Although the 2019 general election has come and gone, the lessons from the polls in Ogun and Imo states are far-reaching for the gladiators, TOPE FAYEHUN writes.
By now the realities must have dawned on the Ogun state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and his counterpart in Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, after both of them lost their bids to install preferred candidates in the just concluded governorship election in their respective states.
No doubt about the lesson learnt by the duo – incumbency factor does not prevail against the majority people’s will at all times.
The whole drama started in Ogun state when Hon. Adekunle Akinlade won a controversial governorship primary election organised by the outgoing governor and others loyal to him, but the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) upturned the primary and sent another new panel from the national headquarters to conduct a fresh primary, which produced Dapo Abiodun as the governorship candidate of the party.
This situation led to a serious division in the party in Ogun state and at the same time set Governor Amosun against the national leadership of the party led by Adams Oshiomhole.
Although Amosun got a senatorial ticket of the party but failed woefully to secure tickets for his preferred candidates for the governorship and State House of Assembly seats.
As a sitting governor, who was interested in chosing his successor, Amosun pulled so many strings from the presidency to other power quarters in order to actualise his dream on the platform of APC but the party at the national level turned a different direction not minding his threats.
Instead of yielding to his threats, the APC NWC approved the list of candidates which had Dapo Abiodun as the governorship candidate of the party and submitted same to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against Amosun’s wish.
After putting the final nail on the political coffin of Amosun’s stooge – Akinlade’s ambition of becoming the candidate of the party in Ogun state, the fireworks began and quickly turned into a game of wits, ego and power play, especially between the governor and APC national chairman, Oshiomhole.
While the governor vowed not to support anybody apart from Akinlade, his preferred candidate, the national chairman of the party also vowed to stop him from turning the party into his personal estate where he can dictate who gets what at any time.
Consequently, Amosun’s candidate, Akinlade and 26 other aspirants for the Ogun State House of Assembly defected from APC to the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to actualise thier dreams.
Speaking about their defection, Lamidi Olatunji, spokesperson for the lawmakers, said they “have come to the inevitable conclusion to actualise their ambitions in APM.”
Olatunji said: “We also wish to acknowledge the fatherly role of President Muhammadu Buhari in seeking to sustain the tenets of democracy, fairness, and equity in the resolution of the crisis in Ogun APC.”
“We regret that Mr. President’s efforts were frustrated by the forces that are hellbent on taking the South-West back to the dark age of slavery, where unelected kingpins direct the affairs of the people,” ge said.
He therefore directed their supporters to move into APM as “the new vehicle for the development of Ogun State”.
Two serving Commissioners, Dayo Adeneye (Information and Strategy) and Modupe Mujota (Education, Science, and Technology) were among the defectors.
Few days after the defections, a peace and reconciliation committee was established to pacify the aggrieved aspirants and those who had defected to return to APC and work for it ahead of the elections.
The committee, which was headed by the Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, had terms of reference to deal with all issues within the South-west. It was gathered that the committee held a series of meetings in Lagos with all the stakeholders in attendance, but they could not resolve the crises. So, the party was divided into two and the factions went their separate ways. The result is now history.
However, the crisis took a dramatic turn during the presidential rally held in the state capital when the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Rotimi Amaechi in his opening remarks said that the rally was an APC campaign, a statement that was received with a resounding shout of “no”, ”no” from the supporters of Amosun and Akinlade present at the rally.
The protests got louder when Oshiomhole came to the stage and disclosed that his mission was to introduce President Buhari and the gubernatorial candidate of the party. This statement sent the crowds into uproar and sachets of water were hauled in the direction of the party’s national chairman, where other party chieftains were seated.
When he could not absorb the heat any longer, Amosun had to step in to appeal to the party members to be calm and not “disgrace” him before President Buhari. However, his repeated appeals fell on deaf ears and went into a crescendo as the insistence of Oshiomhole to present the party flag to Prince Dapo Abiodun, further infuriated the party members.
Buhari, apparently noting the crisis at the rally, thanked party members for turning up in their numbers to receive him and admonished them to vote for him in the February 16 presidential election. However, on the much-awaited presentation of the gubernatorial candidate of the party, the president advised members “to vote for any candidate of their choice”.
Prior to the election, at every public forum, Amosun was sure of electoral victory for his political son, Akinlade, as he used to boast that his candidate was going to win the governorship election.
He always said, “Those people that are going against us here, they are not up to five percent. We know ourselves and we know how we do our things here in Ogun state. Don’t mind them. They are just making noise. Let them come and make their noise here.”
Amosun was able to win during the presidential and National Assembly elections on the platform of the ruling APC and equally worked for the victory of Buhari.
However, few days to the governorship and state house of assembly elections, APC leadership announced his suspensiom from the party. Analysts are of the view that Amosun’s suspension was done to stop him from using the party’s structure in favour of his anointed candidate.
On that judgment day, Amosun’s candidate lost the election to Dapo Abiodun of APC. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Abiodun the winner of the governorship poll in the state.
He suffered a serious defeat from the hands of the electorate in the state who rejected him and his ‘godson’ that they have had enough of Amosun at the helms of affairs in the state.
