DISQUIET IN OYO

By NBF News
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A list of 330 nominees for appointment into the Oyo State cabinet and caretaker committees for the 33 local councils in the state is now on Governor Abiola Ajimobi's desk.

The list, forwarded by the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), consists of 231 names to man the council pending the council election and 99 others from which the governor is expected to choose 16 commissioners and special advisers to drive his vision for the state.

The nominations, which reached his table last Thursday, had earlier been submitted penultimate Monday, but was returned to the party's leadership for re-presentation, following some objections raised by the governor. For instance, he expressed reservation at the party's express specification of one of the seven names per local government for the chairmanship of the caretaker committees, observing that he should have been given the privilege of picking one out of three names recommended.

But the party was said to have put its feet down when the governor raised the matter with its leader and former governor of the state, Alhaji Lam Adesina. The list was subsequently re-submitted on Thursday when Ajimobi returned from Abuja after attending the meeting of governors over the contentious N18,000 minimum wage.

Highly-placed party sources told this newspaper that for ministerial slots, preference and priority were given to local government areas, which have had no representation in government. These include Ibadan North East, Akinyele, Lagelu and most of the council areas in Oke-Ogun, Oyo and Ogbomoso zones.

Another batch of 165 names comprising five from each local government is to be forwarded for consideration for board appointments.

But, the composition of the government apparatus is being trailed by disaffection, mistrust and power play by various power-blocs within and outside the ACN. Disaffection and mistrust among party members because of the governor's resolve to concede 20 per cent of all the appointments to the rival Accord Party (AP) in return for the support of its members in the parliament as well as his alleged attitude of non-consultation with the party hierarchy on the appointments he has made so far.

Besides, moves to exert control over the governor has pit the mainstream membership against the Senator Abiola Ajimobi Campaign Organization (SENACO), a seemingly parallel group consisting of the governor's core loyalists with whom he defected from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to the ACN. There has been mutual suspicion between the party and this group, which was not disbanded even after Ajimobi joined ACN, contested and won the governorship election on the platform of his new party.

The animosity has become even more pronounced because of the perceived influence a clique of SENACO leaders is believed to wield over the governor, which many party supporters believe may translate into their marginalization in the scheme of things. For instance, these leaders are said to have compiled a different list of nominees and mounting pressure on Ajimobi to disregard that sent by the party leadership.

An authoritative party source said this was despite the fact that they and other sub-groups were involved in the compilation of the original list at the ward and local government levels, in line with the instruction of the top echelon of the ACN. According to the source, the 15 slots from the party had been shared five each to Action Congress, SENACO and defectors from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Unfortunately, the source said all the SENACO leaders, especially in Lagelu, Ibarapa, Egbeda and Ibadan North East failed to deliver their constituencies in the April election, adding that but for the role of the Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, the party would also have lost in Oyo, where one of the said leaders hails from.

A top ACN official said the suspicion within the rank and file of the party was that this group intended to goad the governor into destroying ACN, hijack the party machinery and contest for a second term on the platform of AP. This they purportedly hoped to achieve by painting the party as giving the governor problems.

While some other party men who spoke to Sunday Sun disagreed, saying the view was far-fetched, an official insisted that the actions of the governor did not seem to disprove the speculation. Buttressing his assertion he said: 'All the appointments his Excellency has made so far have not been to the knowledge of the party. Yes, he may say he carries the leader, Alhaji Lam, along, but notifying him that 'I want to do this' is different from saying 'let us do this together.' Again, he is bent on this alliance with Accord (Party). He has been taking care of the party in all appointments so far made. For example, two Accord members are on the newly constituted state Pilgrims Welfare Board (Muslim Wing).'

Some members of the ACN are also expressing misgivings over the governor's declared preference for technocrats to work with him. This has been interpreted to mean exclusion of party members. The situation is not helped by speculations that Amosun is inclined to honour nominations from renowned industrialist and his in-law, Chief Kola Daisi, and some Ibadan elite including billionaire tycoon, Abdul-Azeez Arisekola Alao and former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin.

