2019: Ajimobi, Shittu tear Oyo APC apart
by Dare Odufowokan
The fierce political battle between Oyo state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu is not abating. If anything, the crisis is assuming more worrisome dimensions as observers fear it may damage the chances of the ruling party during the 2019 governorship election in the state.
AHEAD of the 2019 governorship election in Oyo state, the political battle to determine who succeeds current governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi is already attaining feverish pitch with almost 20 sons and daughters of the state, especially chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) already criss-crossing the nooks and crannies of Oyo towards the actualization of their gubernatorial ambitions.
A prominent name among those jostling to succeed Ajimobi is that of the incumbent Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu. Like the Governor, Shittu is a chieftain of the ruling APC. But insinuations that the Governor’s camp within the party may not be favorably disposed towards the Minister’s governorship dream is at the root of a crisis that is threatening to tear the ruling party apart before the next election.
the News gathered that currently, the party in the state is divided into two groups with members loyal to the two gladiators and their camps respectively, instead of being loyal to the party structures in the state. Reliable insiders claimed that though the party machineries are firmly under the control of Governor Ajimobi and his loyalists, those supporting Shittu are optimistic that the national leadership of the party will back his aspiration.
So rife is the crisis in the party that some party chieftains and members are openly showing disdain and disrespect to the state leadership of the party which is believed to be loyal to the Governor. On many occasions, party members have defied directives of the state executive committee, preferring instead to abide with instructions from one of the rival political groups within the party.
“The situation is not healthy. In Oyo now, we have within the party, the Ibadan leadership and the Abuja caucus. While the Ibadan leadership is loyal to the Governor, the Abuja caucus takes directives from the Minister. Even the state executive committee and other party organs are divided. On many occasions, we have had party members clashing with one another because of group loyalty.
“It is now so bad that the Governor and then Minister are engaging themselves in media brickbats while their supporters are fighting publicly all over the state. The Minister is even setting up parallel structures all over the place. That is the whole idea of Buhari Campaign group he came up with. And he really got a lot of party members hooked that way. You can now understand why the Governor and party leaders in the state were not at the unveiling ceremony,” a party executive committee member said.
Shittu and Ajimobi
The information gathered that tempers rose again during the week following Shittu’s decision to petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over what he described as the ‘unbecoming behavior of Governor Abiola Ajumobi. Party sources say many chieftains of the party in the state are miffed by the Minister’s action which they viewed as unwarranted and divisive.
“Coming at a time when concerted efforts were being made by stakeholders within and outside the state to resolve the differences between the two camps in the interest of the party, Shittu’s petition is in bad faith. It is a sign that he is not interested in making peace with the Governor and the leadership of the party in the state. For a man who wants to lead the state, it is unfortunate,” a chieftain of the party lamented.
But sources close to the Minister insisted that Shittu’s letter is a precautionary move following realization that the Governor’s camp is bent on frustrating his governorship aspiration by ensuring that the party leadership in the state make things difficult for him and his supporters. An associate of the Minister even added that it is the Minister who is interested in reconciliation.
“When people make allegations, they do it as if those listening to them are not wise. How can anybody accuse the Minister of frustrating peace moves? He is the one who has made all the moves towards peace. While they are shutting him out of the party, he organized a program and made them all chief host and special guests. What else is he supposed to do. He wrote a petition when he realize that their is a plot to frustrate his ambition and that is in order,” the Minisiter’s associate said.
Crossfire of allegations
In his petition, Shittu accused Ajimobi of nepotism, arrogance, disenfranchising members and also creating division within the party in the state. He also accused the governor of ordering the demolition of his computer based test centre which was still under construction. He said the governor is miffed over his acceptance of a chieftaincy title from the Olubadan of Ibadan land and his 2019 governorship ambition.
“I am constrained to bring to your notice the unsavoury development in our great party in Oyo State and the unbecoming behaviour of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who is expected to provide sound moral and exemplary leadership to the citizens of our dear state. This line of action becomes imperative in view of the sad turn of events in the Oyo State APC. It is an open secret that the fortune of the APC has nose-dived in the state.
“This is due to Governor Ajimobi’s undue arrogance, grandstanding, nepotism, caustic and unguarded utterances and creating unnecessary divisions among party leaders and members, thereby balkanising the party along group lines. In doing this, I don’t have anything personal against Governor Ajimobi, but to stress the importance of him not destroying the very platform that made him governor.
