by Olusola Babatunde
It is no longer news that the internal crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) party boiled over on Monday, February 11th, when protests by party members of the Ogun State chapter marred the presidential campaign rally as party members booed and pelted the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign, Rotimi Amaechi, even with President Muhammadu Buhari physically present at the event. In the aftermath of the unfortunate incident which has been dubbed a national embarrassment, attempts have been made by some dishonest commentators to hang the charges of incitement and anti-party on the neck of the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
The genesis of the Ogun APC crisis has been well told and bears no need for a recount. It is however instructive to note that up till the day of the rally, the crisis was a festering sore that could bleed with even a tiny poke by any act of tactlessness from the party leadership. Any watcher of Nigerian politics could see clearly that for some time now, APC South West has continued to wobble under the threat of a growing anti-Tinubu agitation. Recently, this has produced a simmering crisis between the Executive and Legislative arms of government in Lagos State, the effect of which has managed to create a strong new voice to energize opposition, especially PDP, in the State. In the past three years, the anti-establishment agitation has radicalized the APC members across the region and affected the configuration of the party apparatuses in Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osun States. Ogun State is the latest casualty of this malaise and the unfortunate debacle witnessed at the Abeokuta rally should be situated in its right context. Simply put, in almost all the South West states, APC has in its fold many angry members whose grievances have not been properly managed and most of these have become the source of PDP’s new found voice and momentum in the region. Specifically relating to Ogun State, if Amosun and the disgruntled party members who were at the receiving end of the party’s national leadership’s unpopular decision to cancel the legitimate primaries organised by the State party branch before imposing another candidate on the state were political prostitutes, by now they would have become an albatross and whipping cane for APC.
The APC should silently thank its stars that things did not go that route. That Amosun is one of the governors whose love and support for Buhari is deep and unaffected is not in doubt. Political whispers have it that Rotimi Akeredolu, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Kayode Fayemi and Ibikunle Amosun form the leading lights of a staunch pro-Buhari group in the South West whose support for the president is not dictated by attachment to the well known Lagos cabal. Political watchers believe that if push comes to shove, the President can count on this group to be on his side no matter what. In Ogun state politics today, Amosun’s passion for Buhari, his organizational capacity and hold on the grassroots political structure have continued to grow in such a way that politically, opposition has been snuffed out virtually. In the whole of the South West today, Ogun state remains the one where PDP is weakest, in spite of the fact that two prominent Ogun indigenes – a former president and a former governor of the state – are among its major backers and pushers nationally.
Though the strengthening of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to absorb the exiting APC members in the wake of the acrimonious party primaries late last year might have created an APC/APM dichotomy which ordinarily should have fed PDP, as the main opposition, the reality on ground in the state today is that dichotomy, if any, has worked to further serve the purpose of shoring up and securing the electoral fortunes of Buhari in Ogun State.
The APC leadership knew the origin of APM and its blistering growth in Ogun State between December 2018 and now. APM has no presidential candidate and it has strategically adopted Buhari as its flag bearer. The well-coordinated APM governorship campaign train across especially the Ogun Central and West Senatorial districts has in so short a time of its existence been able to amass a shocking followership base that will manifestly vote Buhari in the presidential election. Wherever he goes to campaign, the APM governorship candidate, Kunle Akinlade, has always mobilized for Buhari towards the presidential elections. The voter education embarked upon by the APM candidate and his political structure among Ogun grassroots voters has also become so successful, unrivalled and all-pervading that the average Ogun voter will readily lecture you that “ibo akoko ti Buhari ati Amosun ni onigbale; ibo eekeji, onipaki ni dede won” meaning on the first voting day, it is for Buhari and Amosun under APC (the broom party); on the second voting day, it is for APM (the cassava party) all through.
On its own, the Amosun campaign machinery has been awesome and overwhelming while vigorously campaigning state-wide for Buhari, himself and his preferred governorship candidate, across the state. It is therefore no gainsaying that the combined campaign efforts of Akinlade’s APM and Amosun’s APC in Ogun State has so taken over the state such that it would not be out of place to predict that Buhari would get his largest votes in the South West from Ogun State through this novel campaign strategy.