According to an apparently peeved party stalwart, 'for him to say his government is to be run exclusively by technocrats, he is saying those of us who sweated and risked our lives to ensure his election are fools. Which technocrats does he want and in what field that he will not find within the party? There are lawyers, accountants, teachers, medical doctors and veterans in virtually all professions in the ACN.'

The party chief advised Ajimobi to beware of bad advisers out to set him against the party structure. 'He may have good intentions, but all these actions will rubbish them, especially if people who worked for his electoral victory are not duly compensated.

'I must say he is lucky to have had party leaders like Alhaji Lam, Chief (Michael) Koleoso and the party chairman, Akin Oke, that are interested in the success of his administration and who believe he should be given time. But for the respect people have for them…the only thing that can cool temper is to go by the list. It is then that others, who are not accommodated now, can have hope that at last it would be their turn soon.'

But reacting to the development, a top aide to the governor dismissed the charge of any hidden agenda by his principal, whom he maintained had always sought the consent of party leaders on all his actions. He explained that Ajimobi's mantra to recruit solely technocrats for his administration was misconstrued as it did not exclude the party. Rather, he said the governor was only emphasizing that only educated and skilled professionals within or outside that party would be hired.

His words: 'Three weeks ago, the governor sent a memo to the party requesting a list of nominees for appointments. In that memo, he specified that for commissioner, the candidate must be a graduate of at least 10 years experience; for local government caretaker committee chairman, possession of higher education, that is above school certificate with requisite experience, for chairmanship of boards of parastatals - higher education combined with requisite work or trading experience, while members must have at least school certificate and some experience. For boards of parastatals membership, he stipulated school certificate with work experience.

'If you look at the content of the letter, he is talking of technocrats within the party. If he did not want to use the party, he would not have asked them for nominations. What the governor promised is change. But the change won't come if we keep doing things the same way it had always been done.

'It may interest you to know that in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, there are two men in the governing council that never saw the four walls of a primary school! On the governing board of the state Hospital Management Board under Akala, there was no single medical doctor. In Alayande College of Education, a governing board member there is a newspaper vendor in Owode, Oyo. So, what Oga is saying is that if ACN wants to make a difference, it can't continue in that fashion. Our emphasis on recruitment of political leadership must change. What is offensive in saying somebody must have a school certificate in a state where free education was introduced since over 57 years ago? I think the ones nursing a grouse are those who could not make the list. They are idle gossips.

'If they are talking about appointments made so far, apart from the Pilgrims Welfare Board, the governor has only appointed his own personal staff – the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), the Chief of Staff, his media spokesman and perhaps a few others. These are not offices that come within the purview of the party to decide. They are people to work with him directly and he has a right to his choice. Be that as it may, he has not done anything without the consent of the party leaders. If anybody likes, he can cross-check with Alhaji Lam Adesina,'

On alleged move by a clique of SENACO leaders to hijack the governor and get him to ignore the party's list of nominees, the source riposted: 'If he has listened to them, he wouldn't have invited the party to nominate people.'

He, however, explained that the governor's insistence on honouring the pact with AP was a necessity that was not negotiable. His words: 'You must realize that ACN doesn't have control of the house, having only 13 out of the 32 members. The fact is Accord and the PDP were working to produce the Speaker of the House. The governor had an option to run the executive arm of government with a hostile assembly, or in the alternative work out an alliance that will give him the support and control of the House. Now working with the PDP was out of it, because that would defeat his purpose of being in government, having criticized them all this while.

He went for Accord, which asked for 35 per cent appointments and agreed to support ACN producing the Speaker and other principal officers of the house. After consultation with party leaders, he agreed to give them 20 per cent.

'All this complaint has been brought to his notice, but his answer has been you are bound to honour a gentleman agreement since Accord has played its part'.

To the allegation that the governor may be scheming to ditch ACN and contest for second term under AP's flag, the governor's aide laughed it off, saying: 'You mean he will leave the party where he is governor and go to a party with a rival governorship candidate? These people should be realistic!'

Despite this seeming assurance, whatever the governor does with the list on his table in the next few weeks will be a pointer to the verity of his intentions.