“Signs that Ajimobi is set to destroy the party are glaring to political watchers as the voting population in the state is becoming disillusioned more than ever before,” the Minister of Communication said in the petition addressed to President Buhari, copies of which were also sent to John Odigie-Oyegun, chairman of the APC and Bola Tinubu, national leader of the party.
But the state chapter of the APC, in a statement signed by its Director of Media and Strategy, Abdul-Azeez Olatunde, described the Minister’s outbursts as deliberate falsehood because, claiming that Shittu’s desperation to become the next governor of the State in 2019 is driving him to work at cross–purposes with the government and the leadership of the APC in Oyo State.”
“Contrary to the reckless insinuations made by the minister, the Oyo State APC is doing extremely well. Rather than loose any member to the opposition, the Oyo State APC under the leadership of Governor Abiola Ajimobi has been moving from strength to strength. Barely one month ago, the rank and file of the party membership experienced unprecedented growth and development because of a bumper harvest when notable political stakeholders from major opposition parties in the state declared in an open rally where they submitted themselves to the leadership of the governor.
“We must state very clearly that the decampees include a former governor, former deputy governor, former Senate Leader, serving and former members of the House of Representatives, former Senators, former Secretary to the State Government, former senatorial candidate, former State Chairman of the PDP, former state Secretary of the PDP, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, present and past state House of Assembly members, former commissioners and former local government chairmen and several others.
“It is quite saddening, highly disheartening and a monumental disservice to our party that a serving minister of Oyo State origin will as a matter of habit stand the truth on its head and close his eyes to the reality of the rising political profile of not only our party but also of our leader. The fact is that his petition is rooted in falsehood and premised on cheap blackmail.
“It must be stated that while Ajimobi and other leaders of our party have been working assiduously to develop our great party, Bayo Shittu in his characteristic manner has been moving from one local government to another sowing seeds of discord all in the name of his desperate and inordinate ambition to govern the state. Shittu was never part of the developmental process of our party.
“Having lost the governorship primary election in 2015, Shittu abandoned every activity geared towards victory for the party including the presidential campaign. He further took the party to court on the eve of the 2015 governorship election and was working for the opposition Accord Party where his former boss and benefactor contested the governorship election. Today he is reaping from where he did not sow,” the statement read in part.
A threatened aspiration?
Observers of the politics of the state, while warning that something urgent need to be done to halt the festering crisis within the ruling party if APC is desirous of winning the next gubernatorial election, are quick to add that the crisis may not be unconnected to indications that Governor Ajimobi, ably supported by the leadership of the party in the state, may be working for the emergence of another aspirant aside Shittu, as the next governor of the state.
The Nation gathered that reading the governor’s body language and some developments within the party, Shittu, who had earlier showed great optimism that he will emerge as the APC governorship flagbearer in the state, became worried about the possibility of his chances and decided to seek help from the national leadership of the party and the presidency.
“If they are angry that he petitioned the President and the leadership of the party, what were they expecting him to do when it is obvious that he cannot get a level playing ground here in Oyo? When the Governor and the party leadership here are daily plotting on how to impose a candidate on the party. Should he have kept quiet or take to the streets and start fighting? These are the questions we are asking Ajimobi,” a supporter of the Minister said.
But a party leader who sought anonymity because he has not been instructed to speak on the matter, explained that the whole crisis is a continuation of the age-long rivalry between the two politicians. According to the Ogbomosho-born politician, it is an open secret within the party that Ajimobi will never support Shittu’s aspiration to succeed him as the next governor of the state.
“The crisis is not caused by anything but the mutual distrust they both have for each other. The governor will never back Shittu’s aspiration. The Minister, who was hoping things will change between them, is now cock-sure that Ajimobi will not work for him. So, it is the fear of one another that is at the root of the crisis. They have been like this for years. Their rivalry didn’t start today.
“Don’t forget that Shittu contested the governorship seat against Ajimobi in 2011 on the platform of the defunct CPC and lost. He even went to the tribunal and also lost. They were brought together by the idea of a mega party, the APC in 2014. They resumed hostilities during the state congress of the APC. That was why Shittu refused to campaign for the re-election of the governor, but rather chose to campaign for the then presidential candidate of the party, General Muhammadu Buhari,” the source claimed.