The race towards the 2023 election is gathering momentum in Oyo State as the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) met on Friday to initiate merger talks towards ousting the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the governorship seat of the state.
The ZLP under the leadership of a former governor of the state, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, was part of the coalition of ZLP, PDP, Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Congress (ADC), and a faction of Alliance for Democracy (AD) that produced the current Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde as governor in 2019.
The 2019 governorship candidate of ZLP, Sharafadeen Alli, led a team of loyalists of Ladoja to the merger meeting held at Premier Hotel, Ibadan, the state capital, on Friday. The meeting was attended by notable leaders of both APC and ZLP.
The ZLP team members also included former Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Adeolu Adeleke; as well as Messrs. Bimbo Adepoju; Waheed Akanbi; Barrister Koyejo Oyetunde; Alhaja Serifat Tanimowo; Mrs. Monisola Tegbe and K.K. Raji, among others.
The APC team was also led to the crucial meeting by the Caretaker Chairman of the party in the state, Chief Akin Oke. The team also comprised the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Contents, Teslim Folarin, representing Oyo Central senatorial district; two serving members of the House of Representatives, Segun Odebunmi, representing Ogo-Oluwa/Surulere Federal Constituency, and Akeem Adeyemi, representing Oyo federal constituency.
The list of APC team also comprised former Commissioner for Environment in the state, Chief Lowo Obisesan; the 2019 APC governorship aspirant in the state, Dr. Olusola Ayandele; Minority Leader of Oyo State House of Assembly, Asimiyu Alarape; former PDP chairman in the state, Yinka Taiwo; Secretary, APC Caretaker Committee in the state, Mojeed Olaoya; Secretary, APC Registration/Revalidation Committee, Olawale Sadare; and a chieftain of APC, Wale Ohu, who is a staunch loyalist of former governor of the state, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, who is the Chairman of the APC Elders’ Forum.
The 2019 governorship candidate of ADC, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, has dumped the coalition and defected to APC, while the governorship candidate of SDP, Mr. Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), has been appointed by Governor Makinde as a Special Counsel.
In an interview with journalists after the meeting, an APC chieftain, Wale Ohu, said there was nothing new about the meeting “because this is a season of consultations, party consultations. The ZLP symbolises by the Ladoja group and the APC led by our own party chairman, Chief Akin Oke, are here for deliberation and consultation. That is why we are here.”
Asked to comment on the outcome of the meeting, Ohu stated: “It was a nice one. We are looking at a possibility of working together as politicians that we have been in Oyo State. The faces are not new. We know ourselves. We look at a possibility of making Oyo State better if we can now work together; that is the paramount thing in our mind and that is the essence of the sitting. So, that’s what we did today (Friday).”
Fielding more questions on the subject of discussion, Ohu responded: “Why don’t you wait till then. I think we are progressing. The meeting was a very nice one. Old hands met, threw banners and we did consultations. We discuss on how to move this party forward to move the state forward and the signal are very impressive.
When asked why Alao-Akala and Ladoja were absent at the meeting, he also said: “The meeting is not about Alao-Akala and Ladoja. The meeting is about the APC as a party, which happens to have former Governor Alao-Akala as a member, and ZLP, which happens to have former Governor Ladoja as a member. So, the meeting was strictly between the APC and the ZLP. But the APC might be symbolic with Akala while the ZLP is symbolic with Ladoja.”
Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, the former Speaker of the state House of Assembly and a chieftain of ZLP, Adeolu Adeleke, stated: “We are in the period of consultations. So, we came together to consult on the political future of the two political parties. While it is true that ZLP and APC met, I can say this rightly that it is the Bodija; which is the umbrella of ZLP, is bigger than the party. There are many people that belong to Bodija, both in APC and PDP. So, it is just a conglomerate of ZLP and other loyalists of Senator Rashidi Ladoja. So, we came together to consult. We have not taken any decision to that effect. Then, in a couple of days to come, I believe the meeting will also come up with other political parties, that is PDP.”
Answering reporters’ questions on whether Ladoja sanctioned the meeting or not, Adeleke said: “It will be extremely difficult for me to answer that question. But one thing that I can tell you authoritatively is that I can never engage myself in such a meeting without the consent of Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja. So, I cannot tell you whether he gave the directive or not, but one thing I know very well is that I cannot involve myself in such a meeting without his consent. But I am not telling you and I am not confirming to you, and I am not denying it. I know I cannot engage myself in such a meeting without his consent.”
Asked why the ZLP held the merger meeting with APC, and not PDP that Ladoja supported to power in 2019, Adeleke stated: “This is a period of consultations. We are not members of PDP. We have met with APC at the state level. In a couple of days, we are going to meet with PDP also. The final decision would be taken on a particular party we will work with. So, we are just meeting ourselves. So, this will not be the last meeting, I can rightly say.
“We have not taken the final decision. We are going to meet other political party and that is PDP. But one thing I can tell you on a good note is that, at least, for now, from human perspective, it is either we belong to the PDP or we belong to APC at the end of the day.”