BY OLA AJAYI
The battle for the control of the 32-member Oyo State House of Assembly between the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has been survival of the fittest since ACN snatched the baton of governance from PDP which held the ace for eight years.
At the beginning of the administration, former governor of the state, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, leader of the Accord Party and Governor Abiola Ajimobi were like Siamese twins. The cordiality was such that Ajimobi’s party – ACN, became so uncomfortable and was looking for ways to separate them. As it is now, ACN lawmakers who were 15 are now 17. Out of the 32 legislators, PDP has 9 and Accord Party has reduced to six lawmakers
FIRST to visit the former governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, in the long battle to make him leave the Accord Party for the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, was the former Deputy National Chairman in the South West, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo who confessed that his party underrated Ladoja and paid dearly for it. To him, the ex-governor was germane to their continued existence in the zone.
Few weeks after, the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo also visited him in his Bodija residence to convince him over why he had to return to the party he left for good. As this was going on, the Action Congress of Nigeria was trying all it could to win Ladoja to its side. Earlier, it was the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who held a closed door meeting with him in Ibadan but Ladoja did not give any positive response.
Later, the State Governor, Senator Ajimobi also tried to make him see reason but Ladoja would prefer a conservative party like the PDP though he had denied severally that he had any pact with the party. At a time, it was being rumoured that the PDP was trying to pocket Ladoja so that they could impeach the governor. But, all these did not materialize. Just when Ladoja was about throwing in the towel, another crisis sprang up within the fold of the PDP during the state congress of the party. This resulted in parallel congresses. One was held at the Liberty Stadium with the former Governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin and others and another congress at the Olubadan Stadium with the Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide and the former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja. This made Ladoja to withdraw to his nest saying he would not like to join a party that was riddled with crises. Since then, he has been very cautious making any conclusive statement on his return to the PDP.
The former Minister of Power and Steel, Elder Wole Oyelese who is also a chieftain of the party called on the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur not to give audience to those who fan embers of disintegration within the party. While speaking with newsmen in his Ikolaba residence, he told the party national leadership not to recognise any state executive in the state as a result of the parallel congresses they had.
Describing it as heartwarming to know that Tukur is an accomplished person whose conscience cannot be bought and who would not mortgage his integrity, he said it was some over-ambitious politicians who are bent on destroying the party. Oyelese said: “At a time when the party should have been brought together under one umbrella, these inordinately ambitious fellows have decided to slaughter the unity of our party on the altar of a selfish agenda by being part of parallel congresses.”
He lamented that it was the same crisis that consumed the party in 2011 elections that it lost governorship seat in the South West. Elder Oyelese was optimistic that with the election of the national chairman, the party would soon overcome the trying period warning him not to get entangled in the antics of those who are not going to be of any electoral value during subsequent elections in the State.
He added that rather than work in concert with responsible stakeholders who were desirous of bringing every shade of opinion in the PDP on board the group of individuals have chosen to pursue a wishful 2015 agenda. He also reminded the two aggrieved parties to realize that the party is bigger than any individual and there is no glory for any party that cannot win an election. Controlling a party does not necessarily translate to electoral success.
While this was going on, the ACN was working on some of the lawmakers of both the PDP and Accord party in the legislative arm. Fortunately for it, it was a strong member of the Accord Party who is a force to reckon with in Lagelu Local Government, Mr. Temi tope Olatoye that was wooed. Temitope, when he was with the former Governor, Otunba Akala in the PDP, he delivered his constituency to the party. So, it was a big blow to Akala then when Ladoja won him over to Accord Party.
With the defection of Temitope (Lagelu Constituency), the political fortune of Ladoja has been seriously affected. He was not the only one that put smiles on the faces of the ruling party in the state. Another lawmaker of the Peoples Democratic Party from Ogo Oluwa/Surulere constituency, Matthew Abioye also agreed to cross to the broom party. To show the importance of the defection of the lawmakers to the party, it was a big celebration as hundreds of party members trooped to the premises of the state governor to rejoice over the hard-won battle.
At the event were the Governor, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mrs. Monsurat Sunmonu, Mr. Olusegun Olaleye, lawmaker representing Ibadan North 2 in the House, other lawmakers, party chieftains and many others. Wearing uniform ankara that had been specifically chosen for the day, the serene atmosphere in the Governor’s office was disturbed with different songs to welcome the new heroes into the party.
As it is now, ACN lawmakers who were 15 are now 17. Out of the 32 legislators in the legislative arm, PDP has 9 and Accord Party has reduced to 6 lawmakers. Governor Ajimobi, who could not hide his happiness said, “It is a very happy thing for us to have very notable members from PDP and Accord joining ACN in the House of Assembly. What does this mean? One, we are now in the majority in the House of Assembly. Two, these are foundation and senior members of the House. “For them to have joined us is a reflection of their own wisdom and foresight, and it is a confirmation of the fact that ACN as a party is now doing well in Oyo State. No other party, no matter their machinations, will change the progress that we have already started in Oyo State,” the governor said.
Also, the Speaker of the House, Mrs. Sunmonu, described the defection as a welcome development, expressing optimism that more of the lawmakers in the opposition parties would still join the ACN. Abioye made a short remark that his decision to leave his former party, PDP, was informed by the unending feud that had made it become a divided house, adding that the party produced parallel executives from two different congresses.
“PDP is a divided house. I have decided to leave the divided house to join a united house, which is the progressive party, ACN,”the lawmaker said. He also said that he took the decision to complement the efforts of Gov. Ajimobi “who has been doing very well through massive infrastructural development to change the face of Oyo State”. Also commenting, Hon. Olatoye said that he decided to join the ruling party in the interest of his people, majority of whom he said had embraced ACN
Looking at the politics of the state, there are many other things than meet the eyes. Vanguard gathered that the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria both at the national and zonal level was working relentlessly to ensure that the party remains a reckoning party in the zone many years to come. It was further gathered that many other lawmakers would still join the party. Defection from one party to another is not a big deal in Oyo State. Politicians in the state only appreciate what they can enjoy at a given moment. Once that source is blocked as a result of change in government, they go to other party for greener pasture. So, the ACN should not rejoice too much as anything can still happen that could turn the tide against it.
With the defection, the race has just begun between the two parties. It is clear that the PDP would not fold its arms. It would continue to make overtures to others too just to have relevance in 2015.