By Yaya Ademola
IN the run-up to 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, with other progressives worked assiduously to build and nurture a progressive political party that ultimately wrestled power from the Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government. The progressive party – Action Congress (AC) – advocated reforms and change and putting common people first. The 6party favoured new ideas, policies and tactics that would enhance living and working conditions of the ordinary people. To crown it all, its flagbearer, Ogbeni, rolled out his green book tagged “My Pact with the People of Osun State” wherein a 6-Point Integral Action Plan was articulated.
Although, the PDP manipulated the will of the people who voted it out in the 2007 Governorship Elections, the people’s mandate for a progressive party and government was restored by the Federal Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, after titanic battles for three and a half years. That was on November 26, 2010. The subsequent rollout of these Action Plan totally transformed Osun in Road infrastructure; Education (Opon-Imo, School feeding, and Calisthenics); Youth Empowerment (OYES); Health Living; Support for the aged and rehabilitation programme for the mentally challenged; Social engagement with the people (Gbangba Dekun and Ogbeni Till Daybreak) among several other lofty programmes and policies too numerous to list.
After 8 years of maximum two terms tenure of Ogbeni, some sections of the progressive within the party felt that it was the turn of Osun West to produce the next governor. Although, choice of the party candidate was eventually decided in an open primary where the incumbent Governor emerged, the party was so fragmented that it almost lost to the PDP but for rerun and Supreme Court verdict. Up till now, it is yet to recover as there are allegations ranging from alienation, imposition of candidates, mismanagement of the party affairs and lack of transparency, among others in the so-called progressive party. As constituted at present, APC does not have confidence that it could win any free and fair election in the state. Perhaps, this explains why APC government has refused to conduct elections into Local Government Councils since 5th of February, 2021 when the tenure of the Local Government Executives expired, contrary to Section 7 Subsection 1 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution as amended. Osun APC seems to be losing its progressive flavour and in disarray when the Governorship election is almost a year away.
Above realities are what brought to the fore a progressive section within the party under the platform named – The Osun Progressives (TOP). TOP has come out with its 7-point objectives: 1. To promote internal democracy in the party. 2. To ensure effective and efficient party management. 3. To mobilise, reconcile and network for party development. 4. To promote equity, fairness and justice within the party. 5. To ensure transparency and accountability in the party management. 6. To foster level playing ground, no to imposition of candidates. And 7. To initiate programmes and activities for party development.
The immediate past Chairman of APC in Osun, Elder Adebiyi Adelowo, who is the leader of the TOP said, “After the registration and revalidation exercise, the next thing is congress of the party. There is need for us to restructure the party in Osun. We came out with 7-point agenda to ensure that we have internal democracy where members will elect the leaders of the party from the ward to Local Government and at the State. The present ACP State Chairman is a very gentle and nice person but lacks the competence to manage the party. He cannot network. There is no State Working Committee Meeting; State Executive Meeting with resolutions seems not to be working. There must be programmes for the party. The party should be able to make inputs to the policies of the government. Nothing is working or functioning in the party as the secretariat is a ghost town. We must, therefore, restructure the party with programmes as the present leadership is not living to its responsibility. There should be a congress where the best, who have the idea on how to manage a party, would be democratically chosen. Every elective position should be contested and that is essence of democracy.” The above quote is a sincere enough admission of clear realities and a candid expression of determination by a focused caucus within the party to strengthen and reposition it to be formidable enough to win future elections.
Strangely, instead of buckling up and down to adjusting itself to TOP agenda, the party further goes intodisarray. It is like a hunter dog that refuses to hearken to the whistle and instruction of the hunter. Instead of listening to the voice of wisdom and readjust, Igbimo Agba Osun – Osun APC Elders Council to which Lowo himself belongs – went for the head of Reverend Adelowo Adebiyi, TOP Chairman, by suspending him without giving him an opportunity to fair hearing. The Council went further to endorse the second term of the incumbent Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola.
While the APC is yet to get healed from the wounds it sustained from the last Governorship Elections, where some sections felt embittered by the zoning arrangement and unlevelled play ground in the conduct of the election primaries, it has refused reconciling and bringing the members back to its fold and compounding it with its policy of alienation and division within the party. It is very clear that internal democracy and progressive oxygen is lacking in the “Progressive APC,” a self-annihilating situation that some opportunistic elements within the party oddly want to continue. How this is an asset to the party with election barely 14 months away is difficult to understand.
The party seems to have learnt little and forgotten much about the titanic battle it had with PDP between 2006 and 2010, along with all the untold sacrifices, before it wrestled power from it. Except to the blind or deluded, as things stand, APC has no capacity to win any election against any serious opposition in the State.
“Never underestimate your enemy” is a common and wise parlance in battle philosophy. The APC will be hallucinating if it did not notice that the opposition PDP is seriously reconciling its members and organising for future elections. A stitch in time saves nine. If APC is still serious in retaining power in the state, it must change its policy of alienation of its members and supporters, thereby putting an end to all in-house fighting and genuinely embracing all well-intended criticisms and rebuilding efforts.
Otherwise, it will only surprise the politically naive if power eventually slips from it.