Between eating the humble pie and having some tricks up his sleeve, former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, surely had his pick last Wednesday as the membership registration and revalidation exercise of the All Progressives Congress (APC) continues nationwide.
Since it was flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State, the exercise has been dogged by rancour and bad blood in few states of the federation, as different power blocs and rival tendencies within state chapters renewed their struggle ahead of 2023 general elections.
For obvious reasons, Ogun State was expected to be one of the flashpoints of the exercise. Amosun, who has been at daggers drawn with the incumbent governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, over the 2019 governorship election, took part in the party membership registration on Wednesday at his Itoko, Ward 6, Abeokuta South Local Government Area of the state.
This was barely 24 hours after his successor accompanied the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for the same exercise. At a carnival-like outing, Osinbajo revalidated his APC membership at Ward 1, Unit 3, Egunrege, Ikenne, in Ikenne Local Government Area of the state.
The Vice President, who was accompanied by Niger State Governor who doubles as the National Chairman of the APC Registration and Revalidation Committee, Abubakar Sanni Bello, was received at the Mayflower Secondary School, Ikenne. A former governor and prominent APC leader, Chief Olusegun Osoba, the South West Team Leader of the Committee, Senator Lawan Shuaib, and other top members of the party were also on the ground to receive Osinbajo.
The VP’s membership was revalidated by his ward chairman, Segun Awomuti. According to him, the APC is a grassroots party with a focus on the welfare of the people and the registration and revalidation exercise was important for the ruling party to identify and reach out to members.
Osinbajo, who used the occasion to address issues bordering on insecurity in the country, however, urged Nigerians to collaborate with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration in its efforts to surmount various challenges confronting the nation.
Shortly after Osinbajo’s departure, Abiodun and Osoba revalidated their membership of the APC. While Abiodun was registered at Ward 3, Unit 1, Iperu-Remo in Ikenne Local Government Area, Osoba had his at Sodubi Primary School, Ward 7, Polling Booth 3, in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of the state.
Abiodun, in his remarks, commended both Buhari and Osinbajo for going back to their respective wards to revalidate their membership of the ruling party. He assured that the registration and revalidation exercise would be successful in the state, adding that new members would be mobilised for the party during the exercise.
While Osinbajo, Abiodun and Osoba, accompanied by teeming faithful were all over carrying out the dictates of the party, allegations began to fly around that some loyalists of Amosun were prevented from being registered in some local government areas. In Imeko-Afon Local Government Area, specifically, there were claims of discrimination against some party members.
But, even before the APC leadership in the state responded, other members of the party flagged the allegations as mere playing to the gallery and deliberate attempt to cry wolf. According to them, the state governor and caretaker leaders of the party have previously given assurances that everyone will be registered and there should not have been any need for fretting.
Perhaps, Amosun, who currently represents Ogun Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, wanted to have his party membership revalidation same day as the VP on Tuesday.
Though hundreds of his supporters thronged his ward in anticipation, it turned out that the Senator would only have his day rescheduled. At his turn, the former governor was accompanied by his wife, Olufunso, and Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Alhaji Sarafa Isola, as well as hordes of political associates and loyalists.
Swarmed by the crowd, Amosun trekked his way to the registration point and performed his registration after the Chairman of the Ogun State Membership Registration Committee, Ademorin Kuye, had addressed the concerns of party members present.
Kuye assured that there are enough forms to capture all the intending members of the ruling party.
He also announced that he had summoned a meeting of all registration officials in the state towards addressing alleged complaints about the exercise. While addressing the party members, Amosun said he had been inundated with inquiries on the necessity of the registration and revalidation exercise.
The former governor, however, justified the exercise, saying only those with ulterior motives opposed it. He said it would afford many people the opportunity of registering with the ruling party. “I know all of us are in sync with the fact that this thing is very necessary.
