In spite of the failure to have his anointed governorship candidate succeed him, the immediate past governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, still remains highly influential in the scheme of things within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The unveiling of the ministerial list by President Muhammadu Buhari, recently, appeared to have reaffirmed Amosun’s political sagacity as the nominee from his state turned out to be the former governor’s trusted, long-standing associate.
The announcement of Olamilekan Adegbite, an architect and the immediate past commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Ogun State as the ministerial nominee for the Gateway State shocked many people, including loyalists of the incumbent governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
Abiodun and Amosun surely had an axe to grind over the outcome of the March 9 gubernatorial election. The outcome poll is presently being contested at the courts. While the two gladiators are sweating it out on the judicial front, they are also at war on the political turf, the latest being the tactical tussle over Buhari’s cabinet.
Specifically, the governor and his predecessor desperately lobbied and engaged in high wire maneuvering and politicking over who picks the ministerial position of the state. Abiodun was interested in securing the ministerial slot to solidify and stabilize his administration politically. On the other hand, Amosun wanted the minister appointed from his camp to further boost his rating as the indisputable generalissimo.
Before the ministerial list was released, several names were touted as likely beneficiaries from Ogun State. They include Senator Lanre Tejuoso, the immediate past Chairman, Senate Committee on Health; Prince Segun Adesegun, former state Deputy Governor; Taiwo Adeoluwa, former Secretary to the State Government; Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, former Commissioner for Commerce and Industry; Alhaji Sarafa Isola, former Minister of Mines and Steel Development; Prince Gboyega Isiaka, three-time governorship candidate and Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, the Allied People’s Movement (APM) governorship candidate in the last elections.
Eventually, it was Adegbite that was the lucky man. Adegbite served for eight years as commissioner under the Amosun administration. A childhood friend of the former governor, he was seen in some quarters as the de facto deputy governor during the administration.
Apart from supervising a key ministry, which handled the flagship programme of the former administration – urban renewal and infrastructural development, Adegbite was perhaps one of the few individuals who have the ears of Amosun.
After the confirmation of 43 nominees by the Senate, President Buhari assigned portfolios to the new ministers on Wednesday last week. Adegbite was posted to man the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development. The ministry was superintended by incumbent governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, during Buhari’s first term.
Amosun’s loyalists went into wild jubilation over the appointment. They believed that despite the recent setbacks experienced within the APC with the suspension of the immediate past governor and dissolution of the state executive committee of the party by the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led national leadership, their camp still remains a formidable force.
Amid the euphoria, Buhari also announced another Amosun’s ally, Adeleke Adewolu, as the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholder Engagement) at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). He is a replacement for Sunday Dare, who was appointed as Minister of Youth and Sports by the president.
Adewolu is a member of APM, a party adopted by Amosun to field some of his candidates, who failed to secure APC tickets for the 2019 elections. He contested for House of Representatives seat in Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency but lost.
At Amosun’s instance, another former commissioner in the state, Mrs. Ronke Sokefun, had earlier been appointed as chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) after the former governor allegedly engineered the removal of Chief Bode Mustapha, who was originally nominated and screened for the position.
Mustapha’s substitution was apparently in retaliation against his open declaration of support for Abiodun as the APC governorship candidate. He was said to have been replaced with Sokefun, who served as Commissioner for Urban and Physical Planning in the Amosun government.
It will also be recalled that Amosun was instrumental to the appointment of a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and the serving Postmaster-General, Bisi Adegbuyi.
Now that Amosun seems to be cornering all the federal appointments for the state and with great prospects for more slots, the confidence level in the ex-governor’s camp is growing again.
On the other hand, there is some unease within Governor Abiodun’s camp. The new men in power at the state level are plotting measures to counter the emerging threat from Amosun, who is currently representing Ogun Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
However, the fallout of the politics of ministerial nomination has deepened the crisis rocking the APC in the state. The party is polarized with factions loyal to both Abiodun and Amosun.
Since taking power after a keenly contested gubernatorial election, Abiodun has been at daggers drawn with his predecessor. Although the governor and Amosun belong to same political party and had been friends for some 20 years back, political differences have inevitably pitted them against each other. Their feud became a major worrisome scenario for the APC before the 2019 elections were eventually won and lost.
Abiodun was backed in the contest by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and former governors in Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, among other power brokers.
The support of these political heavy weights for Abiodun, notwithstanding, Amosun has continued to latch on his cordial relationship with Buhari. The former governor is seen as one of the henchmen of the president and he appears to be savouring the relationship, resulting in the haul of federal appointments for his loyalists.