THE current storm troubling the Ogun State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress is far from settling. With each passing day the intra-party crisis assumes a fresh dimension. In fact, the APC in the state has assumed the status as the hotbed of intra-party crisis in the South West and it is not in the least abetting.
The crux of the matter is the battle for the control of the party structure in the state and the two major contenders remain loyalists of Governor Ibikunle Amosun and the National Assembly members believed to be loyal to a National Leader of the APC, Chief Olusegun Osoba.
The genesis of the current crisis were the events that emanated from the aborted meeting of the APC state Harmonization Committee in January.
Suspected thugs believed to be loyal to the state government had invaded the APC state secretariat in Abeokuta to stop a meeting of members of the Harmonization Committee scheduled to hold there. The suspected thugs believed to be members of the Ogun State branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers Union unleashed terror on journalists and residents of Leme, Abeokuta during their invasion of the APC secretariat.
Scores of residents of the area were also seriously injured by the thugs who wielded various dangerous weapons and attacked all members of the community in sight. They also vandalized the State Secretariat of the APC. The members of the state Harmonization Committee led by Senator Gbenga Kaka had to relocate to the Iwe Irohin Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists after escaping the wrath of the suspected thugs.
The incident generated controversies resulting in the exchange of letters published in newspapers between Governor Amosun and the National Assembly members. Since the incident, things practically fell apart in the APC in the state and the centre could no longer hold as Governor Amosun and the National Assembly members seem no longer to see eye to eye on issues concerning the party in the state.
The division between the governor’s loyalists mainly made up of the members of his SIACO group and the National Assembly members believed to be loyal to Osoba again played out during the last natiowide membership registration exercise of the APC in the state. The governor was alleged to have favoured the SIACO group during the registration exercise at the expense of the National Assembly members believed to be loyal to Osoba. However, the foundation for the current crisis rocking the party in the state is believed to have been laid by the violation of the party guidelines for the conduct of the congresses.
The indication to this first emerged when the state Deputy Governor, Prince Segun Adesegun, faulted Preparations for the APC Ward Congresses. Adesegun’s observation at a stakeholders’ meeting held a day before the ward congresses caused a stir amongst party leaders, including Governor Ibikunle Amosun present at the Gateway Hall venue of the party stakeholders’ meeting.
The deputy governor had contended that due to time factor, some of the provisions in the APC guidelines for the ward congresses were no longer obtainable. He noted that the names of those who would conduct the exercise at the 236 wards had not been published for party members to identify. Adesegun added that such lapses could undermine the arrangement for the congresses.
Earlier, the Chairman of the State Congress Committee, Mr. Ope Salami who presided over the meeting had read out provisions of the guidelines for wards, local government and state congresses of the APC for party members. According to the party guidelines, any venue so identified for any congress must be announced 72 hours before the conduct of the exercise. Salami added that elections at ward level shall be by open ballot.
”The electorate shall queue behind the candidate of their choice or his/her picture or poster.” The SCC chairman also stressed that aspirants for all ward offices must make payments for purchase of nomination forms into the accredited bank accounts of the APC. ”The fees shall be paid through the accredited banks and deposit tellers shall be evidence of payment and will be required for the collection of forms. All completed forms must be returned at least 48 hours before the conduct of the election,” he said.
However, before Salami could respond to the deputy governor’s observation which elicited mixed reactions amongst party chieftains in the hall, Governor Amosun quickly intervened. Amosun called for a voice vote on whether or not to allow journalists seated inside the hall to continue to be part of the meeting. At this juncture, majority of the party members voted against the continued stay of the journalists inside the hall. The media men were then asked to leave the hall.
Our correspondent, however, gathered that Salami later explained that the lapses identified by Adesegun were applicable to the party chapters throughout the country. He said that was the reason the party national leadership had made provision for appeal at the end of the congresses. The meeting had yet to be concluded at the time of writing this report. Political watchers in the state are now of the opinion that Adesegun had been proved right by the events which attended the conduct of the congresses in the state.
The two factions of the APC in the state have had to conduct parallel congresses and produced parallel executives at the ward, local government and state levels owing to their inability to harmonize their positions.
The ward congresses were marred by logistics problems and other irregularities. However, parallel congresses were conducted in many of the wards across the state by the loyalists of Governor Ibikunle Amosun on the one hand and the supporters of the National Leader of the party, Chief Osoba. This further generated controversies, accusations and counter-accusations between the loyalists of the governor and the supporters of the National Assembly members.
And in less than twenty four hours to the conduct of the scheduled local government congresses, the National Assembly caucus of the party called for the cancellation of the ward congresses in the state. The Ogun APC National Assembly also demanded a fresh conduct of the ward congresses. The National Assembly Caucus in a statement signed by Senator Adegbenga Kaka said that last Ward Congresses were preceded and fraught with “various breaches and violation of all known rules of the game.”
Kaka representing Ogun East Senatorial District in the National Assembly added that since the State Congress Committee had failed to address the complaints and petitions which arose from the ward congresses of the APC in the state, the committee should not go ahead with the conduct of the local government congresses. The Ogun APC National Assembly Caucus’ statement reads: “The attention of the worthy members of our great party All Progressives Congress (APC) is hereby called to the shenanigans of congresses going on in Ogun State. We observe and believe that the unbridled breaching of party guidelines on the congress is capable of truncating the aspirations of our party faithfuls.
