By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Gbenga Olarinoye, Ola Ajayi, Rotimi Ojomoyela & Daud Olatunji
THERE is no doubt that the job given to former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to reconcile aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, across the country remains a Herculean task.
The reconciliation committee, set up by President, Muhammadu Buhari, is coming barely a year to the 2019 general elections.
It is no longer news that all is not well with the APC as pockets of high-profile and deep rooted conflicts within the ruling party have been recorded since the APC took up the mantle of leadership in the country.
However, with the new assignment, there is need for the Jagaban Borgu to mend fences with party members, who have an axe to grind with him.
To observers of political events, it is believed that Tinubu also has an axe to grind owing to the perception that the government has been hijacked by a few cabals.
Also, a school of thought opines that the task of healing the party ahead of the elections should have been given to another party chieftain.
This is because it is believed that Tinubu is also aggrieved.
A long list of aggrieved APC leaders and factions exists in many states that needed to be reconciled.
Apart from party chieftains like the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and perhaps Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, Tinubu’s South-West base has a long list of party chieftains he needs to mend fences with.
His former protégé, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; the Solid Minerals Minister, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State; and Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun among others, have been listed among those who are not in the good books of Tinubu.
No longer at ease in Ondo
In Ondo State, the governorship primary that produced the incumbent governor, Akeredolu pitched Tinubu against the national leadership of the party. Tinubu’s candidate, Dr Segun Abraham, was dumped for Akeredolu and accusing fingers were pointed at Oyegun who was accused of manipulating the exercise to favour Akeredolu.
The party became factionalised since then even till today.
The centre had refused to hold within the party in the state and all efforts to bring the party state chairman, Hon. lsaac Kekemeke to a round table with the governor, had remained futile.
The likes of Segun Abraham, who is still in court challenging Akeredolu’s emergence in the governorship primary, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, and other party chieftains in Tinubu’s camp have been shut out by Akeredolu owing to their disposition to his ambition.
Of recent, Olusola Oke, who left the party to contest for the governorship election but failed, has returned to support Akeredolu after condemning the primary that produced him.
He was said to have been promised a slot in the National Assembly next year.
Tinubu, who is not on the same page with Akeredolu, may find it difficult reconciling his loyalists with the governor.
So far, his loyalists have formed a parallel party, but the governor’s camp has insisted that all those engaged in anti-party activities should go back to their council areas to re- register before they are readmitted.
Meanwhile, an acting state chairman, Ade Adetimehin had taken over the affairs of the party while those seen as sympathetic to Tinubu have been shut out completely.
Although Kekemeke has welcomed the reconciliation move but said: “l think we have a good personal relationship, I don’t think we have any personal thing against each other but basically, I don’t think that the governor has forgiven me or the great number of party people for our indisposition to him prior to his becoming governor.”
On Tinubu’s reconciliation committee, Kekemeke said: “It is a nice idea; it is high time we put the crisis behind us. We have had enough crises, not only here in Ondo State. Be that as it may, we remain one big family. Asiwaju Tinubu knows the party inside and outside so he would be able to assist in bringing the party back together. I think he is the right person for the job.”
In his remarks, the state acting chairman, Ade Adetimehin who spoke through the party’s spokesperson, Abayomi Adesanya said he was optimistic that Asiwaju Tinubu “will help resolve all problems confronting the party in the state as part of his new assignment.”
Adetimehin, however, refused to admit that the state chapter of the party had internal ‘crisis’ saying it was just ‘pockets of problems’ that would soon be resolved.
The acting state chairman described the choice of Tinubu as a right one that would bring the expected result in all chapters of the APC across the country.
Reacting to the appointment, the party in Osun expressed optimism that Tinubu has what it takes to bring about genuine reconciliation.
The party’s Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi said: “Nobody is happy in a divided political party. Experience has taught us that it is better to have a unified, focussed and progressive house than to have its occupants working at cross purpose. So if there are differences, it is only natural that the apex of the party leadership would do everything it can to reconcile the feuding camps and after its mediation, whatever recommendation the leadership makes should become ‘law’ within the party.
“This is so because the party leadership will only recommend what is in the best interest of the party. That’s the principle of party supremacy.
