Several months before the last Saturday’s All Progressives Congress (APC), Ward congresses across the country, former Osun Governor and Interior minister, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, through his utterances and those of proxies had openly boasted to take over the party structure from the incumbent governor, Adegboyega Oyetola.
To demonstrate their readiness for political war, they floated a group, known as The Osun Progressives (TOP), and announced Aregbesola, former Osun Speaker, Najim Salam, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuff Lasun and former Secretary to the State Government, SSG and 2018 governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Moshood Adeoti, as Board of Trustees, BoT, members, with the former governor as the chairman of the BoT.
While Aregbesola publicly announced his endorsement of TOP, Adeoti and Salam did not. But while Salam has been hobnobbing openly with TOP, Adeoti does not as he continues to shuttle between Oyetola and Aregbesola until last Saturday when he dumped TOP to openly identify with the majority in his Iwo Council, who are on the side of the governor.
Unlike Salam and Adeoti however, Lasun publicly dissociated himself from TOP and Aregbesola, just as he lampooned the Interior minister for contemplating a political war with Oyetola, describing the former governor as one who almost ruined his (Lasun) business.
Despite not being able to rally critical stakeholders to his side, Aregbesola carried on with his plans. On three occasions, including a week before the congress, he was said to have visited the state without recourse to the governor, with his loyalists, many of whom are willing and ready to unleash violence on the state, but Oyetola have continued to avoid any circumstance that give his predecessor the slightest opportunity to carry out his plot. This, according to stakeholders in the state was largely responsible for the peaceful conduct of last Saturday’s exercise without a single casualty being recorded.
The Road To Ward Congress
Barely a month to the ward congress, Aregbesola’s loyalists, having failed to bring officials of the National Secretariat to their side later resorted to blackmail and propaganda. For instance, they raised a false alarm that members of the National Committee saddled with the responsibility of supervising the ward congress in Osun were camped in Government House for three days, whereas the committee later told journalists on Friday evening that they only arrived the state on Friday .
A day to the congress, the state party executives had called a stakeholders meeting to deliberate on key issues relating to the congress. As a way of testing his popularity, Aregbesola also summoned a meeting for the same day at his Oranmiyan House, in Osogbo . However, the party leaders and stakeholders shuned the meeting called by Aregbesola and instead showed up at the stakeholders’ meeting, convened by the State party executives.
The stakeholders’ meeting, which was at the instance of the All Progressives Congress (APC ) National Committee for Osun State Ward Congress, had in attendance all the critical party leaders in the State, including Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, three former deputy governors -Senator Iyiola Omisore, Prince Sooko Adewoyin and Mrs. Titi Laoye-Ponle – and Osun Speaker, Timothy Owoeye, Senate’s spokesman, Senator Ajibola Bashiru, members of the National Assembly, the lawmakers from the State House of Assembly, leaders from the nine federal constituencies in State and State excise among others.
At the meeting, the Committee Chairman, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye said the members of the Committee just arrived the State on Friday contrary to the insinuations being peddled around that they had been in the State for days.
The APC Ward Congress Committee Chairman also said that none of the members of the Committee was neither kidnapped nor abducted by anyone as being speculated, saying they arrived Osun late due to logistics needed to ensure smooth process.
While promising that the Committee would do everything within its powers to ensure a transparent, accountable and fair Congress before, during and after the exercise, Elegbeleye said: “As a matter of fact, we got the materials by 5:00pm yesterday (Thursday) at the National Headquarters of our party, Abuja, and as we all know, we have to move down to Osun.
“It was not our fault that we didn’t come here earlier. I want our people to know that I was not kidnapped by anyone. Nobody kidnapped us. We are here to do a very good job and we are hopeful that we are going to get the required support from every member of the party. Osun is peaceful and we are confident of the fact that the Omoluabi ethos which the State is known for will be displayed throughout the conduct of the exercise.
“We are going to be transparent, fair and open to ensure that the entire process is free, fair, credible and acceptable to all.”
On his part, Speaker Owoeye said:”I am confident in the fact that Mr Governor is Omoluabi to the core. That is what we are enjoying in the State. His simplicity has made us to move the State forward. “Congress exercise is a way to renew all the party excos across the States and to the national level and in Osun, we are prepared to have a smooth Congress across the State and I want to assure you that as far as this State is concerned we have adopted consensus. Any other thing contrary to what we have done here is null and void.”
