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The ripples from the contentious 2019 general elections in Ogun state have yet to smoothen out as Governor-elect, Prince Dapo Abiodun set about the task of reconciling factions within his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and creating room to accommodate the hordes of defectors now seeking political refuge in the victorious ruling party, writes Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor.
THE relative peace with which the last general election came and went in Ogun state, contrary to some earlier predictions based on obvious pre-election day developments, is one reason why it may be correct to say the 2019 general election was successful. In the build up to the elections, Ogun state featured prominently on the list of states where the polls were expected to have ended in chaos and confusion.
The unexpected chaos and mudslingings that characterized President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign in the state on February 11 during which he was heckled and stoned for publicly endorsing Prince Dapo Abiodun as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the state, created worries that the general elections in Ogun, especially the governorship and House of Assembly polls, will be dogged by violence across the state.
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To further raised the fears, in the run up to the guber election, clashes between supporters of the leading parties and candidates became the order of the day. Campaign trains were attacked and supporters of the various gladiators engaged in uncountable free-for-all fights in various parts of the state leading to the loss of lives and properties while many people were injured.
So tense was the situation that many observers blamed the low turn out of voters during the presidential and national assembly elections in the state on the fear of violence that preceded the polls. Utterances of the gladiators and their cohorts didn’t help the situation as threats and counter threats laced the statements of many frontline politicians, in the days leading to the governorship election.
Worried, the police and other security agencies warned of its resolve to deal decisively with trouble makers, before, during and after the elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that it will not hesitate to cancel the results of appalling units where violence and other electoral malpractices are reported. And as the day drew closer, the settings across the state was battle-ready.
Surprisingly, the March 9 elections, save for isolated cases of fighting, went peacefully across the state. Voting was concluded and there was no need for the police or the electoral body to actually make good their threats. Also, the voters turn-out was better than was it was on February 23. The collation of results across the 20 council areas of the state went hitch free. And at the state level, the final result was peacefully announced to the surprise of many observers worldwide.
INEC declared Abiodun, the candidate of the APC, winner of the March 9 governorship polls in the State. The state Returning Officer for the governorship poll, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, announced in Abeokuta at about 12. 45 a.m. on Monday, March 11, that Abiodun scored a total of 241, 670 votes to clinch victory. Olayinka explained that Abiodun beat his closest rival, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) who came second with 222, 153 votes.
He said that the candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Gboyega Isiaka, came third with 110, 422 votes while the Peoples Democratic Party Candidate, Sen. Buruji Kashamu, who scored 70,290 votes, was fourth. A breakdown of the results on local government basis as announced by local government collation officers showed that Abiodun won in 11 council areas and scored over 25 per cent of total votes cast in 16 out of 20 local governments in the state.
The councils won by Abiodun are Ijebu-Ode , Odogbolu, Odeda, Ijebu North-East, Sagamu, Abeokuta South, Ijebu-East. Others are Remo- North, Ogun Waterside, Obafemi-Owode and Ikenne, Akinlade of the APM won in six council areas which are Abeokuta North, Egbado- South, Ewekoro, Ipokia, Ifo and Ado Odo- Ota. Isiaka of the ADC won in Imeko- Afon and Egbado-North local governments while Kashamu of the PDP won in the Ijebu-North local government area.
With the results announced and winner declared, calm returned to Ogun state as the gladiators sheath their swords. The verbal warfare also ceased. The social media platforms, where supporters of the various contenders have been hurling abuses and threats at each other endlessly also went to sleep. Safe for congratulatory messages and a few explanations on how the elections were won and lost, not much is been said again.
Rather, it appeared as if the moment for stock taking and fence meddling is here after all the storm. Away from the worries that heralded the polls, stakeholders in Ogun state are today battling new fears. While some chieftains and members of the ruling APC are said to be currently concerned about how political positions would be shared in the new government, others are said to be strategising over control of the party machineries across the state.
In one of such moves, Lotto magnate, Sir Kessington Adebutu, has reconciled Abiodun, and, his son, Hon. Adebutu. According to reports, the meeting, which held at the instance of Sir Adebutu at his residence in Lagos was called to ensure the two illustrious son of the soil embrace peace. Sir Adebutu reportedly called for peaceful and cordial relationship between the two Remo-born politicians, as much work needed to be done to uplift the people of the state.
A source told The Nation that many chieftains of the APC, especially those who worked closely with Abiodun during the electioneering process, are expressing concern over the rate at which prominent individuals and groups are now flocking into the APC across the state. Another source claimed chieftains and members of the defeated APM are also making moves to return to the APC on the orders of Governor Amosun.
“The influx of new members into the party at all levels, following the many alliance and collaborations entered into leading to the election, is the new source of worry for both chieftains and members of the ruling party. Not a few are wondering how government and party positions will be shared. Don’t forget that the terms of these deals were not made public. We are now hearing various sharing formulas and many people and groups within the party are threatened by this.
