Reverend Adelowo Adebiyi is a former Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State of Osun and current Chairman of ‘The Osun Progressives’ (TOP), a caucus within the ruling party. In this interview with ISMAEEL UTHMAN and KAZEEM BADMUS, he speaks on his suspension from Igbimo Agba, a caucus of elders in the APC, and how to salvage the party from looming danger. Excerpts:
IT has been a while that you left office as the Chairman of APC in the State of Osun, how has it been for you politically since then?
I thank God for the grace. When I left as the Chairman of the party in 2014, I became a member of Igbimo Agba and we have been working together. I was the Chairman campaign committee for Ijesa- South Federal Constituency in 2018 and I also have an appointment now as a Senior Legislative Adviser to the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives.
What does your appointment as member of Igbimo Agba mean?
Well, Igbimo Agba is not a constitutionally recognised body. It is just an Advisory Committee for the party. When I was Chairman of the party, the Igbimo Agba was not functioning as we have it now. The inefficiency and shortcomings of the party leadership leads to the functionality of Igbimo Agba now. I ensured that we had our State Working Committee meetings every month, in which we had resolutions when I was the Chairman. Invariably, we functioned in advisory capacity to the Governor on each policy of government. At the same time, I did summon commissioners to my office then to ask questions about issues on governance because it is the responsibility of the party to give feedback to the government. From the ward, local government, federal constituency, senatorial district to the state level, the party is expected to monitor and serve as feedback mechanism for government programmes and when we get the feedbacks, we coordinate them and advice the government accordingly in order to review performances or for improvement. I thank God for the opportunity He gave me when I was the party chairman that I had a functional effective party management system.
Are you saying that the present leadership of the party is not up to the task?
There is a serious inefficiency. The 2018 Governorship Elections (with the performance of the party) is an eye-opener. When I was the Chairman in 2014, we won the Governorship Elections that year with a margin of over 100,000 votes, despite the PDP federal might then. But in 2018 that we had the federal, state and local government mights on our side, we won with less than 500 votes. It is very painful and it is a poor performance.
What do you think was responsible for the poor performance?
To the glory of God, Aregbesola as the Governor then performed efficiently in infrastructure, education and socio-economic development. He also had very good human relations and was loved by the people. But the party failed to leverage on those things. It is the job of the party to market government programmes and policies to the voters, but the inefficiency of the party resulted to the poor performance in the election. That is the reason why we came about TOP (The Osun Progressives). We want to have effective and efficient party management, we want to have internal democracy; let us have equity, fairness and justice where the members of the party have a say and sense of belonging. That is what we are promoting as far as TOP is concerned. As the Congress of our party is approaching, what we want is a democratically elected executive across board. Even if we are going to have a consensus candidate anywhere, let all the aspirants come out, face the party members and have the commitment and agreement to work together.
Had there been a time you called the current Caretaker Chairman of APC or the Governor to discuss your concern on the way the party affairs are being handled?
I was with the Governor over a year ago about this issue of party management and I expressed my fears. I gave him a proposal and I advised him to let us work on the proposal with the hope that if we set up a Strategic Committee, we are going to reduce the widening gap between the executives and the party members. The governor promised to do something on it and later, Engr. Sola Akinwumi, the Chairman of Igbimo Agba called the party Chairman and I together, asking if there were personal issues between the Chairman and I. And I told him that my expression on the party affairs was not personal. I told him I was not happy about how the party was going and I couldn’t just sit down and fold my arms with the way things were. Oyo State remains an example for us. Today, the efforts of late Abiola Ajimobi is incomparable in Oyo state. He performed excellently well but despite that, he lost the elections. So when you are talking about elections, it is not a matter of performance alone. There must be a good party mechanism to sensitise and mobilize the people because it is very necessary. These are the things I discussed with Engr. Akinwumi.
Also, leaders from the nine federal constituencies in the state were invited by Chief Bisi Akande over six months ago. When we got there, all of us complained about the poor management of the party and he picked one person from each of the constituencies and set up a committee to review our recommendations, but till date, we have not seen light of the recommendations. So as stakeholders, we TOP came together and decided to start work now, instead of waiting till when things will be out of hand.
How do you feel about your suspension from Igbimo Agba because of your involvement in TOP?
My suspension is not surprising. To me it is a sacrifice I want to make. I believe I should stand up for the right thing. You might be in Igbimo Agba and not be functional. I believe if this is a sacrifice that I should make, then it is worth it. The only thing is that I was not given fair hearing. I was not called to defend myself. They just said my being a member of TOP is causing crisis and dividing the party, and they came up with suspension. That is not the right thing to do. Even when you are talking of groups within the party, we have Ileri Oluwa, Oranmiyan and Legacy. Don’t forget that Legacy was formed then by the current Caretaker Chairman of the APC in the state, so why the noise about TOP? I believe they should have given me the chance to explain myself and if my reasons were not satisfactory to them, they could suspend me.
Anyway, I think it is not even the suspension or endorsement that matters now. We in Igbimo Agba have not been meeting for the past few months until they sat last Tuesday to announce my suspension. Like the APC Caretaker Secretary rightly said in an interview with your newspaper, there is no life in the party again. No programmes, activities, meetings or seminars. No feedback mechanism. No input from the party to the government.
It is believed that TOP was formed by former Governor Rauf Aregbesola to frustrate the second term ambition of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola?
That is a misconception. That is wrong. We stakeholders of the APC came together and looked at how to go about things for the betterment of the party. We formed The Osun Progressives. We contacted Ogbeni and asked if he could be our patron and adviser and he obliged. But the fact remains: ‘Is Aregbesola coming back for any elective post in Osun?’ So if we are able to review and revive the party, the benefit is for all the members.
What are the structures or formations of TOP?
TOP came out within a month and we have all this noise. We have the leadership. State council members and the local government branches are now coming up. You will see the beauty of democracy after the caretaker committee announcement and the constitution of the state board. Most of the people sing-praising Oyetola are just positioning themselves for the board and the local government caretaker appointments. That is why you see endorsement everywhere now; endorsement without proper planning and programmes. I believe if you want to endorse somebody, you must work towards it because if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. So I think it is a wrong perception to personalise or be sentimental about the existence of TOP.
How would you advise Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and the party Chairman?
My advice is for them to let us ensure effective party management where we are going to promote internal democracy. Where there will be fairness, equity, justice and the party leadership will be making a lot of inputs into policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. The party should be well-coordinated to ensure the success of our government. Only effective and efficient management of the APC affairs can guarantee the future of the party.