2023: Mixed Reactions In Southwest APC Over Defections To Party

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Mixed reactions have trailed the mass defection of top opposition politicians to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the Southwest zone, reports ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor

Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Southwest geo-political zone has been undergoing a lot of changes. While some observers of the party opined that the APC is being strengthened in the zone by the numerous defections into its fold by prominent, erstwhile opposition politicians, others fear that some of the new entrants may alter the current permutations within the party in the zone come 2023.

In the past few months, scores of opposition giants have moved into the APC, such as former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and the apex leadership of the political structure of late Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) strongman, Senator Buruji Kashamu, led by Chief Remi Bakare, in Ogun State.

Daniel, though still in the PDP then, had supported Governor Dapo Abiodun of the APC during the 2019 gubernatorial election.

In Osun, a former deputy governor of the State and candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2018 governorship election in the state, Senator Christopher Iyiola Omisore, moved into the APC. Omisore was the governorship candidate of the PDP in 2014. The former deputy governor, who dumped the PDP ahead of the 2018 gubernatorial election, aided the victory of the APC candidate in the 2018 election, Gboyega Oyetola, when he supported his candidature during a rerun.

The Oyo State chapter of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and a political group of former Governor Rashidi Ladoja also collapsed their structures into the APC last March. The announcement was made after a stakeholders meeting at the ZLP secretariat in Ibadan. Speaking, Kola Olaniyan, the state ZLP Chairman, informed members of the decision to move into the APC. “Without Ladoja, we cannot move to APC. It is with his knowledge that we took that decision,” he said.

Shortly before the October 10, 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, businessman cum politician, Jimoh Ibrahim, also dumped the PDP for the ruling APC. He donated 20 Kia Picanto cars to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu toward his re-election campaign. The business mogul, who was a factional PDP candidate in 2016 governorship election, said he brought PDP into reckoning in the state and will withdraw his support and structures from the party and give same to the APC.

Last January, erstwhile loyalist of former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, Dr. Tope Aluko, dumped the PDP and joined the ruling APC in the state. Aluko and his supporters were received into the ruling party by the APC state chairman, Hon. Paul Omotoso. “I am coming to add value to this party. I am not here to cause trouble. They have given me the guidelines and I am ready to abide by it in the interest of discipline in our party,” he pledged.

 

A long waiting list

And it appears more opposition figures may still join the ruling party ahead of the 2023 elections. Former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, currently the national leader of the ZLP, as well as PDP chieftain and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, are among prominent opposition politicians being rumoured to be putting finishing touches to their bids to move into the APC soon with their supporters.

Also suspected to be on the waiting list are some strong supporters of ex-governor Ayo Fayose in the Southwest PDP. Reliable sources within the party said that the outcome of the last zonal congress that produced Taofeek Arapaja as the Zonal Vice chairman of the PDP is still a source of ill-feeling to leaders of the Fayose camp, especially in Ogun and Ekiti states. “We are still considering our next move. Don’t be deceived by noisemakers,’ a leader of the group in Ogun said yesterday.

In spite of what some analysts tagged “feeble denials” from his camp, former governor Mimiko is still being expected to join the ruling APC soon. Political observers are citing the series of meetings between Mimiko and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and recently with Chairman of the APC National Caretaker Committee and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, as indications for the switch.

Also being discussed as a possible defector back into the APC in Ondo State is the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Agboola Ajayi, who had dumped APC to run against his estranged boss and governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), during the last governorship election in the state. According to a source within the ZLP, “if the ongoing talks with the APC at the national level yield good fruits, there is nothing stopping Agboola too from returning to the APC.”

For Fani-Kayode, talks about his interest in the APC started recently and refused to abate in spite of denials from him, following a meeting between him, Governor Buni and the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello. Re ports soon emerged that he was planning to decamp from the PDP into the APC. Not even repeated vows by the former Aviation Minister that he will remain a committed member of the opposition PDP eased growing allegations that he is planning to leave the party soon.

In Oyo State, a group of PDP chieftains and members, led by a frontline politician, Alhaji Adebisi Olopoeniyan, are said to be on their way out of the party, possibly to the APC, barring any unforeseen development. Olopoeniyan it was that allegedly rejected a truckload of Ramadan gifts recently sent to him by Governor Makinde, stating that he wouldn’t have been given if he had been killed at the controversial PDP zonal congress held at Osogbo.

