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Intrigues, Power Play As Oyo Holds LG Poll Seven Years After

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For more than seven years, efforts made by the present administration in Oyo State under the leadership of Governor Abiola Ajimobi to put in place the needed local government structure at the grassroots level has neither been fruitful nor materialised.

For these years, it has been the appointment of chairmen of caretaker committee that have been saddled with the responsibility of administering the local government areas with the approval of the state House of Assembly.

After the expiration of their tenure which is usually between three and four months, fresh names are sent to the House of Assembly by the governor for rectification and approval for possible tenure extension.

However, it should be noted that efforts by the state government to put in place democratically elected members at the local government areas have always been met with stiff opposition both within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition political parties.

Few days away from the local government election in Oyo State, litigations from the APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are already threatening the exercise.

In Oyo State, civil litigations have always been the excuse for delaying elections into local councils. The trend began in 2003 when former Governor Rashidi Ladoja would not conduct council polls until five days, May 24, 2007, to the end of his tenure, because of several legal challenges to the composition of membership of the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC). Ladoja’s successor, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, also suffered the same fate.

And for almost seven years since it ascended power the Ajimobi-led APC government has been unable to conduct local council election ostensibly because of litigations challenging the composition of the electoral body. Even when the matter was finally laid to rest in the court about three years ago, the APC still continued with the caretaker arrangement, seen by many as an aberration and abuse of power by the state government, which constitutionally oversees the affairs of the councils.

An attempt by OYSIEC to conduct elections into local councils and development areas sometime last year, was thwarted by a litigation instituted by some Baales in Oyo West, Atiba and Oyo East local government areas, who sought an order restraining the commission from conducting the planned election in 2017, pending the determination of the case, which eventually led to shifting the date of the election from an earlier date of February 21 to today.

Curiously, history appears to have a way of repeating itself. Since the demise of the leader of the progressives and former governor Lam Adesina on November 11, 2012, there have been noticeable cracks in the political family along the groups tagged Lamists and Senaco.

Lamists are the core loyalists of the late Lam Adesina and the other group is comprised of those loyal to Senator Abiola Ajimobi. Just like when the controversial and colourful Ibadan politician, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, the then PDP leader in the state died on June 11, 2008, the PDP has never been one again, because of the absence of a father figure, a unifying force and rallying point. This is the situation of things today in the Oyo APC.

The governor, being the leader of the party should naturally control all organs of the party but he seems to have lost grip to control the party ever since Adesina’s demise.

The reason is not far-fetched. Recall that Ajimobi was in the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) prior to his emergence as the gubernatorial standard bearer of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2010.

Senator Femi Lanlehin was reported to be the choice of Adesina and the then ACN in the state but through some machinations of Ibadan elite, the late business mogul, Arisekola Alao, ex-governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu and others, Adesina was ‘begged’ to allow Ajimobi fly the party’s ticket having contested for the same poll in 2007 but lost to Alao-Akala.

Ajimobi, who won the 2011 race against Alao-Akala of the PDP, was regarded as a better and more sellable candidate than Lanlehin, who was later pacified with Oyo South senatorial ticket and won.

Thereafter, with the centre not holding among Ajimobi, Lanlehin and a few others in the then ruling ACN, Lanlehin defected to Accord and is presently in the PDP to contest the governorship again in 2019 with others like Sharafadeen Abiodun Alli, Seyi Makinde and Senator Ayoade Adeseun.

Apart from the threat posed by the opposition in conducting the council election, lack of firm grip by the governor in conducting primaries to select chairmanship and councillorship candidates within his own party was another major albatross for the state helmsman.

Even when the chairman of the APC in the state, Chief Akin Oke, announced at a news conference in Ibadan that all was set for the primaries of the party (about two months ago), the governor who got wind of the development quickly called the party’s leadership to perish the thought.

The governor finally had his way as he summoned some officers of the party from across the 33 local governments and LCDAs to an enlarged APC meeting, where the standard bearers for the forthcoming election were allegedly selected in an hotel in Ibadan, in defiance to the party’s constitution that certain criteria should be followed in choosing candidates at their respective council/ward areas and not in a single location as was said to have been done.