For me, the last time we did this, two of my children were not up to 18. Today, they are 18 and they would have opportunity to register. And everybody can say things like that and I know there is a lot of benefits and advantages that we’ll get in doing this registration,” he added.
Amosun called for calm among the party members, who claimed they were denied participation in the exercise. He said the registration committee would handle all complaints, adding that the exercise would improve as time goes on. For many observers, the drama unfolding within the state chapter of APC is not unexpected.
The carryover of the politics of the last general election has continued to shape the polity of the state and deepen the crisis rocking the ruling party. Although the governor and his predecessor belong to same party and had been long time friends, political differences have inevitably pitted them against each other.
Their feud became a major scenario for the APC before the 2019 elections were eventually won and lost. Abiodun who was backed in the contest by some power brokers, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and two former governors in Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel won the election.
On the other hand, Amosun’s preferred candidate, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, lost the election. Amosun’s camp contested the electoral loss at the courts but also lost. Since then, it appears both his camp and that of the incumbent administration have not ceased plotting against each other.
The ongoing registration and revalidation exercise may not be an exception, analysts reckon. But from recent political events in the state, the demography and power configuration in Ogun APC are fast changing.
Also, the chickens are coming home to roost and certain chieftains are backtracking from their hardline stance. Recently, Amosun converted the state secretariat of Allied People’s Movement (APM) in Abeokuta to his constituency office.
It will be recalled that most of the former governor’s loyalists contested the 2019 elections on the APM platform following disagreements after the APC primaries.
With the ‘scrapping’ of APM, seven members of the state House of Assembly elected on the tickets of APM soon defected to the APC. Their defection took place on the floor of the House on January 28, 2021.
The lawmakers include Modupe Mujota, Abeokuta North State Constituency; Musefiu Lamidi, Ado-Odo/Ota II State Constituency; Yusuf Amosun, Ewekoro State Constituency; Ajayi Bolanle, Egbado South State Constituency; Ganiyu Oyedeji, Ifo II State Constituency; Ajibola Sikiratu, Ipokia/Idiroko State Constituency, and Ademola Adeniran, Sagamu II State Constituency.
Speaker of the House, Olakunle Oluomo, who read the letters of defection during a recent plenary at the Assembly Complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, disclosed that the lawmakers, in their correspondences, said they arrived at the decision after due consultation with their leaders and constituents. With the defection, the 26-member Assembly now has 22 APC lawmakers while the African Democratic Congress (ADC) has three members.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) only has one state legislator. Interestingly, the “returning APM members” soon visited the APC State Secretariat situated at Iyana Mortuary, Abeokuta, where they met with the party’s Caretaker Chairman, Chief Yemi Sanusi, and pledged to work for the party.
It was instructive that the lawmakers did not visit Chief Derin Adebiyi, who headed a faction backed by Amosun, and had fruitlessly laid claim to the leadership of the party in the state.
The Adebiyi-led state executive committee, it will be recalled, was dissolved in December 2018 by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) which immediately put in place the Sanusi-led caretaker committee.
In December 2020, the Mai Mala Buni-led APC National Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee, after receiving the nod of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), renewed the mandate of the Sanusiled caretaker committee and extended its tenure.
Sanusi, who has enjoyed Abiodun’s backing, was subsequently sworn-in alongside the chairmen of the other 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja.
Following their return to APC, the former APM state legislators also paid a courtesy visit to Governor Abiodun at his office, thus laying to rest speculations surrounding where the authentic authority resides between the camps hitherto jostling within the party.
In the midst of the twists and turns, however, Amosun may be gradually returning to the fold as he would want to continue to latch on and savour his relationship with the President.
Already, the incumbent Governor Abiodun, who continues to consolidate his grip, has been named as Vice Chairman of the APC Youth, Women and PLWDs Mobilisation Committee for the membership registration and revalidation exercise, and analysts posit that for personal or group survival, the former governor and his followers may not have much choice on the road to 2023 than to tow the party line.