Governor Dapo Abiodun’s plan to incorporate opposition parties in his cabinet has been generating ripples within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State. In this report, Daily Trust on Sunday captures the silent protest by some party stalwarts.
“I want to be the most inclusive governor this state has ever had. I have extended a hand of fellowship to members of the opposition parties, especially those that contested with us, to join hands with me in taking the state to a greater height.
“I know that some people in our party are not favourably disposed to my decision to run a participatory government. But I think everybody should be given a chance to contribute their quotas to the development of the state. It is a win-win situation for all of us because we are all working towards making the state great,’’ Abiodun had said in July when he met with journalists.
Understandably, his victory during the March 2019 polls was a product of cross-party alliances. About 48 hours to the election, former Governor Gbenga Daniel’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) group declared for Abiodun, a move seen as a masterstroke.
Those who did not openly align with his candidature subtly whittled down their political machineries to earn Abiodun victory, findings showed.
Despite being a candidate of the ruling party, Abiodun had to court other parties following a stiff resistance by the immediate past governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who backed the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) candidate, Adekunle Akinlade.
Shortly after the poll, Abiodun set up a transition committee, comprising party leaders from the APC, PDP, African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), apparently setting the tone for his planned government of inclusiveness. The move was largely seen as payback to the opposition parties.
Interestingly, a number of the opposition leaders who worked with the governor during the election have crossed to the ruling APC. In August, Daniel’s loyalists officially joined the APC from the PDP. The defectors, led by the former deputy to Daniel, Alhaja Salmot Badru, declared for the ruling party at an enlarged meeting in Abeokuta.
The defectors, under the aegis of Gateway Movement, hinted that their decision was arrived at after “due diligence on the condition of the state, vis-a-vis the resolve and direction of the current administration. The defectors vowed to deploy their political machinery to support the Abiodun-led government and ensure maximum delivery of dividends of democracy to all nooks and crannies of the state.
Last week, the ADC candidate in the March 9 governorship poll in Ogun, Prince Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka, hinted that he would be leading three members of the state House of Assembly elected on the party’s platform and other party leaders to join the APC. Isiaka, a three-time governorship candidate, held a closed-door meeting with Abiodun at the governor’s office in Abeokuta.
However, some APC stalwarts have been questioning torrents of defections coming when Abiodun is said to be putting finishing touches to the list of his commissioners. He had repeatedly vowed to cede some cabinet appointments to the opposition.
In October, the governor met with members of the state caucus of the APC on the list of his cabinet members and other pertinent issues in the party. The meeting, which held behind a closed door at the APC state secretariat, had in attendance a former governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba, serving and former political office holders, as well as prominent chieftains of the party.
But briefing reporters after the meeting, Abiodun said he shared with the party leaders the process that would require them to also contribute to the nomination of candidates for the cabinet.
“Yes, I informed the caucus that very soon, our cabinet would be formed. I also shared with them the process that will take place. And because I said that government would be participatory, I shared with them the process that would require them to also contribute to the nomination of candidates for commissioners,” he said.
Two weeks after the APC caucus meeting, Abiodun separately met with Daniel, some PDP leaders, as well the former ADC candidate over the list of commissioners. Daniel, however, told newsmen that he discussed many issues with Abiodun, but added, “I can assure you that the issue of commissioners was not part of what we discussed. That is the prerogative of the governor, and I am sure he knows what he is doing.’’
However, findings by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that there have been growing rancour and silent protest over the nomination of commissioners and cabinet members of the governor.
Apart from the battle for “who nominates who’’ in the delayed cabinet, insiders told our correspondent that party chieftains feared Abiodun’s inclusiveness would block their chances in the yet-to-be constituted cabinet.
Besides, the governor’s directive to APC leaders to nominate candidates for commissioners across the nine federal constituencies was greeted with controversies.
In Ijebu east/north and Ogun Waterside, there was an allegation that party leaders nominated the “highest bidders.’’ Out of the three candidates nominated, it is expected that the governor would pick one.
Aggrieved party leaders said that already, the APC faction led by Osoba had lost two plumb jobs – ministerial and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) executive commissioner appointments to Amosun, who is leading another faction of the party.
The Minister of Mines and Steel, Lekan Adegbite, was Amosun’s commissioner for works for eight years, while the newly appointed executive commissioner at the NCC, Leke Adewolu, contested Ifo/Ewekoro federal constituency on the platform of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in the 2019 elections.
While noting that Amosun had “cornered” federal appointments, the APC leaders said it would be inconceivable to cede some commissioners’ slot to opposition parties at the expense of party leaders who laboured to ensure the party’s victory at the polls.
“Certainly, people will disagree with such decision (inclusiveness). I can tell you that there are dissenting voices here and there,’’ a party leader who did not want his name mentioned told Daily Trust on Sunday.
A group of APC youths in Remo had equally raised the alarm over what they called the “hijacking of key political appointments in the state by opposition parties.’’
The youths, under the aegis of Remo APC Youth, equally warned party leaders against compromising the interest of its loyal members for the interest of opposition.
Speaking at a parley of APC youths in Remo land in Sagamu, the coordinator of the group, Adebayo Adetowubo expressed concern that members of opposition parties “are buying their way into positions that should be held by loyal party members.”
Adetowubo added, “There are serious feelers showing that some party leaders are compromising the interest of loyal party members for their selfish interest in the area.”
However, an APC chieftain in Sagamu, Alhaji Isiaka, Salami told Daily Trust on Sunday that, “There is no way he (Abiodun) would not concede some positions to those parties. As a matter of fact, many of them have joined the APC. And the only opposition party you can refer to is the APM.
“During the election, there were alliances here and there. Many of the opposition parties’ leaders sacrificed much to be sidelined.’’
Also speaking, the publicity secretary of the APC Caretaker Committee, Tunde Oladunjoye, said it was natural for people to feel threatened over such move to include opposition parties in the APC-led government.
According to him, an inclusive government was part of Abiodun’s campaign promises, and it is honourable for him to fulfill the promise.
“There are more than 1,500 positions in the state; it is not all about the appointment of commissioners. Even if the governor appoints commissioners from each local government, people will still complain.
“I want to urge all the party leaders and members to trust in the leadership of Governor Abiodun as everybody will get due compensation,’’ Oladunjoye said.
Also, some party chieftains who craved anonymity said the governor’s decision would make or further mar the ruling party in the state.