GBENGA DANIEL /AMOSUN BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF APC IN OGUN

Although everything appears calm on the surface, there is a subtle battle underground between Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun and his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, for the control of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state. EMMANUEL BADEJO, who has been following the development, reports

 

The Ogun State All Progressives Congress (APC) is still battling to put its house in order, as the chapter prepares for the next general elections. The rivalry between Governor Dapo Abiodun and his  predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has created a division within the fold.

Since he took over the mantle two years ago, Abiodun has tried to consolidate his hold on power by seeking the support of two former governors, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Chief Gbenga Daniel. Amosun, who currently represents Ogun Central at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, has been capitalising on his cordial relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and some members of his kitchen cabinet to remain relevant in Ogun politics.

Curiously, the trio of Daniel, Amosun and Abiodun were close friends. Their friendship was so tight that Amosun and Abiodun rallied around Daniel to become governor in 2003. After he served his tenure of two terms, Amosun took over. But, while his administration lasted, he and Daniel fell apart. Their sharp difference came to the open when the state government under Amosun levelled allegations of corruption against the Daniel administration. In the process, Daniel had one of his properties confiscated.

That was one of the reasons why Daniel backed Abiodun against Amosun during the last general elections, even though Daniel belonged to the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) at the time. As a result, Daniel got a reprieve when Abiodun took over the leadership of the state.

During Amosun’s tenure, observers said he had solidified his base and expanded his network in Ogun politics, to ensure that he remains relevant when he vacates office. A source indicated that there was an unwritten agreement that Abiodun would succeed Amosun when the time comes. But, at the twilight of his administration, Amosun reneged on the deal to work for the emergence of Abiodun as the next governor for undisclosed reasons. Rather, he chose one of his loyalists, Adekunle Akinlade, as his successor. Akinlade was at the time representing Egbado South and Ipokia Constituency in the House of Representatives.

The development brought some disquiet within the ranks of the major stakeholders in the Ogun APC. As time went by, it appeared Amosun, who had established a formidable structure, was going to have his way. But, other stakeholders intervened to ensure Abiodun’s emergence.

As a result, Amosun did not support the candidacy of Abiodun during the last election. Rather, he floated the Allied Peoples Congress (APM) to champion the governorship bid of Akinlade. Subsequently, APC expelled Amosun from the party, though he was called back after the elections. Notwithstanding his inability to handpick his successor, Amosun has utilised his connection with the presidency to remain relevant in Ogun politics. He corners all federal appointments to the state.

Abiodun defeated Akinlade of APM and governorship candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, who had since collapsed his “Believe Movement” into the APC. Akinlade has also led his followers in the APM back to the ruling party.

The governor is believed to be enjoying a massive support, despite the challenges his administration has been facing in the last one year.

However, Abiodun may not secure his second term mandate easily, because many of those who appear to be backing him may not be loyal followers, though they have pledged loyalty to his government. Some have also complained about his style of governance.

But, those close to Daniel reveal that his sole purpose of dumping the PDP for the APC is to help Abiodun secure a second term. Thus, Abiodun is believed to be consolidating his hold on power and strategising for his second term. So far, he is believed to have done well without the support of Amosun. But, the senator representing Ogun Central is likely to see the next governorship election in Ogun as payback time for the governor.

Already, the governor has been enlarging his coast with increasing political appointments and sundry concessions to party leaders across the state. He has, by the token, depleted the ranks of Amosun’s loyalists. In Yewa, for instance, Abiodun enjoins the support of Nasir Isiaka, the governorship candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2019 election. He similarly gains wide acceptance among his Ijebu clan.

But, how to get the support of the Egba and Egbado areas where Amosun is still enjoying a lot of popularity may be giving the governor sleepless nights. Amosun recently asked his loyalists in PDM, including six serving House of Assembly members, to return to the APC. This suggests that the former governor has some game plans up his sleeves.

But, to show that he does not buy in into that arrangement, the governor at a function in Abeokuta recently advised those who want to return to the APC to follow the laid down procedure of the party. The governor also recently accused Amosun of abandoning many road projects before he left office and that he left behind over N50bn debts, thus drifting the state into insolvency. But, the Amosun camp has also reacted by accusing the Abiodun government of cooking up lies “to shield its inefficiency and corrupt tendencies”.

Observers see these utterances as an indication that subtle a campaign for the next governorship election is gradually taking shape in Ogun State. The raging war of words between the governor and Amosun is an indication that he is likely to face the biggest challenge to his re-election from his party, the APC. This is because the death of Senator Buruji Kashamu and the defection of Daniel to the APC have weakened the PDP considerably.

While both Abiodun and Amosun are relating at arms-length, commentators believe the two sides are preparing for a showdown in the nearest future. Sources said Amosun has given a standing order to his loyalists to desist from tackling Abiodun’s administration, except where there is a need to put the records straight. This may be one of the reasons why there have not been many public altercations between the two camps.

The battle line appears to have been drawn. For instance, for an Amosun loyalist to realign with the Abiodun camp, he or she must publicly renounce loyalty to the former. This played out recently at Abeokuta North when a party man loyal to Amosun decided to realign with the Abiodun camp. The Amosun camp has also alleged that its loyalists are being unfairly treated. As a result, it had publicly announced that it would not take part in the local government elections. This goes to show that all is not well within the two political gladiators’ camps.

Amosun loyalists secured all the federal appointments and slots meant for Ogun State. This, according to analysts, was unfavourable to Abiodun and his supporters. Both the ministerial and non-career ambassadorial slots for Ogun State also went to Amosun’s loyalists. For instance, former Secretary to the Government (SSG) of the Gbenga Daniel administration, Chief Sarafa Tunji Ishola, who was the Director-General of Amosun’s APM campaign organisation was nominated as a non-career ambassador to spite Abiodun.

Amosun was also able to secure a ministerial appointment for Lekan Adegbite, his former Commissioner for works. Leke Adewolu, a member of the APM and former commissioner for special duties during Amosun’s tenure was appointed to the board of Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) to replace Sunday Dare, the current Minister of Sports.

In the view of analysts, all these may be pointing to the fact that Abiodun is not in control of the APC in Ogun State because most of the people working for him are not getting any federal appointments.  Others are of the view that it may be that the presidency is unduly giving preference to Amosun.

Those who are familiar with Ogun politics have predicted a tough battle for Abiodun to secure a second term in office, as Amosun is still working round the clock and capitalising on the APC crisis to give the governor a run for his money.