 

Suspicions and clarifications

Soon after joining the APC, some notable defectors and others who had been latent within the party after the 2019 General Elections in the zone were given a major assignment by the national leadership of the party, leading to suspicions in some quarters over their defections. Former House of Representatives Speaker, Bankole, as well as former governors Ambode, Daniel Amosun and Omisore, were included in the party’s newly formed 61-man Contact/Strategy Committee from the zone.

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The committee was inaugurated by the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee (CECPC), Governor Mala Buni. It has Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badru, as its Chairman and Dr. Ikechi Emenike as the Secretary. Other members of the committee include the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, 11 governors, former and serving members of the National Assembly, members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and some party chieftains.

While numerous party leaders and chieftains have hailed the composition of the committee, praising the Buni-led leadership for putting the new comers to prompt use, some others have been urging the APC leadership to be above board in its dealings in the Southwest as the 2023 General Elections draw closer. A chieftain of the party from Ondo State and a former state Auditor of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), Hon. Gbenga Ojajuni, raised some concerns.

“It is important to pay attention to these defectors, especially in the Southwest. While I appreciate people who work hard to bring more people into their party; I am worried that some of these people are coming for some purposes ahead of 2023. The APC in the Southwest is a united family under the leadership of our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The newcomers and their hosts must realise this and work towards sustaining that unity.

“The calibre of people being invited into the party in the zone, especially from Ogun, Lagos and Osun states, given their political antecedents, are people that will have to be integrated into the politics of the APC in the Southwest. It is not enough to be called into the party from Abuja. We have our ways of doing things here in our zone, and that is very important. Nobody should allow him or herself to be used to disturb the peace APC has enjoyed in this zone,” he explained.

Amidst suspicions about his mission in his new party, Daniel, like most of the defectors, says his coming into the ruling APC “was in the best interest of our people,” adding that “our cause is just, well- considered, not for any personal gain or aggrandisement but in the overall interest of our people. What we all need to do is to be active and proactive. This is the best thing to do now. If the dynamics change at any time we will take it as it comes.”

 

2023 and the defectors

Party leaders in the zone have also been talking about the coming of some of the defectors. APC’s spokesperson in Ogun State and a long running political adversary of Daniel’s, Tunde Oladunjoye, surprisingly spoke glowingly of the former governor’s mission in the party following his defection. “Having him is a good catch for our party at the national and state levels. His coming to APC is a big boost for APC because you cannot take away the fact that as a former governor, he has supporters and followers.

“On the party level, it is clear without sounding victorious, Ogun State is now a one-party state and our party is bound to win subsequent elections. This is the first time in the history of politics in Ogun State to have four governors in a party. We are also having all the deputy governors in a single party not to talk of senators serving, and even former. APC has colonised party politics in Ogun,”

Oladunjoye explained recalling Daniel’s role in APC’s victory in 2019.

Within and outside the party, discussions are rife over the possible roles and interests of some of the defectors as the 2023 elections beckon. Amidst allegations that some of them may have been encouraged to join the party for specific reasons, pundits are saying it will not take long for them, as politicians, to show indications of what should be expected from them politically. “The antecedents of a few of them are even enough to guess where they will be standing,” an observer said.

Former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, is one of those who is not fazed by the harvest of defectors currently being enjoyed by the ruling party. According to him, the APC will disintegrate by 2023. “What will be the unifying factor in APC in 2023? APC is not organised. It is an association of interests centred around Buhari’s personality and Tinubu’s constituency. By 2023, that which joined them together is no longer there,” he said.

According to another source, a member of the national caretaker committee from the south, “party politics is a game of numbers that involves giving and taking. When we ask people to leave their political party to join us; it is usually based on some permutations and agreements. We see some value they can add to our party, and they are interested in some opportunities they see in our party. So, if you say they are here for some reasons, you may not be wrong.”

The Nation also gathered that the coming of some of the defectors may not be unconnected with 2023 political ambitions. “There is nothing strange in what you are insinuating. Yes, some of these people are coming into APC either to pursue their personal political ambition in 2023 or to improve the chances of some other aspirants that will be contesting elections during the next general elections. It is not out of place for people to have political ambitions,” a party chieftain said.

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