The Punch

There’s problem in Osun APC –Adebiyi, splinter group chairman

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Mr Adelowo Adebiyi was the acting chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in Osun State between 2011 and 2014. He was recently suspended by the Elders’ Caucus of the All Progressiv­es Congress for associatin­g with a group, The Osun Progressiv­es. He speaks with BOLA BAMIGBOLA on what led to the birth of the splinter group within the APC

WideaHOSE idea is the group, The Osun Progressiv­es? Well, The Osun Progressiv­es, otherwise known as TOP, is a collective of people who believe that we must promote internal democracy in the Osun State chapter of the All Progressiv­es Congress. They are like-minded people who are progressiv­e in their mindset and believe that the party must be controlled by democratic­ally elected officers. They are people who believe that there must be fairness, equity and justice in the party. They also believe that we must ensure that there is a level playing field for everybody in the party, that is, no imposition. All these things are the objectives of TOP, so our target is the forthcomin­g congress. From the ward to the local government and state level in our party, we want free and fair contests. We have just finished the registrati­on and revalidati­on of members, so we are going to have dates for our congresses. What TOP is championin­g is that we must allow credible people to manage party affairs. What we have experience­d recently and all that happened to us in 2018 should not be allowed to repeat itself. We in TOP believe that despite the effort and performanc­e of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola when he was a governor, we should not have struggled to win elections. But because there is a huge gap between the party and the electorate, we struggled to pull through in 2018. It is the responsibi­lity of the party to market the government. But when the party leadership is weak or inefficien­t, then there is going to be a huge gap, and the performanc­e of the government will not correspond to the result in the elections. So, all these are the ideas that led to the formation of TOP.

As good as these ideas appear, why do you think some people believe TOP is out to frustrate Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s government?

It’s a misconcept­ion. We believe that we are all stakeholde­rs in this party. They believe that we must inform the governor before we formed TOP, but to me it’s unnecessar­y. We are more concerned about the party, the governor is concerned about the government, but we believe that we should have TOP to sensitise our members, knowing that we have new members who have joined the party. I met the governor a year ago to discuss the issues that our group is now talking about, but it seems he is not interested. So, we believe in this path we have taken, so as to re-energise the party for future developmen­t.

To a large extent, the governor, who perhaps will be the major beneficiar­y of what TOP is out to achieve, seems not to be interested. Does that not send a signal that you should abandon the idea?

No, the governor can’t be the only beneficiar­y. All of us in the party are beneficiar­ies if things work out well. We should not personalis­e it. We are all stakeholde­rs in this party. The governor is just holding a post; there are other positions in the party. We have people who will contest for State Assembly, as well as the National Assembly. I believe the governor has a team he is working with, which is the cabinet. Some of us who have experience in party management firmly believe that we should come together again to chart a new course. If the governor believes in us, he should invite us.

Some people believe that the leaders and members of TOP are sympatheti­c to the former governor, Aregbesola. Now that TOP has made him the Board of Trustees chairman, does that not suggest that the group is out to work for Aregbesola rather than for the party and Oyetola?

You see, it’s not right to bring all these personalit­ies into this. Let’s talk about the issues first. What are the objectives of TOP? If you are ready to work with anybody, you will believe in its objectives. It’s not a matter of whether we are sympatheti­c to Ogbeni (Aregbesola) or not. All of us worked with Ogbeni as governor, and even the present governor. So, it is a wrong impression. We have a government in place with a team working with him, and the party executives are also working with him. If the governor shares our objectives, then he should invite us. I shared the objectives of our group with him a year ago. I gave him a proposal on what I believed we should do to move our party forward. The results we have in elections are not encouragin­g, especially with the 2018 election. I was embarrasse­d by the result. I remembered that when I was the chairman of the party, we won the governorsh­ip post with over 100,000 votes despite the federal might controlled by the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) then. But the last governorsh­ip election in 2018 was a struggle. I believed that by now, there should be a structure in place and strong party activities. There has been no programme, but some people are doing endorsemen­ts. What are the plans towards achieving success with the endorsemen­ts? Some people are just looking for appointmen­ts here and there, and to show that they are working for the governor, they are attacking TOP.

