“Do not follow those hypocrites. Akinlade is the candidate. Tell them in Abuja and your boss in Lagos that, here (in Ogun), nobody dictates to us.”
The crowd was intimidating. It could only have been mobilised by government. The message too was clear, as all the music artistes who entertained guests and party supporters on Thursday, December 20, 2018, did not mince words on the import of the gathering.
But that of Alhaji Shafiu Adekunle Candozo hit what appears to be the targets when he said: “It is break of day. It is time to drop the broom (APC logo) and eat cassava (APM logo). We will litter the streets with cassava during the governorship. But when it is time for Buhari’s election, we will use the broom to sweep everywhere. Do not follow those hypocrites. Akinlade is the candidate. Tell them in Abuja and your boss in Lagos that, here (in Ogun), nobody dictates to us.” The song set the tone for the campaign flag off, of the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM), a party, heavily backed by the All Progressives Congress-led (APC) government in Ogun State.
Although, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, a close confidant of President Muhammadu Buhari, stayed away from the rally, his decision to accompany the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Yusuf Dantalle, to the presidential villa last Monday, to convey the decision taken by the party at the rally to Buhari, clearly shows the governor was willing to stake his pride, making it an ego contest between him, his political dynasty and the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu political dynasty.
Interestingly, like Amosun, Tinubu also has the ears of the president.
However, until recently, Amosun appeared to enjoy more space within the power equation in Abuja than Tinubu. Besides, the governor and Buhari appear to have come a long way, as both were in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), unlike Tinubu who is seen among the Buhari disciples as a “necessary evil”. All these, pundits say, may perhaps have been responsible for Amosun’s seemingly arrogance towards the party leadership in Abuja, since the Ogun APC crisis began.
Long before the rally held inside the main bowl of M. K. O Abiola International Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta, Amosun had during the defection of his preferred governorship candidate, Abdul-Kabir Adekunle Akinlade and other loyalists to APM last month, announced that he would use resources at his disposal to ensure Akinlade emerges as his successor. At the event held at the presidential lodge in Abeokuta, he also vowed never to work with the All APC’s governorship candidate, Dapo Abiodun.
If anyone had been in doubt of Amosun’s resolve to engage the APC in a political war, the December 20 rally provided the ground to clear such doubts.
As early as 6am, party faithful, supporters and even a handful of serving government officials, began trooping to the venue of the rally, for the event billed to commence by 10am.
Among the early callers were: Obas of Ogun Central Senatorial District, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Union of Roads Transport Workers (NURTW), Association of Commercial Motor Cycle Riders of Nigeria (ACCOMORON), the Hausa and Igbo communities.
The stadium was adorned with posters of both Buhari and Akinlade especially, and those of other candidates running on the platform of the APM, for the 2019 election.
With the whole space already crowded, Akinlade, by 12.10 p.m, drove in, in a long bus, with an open roof, with four other vehicles in the convoy.
Dressed in flowing flowered blue and green Ankara, Akinlade holding a bunch of cassava in his hand, came down from the bus and walked round the stadium, waving at the crowd, apparently to appreciate them, with most of them struggling to have handshake with him.
Done with the pleasantries, the event formally kicked off by 12.30 pm with the natonal anthem, the Ogun State anthem and APM anthem in that order.
Significantly, the APM anthem had a few lines that speak to the conscience of the people. “I will use APM to do many good things in life. I will buy house and send my kid to school abroad…,” were a few samples.
Once the preliminaries were over, director-general of the campaign, Alhaji Sarafadeen Ishola, took over the stage to welcome guests and party supporters to the event.
He described the gathering as a movement, indicative of the fact of that the people of Ogun have decided to take their destiny in their hands.
He reminded the gathering of the events that led them all to the APM. According to him, on October 2, Akinlade was freely given the mandate; through a primary election that saw his emergence as the APC’s standard bearer. But he was “robbed by forces” he noted were out to “hijack governance and resources of Ogun State.
“APM is now a movement in Ogun State. It is beyond party politics as Ogun people have decided to take their destiny in their hands, with the decision to elect Akinlade as governor, on March 2, 2019.
