By; Niyi Ogungbola.
The political terrain in Ogun State took a whole new, groundbreaking dimension on April 4, 2016 when erstwhile leader and founding father of All Progressive Congress (APC), Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba announced that he was rejoining the party.
Prior to the big announcement, which took place at Osoba’s residence in Ikoyi, Lagos, there had been underground moves to reconcile the former governor and APC bigwigs following Osoba’s shocking exit from the party he helped to write its constitution.
Osoba’s announcement climaxed several weeks and months of speculation over his political future following Social Democratic Party (SDP)’s poor performance at the 2015 Nigerian general elections.
It would be recalled that Chief Osoba left APC to join SDP following the alleged injustice, betrayal and undue favouritism against his supporters in Ogun State wing of the Party.
This, further recalled, led to two parallel party primaries in Ogun State. At Osoba’s end, Chief Olu Agemo was elected as the state chairman while Governor Amosun’s camp produced Chief Adeniyi Roqeeb as its State Chairman, and the two names were forwarded to Abuja.
While Chief Osoba was banking on the party constitutions and laid down rules that, each contestant must pay for their nomination form and submit 24 hours before the primaries for recognition by the national body, Governor Amosun’s camp that was alleged to have paid on Tuesday, the following week after the primaries, was however recognized.
This, among others, frustrated Chief Osoba’s camp which after extensive deliberations decided to pull out of the party.
It would also be recalled that the former governor, was instrumental in Governor Ibikunle Amosun winning in 2011, but was frustrated out of All Progressives Congress in 2014.
Osoba departed the party with the three serving Senators in the state and seven of the nine federal lawmakers to join the SDP.
The party became a household name in Abeokuta and gradually spread across the state and other parts of Nigeria.
In Ogun, rigorous campaigns and sensitization were conducted round the 236 wards and the 20 local government areas.
The party fielded candidates for the Senate, Federal House of Representatives, Governorship election and State House of Assembly but none of its candidate won a seat.
Many however saw Osoba’s return to APC coming, but as altruistic and well-meaning as this move may seem, some political watchers and analysts have formed divergent views on what they see as the advantages and disadvantages of the Akinrogun’s move.
In political parlance, the entrance of a “Big Fish” into a pond will cause some stir, no doubt. And ordinarily, his followers subscribed to the philosophy of ‘the more the merrier,’ more so in a democratic politics of numbers.
However, democracy defined is about people, majority of the people. Any party should always aim to get as many members as possible in its fold. Inclusivity should be the name of the game and not exclusivity as some would want their own democracy to run.
Some are even hinting that Osoba’s re-entry is a programmed part of a secret agenda towards 2019 in Ogun State and elsewhere.
The reference here is to APC national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu assisting party men and others to achieve political ambition over time across Nigeria. If this were indeed so, one wonders what is wrong or unethical politically in rendering such assist.
Indeed one can boldly say that the incumbent administration in Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Lagos and Edo and indeed, the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government are major beneficiaries of the Asiwaju’s larger than life political image and strategy.
However, as major fallout of Osoba’s decision, some members of Ogun APC appear to be having sleepless nights. A political party is supposed to be an aggregation of several interests and decisions arrived at through internal democracy. Every interest in a party must be accommodated, and at the end, majority carries the day.
In outlining the implications of the Aremo’s return to APC, Osoba himself admitted that the royal fathers played a key role to influence his decision.
He said the Alake and paramount ruler of Egbaland, Dr. Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo and his Ijebu counterpart; Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona played prominent roles in his return to the All Progressives Congress.
The former governor, while speaking at the meeting which announced his return from the SDP to the APC, debunked the reports to the effect that he hosted the South-West leaders of the party in his house, saying the discussion for his return had been on for quite some time.
Osoba, who disclosed this while making remarks at the public presentation of a book titled ‘Alake of Egbaland: The Succession Dynamics’ in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, blamed the press for the public misconception of the meeting.
Osoba said the book launch was not a time for political speech making, adding that it was better left for a later date in future.
He said, “There are other things that I would say about Alake but not here today because the story of what happened when the entire APC came to plead with me is not true, and people have erroneously believed that I hosted South-West meeting.
“They came to plead with me and the pleading had been on; and the role of Alake and Awujale, this is not the occasion to say it because this is not a political gathering.
And in a brief chat with the press shortly after launching the book with a donation of half a million naira, he said he was a founding member of the APC and would remain a progressive politician till the end of his sojourn on earth.
On some of the events that eventually led to his announcement, the Aremo held close door meetings with national leaders of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Bisi Akande and Niyi Adebayo, former governors, as well as Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and his Oyo State counterpart, Senator Abiola Ajimobi at Osoba’s Ikoyi residence in Lagos.
At the end of the over three-hour meeting, which was also attended by the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs Idiat Adebule, and two of Osoba’s loyalists, former Ogun State Deputy Governor Segun Adesegun and Senator Gbenga Obadara, confirmed to journalists that he was fully back to the APC.
Though the incumbent governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun was absent at the meeting, which was also aimed at addressing the issues that precipitated the exit of the former Ogun governor from the APC, it was a story of all’s well that ends well.
Earlier, Aregbesola while briefing journalists on the meeting said the leadership of the progressives in western Nigeria met to completely resolve differences within the leadership. The Osun governor, who was flanked by Adebayo, Ajimobi, Adesegun, and Obadara said the reconciliation was necessary to enable the zone jointly prosecute its agenda for growth.
“The leadership in the western part of the country met and has resolved all the differences within the leadership completely.
“As such, we are happy to tell the world that the leadership of progressive politics is united. And we are ready to jointly prosecute the agenda for growth, purposeful leadership, development, good governance for the western part of Nigeria and we are committed to doing that for the entire nation.
“And through that, we have resolved to support the effort at the national to revived the economy and put the people of Nigeria in a better stead than we met it when our party came to power.
“The Aremo himself is back in the progressive leadership of Yoruba race. I have told you that the progressive leadership of Yoruba race is now ready and charged to reposition our land and integrate with others nationwide in its stead.”
In Summary, it could be argued that the Aremo’s decision to rejoin the APC came at a crucial period when experienced hands are needed to steady the ship.
However, it is hoped that ideological differences that ignited his exit from APC initially, would not rear its ugly head again.
SIA group should see him as a father whose influence would help to solidify the party and enhance her chances in 2019.
To Chief Osoba, he should embrace Amosun and his group with his large heart and bring all together without any hard feeling.