You said when you presented your proposal to the governor, he appeared uninterest­ed. Did you bother to ask why?

He picked one of the recommenda­tions and appointed Mr (Olatunbosu­n) Oyintiloye. What Oyintiloye is doing today, going to artisans and other groups across the local government areas, was part of my recommenda­tions to the governor.

Some people are saying that TOP members are not comfortabl­e with Senator Iyiola Omisore joining the APC after he assisted the party to win the last governorsh­ip poll. Is that correct?

As far as I am concerned, I have not had any issue with Omisore before, so why should I hate him? I have been in politics for almost 18 years and I have not had issues with him. When I was the chairman, he was in the PDP, and we once had an interview on Channels TV. If he joins the APC, what is my stress about that? The party is free for all. Anybody can join the party. He is not disturbing us and if the governor believes in him, good luck!

There are rumours that TOP is working with Senator Ademola Adeleke ahead of the next governorsh­ip election. How true is this?

(Laughs…) That is laughable. Why should we work with Adeleke? For what? What are we going to gain with that? We are members of the APC and I am a former party chairman. What am I going to do in the PDP? What is he going to offer me? There is a problem in our party and we are all shying from saying it out. The present executives running the party are inefficien­t. They are not handling things well. When I was the chairman, I handled a lot of issues for the governor. I used to summon commission­ers to my office when necessary and ask questions on policy review, formulatio­n, implementa­tion and evaluation. All that was done because of the party. Today, the party executives are doing nothing. There must be a feedback mechanism from the party to advise the governor, to monitor what is happening in the wards and what people are saying about government policies. That’s our concern. We are not convenient with the party executives; they are inefficien­t. No meetings, no Central Executive Working Committee meeting, no state executive meeting. These are our concerns. What are their resolution­s at meetings? Nothing!

As a former party chairman, have you at any time approached the incumbent chairman to discuss these matters?

Yes, I did. When I discussed with the governor, he called the chairman of the Elders’ Council, Mr (Sola) Akinwumi, and brought the two of us together. They told us to work together. The incumbent chairman was my secretary for four years when I served as the chairman. I know his capacity. I have nothing personal against him, he is a very nice man but I am talking about his performanc­e now and results. Will it be correct to say that your position is that Mr Adegboyega Famodun has not performed well as the state party chairman?

I am not the one to rate him, but with the result of the 2018 election vis-à-vis the present state of our party, I am not satisfied with the way things are.

How do you want the new exco of the APC in the state to emerge – through an election or a consensus arrangemen­t?

Yes, that is why TOP is coming up and saying that let us get capable hands to come out and vie for the seats. Let people come out and pick forms, let them campaign to the party members so that people will have options and make a choice. I remember when I was the chairman, there were a lot of programmes, training, and meetings. The party secretaria­t was lively then. People were busy at the secretaria­t. Even the United States ambassador then was in my office. I used my influence to obtain visas for some of the State Working Committee members. There were lots of opportunit­ies for our party members.

From feelers, Oyetola has already pitched tent with the incumbent party chairman, while his predecesso­r, Rauf Aregbesola, is said to be backing Mr Rasaq Salinsile, who is a member of TOP. Is that not an indication that TOP is out to install a chairman not backed by the governor?

Let us encourage democracy. Where is democracy if someone is imposed on us? If Salinsile is coming out and Famodun is coming out, it is a good developmen­t. Let’s see who is better between them. That is our emphasis. It is about democracy. Let the party members have options on who becomes the chairman of the party. Let Famodun campaign. Even the PDP held its party congress in Osun to elect zonal leaders recently and the heavens did not fall. There was an election, a winner emerged, and now, reconcilia­tion is going on within the party. That is the beauty of democracy. That is what we are promoting.

How many senators and House of Representa­tives members do you have in TOP?

It’s not a matter of Reps members or senators. We are talking of policies, ideas and objectives here.

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