And just a few days ago, the cold war between the Lamists and Senaco finally blew open as a group under the name APC Unity Forum met in Ibadan and issued a communique to President Muhammadu Buhari; the National Chairman of the party, Chief Odigie Oyegun, Tinubu and a few others on the lingering crisis in Oyo APC.

The stakeholders, who spoke during the APC Unity Forum meeting with the theme: “Making 2018 APC Congress work for peace, unity and victory in 2019 elections”, included a former Chairman of TESCOM in the state and chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Abu Gbadamosi, who admitted that there was a serious crisis ahead of the forthcoming local government election which he described as a time bomb waiting to explode because the recent ‘primary conducted’ has factionalised the party.

As a fall out of the intra-party wrangling, thousands of loyalists of the former late Adesina who claimed to have been marginalised in the distribution of political offices by Ajimobi have called on Buhari and the national leaders of the party to monitor the party’s affairs in the state to avoid dismal failure in the forthcoming state congress.

The meeting held in Ibadan, had in attendance at the all-important meeting governorship aspirants for the 2019 elections, the representatives of Minister of Communication, Barrister Bayo Shittu; representative of Chief Moses Alake Adeyemo, the deputy governor of Oyo State, two Senators, members of the Federal House of Representatives including Mr Dapo Lam Adesina, chairmen and members representing the state at federal boards and commissions.

Other stakeholders at the meeting included 19 current members of the state House of Assembly, 20 former members of the State Assembly, 25 former caretaker chairmen who spearheaded the victory of the party in their respective local government councils in the 2015 general elections, 12 governorship aspirants, many local government party chairmen and all notable leaders across the 33 local government councils of the state.

After extensive deliberation on pressing issues confronting the state chapter of the party, they issued a a 7- paragraph communiqué signed by the chairman of the forum, Alhaji Abu Gbadamosi and Dr. Wasiu Olatunbosun, secretary, the forum said, “the forthcoming congresses must be transparent, devoid of any imposition and in accordance with the constitution of the party. Therefore, all party members must be allowed to choose their preferred executive members at all wards, local government, state, and national delegates to the national convention of the party.”

Dissatisfied with the handling of the party, they called on the national leadership of the party led by President Muhammadu Buhari to enforce internal democracy in the forthcoming congresses.

“We are constrained to make this intervention to avert a repeat of the disquiet, disharmony and crisis which the failure to hold free and fair primaries in accordance with the party constitution to elect party candidates for the proposed local government election has caused the APC in Oyo State”, they warned.

The forum equally wants the national leadership of the party “to beam its special searchlight on Oyo State if truly it cares for free and fair congresses, failure of which we believe will spell doom for the fortune of the party in the 2019 elections.”

They enjoined party members in the state to remain steadfast, resolute and committed to the ideals of the party despite alleged several provocations from the anti democratic agents who are hell-bent on frustrating President Buhari’s second term bid.

The forum thereafter called on the State Congress Committee, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigeria Police especially the Area Commander and State Commissioner of Police, as well as Department of Security Services (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and all other security officers to forestall any act capable of undermining the constitution of the party and by extension, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees the freedom of association and choice, by allowing party members’ votes to count.

As part of the crises, the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan ordered that the local government election slated for Saturday, May 12, be put on hold, despite efforts by the State Independent Electoral Commission SIEC to conduct election into local government and LCDA’s May 12 is already at the peak.

It was gathered that the court stopped the poll after it delivered its ruling in a case instituted by some leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ibarapa East local government over the creation of Wards.

It would be recalled that some baales in Oyo West, Atiba and Oyo East local governments sought an order restraining the commission from conducting the planned election in 2017 pending the determination of the case which eventually led to shifting the date of the election from February 21 to May 2018.

But in a swift reaction, the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission OYSIEC stated that the Federal High Court’s judgement delivered on Wednesday to halt the conduct of the May 12 Local Government elections will not stop it from going on with the exercise as planned.