Also speaking, Senator Ajibola Bashiru said: “Although we are looking forward to the Ward Congress tomorrow, to us, it is a very significant and fundamental for many reasons. One, our Governor is a member representing our region on the National Caretaker Committee of our party. So, it is significant for us to work collectively for the success of the exercise here as a vote of confidence for my Governor and competence to the party.
Former Deputy Governor, Mrs Titi Laoye- Ponle said, “I just want to reassure that we are very peaceful in our State and our Omoluabi ethos will be reflected in the conduct of the Congress.”
On his part, Senator Iyiola Omisore said: “I want to assure the people particularly members of the media that we are for free, credible and all inclusive ward congress tomorrow. We have adopted consensus as mode of conducting the Congress tomorrow.”
In his remarks, Governor Oyetola, stressed that the need to ensure that the congress is not used to create problems in the party informed the decision of the National Secretariat of the party to advise that states should consider consensus among the various options. He promised adequate security before, during and after the whole process, noting that the State would do everything to ensure a credible process.
“Mine is to welcome you to our State and I am happy that you are all here. We have been expecting you since. Congress is a way of electing new officers of the party and it shouldn’t generate any crisis and for the national leadership of the party to have asked us to adopt consensus is to avoid rancour. I want our people to ensure that we have a rancour-free exercise. We have provided adequate security for you. The presence of all the stakeholders in the party here at this meeting shows that the party is strong and formidable,” he said.
In the end of the 332 Wards in the State, Aregbesola’s men were only visible in five wards where they conducted a parallel congress. One of the wards is that of Salam, the former Speaker of Osun House. In all the congress was orderly and peaceful. The members of the Osun State National Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Ward Congress have applauded the peaceful conduct of the exercise in the entire State.
The delegates also extolled members of the ruling party for their high level of compliance towards ensuring smooth, free, fair, credible and acceptable congress across the 332 wards in the State. APC loyalists and supporters who participated in the process across wards in the State expressed satisfaction at the adoption of consensus mode by the party leadership.
Addressing journalists shortly after the tour to some of the wards in the State, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, expressed delight at the way and manner the members of the party conducted themselves. Elegbeleye, who supervised the Congress exercise in all the wards visited, said it was worthy of note that the entire process had been seen, observed and adjudged to be peaceful, orderly and in line with the party’s principles and guidelines.
He noted that the reports gathered so far had reflected the peaceful conduct of the members of the party as demonstrated to elect new party’s officers.
“So far so good, the Congress has been conducted in a free, fair and credible atmosphere. The wards visited so far have been very peaceful as members of the party conducted themselves in a peaceful manner to elect their new officers across the registered 332 wards in the State.
“We were able to see the members agreeing on who will oversee the affairs of the party as new executive officers in all the wards we have visited.
“Though the party agreed on consensus for the conduct of the Congress, in case there is any disagreement, then, they will vote. Anywhere the members feel they don’t like a particular candidate, then they can vote.
“But in a situation where for instance we have about a hundred members and eighty-five of them agreed on a particular candidate and fifteen disagreed, there is nothing to vote about. One must have known that the majority have their way,” he added.
While fielding questions from journalists during the tour of the Committee to Iragbiji, the country home of the State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, the governor lauded the members of the party for turning out in large numbers to elect new officers of the party at wards level.
Oyetola also extolled the peaceful conduct of the exercise across the 332 wards in the State.
“Well, you have seen things for yourselves and thank God it is been very peaceful. Members of the party are here in their large numbers, just as the Congress has been done in line with the directive of the National Secretariat of the party.
“It has been peaceful all through as we all agreed to use the principle of consensus to elect those that will be overseeing the affairs of the party in their various wards.
“I am glad the way everything has been going so far. As you can see that people are very happy here in my ward. It can’t be otherwise because we had a consensus agreement across the nine federal constituencies in the State and I am glad that members of the party have been allowed to exercise their rights in this regard.
“I must appreciate those who have contributed to the success of the conduct, particularly members of the press who have been very supportive,” Oyetola added.