Indications emerged on Friday the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) in Oyo state may have begun merger talks ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The move, according to sources, is aimed at wrestling power from ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
ZLP, under the leadership of Ex-Governor Rashidi Ladoja, spearheaded the coalition of ZLP, PDP, Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Congress (ADC) and a faction of Alliance for Democracy (AD) that snatched the state from the APC government in 2019.
Sources within ZLP confirmed that Ladoja approved the meeting with the APC which held at Premier Hotel, Ibadan.
The 2019 governorship candidate of ZLP, Sharafadeen Alli, led a team of Ladoja’s loyalists to the meeting, which was attended by notable leaders of APC and ZLP.
The ZLP team members also included former Oyo Speaker Adeolu Adeleke; Mr Bimbo Adepoju; Mr Waheed Amanda and K.K. Raji.
The APC team was also led to the meeting by the Caretaker Chairman of the party in the state, Chief Akin Oke.
The team also had Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Contents, Teslim Folarin (Oyo Central Senatorial district); two serving members of the House of Representatives, Segun Odebunmi (Ogo-Oluwa/Surulere Federal Constituency) and Akeem Adeyemi (Oyo federal constituency).
Others on the APC team at the meeting include former Commissioner for Environment Chief Lowo Obisesan; 2019 APC governorship aspirant in the state, Dr Olusola Ayandele, Minority Leader of Oyo House of Assembly, Asimiyu Alarape; former PDP chairman in the state, Yinka Taiwo; Secretary, APC Caretaker Committee in the state, Mojeed Olaoya; Secretary, APC Registration/Revalidation Committee Olawale Sadare and a chieftain of APC, Wale Ohu, who is a staunch loyalist of former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala.
Akala is chairman of the APC Elders’ Forum.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, Ohu said there was nothing new about the meeting “because this is a season of consultations, party consultations.
“The ZLP symbolises by the Ladoja group and the APC led by our own party chairman, Chief Akin Oke, are here for deliberation and consultation. That is why we are here.”
Asked to comment on the outcome of the meeting, Ohu stated: “It was a nice one. We are looking at the possibility of working together as politicians that we have been in Oyo State. The faces are not new. We know ourselves.
“We looked at the possibility of making Oyo State better if we can now work together, that is the paramount thing in our mind and that is the essence of the sitting. So, that’s what we did today (Friday).”
Fielding more questions on the subject of discussion, Ohu responded: “Why don’t you wait till then. I think we are progressing. The meeting was a very nice one.
“Old hands met, threw banners and we did consultations. We discussed how to move these parties forward to move the state forward and the signal is very impressive.”
When asked why Alao-Akala and Ladoja were absent at the meeting, he said: “The meeting is not about Alao-Akala and Ladoja. The meeting is about the APC as a party, which happens to have former Governor Alao-Akala as a member and ZLP, which happens to have former Governor Ladoja as a member.
“So, the meeting was strictly between the APC and the ZLP. But the APC might be symbolic with Akala while the ZLP is symbolic with Ladoja.”
Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, Adeleke said the parties are consulting to have a better and more secure political future.
Apparently referring to Ladoja with the use of ‘Bodija’ (the location of Ladoja’s residence in Ibadan), Adeleke said the meeting is about consultation and consideration of a coming together of political interest in the overall interest of the state.
He said: “We are in the period of consultations. So, we came together to consult on the political future of the two political parties.
“While it is true that ZLP and APC met, I can say this right that it is the Bodija; which is the umbrella of ZLP, is bigger than the party.
“There are many people that belong to Bodija in APC and PDP. So, it is just a conglomerate of ZLP and other loyalists of Senator Rashidi Ladoja. So, we came together to consult.
“We have not taken any decision to that effect. Then, in a couple of days to come, I believe the meeting will also come up with other political parties, that is PDP.”
Answering reporters’ questions on whether Ladoja sanctioned the meeting or not, Adeleke said: “It will be extremely difficult for me to answer that question. But one thing that I can tell you authoritatively is that I can never engage myself in such a meeting without the consent of Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja.
“So, I cannot tell you whether he gave the directive or not but one thing I know very well is that I cannot involve myself in such a meeting without his consent.
“But I am not telling you and I am not confirming to you and I am not denying it. I know I cannot engage myself in such a meeting without his consent.”
Asked why the ZLP held the merger meeting with APC and not PDP that Ladoja supported to power in 2019, Adeleke stated: “This is a period of consultations. We are not members of PDP. We have met with APC at the state level. In a couple of days, we are going to meet with PDP also.
“The final decision would be taken on a particular party we will work with. So, we are just meeting ourselves. So, this will not be the last meeting, I can rightly say.
“We have not taken the final decision. We are going to meet other political party and that is PDP. But one thing I can tell you on a good note is that, at least, for now, from a human perspective, it is either we belong to the PDP or we belong to APC at the end of the day.”