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Anxiety in Ogun APC over screening of guber aspirants

The anxiety thrown up by the ongoing struggle for the governorship ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun state ahead of the next gubernatorial election in the state is far from abating following indications that leaders of the party in Ogun West Senatorial District may have resolved to go into the forthcoming election with only one candidate to further enhance the quest of the zone to produce the next governor of the state writes Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor

BUOYED by Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s unrelenting support for Ogun West senatorial district in the governorship race, political leaders in the zone, especially within the ruling APC, according to reliable party sources, have been making moves to reduce the number of aspirants from the zone that will go into the party’s much anticipated primary election later in the year.

The Nation gathered that for weeks, leaders of the ruling party have been meeting to deliberate on the state of things within the party concerning the 2019 general election. “Following widening cracks among the camps of gubernatorial aspirants, our leaders agreed on the need for the APC to begin to put its house in order ahead of the next general election. One thing that became paramount was the need to curb the proliferation of groups within the party.

“And it was clear to most chieftains of the party that the divisions were largely caused by the rising number of governorship aspirants. Perhaps because of the open support for Ogun West by Governor Ibikunle Amosun, the zone boasts of the highest number of aspirants. As at the last count, nearly twenty people have indicated interest to vie for the ticket of our party from Ogun West.

“So it became imperative that something had to be done about the large number of governorship aspirant from Yewa/Awori zone if the party is desirous of a rancor free primary election process later in the year. Also, the leaders of the zone were concerned about the need to boost the chances of Ogun West by ensuring that they do not present too many aspirants at the primary election.

“And if you consider the fact that some chieftains from Ogun East senatorial district are still hell bent on having the zone produce the next governor of the state, you will understand why Ogun West elders clamored for a reduction in the number of aspirants. As we speak, Ogun East parades two or so aspirants as against almost a dozen from Ogun West,” our source, a party executive committee member fro Obafemi Owode L.G.A, explained.

Our correspondent also gathered that a committee put in place by traditional rulers in the are had about two months ago, recommended that the number of Yewa aspirants vying for the governorship be reduced as much as possible. The Monarchs’ while pledging their supports for the quest by the zone to produce the next governor, urged political leaders from the area to work towards ensuring that the aspirants do not work agains each other at the primary election.

Speaking to The Nation last Friday in Abeokuta, a former legislator on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Kunle Tella, said several meetings have been held to talk the aspirants into stepping down for one or two them ahead of the primary election. He lamented that all entreaties failed as all the aspirants insisted on participating in the primary election.

“Without being told, we all know that going into a primary election with a dozen or more contestants, while our opponents come into the same contest with one or two aspirants is detrimental to our aspiration. We didn’t need to be told that we must reduce the number and that was exactly what our leaders resolved to do last week. It was not just a decision taken by a few people, it was agreed to by the entire APC structures and membership in Ogun West,” he said.

Bold move?

Determined to reduce the number of the aspirants from the zone and by extension, the ruling party, party leaders in Ogun West took what many people have described as a bold step during the week as they announced their readiness to conduct a screening exercise for gubernatorial hopefuls of Yewa/Awori extraction with the aim of identifying those with the brightest chances of winning the coveted seat for the zone in 2019.

Thus, at what it called an interactive session with aspirants last wednesday, the APC leadership in Ogun West, allegedly on the prompting of the party leadership in the state, called aspirants from the zone together and conducted a screening exercise. Sources privy to the development told The Nation that all aspirants of Ogun West extraction got letters inviting them to the event a week ahead of the date.

A chieftain of the party from Imeko-Afon L.G.A said, “though I am not instructed to tell you this, I am happy to tell you that what happened on Wednesday is in the best interest of our party and our zone. Ogun APC is one happy family and we are always trying to find ways of preserving that unity. For us in Ogun West, the desire to produce the next governor informed the decision to go into the contest as united as possible.

“It is true that all aspirants were invited. The exercise was not just endorsed by the entire Ogun West APC, it also has the support of the party leadership in the state. This is because everybody within the ruling party is desirous of a hitch free primary election. What is more? The leadership of the party, just like Governor Amosun, is committed to the zoning arrangement and are doing everything possible to see that things go as expected.”

According to sources, the exercise was conducted by the zonal leadership of the party ably led by its senatorial chairman, Alh. Bashiru Ademola Fadairo. Other members of the seven-man committee are the Secretary of the APC in Ogun West senatorial district, Hon. Akeen Fagbemi and the Assistant Secretary of the ruling party in Ogun state, Mr. Iyanda Karem.

Others include a prominent leader of the party in the zone, Kayode Olurin; Alh. Adebayo Michael Adeleke, Commissioner II in the Ogun State Civil Service Commission (CSC); the deputy Women Leader of the party in the state, Victoria Oguntolu and the senatorial Women Leader of APC in Ogun West senatorial district. The exercise took place at Fadairo’s private office.

The Nation learnt that the invitation extended to the aspirants and other stakeholders clearly stated that the event will commence by 10.am in the morning. And as if to show the seriousness attached to the exercise, the committee members were seated, waiting for the aspirants, as early as 9.30am. According to a member of the committee, a team of external Consultants was also invited by the committee to help in assessing the aspirants as part of the screening exercise.