“Individuals or groups that persist in having their way thereafter will be considered rebels and the party will progress without them.
“So for the president to have appointed a national leader of the party to preside over a reconciliation initiative, that is taking the bull by the horn at the highest echelon of the party. It couldn’t have been better than that.
Ajimobi and Shittu in face-off
In Oyo State, there is a cold war between Governor Abiola Ajimobi and Communications Minister, Mr Adebayo Shittu.
This is largely because Shittu is determined to emerge as the next state governor, a move Ajimobi is not disposed to.
Though the party in the state remains indivisible, the Oyo State Chairman, Chief Akin Oke described Tinubu’s appointment as a welcome development noting that as an apostle of peace, there is no alternative to the step taken by President Buhari.
Oke said: “The cardinal principle of solution to a problem is peace. In my effort to get peace, I went an extra mile to make this happen. But some people mistook this for stupidity. As for me, toeing the path of peace is the best solution in any crisis. Where there is no peace, there will be no development. So, I see the appointment of Asiwaju Tinubu as a major assignment and I’m happy about it.”
Factionalisation in Ogun
In Ogun State, the APC said the Tinubu committee has no business in the party in the state but all is not well.
The State Publicity Secretary, Sola Lawal said there are no factions in the party to warrant reconciliation.
Lawal, who said however, the committee was in order, noted that the party in the state welcomes the move. He said: “Any move aimed at settling dispute and reconciliation of aggrieved individuals in any political party including APC, is welcome.
“But, in Ogun State, there are no factions. We have one exco in the party. No two excos. Disagreement within the political party should not be misconstrued as faction.” When asked about the other faction being led by Chairman of Ogun Central, Chief Kunle Adesina, the APC spokesperson said he had not told the party he was aggrieved.
Ekiti APC sets agenda for Tinubu
In Ekiti, a chieftain of the APC, Dr. Olusegun Osinkolu has described the choice of Tinubu as a right step.
He described the former Lagos State governor as someone with cognate political experience and dexterity to be able to deliver on the sensitive assignment. Osinkolu said: “Time has come for APC to learn how to be taking proactive steps to avert crisis rather than to wait and allow it to fester before taking the right steps.
“The crisis between Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje and his former principal, Musa Kwankwaso would not have degenerated to this level if the National Working Committee had taken a proactive step.
Osinkolu also advised him to be proactive enough to enlist the impending state governorship primaries on the agenda of his reconciliation efforts in the party.
He said: “So, I want to advise that our party must not wait until Ekiti APC begins to boil like it happened in Ondo State after the primary before we start to engage the dramatis personae to reposition our party.
“It is not an overstatement to say that Ekiti election will contribute largely to the second term bid of President Buhari.
“If we win the election, it will go a long way in telling Nigerians that the APC is still intact and solid in the South-West and Nigeria contrary to what the PDP has been saying consistently that President Muhammadu Buhari’s popularity and acceptability has waned. That is the reason that Asiwaju Tinubu shouldn’t assume that all is well in Ekiti. He shouldn’t wait till the primary is conducted before wading in, because a stitch in time, they say, saves nine.
“It will be better to take proactive steps than for the party to be scrambling to settle crisis among over 44 governorship contestants after the primary.”
He’ll do the job seamlessly—Igbokwe
An APC chieftain, who belongs to the Asiwaju School of Thought, Mr Joe Igbokwe opines that Tinubu commands goodwill and has the ability to do the job seamlessly.
Igbokwe, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Lagos State, said: “Presently in Nigeria, Asiwaju remains the greatest politician we have in this country.
He commands a lot of goodwill in Nigeria to do this job; he is the only Nigerian that has risen beyond ethnic preoccupation and primordial sentiments in Nigeria. I belong to the Asiwaju political school, so I know what I am talking about.”
“So, he will do this job seamlessly because of his clout, because of the respect people have for him. Already, they are reconciling. He forgives easily because I know those who have betrayed him in the past but he has forgiven them. He believes that reconciling is the big picture and he sees it as a national duty. Reconciling the Oyo State governor and Minister of Communications will be easy. Even the Ondo issue, he has forgotten it, he commands a lot of respect and goodwill across the country”, Igbokwe said.