“By pitching tent with APM, the people of Ogun State have decided where to go. Therefore our gathering here today signifies our collective decision to seek justice to fight injustice, fairness to fight unfairness. This is Ogun State (referring to the crowd). The turn of events will signify the direction voting will go on March 2. We have to sustain the mission started by our governor, Amosun. We need continuity. And that continuity is resided in only one candidate – Akinlade.
“It is important to say that APM as a party has decided to adopt President Buhari as its presidential candidate, Amosun as its senatoral candidate for Ogun Central, Lekan Mustapha for Ogun East. For other candidates, we will have to discuss later.”
There were goodwill messages from party stalwarts from the three senatorial districts, with that of Jide Ojuko, a serving commissioner in Amosun’s cabinet, reemphasising some of the songs that the artistes sang at the beginning of the event to set the tone for the rally.
Ojuko, a leader of APM in Ogun West, noted that Akinlade’s emergence would address the imbalance in Ogun State polity: “Ogun State was created 42 years ago, but Ogun West has never produced a governor. Akinlade’s emergence is the best opportunity for the senatorial district to produce a governor. This is the best opportunity for us. Do not let the opportunity elude us.”
He also appealed to the people to vote wisely in the governorship election, warning that the election will not be like the APC primary where Akinlade was “robbed” of his victory.
He then dropped the bombshell: “They want to make us slaves. We will not be slaves to them. The money within their reach is enough for them. They should leave us alone please. We did primary election in Ogun State three times, only for them to change it. God will judge them.”
Goodwill messages over, Akinlade was presented with the flag of the party, by Dantalle. He also presented the party’s flag for the number one office to Buhari, who is also the APC’s presidential candidate. Presenting the flag to Buhari, represented by Akinlade, the national chairman congratulated the people of Ogun State for standing against injustice: “I congratulate you not just for handing over the flag to the next governor of the state, but for standing up to claim what is your own, for standing for freedom and for standing for the emancipation of your land.
“On behalf of the APM family and the people of Ogun State, Baba is the next president of Nigeria. This flag is for Baba, President Muhammadu Buhari. With the mandate of the entire APM family, this flag signifies the adoption of President Buhari as the presidential candidate of Ogun State and Nigeria.”
Responding, Akinlade thanked the APM chairman and assured him that he would deliver the flag to the state chairman of the APC and Amosun, “to pass it on to Mr. President that our great party, APM in Ogun State, has adopted him as our presidential flag bearer.”
He expressed joy at the massive turn out, saying that he decided to pursue his governorship ambition on the APM platform so as to resist “elements within and outside the state hell-bent on truncating the development of the state.”
Akinlade declared that he was the most qualified to sustain Amosun’s legacies, saying he had been a part of the present administration since 2011, just as he described Buhari as a leader who stood for truth and justice, while some forces in the party frustrated all efforts at making the choice of members of the party in the state count.
During the brief ceremony, some guests had argued that what transpired was mere rhetoric as Amosun would not have the temerity to take the message close to the presidential villa.
However, by last Monday, Amosun led the National Chairman of APM to meet with Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja where they presented him with a letter of his adoption as presidential candidate.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after meeting with Buhari, Amosun said: “You will recall that just last week, we made public that APM has adopted President Buhari as their presidential candidate. I had promised to bring the letter they had given me to present to him and that is what we came to do today. And you know Mr. President is a very gracious human being, he is a man with a good heart.”
The governor said if a party has adopted him; it is only fair he acknowledges the party and the chairman: “That is why we are here. I have said that anybody that is for President Buhari is for me, we will embrace such party, such persons, and such organisation wholeheartedly and that is what I am doing and that is what we are doing in Ogun State. Clearly, Mr. President will have a massive vote in Ogun State in the coming election.”
On his part, the APM chairman, Dantalle, said the adoption is just a formal thing, adding that “Personally, I believe in him and reason being that I love my country and I don’t have any other country apart from Nigeria. And Buhari is the only man with the sincerity of intent to take Nigeria to the next level. This is not the Nigeria I was born into, but I see that Nigeria coming back only through Buhari.”
Explaining why his party adopted Buhari, he said the party is a coalition of people of like minds and it took the decision to adopt Buhari because the president is the only one that could restore Nigeria back to her glory. “Buhari is giving us back the Nigeria of our dream,” he claimed.