Communication Minister, Barr. Adebayo Shittu has described the recent actions of Governor Abiola Ajimobi as an attempt to hijack the party structure ahead of the 2019 election.
Shittu who spoke on a radio programme monitored by Inside Oyo, in Ibadan, the state capital, said last week’s inauguration of elders’ advisory council by the governor is like forming a parallel State Executives, adding that the action is unknown to the constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It would be recalled that protest greeted the nomination of caretaker chairmen for 28 and 29 local government and local council development areas, especially from Oke-ogun, last week also.
The Saki-born lawyer, however, said that he accepts the governor, just like every other person, as the leader of the party in the state but won’t make him fold his arms when things are not going in the right direction.
He disclosed that the state executives of the party had last year sold forms to intending chairmen and when it became obvious they were going to do what the constitution says, by conducting primaries, the governor became agitated.
His words: ”The appointment of zonal leaders or elders’ advisory council for APC in Oyo State is unconstitutional and it is a clear attempt to make the state executive of the party irrelevant. It is so clear. There is no position of zonal leaders in our constitution. We must challenge that because it will be used for sinister motive. The supreme structure for the state is the state executive, representing various parts of the state. The interest of our people must be of utmost priority. What is the motivation for that? Where do you put all our leaders who worked tirelessly for our success in 2015 election? Why do you want to make them irrelevant to people you think will do your bidding. I don’t think it is patriotic.
”We have the state executive of the party recognised by the constitution. With due respect to Mr. Governor, he does not have a role to play than managing the state executive of the party. Symbolically, he is supposed to be the leader because he is a product of the activities and sacrifices of the state executive which harnessed all the resources to ensure that he wins. It is not possible for one person to win; it is our collective efforts.
“But what we are saying is that the governor must respect the wishes of the state executive, particularly if what they are doing is in consonance with the constitution of our party and that of Nigeria. At the national level, there has been no clash between the president and the national executive council of our party. Today, the state executive of the party is frustrated. Everybody is frustrated! So, what we should be asking is that why are we in this horrible situation? Why must our governor alienate a certain segment of the party apparatus for what he is doing?
“Few months ago, the recognised state executive of the APC in Oyo State sent out notice for people who wanted to contest election to collect forms for primaries. And a lot of people collected forms. What justice would justify their being excluded from this? It will be uncharitable for anybody to accuse the recognised state executive of our party which is seeking to do the bidding of the constitution of our party of any wrongdoings.
“It is a matter that we all must open our eyes because you only need to be sleeping to allow injustice and oppression to be sustained in a sane society. Before 2019 election comes, I want to believe that the target for all of these ‘bulldozing’ will be to replicate this in the delegate election which I assured you will never happen. We must continue to be forward looking; we must continue to live by the ideals of the founding fathers of our party about democracy, fairness and all inclusiveness rather than just handpicking.
“By the grace of God, I want to contest for the governorship election in 2019. I don’t want to be handpicked by anybody, I want to contest a primary that if I lose, I will be happy. I can assure you that the primary will be fair. With the national executive of the party that I see and with the symbolic style of President Muhammadu Buhari, it will be transparent. If the president will go through primary, why would others be different?
“The governor is the leader of the party in the state. And I am the only minister from Oyo State, representing the state in the federal executive council. A lot of meetings have been held in this state. The governor never considered inviting me to any of those meetings. I don’t think I am insignificant in the scheme of things in the party. In the last election, I was the chief coordinator in my local government and Saki West had the second largest in the whole of Oke-ogun.
“As at today, the party is at a stage where the bubble may burst. The only power I have now is to speak out my mind so that perhaps, that will inspire people of llkeminds. If I discuss with him with the rate things are going and he says no, will I have the moral backing to come to the open and start talking? For me, I think the party leadership at the highest level should intervene. People are frustrated; these are people who contributed to the emergence of the governor in 2011. If the executive have been doing some things which run foul of the constitution, which I don’t see them doing as I see them as working towards the realization of the objectives of our dear party constitution, I think sentiment should be shared so that we should deal with it altogether. We don’t want the APC to go the way PDP has gone. It is unfortunate I have to tell you this: the day people went to protest at the governor’s office, thugs were sent to pester people with stones and other dangerous objects. Journalists were there. Is that the kind of democracy we are practising?. Some, who were coming, were waylaid at Moniya. Even in my own Saki town yesterday, after the swearing in of new caretaker chairmen, their thugs descended on people. In fact, the wife of the APC chairman in Saki West is still at the hospital. Why? Because his husband did not support the caretaker arrangement all sent by the new chairman. This is happening in many other towns. Inpunity must stop,” he explained.
On how state governors are manipulating allocation meant for local government, Shittu lamented: “Like the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara said, we must put a stop to the activities of middlemen who stand in between the Federal Goverment and the local government. Money meant for local government are diverted. Are we sure all the allocation are given to the respective local government?? Where is the record that we have to be sure these monies are properly used? If you have a democratically elected chairman, no governor can stand in between them and the FG for resources that genuinely belong to their council areas. but when you have a caretaker committee who is there at the mercy of an appointor who can remove him at any time, who can be dictated to, who can be instructed to, even by an ordinary permanent secretary of ministry of local government, then we are in trouble.”
Asked how the members of the State Assembly has fared, he remarked: “With due respect to members of the Assembly; you know I was a member of that Assembly between 1979 and 1983 and I still see myself as a member. I have respect for all of them as individuals but at a corporate level, I don’t think they have been fair to the people of Oyo State. When the speaker was first elected, the first thing he did as a duty was to prostrate for the governor in the full glare of the public. He could do that because he is no more than a son to the governor. At a public place where there is the paraphernalia of the speaker of the state house of assembly, you don’t do that. And consistently, if you observe events up there, in relations to the recent caretaker chairmanship things, I don’t think they have tried. They were sworn in to defend the rights of the citizens of Oyo State. And these rights include that of members of their own party. I think they must join in the sentiments of majority of our party members to which that they should not connive in denying people who have collected nomination forms the opportunity to be elected for the purpose of general election.