“Even some close aides and associates of the governor-elect are expressing concern about the happenings around him. We are now seeing people and groups who openly worked against him coming around to felicitate with him and speak of how hard they worked for his victory. Even those who opposed him openly till the elections were over are now being reconciled with him by prominent persons he cannot but listen to,’ another source added.
On their part, chieftains and members of the APM, alongside some allies and associates of outgoing governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, are faced with an uncertain political future. According to reliable insiders, the political camp of Governor Amosun is in deep confusion over what to do next. The Nation gathered that contrary to the usual, not a single meeting have been held by the group since the result of the March 9 elections were announced.
A source, who also contested for a seat in the state assembly on the platform of the APC said, aside the governor and a few persons, most of the top notches in the governor’s camp are currently out of the country. “Nothing much has been said or done. It is not true that a directive has been given as regards what we are to do next politically.
“A s we speak, I can tell you that majority of our leaders are abroad holidaying. The governor has not said anything concerning the future of APM but don’t forget that we have resolved to challenge the outcome of the election at the tribunal. It is therefore not proper for us to abandon the party when we still nurse the hope of getting victory at the tribunal,” he said.
The dramas before
The peaceful elections and the eventual results saw Governor Ibikunle Amosun being the major loser, following his inability to install Akinlade of the APM, the man he had vowed ‘must’ take over from him, as his successor. Although he is a Senator -elect on the platform of the ruling APC, Akinlade’s failure to win the governorship means Amosun has lost control of not only the politics of the state, but also the structures of the ruling APC.
Shortly before the governorship election, the national leadership of the APC announced the suspension of the governor from the party, while recommending him for expulsion. His fate, according to party sources, will be determined at the next NEC meeting of the ruling party. “The recommendation was sent to APC’s national executive committee, the party’s highest decision making organ, for ratification,” the party’s spokesperson, Lanre Isa-Onilu, confirmed.
Before the guber election, Amosun had described his suspension said that his suspension from the APC is a distraction. Speaking with reporters in Abuja while paying a courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, the Governor said, “for now, I will not talk on the suspension issue because I have learnt in life that when you are pursuing a goal, your eyes should be on the ball and not on the spectators. If you take your eyes off the ball, you will miss the goal.”
Amosun’s suspension was not the only unexpected drama that happened in the build up to the governorship and House of Assembly polls. During the ‘week of long knives’, queer alliances were also formed by people and groups least expected to think of, not to talk about, working together. Many pundits today will argue that the governorship seat was won and lost on the accounts of the alliances formed during this period.
First to move was a faction of the PDP loyal to a member of the House of Representatives, Oladipo Adebutu, himself a factional gubernatorial candidate of the party. Adebutu unexpectedly led his campaign organization and supporters to adopt the governorship candidate of the APM, Akinlade, moments after an appellate Court confirmed Kashamu is the authentic candidate of the PDP. Earlier, Adebutu had accused the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, of sponsoring Senator Kashamu.
Adebutu’s faction, after a closed-door meeting with the APM leaders 48 hours to the election, announced the adoption of Akinlade as its candidate. The factional Chairman of the PDP, Sikirulahi Ogundele, announced Akinlade’s adoption. The meeting, which was attended by the Director-General of the APM, Sarafa Ishola; Akinlade, Ogundele and Adebutu, was held in a hotel in Abeokuta.
“Politics is all about responsiveness. Politics is about being upright. So, we found all these qualities in Akinlade, and as I speak with you, all the state executive members, local government executive members and ward executive members have graciously adopted the candidature of Abdulkabir Akinlade.” Ogundele had claimed while defending his faction’s decision to work for Akinlade of the APM.
Same day, in a move many analysts are still trying to understand, Director General of the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign organisation and former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, urged members of the PDP in Ogun state to vote for Dapo Abiodun of the APC during the governorship election. Daniel, before then, was supporting Adebutu, who enjoyed the support of the national leadership of the party.
“You would have noticed my studied silence in our local politics in recent times. I have busied myself with national politics having served the state for 8 years. I have also been very busy supporting the ambition of the son of our great philanthropist in Remoland to become the next governor of our dear state. You however would have become aware of the court decision yesterday which did not favour him.
“Going forward, I have directed all our structures statewide to cast all their votes on Saturday for Prince Dapo Abiodun, another bona fide Remo son despite current party differences. I therefore enjoin all to please go and cast your vote on Saturday for Dapo Abiodun in the overall interest of our people. With best regards,” Daniel said while making the historic announcement.
Eventually, the election came and the APC swept the votes, with the support of its old and new allies. The APM and Amosun were disappointed as Akinlade came second behind Abiodun, the man Amosun had vowed will never come near the government house. Analysts say the voting pattern recorded during the governorship election showed that the people of the state totally disagreed with Amosun’s choice of successor.
“It is not Amosun the people rejected; it is the man he wanted to succeed him. The governor, from the look of things, is still loved by his people but he made a big mistake in choosing Adekunle Akinlade, a man who commands neither respect nor acceptance anywhere in the state, as his preferred successor. Amosun won an election into the senate. But Akinlade could not even win his senatorial district,” a source claimed.