Southwest APC in the throes of rebirth
A deep insight into how the idea of such a meeting came about would reveal that it was not original. First, peeved by the conflicting signals he was getting about the famed APC leader, particularly about his stand with the party after the Ondo governorship, President Muhammadu Buhari had invited former interim chairman of the party, Bisi Akande and Osun State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to the Villa. They met behind closed doors. But sources revealed that the President mandated the Tinubu loyalists to ensure that the APC platform remained faithful and true to the administration under the leadership of Tinubu.
Then factor in the fact that powerful members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet had been reaching out to front row political actors from the Southeast, telling them sweet tales on how eager the President was to partner with them. Perhaps, but obviously as a result, the open market defections of former political haymakers from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the zone has continued in response to that presidential stimulus.
Some watchers of current moves in the polity believe that the Southwest APC meeting was convened to find answers to the perceived attempts by northern politicians and the Presidency to supplant the zone with the politically malleable Southeast politicians. Could it then be that the Ibadan meeting was clearly a bold step to fight off the seeming insurrection within APC?
Hosted by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the meeting witnessed an impressive turnout of APC chieftain in the zone, including governors Akinwunmi Ambode, Rauf Aregbesola and Ibikunle Amosun, as well as, former governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Olusegun Osoba and Niyi Adebayo.
President Buhari’s ministers from the zone attended in full, giving credence to the suggestion that the meeting was partly in the interest of his administration. Against initial reservations that he may not show up at the meeting, Minister of Power, Housing and Works; Babatunde Fashola, attended the Ibadan fence-mending parley.
Buhari’s valuable political insider and Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, was there, alongside Adebayo Shittu, Lai Mohammed, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Prof. Claudius Daramola, Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs.
It was not only the absence of Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, who was said to be out of the country, or that of Governor-elect of Ondo, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, that left gaps on the claim that the meeting was to chart a new course for the zone in APC. After all, House of Rep. Leader Femi Gbajabiamila and Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye were in attendance.
But, it was the attempt to explain Tinubu’s exit before the second session, which left traces of unsettled frictions about the Southwest fortunes in APC. It was also gathered that the APC leader in his remarks at the meeting, informed the stakeholders of the need for the zone to maintain its partiality for progressive politics within the party. It was this attempt to whip up the progressive fervour that some of those present were said to have interpreted as a call for battle against the conservative administration of President Buhari.
The inherent frustrations experienced by Southwest APC in the present administration is obvious and that must have given vent to President Buhari’s charge on Akande and Aregbesola-Tinubu’s arch-loyalists-to ensure a united APC zonal bloc under the former Lagos Governor.
Yet, it was evident that the falcon could no longer hear the falconer, because even as Fayemi sang a popular song underscoring the need for reconciliation after quarrels, it was obvious that Tinubu was not prepared to dance. As it were, history was heaving its full weight on him.
Former Ogun State governor, Osoba, who briefed journalists tried to parry the signs of discord when he said: “South-West is the leader of progressives in this country and we are determined to re-assert our interest in the progressive politics for the betterment of the country.”
What the former governor and returnee to APC fold could not explain is how the resolution by South-West, as the leader of progressive politics in the country, “to reassert itself in national governance, particularly in the Buhari-led government, which the zone brought about,” will affect the fortunes of the zone in the party.
What Osoba and those who side Tinubu on the need to “reassert the progressive idea in the governance” fail to understand is the obvious limitations they suffer within the political spectrum of the party and the government. This is because as insiders revealed, there is a limit to which the appointees of Buhari would owe allegiance to Bourdillon.
Most importantly, it could as well be the gesticulation towards the Southeast was programmed to send a potent signal to the Southwest that should it leave a vacuum, a willing replacement is in the offing. That may have informed the stand by the ministers that the interest of the zone was better served in support rather than antagonism (assertion of progressive ideals) of the federal government.
That being the case, Osoba’s position that “we have resolved on all the issues concerning the governance of this country and what should be the role and influence that we should exercise as a group for the interest and progress of the country,” tends towards a rational appreciation of the dilemma Southwest faces.
Tinubu’s demeanour after the first session of the meeting did not give hope as Osoba sought to convey that the zone was standing on one political slab to exercise a common political interest. It is within that juncture that the painful re-examination of the gradual slide of Southwest from point of reckoning in APC comes to light.
Had chief Akande been supported to occupy the position of National Chairman, it would have given the zone enormous leg room to bargain and navigate the party towards a particular ideological direction. Having lost that important and powerful lever and with the former governors becoming ministers against the dictates of the National Leader, Southwest unwittingly lost out the command and control positions of the party. So how can the zone curtail or coral the Presidency?
As reports of division within the Southwest APC leadership continued to make the rounds, the division within the Southwest caucus over the Ondo State governorship and the public spat between Tinubu and the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, showed that the APC has grown beyond Southwest’s control despite the prodigious contribution it made to the success of the merger and presidential election.
That the first round of the Ibadan reconciliatory meeting lasted four hours in the Executive Chamber of the Oyo State Governor’s Office, showed how deep the fault lines in the zone was.
Those who witness the leaders as they emerged from the Governor’s conference said some faces betrayed the disparate positions among the stakeholders: winners and losers. More than that, it seems yesterday’s boys were happy to become today’s men.
Although Southwest could count the accruing benefits for its eventual berth in the mainstream of national politics, including choice ministries and headship of important organs, it seems to have lost greatly by displacing itself from the advantages of regional cohesion.
In this, the zone has lost its dignifying voice. That may be what pains Tinubu most, more than the perceived betrayal of his political acolytes that have tasted power from above.
When the next election comes, how far would the present APC chieftain that led the zone to the mainstream say they fared in mainstreaming progressive politics? Answers to that puzzle are not the type that could come from just one day meeting.