OYSIEC Chairman, Mr. John Olajide Ajeigbe, in a press statement made available to journalists, said the situation was under control and that election will go as scheduled.

His words: “OYSIEC wishes to assure members of the public and all political parties that the recent Court pronouncement instituted by some people in Ibarapa East local government will not affect the forthcoming local government elections into 33 local government councils and 35 local council development areas of the state come May 12, 2018.”

Corroborating OSIEC’s stand, the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, declared that no court has the power to stop the conduct of the local government election billed for May 12 in the 33 local government areas, 35 local council development areas in the state.

He insisted that the election would be held in all the LGAs, LCDAs and wards in and across Oyo state, adding, “the constitution has made it clear that no court has power over an election.”

The governor said the ruling by Justice J.O. Abdulmalik did not stop the local government poll, but only restrained the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) from conducting elections into newly created wards by the commission in Ibarapa East Local Government Area, following issues arising from ward delimitation.

“There is this speculation spreading across the state that the council poll will not hold as a result of the court judgment.

“The court has not stopped us from conducting the election, except in some newly created wards. But we are telling the court that it is in the constitution that no court has power over an election.

“We are telling you that the wards mentioned and those that were not mentioned, we are going to conduct election there.” he said.

Ajimobi said, “We are in touch with the aggrieved members of the party that had gone to court. I want to assure you that the election will hold across the state, even in the disputed wards.”

On the APC ward congress which was held on Saturday, Ajimobi urged the party members across the state to be law abiding and ensure the success of the congress, as the present administration in Oyo State will not tolerate hooliganism, saying any one that foments trouble will be handed over to the police.

He, however, charged all APC members in the state to go back to their local government areas and wards to reconcile and as well be ready to defend themselves in case some people want to attack them during the congress, saying: “If they slap you once, slap them back six times.”

Ajimobi advised the APC members to show understanding with their existing executive members willing to continue in office and that if a peaceful agreement cannot be reached, “go to the field. It is not automatic to be a member of the executive.”

It was, however, gathered that all arrangements had been concluded to hold local government elections in all 33 local government areas, 35 local council development areas and over 600 wards in Oyo State today.

Meanwhile, some disgruntled party members have maintained that the party’s ward congress was marred with violence and alleged irregularities.

Though, the APC Chairman, Congress Ward Congress Committee for Oyo State, Alhaji Musa Halilu-Ahmed, has adjudged the ward congress held on Sunday across the state as peaceful, free and fair, the result had been greeted with mixed feelings.

The chairman said that reports from all the 351 wards where the congresses were held indicated that the exercises were conducted under a peaceful atmosphere, adding that all the steps taken towards the conduct of the congresses were backed by the regulations set by the party for the exercise.

He called on any candidates or party member who felt aggrieved with the outcome of the exercise to seek redress from the appeal committee constituted by the party for the exercise.

Halilu-Ahmed expressed appreciation to the state Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, and the state party Chairman, Chief Akin Oke, for creating a peaceful atmosphere which led to the smooth conduct of the congresses.

However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) faction in Oyo State under the auspices of Unity Forum has condemned the alleged distribution of fake nomination forms by some officials of the state government in the desperate bid to frustrate the congress, even when aspirants sponsored by the governor’s group had failed to pay stipulated nomination fee for the collection of the form.”

It claimed that members of the Forum recorded overwhelming victory in the Sunday’s rescheduled ward congress in the state.

Unity Forum in a statement made available to newsmen also lauded members of the party for the peaceful and successful conduct of the ward congress in the state which made it possible for the forum to record “overwhelming victory ” at the polls.

Quotes

(1.) In Oyo State, civil litigations have always been the excuse for delaying elections into local councils

(2.)

As a leader and stakeholder in the party, the governor said it would be counter-productive to engage in actions and utterances that tend to further divide the party

Pictures

(1.) Ajimobi (2.) Alao-Akala (3) Rashidi Ladoja (4.) The late Lam Adesina (5.) The late Adedibu (6.) Senator Femi Lanlehin (7.) The late Arisekola Alao




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