hold a meeting with us in Lagos.”

A prominent chieftain of the APC in Ekiti State said Asiwaju’s contribution and commitment led to the success of the May 12 governorship primary where Dr. Kayode Fayemi emerged as the winner.

Despite the fact that his son-in-law, Oyetunde Ojo, was an agent to former governor Segun Oni, Asiwaju maintained a neutral stand and was believed to have said delegates should be given free hands to elect their candidate.

Lending credence to this, the Ekiti Chairman of the APC, Chief Jide Awe, said believers in Tinubu’s actions and policies were still loyal to him because he had a large heart and flesh that attract people to him.

Awe stated, “He is a family man and knows how to keep his family together. His politics and policies are what make people go along his line and around him. He doesn’t have the stomach of hate; he forgives easily and doesn’t keep malice. Although nobody is perfect, Asiwaju is a near perfect man.

“It is only that we would not award marks, but I can tell you categorically that today in the politics of the South-West, Asiwaju is a force to reckon with. Hate him or love him, he would always have his way. In the South-West today, he is a man whom destiny has placed above any other political actor.”

Awe said an election of APC without the support of Tinubu was unthinkable.

Toeing his line, the state’s Publicity Secretary of the APC, Taiwo Olatunbosun, said Tinubu’s fatherly intervention in the last primary played a major role in its success.

“At a meeting of the South-West leaders with aspirants, he made it clear that he had no candidate and that he would support anyone who emerged as the candidate.

“His wise counsel helped the party in finding peace to the crisis that dodged the aborted primary,” he added.

ADDITIONAL REPORTS FROM:

Samuel Awoyinfa, Olufemi Atoyebi, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Femi Makinde and Peter Dada.

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