Even if the APC national leadership disliked Amosun for the APC/APM dichotomy in Ogun State – a development which is not seen in any of the other South West States- Amosun’s time-honoured relationship with Buhari and the fact that the intriguing development has been serving Buhari’s interests fantastically in the state, make any consideration of humiliating him or APM politically suicidal in Ogun State of today. As things stand, neither Amosun nor Akinlade with their groundswell of support can be said to be working directly or indirectly against the re-election project of the president. Rather and truthfully, both Amosun and Akinlade have emerged as Buhari’s strongest allies and promoters in the state.
Apart from Lagos with its huge resources, no other state in the south west has mounted unprecedented media and publicity configuration in favour of Buhari going into the presidential election as done by Ogun. No other governor in the region has also embarked on more grassroots campaign in promotion of the president’s re-election project than the Ogun governor.
In addition to the foregoing, it is also important to note that after the unfortunate Abeokuta rally, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was quoted in the media to have said, “The incident was spearheaded by people who furtively oppose the party and the president and managed to infiltrate and disrupt the rally. The attack by these operatives was disrespectful of the office of the president and could have potentially harmed the person of the president. Such antics have no place in our (APC) political discourse”. Does Amosun fall in the class of those who furtively oppose the party and the president, given the transparency of his actions in the run off to the present state of the Ogun politics? Certain facts stood out and must not be discountenanced. That rally was called OGUN STATE APC PRESIDENTIAL RALLY and THE HOST was THE GOVERNOR, IBIKUNLE AMOSUN. It was an APC Ogun State chapter event, holding in Amosun’s territory. Tact was needed on the part of all, especially the APC national leaders (who, by the way, were in the bad book of the Ogun State APC members, particularly the Amosun camp) to manage and navigate the expected political landmines, given the well-known simmering crisis against the party’s imposition of a governorship candidate on the state party chapter.
Tactlessly, however, the leaders sought to roast Amosun politically through ambush strategy. Dapo Abiodun ‘s candidacy (which had been roundly rejected by a large segment of Ogun APC members under the leadership of Amosun) was to have been rammed down the throats of Amosun and his people at an event staged by Amosun to essentially sell PMB’s re-election and his (Amosun’s) own senatorial bid. It is known all over Ogun that Amosun and his camp (in APC and APM) are the ones at the forefront of the PMB reelection project in the state – funding, mobilization, grassroots voter education, etc. For Aregbesola (ex-governor of Osun State) to mount the podium and call those aggrieved APC/APM members hypocrites (alagabagebe) was tactlessness extra ordinaire.
Thankfully, PMB, a man that is not given to irrationality, vindictiveness and rash use of executive power, is the President of Nigeria at this time. He has multi-level access to massive intelligence reports on every bit of Nigeria. He understands fully that Politics is a game of power; politics is a game of numbers; politics is a game of domination. In actual sense there is no such variants of politics as ‘no victor-no vanquished’, ‘graceful in defeat, humble in victory’ and other such sweet sounding appellations. He must have seen that what played out in Abeokuta was politics, shorn of all its academic niceties! If he had not gone to Abeokuta for the rally but had delegated Osinbajo, Tinubu, Amaechi, etc to represent him, what could have been the outcome by now? It is fair to surmise that PMB must have received prior intelligence report from his advance team (which would have been in Abeokuta a day or two ahead of the event) and the Ogun State Office of DSS and other intelligence outfits predicting the possible interplay of forces and likely scenarios to anticipate. With this fact in mind, one cannot but commend the president for his speech which greatly doused the tension and mitigated the havoc. Just as he did at the presidential rally of the APC in Owerri, Imo State, President Buhari asked members of the party in the state to vote for any candidate of their choice in the governorship and state assembly elections. If the President had toed the expected line of an unbending party leader, more fire would have been set on the APC house in Ogun. And with the Presidential elections just a few days away, there won’t be time for any correctional engagement and that would mean PDP’s gain in that state. All that happened at the APC Abeokuta rally has great Intelligence import and the President must have seen what he actually wanted to see. He should be saluted for allowing the event to play out fully without ordering any security clampdown on anybody. The truth is, that was what many of his adversaries were waiting to see him do and by now, we would have been hearing Buhari is a dictator; he does not condone opposition or criticism. See how he dealt with Ogun people, etc. Both PMB and Amosun knew what was at stake. To kill a mosquito perching on the scrotum requires TACT AND HUMILITY. And that the President wisely did.