Various breachesand violations
”The Ward Congresses of Saturday, April 5, 2014; were preceded with various breaches and violation of all known rules of the game. ”Petitions were written from Wards, Local Government and State before and after the stipulated time for the conduct of the exercise and handed over to the Congress Committee Chairman for onward transmission to the State Congress Appeal Committee.
”The 48 hours time space for appeal hearing and disposal lapsed without treatment of any appeal. Even the illegally proposed re-run was eventually cancelled by the Chairman of the Congress Committee. ”According to the Party guidelines, all the Ward Executives to be produced by April 5 congress and elected five-local government delegates are to form major planks of delegates for the April 12th Local Government Congresses, following the laid down guidelines.
”Without resolution of any of the matters arising from the inconclusive April 5 Ward Congress, it is curious that the Chairman of the State Congress Committee could attempt to go ahead with the Local Government Congress. A case of building something on nothing and expecting it to stand.
”This is against any known logic and law, and we regard it as an exercise in futility. Rather, all those that duly made the requisite payment and presented themselves for election at the Ward Congress should be duly declared as returned unopposed or the entire process from Ward level should commence de-novo following to the letters, the guidelines issued by our National Secretariat. We, therefore, call on our faithful party members to denounce the enthronement of dictatorship. We implore all the faithful members to remain calm and believe that justice shall be done.
”Protests from other stakeholders also trailed the ward congresses. Some aggrieved members of the party from Sagamu protested at the Oke-Mosan office of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs against alleged injustice in the election of wards leaders.
Some of the protesters threatened to ‘deal’ with the Chairman of Sagamu Local Government, Funmilayo Efuwape for allegedly manipulating the list of the ward leaders in the council. The aggrieved party members warned Efuwape against returning to her office in Sagamu.
The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Bashorun Muyiwa Oladipo who however intervened appealed to the protesters and assured them of getting justice in the matter. Addressing newsmen on the protest, Oladipo said that the results of the ward congresses in the council were being harmonised.
He added that there were no serious problems in the council. Reacting to the lawmakers’ claims, the Chairman of the state Congress Committee, Mr. Ope Salami described the allegation as false.
Salami disclosed that the committee was in possession of documentary evidence atrocities perpetrated by a faction of the party. He, however, said that the committee would only recognise the names on the approved nomination forms, stating that the committee would release the results on Wednesday.
Salami dismissed insinuations that members of the committee had been bribed, stressing that anyone with proofs should present it. But in spite of the protest and demand by the National Assembly caucus, the congress committee went ahead with the conduct of the local government congresses which ended up being a repeat of the ward congresses. The two groups in the twenty local government areas of the state held parallel congresses and produced two different executives in each of the councils.
Efforts to resolve the problems arising from the conduct of the ward and local government congresses however failed.
Infact, the perennial crisis rocking the party worsened last Wednesday as members loyal to both Governor Amosun and the National Assembly members clashed during the sitting of the Appeal Panel on the already conducted ward and local government congresses. The Appeal Panel which sat in the Gateway Hall, Abeokuta and headed by Alhaji Ikra Bilbis was listening to the grievances of the Amosun and Osoba loyalists when the commotion began.
The commotion resulted in a free-for- all and fisticuffs when Senator Gbenga Kaka took the stage and accused Governor Amosun of allegedly hijacking the whole process. Kaka accused the governor of denying members of the Osoba group the forms for the congresses.
He further accused Amosun of being self-centred and hijacking the party for himself and his loyalists at the expense of the other members. But a former speaker of the state House of Assembly and Senior Special Assistant to Amosun on Political Matters, Hon. Tunji Egbetokun interrupted Senator Kaka and raised a point of order, saying, “Senator Kaka you dare not accuse Governor Amosun like that”.
The atmosphere in the hall was said to have then become charged when a member of the National Assembly, Hon. Olumide Osoba allegedly abused Egbetokun.The lawmaker has however denied this. In the heat of the exchange of hot words, the Chairman, Ijebu East Local Government, Mr. Dare Ogunde belonging to the governor’s faction was said to have suddenly engaged in fisticuff with a former member of the National Assembly, Hon. Deko Onamusi.
Onamusi who was injured in the fight with the council boss was later hospitalized.
Speaking shortly after the free-for-all, a member of the Osoba faction who pleaded anonymity said, “It is so shameful that what happened today could have happened. We are of the view that if there is any dispute, the best way to resolve it is to go in a legal way as a civilised human being.
”The Appeal Committee was set up and we presented our case. Only for Tunji Egbetokun to raise an objection. I have never seen a place where you will raise an objection in an appeal committee. Before you say Jack Robinson, they started beating a former honourable member, Hon. Onamusi and some other people who were there. Honestly the mayhem of today is something that is uncalled for.”
In his reaction, one of the governor’s loyalists and Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Muyiwa Oladipo, said, “One of Osoba’s group members shouted ‘no’. I think that was Olumide Osoba, who shouted ‘no’ to a point of order. Point of order in any parliamentary setting conotes that you give such a person voice to make his submission. Whether negative or positive and from there the whole thing went up.”
Also speaking with newsmen later on, the Chairman of the Appeal Panel, Ikra Bilbis disclosed that the panel had so far received five petitions concerning the conduct of the ward and local government congresses already conducted.
Bilbis assured that the report of the Appeal Panel would be ready before the state congresses of the party. He said that the current crisis within the party in the state would be resolved amicably. And just like it happened during the two previous congresses, last Saturday’s state congresses of the party produced two state executive committees of the Ogun APC.