“This is something many people within and outside the party have been expecting us to do. And that explains the seriousness we attached to it. We must also appreciate the co-operation of the aspirants. They all came to the event believing in the ability of the committee to do justice to the task at hand. They all displayed rare patriotism by seeing the need for us to do what we had to do.

“Before, during and after the exercise, it was clear to all those involved that some people will have to sacrifice their ambition for the collective good of out zone. And none of those who participated expressed a contrary opinion to what was being done. And I am very optimistic that the outcome of the exercise, though painful to some people, will be accepted by all in the interest of Ogun West and Ogun APC,” another party chieftain said.

Records of the exercise obtained by our correspondent revealed that seven aspirants participated in the exercise though about ten people were extended invitations to be part of the event. According to a reliable source, none of the aspirants absent sent apology or an explanation for his or her absence to the committee. All the aspirants in attendance were made to formally register their presence and participation before the exercise commenced.

The first to arrived at the venue was the Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Suraj Adekunbi. He was seated by 9.30 am. He was followed by a serving member of the Federal House of Representatives, AbdulKabir Adekunle Akinlade, who arrived a couple of minutes after 10.am. They were later joined by Abiodun Akinlade, a former member of the House of Representatives.

Other aspirants who participated in the exercise are Chief Tolu Odebiyi, the Chief Of Staff to Governor Ibikunle Amosun; Kolawole Mobolorunduro Lawal, the current Commissioner for Forestry and another aspirant, Simeon Abayomi Hunye. Also present at the event was another governorship aspirant from the senatorial district, Olanrewaju Tella,

While the committee is yet to officially announce the result of its exercise, reliable party sources have revealed that the number of aspirants from the zone may have been reduced to just three following the outcome of the screening exercise. It was further gathered that the committee may have also sent it recommendations to the leadership of the APC in the state as well as to Governor Ibikunle Amosun.

Unconfirmed reports also claim that the screening committee, ably assisted by external Consultants who assessed the aspirant during the screening exercise shortlisted three names in the order of preference as preferred gubernatorial aspirants of Ogun West extraction with the intention of conducting another screening exercise at a later date to finally choose one of them as the zone’s consensus aspirant.

“Going by the outcome of the exercise conducted during the week, Hon. Suraj Adekunbi, Chief Tolu Odebiyi and Hon. Adekunle Akinlade were shortlisted, in that order, as the leading aspirants from Ogun West. The implication of this is that we are going to appeal to other aspirants to jettison their 2019 gubernatorial ambition in the overall interest of our zone.

“This is a decision arrived at by elders and seasoned politicians. It is a decision that has been communicated to the leadership of the APC in the state as well as to Governor Ibikunle Amosun. It is a decision meant to better our chances at the primary election later this year. I can boldly tell you it is a decision that was not influence by any person, group or interest other than our quest to produce the next governor of Ogun state,” Tella said.

 

What next?

While many party chieftains and members have been hailing the rumored outcome of the screening exercise, some others have been anxiously waiting for the official announcement of the committee’s report. Not a few are eager to know how the committee intends to go about fulfilling its promise to eventually pick one of the allegedly shortlisted three aspirants as its choice for the primary election.

Ironically, mum has been the word from most of the aspirants who participated in the said screening exercise. Efforts to get them to confirm or refute some of the feelers emanating from sources yielded very little. While declining to confirm or refute the reported outcome of the exercise, one of the aspirants admitted that he and other aspirants participated in the exercise and were clearly told of the intentions of the committee.

“I got an invitation to be part of the event about a week before the date. I was a the venue with about seven other aspirants and we were duly briefed of the mandate of the committee by our senatorial leader, Chief Fadairo. Said from committee members, there were some Consultants who assessed us individually before we were questioned by committee members one after the other.

“For me, I will say it is a good development and I am very proud I participated. We all know only one of us will eventually become the party’s candidate and we were told of the need to put the interest of our zone and that of the party over and above every other ambition. So, we expect the committee to do something about reducing the number and since the process was free and fair, I see no reason to protest,” he said.

Another aspirant whose name is not among the three shortlisted by the committee explained that though he has heard about the said list, he is patiently waiting for the committee to officially announce its report. According to him, the committee told the aspirants that after due consultations with relevant stakeholders within and outside the party, the result of the screening exercise will be made public.

“So, like many other party leaders, aspirants and members, I am waiting anxiously for the committee to formally announce its decision for us all to hear. We all know that it will get to this if Ogun West is serious about the governorship position in 2019. And if we are patriots who truly want the best for our zone, this shouldn’t come to us as a surprise. But I know many of us will want to be told how the decisions are arrived at when it is finally made public,” he said.

When contacted, the Chairman of the committee declined to comment on the exercise urging our reporter to be patient until an official statement is made on it by the party. But a source within the party confirmed to The Nation that the committee has already forwarded its resolutions to the leaderships of the party at the senatorial and state levels. “I also heard that the Governor has received his copy of the report,” he added.

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