Announcing Abiodun as the winner of the governorship election at the Magbon, Abeokuta, INEC State Collation Centre, the state Returning Officer, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, at about 12. 45am on Monday, March 11, 2019, said that the APC governorship candidate scored a total of 241,670 votes to emerge the winner.
According to Olayinka, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI), he stated that Abiodun beat his closest rival, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade of the APM, who came second with 222,153 votes.
Although pundits said the pattern of the governorship election in Ogun state, with the consequent outcome in favour of the candidate of the APC, Abiodun, was by no means different from the usual practice where no governor has succeeded in installing his preferred candidate.
According to analysts, the governor could have received accolades from within and outside the state if both camps had worked together to achieve the success like what happened in Lagos, where Governor Akinwumi Ambode sheathe his sword to work for the success of his party in the just concluded elections.
However, this same scenario played out in Imo state, where the candidate and son-in-law of the outgoing governor, Rochas Okorocha was humbled by a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha
Okorocha, who also lost out in a bid to crown his former Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, as his successor, was equally sanctioned by the party for alleged anti-party activities after he parted with the leadership of the party both in the state and at the national levels.
The chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum had wished to hand over the keys to the Douglas House to his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as the next occupant of the Government House, but his wishes were thwarted by the APC NWC by submitting the name of Senator Hope Uzodinma as the candidate of the party for the governorship election.
This led to serious self-inflicted internal strife within the party as both camps fought bitterly in a bid to outsmart each other in the scramble for the soul of the party in Imo state.
While the governor vowed not to have anything to do with the recognised governorship candidate of the party, the NWC led by Oshiomhole anchored its choice of Uzodinma on the grounds that the party will not help Okorocha build a political dynasty for himself in the state.
The crisis polarised the party to the extent that the once indivisible party further broke into bits prior to the presidential and governorship elections as two factions strongly exist and strongly jostled for relevance.
With Okorocha’s clear rejection of Uzodinma’s candidacy and the decision of the NWC not to allow the governor to foist Uche Nwosu as the governorship candidate, his son-in-law later moved to Action Alliance (AA), in a bid to actualise his dream.
However, as the crisis persisted, the party in the state opened up its flanks for the opposition to decimate and both the candidate of APC and that of AA lost the election to the PDP candidate, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha
According to INEC Imo State Returning Officer and Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Francis Atunta, Ihedioha polled 273,404 to defeat candidate of the Action Alliance, Uche Nwosu, Governor Rochas Okorocha’s son-in-law who polled a total of 190,364 votes.
Also, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeanyi Ararume came third with 114, 676 while Hope Uzondima of the All Progressives Congress (APC) polled 96,458.
Despite this development, however, analysts observed that the two governors have something in common. They both sponsored candidates on different political platforms other than APC where they both belong. They won senatorial seats in their respective states on the platform of APC (although Okorocha’s ‘victory’ is hanging) and also failed in their bids to produce their preferred successors.
No doubt about the fact that both of them have completed their constitutionally allowed two-term tenure as executive governors of their states, but both of them have also been axed by the national leadership of their party for the role played in the just concluded general elections.
The only difference between the duo is, while Amosun decided to keep mute and visited President Buhari to discuss the issue of his suspension based on their personal relationship, Okorocha had decided to fight his battle by himself.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha alleged that APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, was determined right from the outset to destroy the party in the South-East.
The governor accused Oshiomole of having a hand in all the crises in the South-East states, arising from what he described as the fraudulent manner he conducted the party primaries.
He recalled that in 2015, he joined the merger that gave birth to APC at the risk of his second term in office and was called all sorts of unprintable names, yet, he won the governorship election and delivered 24 out of the 27 members of the State House of Assembly for APC, two House of Reps members and one Senator.
“In 2019, Oshiomhole felt that such a man should be treated with disdain. He handed over the governorship ticket of the party to Hope Uzodinma who has never resigned his membership of the PDP on the floor of the Senate like others did, giving all kinds of flimsy excuses
“Again, Oshiomhole coming up with the purported expulsion this time was only acting out of the fear that God in his infinite mercy could give Governor Okorocha a role to play in the Senate, in the overall interest of the nation.
“Men like him hardly sleep with their two eyes closed. They always sleep with their eyes open because they have murdered sleep with their actions and inactions. And unfortunately for him, the purported expulsion can’t stand because the law has taken care of it even long before now,” Okorocha said.
However, this further compounded the problem according to pundits. As it stands now, INEC has excluded him from the list of Senators-elect published and later presented with Certificates of Return, just as his party, the APC has equally suspended his membership.
Although the returning officer, Innocent Ibeabuchi, declared him the winner of the election after a controversial collation of results, he clearly noted that he did so “under duress”.
According to him, “I have been held hostage here for days so I’m trying to ease off and take my life home back to my children and for the sake of that I am calling these results under duress”.
In INEC’s list of senators-elect, Okorocha’s name was omitted. “Declaration made under duress”, was boldly written instead.
Sadly, the two-term and outgoing governor of Imo state is fighting two battles with one hand. He could not secure the emergence of his preferred candidate as governor, also his dream of becoming a Senator is threatened.
Whether both of them would be able to get their status back as loyal party members and equally bounce back to political reckoning, time will tell.
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