High-wire political maneuver played out during the meeting of All Progressives Congress, APC, governors, ministers and others political office holders from the Southwest of Nigeria, held in Ibadan last Thursday.
The meeting, which was hosted by Senator Abiola Ajimobi, governor of Oyo State, was held inside the Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Ibadan, the state capital.
To start with, the Jagaban of Borgu and clearly the region’s political number one politician, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was absent.
However, Sunday Vanguard found the excuse curious and went after the whole story, for possible cover-up because his political creation, Babatunde Fashola, the Works Power and Housing minister, who was also said to be on an unstated national assignment, was absent.
But one of the key Abuja S-West APC gladiators, Dr Kayode Fayemi, and Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, simply smiled when the excuse for Tinubu’s absence was offered.
Besides, one of Tinubu’s aides, Tunde Rahman, had to go round telling newsmen that his illness wasn’t anything to worry about. At least to set the records straight.
The full story: The Jagaban flew in from the United Kingdom with the primary aim of attending the Ibadan meeting. He had arranged the chopper that would fly him and the S-West APC Vice Chairman, Chief Pius Akinsulire, from Lagos to Ibadan. Subsequently he dispatched his advance team to the meeting venue but suddenly developed stomach upset and he couldn’t make the trip, which made Akinsulire the only passenger in the chopper.
It took a question and answer session to get a glimpse into the issue of coming elections in Osun and Ekiti States which Sunday Vanguard’s investigation showed was the main reason for calling the meeting.
For Osun: The parlous performance of the current Aregbesola administration was examined. The acting chairman of the meeting, Chief Bisi Akande, known for his frankness was said to have compared his time as the state governor with what obtains today, expressing the fear that the loss of the senatorial seat in Ede to PDP was a worrisome signal.
However when asked about the standing of the party in the state today, he played politics saying, Chief Akinsulire, who had left by then because he had to go back to Lagos in the chopper arranged by Tinubu before dark, would have explained the measures already put in place to checkmate a repeat of the senatorial election show of shame.
Ekiti: Two key issues were raised. One – possible implosion within APC from attempt to get a formidable candidate for the 2018 governorship election since powerful party members including Fayemi, a serving minister and Chief Segun Oni, a national officer of the APC, and others, are interested in succeeding Governor Ayodele Fayose.
Second is the issue of Fayose himself. According to inside sources, Fayose was referred to as a dogged and sly fighter, who is out to ensure that his party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, will defeat APC again either by hook or crook.
2019 Presidential polls: The meeting declared that the ticket of the party for the 2019 presidential election was still open to whosoever wanted to contest, as President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to indicate whether he is going for second term or not.
Chief Akande also said the party did not support restructuring but devolution of power which the government at the centre has to consider.
He said, “President Buhari has not told us that he will be contesting. Anybody in our party is free to become the President of Nigeria. If anyone indicates interest and is ready to subject himself to the process through which a candidate will be picked, and he is lucky to have the ticket, then, we will have no other thing to do than to present him as our candidate”, he said.
After the meeting, leaders from the zone hailed the performance of governors and national assembly members elected on the ticket of the party, as well as ministers appointed from the region.
The leaders gave the commendation through the former Interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, after the meeting.
He said that the meeting assessed the performance of governors, national assembly members and those appointed into the Federal Executive Council from the region and was satisfied with their stewardship.
“The summary of what we expected from them was discussed and we are happy that our governors and ministers have performed excellently well.
“We tried to review our position and we are pleased to see that as a party, we are doing all we can to have Ekiti back into the APC. We are concerned more though about the services of our government to the people more than electoral matters,” Akande said.
He dismissed the alleged rift within the rank and file of the leadership of the party in the region, insisting that the last meeting ended on a happy note as against reports of rancour being peddled by a section of the media.
Akande said; “You can see that we are happy together. Some of the people who never wished us well reported that we fought and dispersed in our different ways without even saying the closing prayers when we met last. It is not true.
“We held a meeting, we had a minute of the meeting and I am happy to inform you that our various governors and ministers have been doing well in implementing what we decided upon at the last meeting.
“We are for the people of the Southwest. We are for the development of our people. We are for the good of the economy. We are meeting so that our governors and other representatives can be talking to us from time to time so that we can know how much we are benefiting from the existing government.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the host governor called on his colleagues, party leaders and other public office holders in the APC to sacrifice their self interest and work more towards surmounting developmental challenges confronting the region.
As the countdown to 2019 beckons, Ajimobi said it had become imperative for the leaders to engage in some introspection to identify what could have been done differently, and if necessary, go back to the drawing board to proffer agreeable methods on the way forward.
Ajimobi said, “Let me state here that as leaders, it is incumbent on us to brainstorm and forge a unity of purpose which will be beneficial to the people who have put us into these leadership positions.
“Our past leaders, wherever they found themselves, used to exhibit such attributes as vision, determination, selflessness, courage, steadfastness and passion for the emancipation of their people.
“We must, therefore, renew our resolve to re-enact these qualities in order to bring back the lost glory of our region and reposition it for our people, in order that they may enjoy the full benefits of entrusting our party with their destinies.”
In the last three years, he said that the party had recorded tremendous achievements worthy of celebration, noting, however that there was the need for the APC to focus attention on agriculture to boost the country’s economy.
According to him, the region had comparative advantage in agriculture, given its vast arable land, highest concentration of agric research institutes, clement weather and the location of Ikere Gorge Dam, which has the capacity to irrigate the entire region, in Oke Ogun area of Oyo State.
Ajimobi said, “We must become the food basket of Nigeria through integrated farming and value addition. In this regard, the completion of Ikere Gorge Dam, which has multidimensional benefits to agriculture, water supply and electricity, is imperative.
“We must ensure speedy completion of the ongoing expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan Express way, the rail projects and other infrastructural development. Our representatives at the national assembly must be ready to support the region if and when it decides to show interest in who runs the planned concession of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.
“On the political front, the gubernatorial elections for Ekiti and Osun are fast approaching. All hands must be on deck to ensure victory for our party.”
The meeting was attended by Governors Rauf Aregbesola (Osun State); Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo State); Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos State); Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun State); and the host, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
Also in attendance were the Senate Chief Whip, Prof. Sola Adeyeye; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuf; House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; and Chief Akinsulire.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr, Kayode Fayemi; his Communications counterpart, Mr. Adebayo Shittu; and Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Prof Claudius Daramola, were also part of the deliberations.
Four former governors: Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun); Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); Chief Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti); and Chief Segun Osoba (Ogun) also graced the occasion.
Akande had earlier told journalists that the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other ministers who could not make it to the meeting sent their apologies, stressing that there was unity and cohesion among all of them.