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Gbenga Olawepo and Fela Durotoye: The clash of new political titans

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

Democracy activists like Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Alhaji Balarabe Musa who championed the right for individuals to form political parties would probably be amused by the emergence of 91 political parties in the country.

Now the soundness or otherwise of the parties is turning into an issue. Within nine months between December 2017 and last August, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, registered 44 political parties bringing the number of political parties in the country to 91.

Fela-Durotoye and Gbenga Olawepo

Of the 44 newly registered political parties only few could have compared with the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, which was seen as one of the most potent threats to the existing two-party domination of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The ANN had styled itself as a party of technoticians, meaning, a group of professionals who had devoted themselves to positively changing their political environment.

However, less than a year after the party was registered, the enthusiasm that followed the birth of the party is now being enveloped by controversy.

The party was championed by Dr. Jay Osi Samuels, a health entrepreneur and some like-minded professionals who believed that they could help change the narrative of politics being a bad game.

However, less than a year into the road, even the professionals have been caught in the bug with the ANN being seen by some as just another political party.

Now the party has produced two presidential candidates from parallel conventions with the acclaimed motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye emerging in one convention and Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim emerging in another convention.

FD as he is popularly called emerged at a convention conducted by Mr. Emmanuel Dania who succeeded Samuels as national chairman. However, that convention was marred by issues, notably the absence of a quorum with only seven states in attendance whereas the party has presence in 28 states.

By the regulations, a valid convention should have had at least 19 states.

The way the convention was organised led to suspicions about a hidden agenda.

The former chairman of the party, Dr. Osi Samuels, was said to have impressed upon Dania the need to do the needful by organizing first, ward, local government congresses before going ahead with the national convention that would produce the presidential candidate of the party.

“It got to a point I had to ask Dania if he had other motives for insisting on organizing the presidential primary of the party,” Samuels told Vanguard.

“He was claiming that since we had submitted a letter to INEC, it meant we had to go ahead. I told him that was no big deal that all we needed to do was send a letter to INEC informing them of the postponement. I even took him to INEC office not knowing he was going ahead with the script of those who were sponsoring him to destroy ANN.”

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Akin Oyebanji, told Vanguard that what Dania and his team did could not stand any legal scrutiny. He said at least, for them to have a presidential convention that could be respected by the law, at least 19 of the 28 states where ANN had already registered presence must be represented.

It was indeed surprising because Durotoye was absent at the August 10 national convention that produced Dania as national chairman.

“It was strange that Durotoye and Dania later became best of friends,” a member of the party told Vanguard.

It was against the background of these developments that a new national convention was held after the majority of the members of the National Executive Committee, NEC met and removed Dania as national chairman and brought back Samuels to the position of national chairman.

The convention ratified his candidature through a voice vote following the earlier withdrawal of another presidential aspirant, Alhaji Ibrahim Eyitayo Dan-Musa.

Other presidential aspirants who had earlier indicated interest in the party’s ticket did not present themselves for screening by the party.

The convention also ratified the strategic alliance between ANN and another political party, Peoples Trust, PT, in the single-minded mission of rescuing Nigeria.

Before the ratification of the candidature of Olawepo-Hashim, the convention had approved the expulsion of the suspended national chairman of the party, Pastor Emmanuel Dania and the deputy national secretary, Mr. Osita Okonkwo for alleged anti-party activities.

In Dania’s stead, the pioneer national chairman of the ANN, Dr. Jay Osi-Samuels, who had at the last convention of the party in Abuja stepped aside, returned to the position and was ratified by the convention.

Olawepo-Hashim, who was elated at the decision by the delegates to elect him unopposed, said on the occasion witnessed by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that he was more than ever committed to the mission to rescue Nigeria from the stranglehold of underdevelopment and economic backwardness.

He said he would vigorously pursue the mandate given to him by the party, promising to deploy it to unite Nigeria, create jobs and put a smile on the faces of Nigerians.

According to him, “Our people are tired of poverty; they want jobs, training for unskilled youths, support for farmers as well as the young and the old.

“There is no time for small boys’ politics on the way to the Promised Land,” Olawepo-Hashim said, “there are political generals in this party, and we will not surrender to political boys’ scouts and girls’ guides.”


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