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By Our Reporter
A cold war is presently brewing between the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his longtime political associate, Minister for Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola over the soul of Lagos politics, as both men battle for the control of progressive structures in the state.
Until now, Tinubu, regarded as the ‘godfather’ of Lagos politics has continued to hold sway in the State, dictating the pace as well as who gets what, when, and how.
But Aregbesola’s influence in Lagos, since he completed his eight years tenure as Governor of Osun State has been on a steady rise, especially in his political base in Alimosho, an electoral stronghold of the party in the state.
Thepledge learnt that Aregbesola had in recent times, began subtle moves to build a formidable political base ahead of 2023 elections, a period many observers have touted to be the mother of all battles for the APC, both in the State and at the Federal level.
Recently, the Mandate Group, the biggest and most potent political group within APC in Lagos appointed the Organising Secretary of the APC in Lagos, Alhaji Abdullahi Enilolobo as its new Chairman.
Enilolobo, who is seen as the alter ego of Aregbesola, was appointed after a strategic meeting of the group held late last month at the Ikeja GRA residence of the Minister of Interior.
The decision for Enilolobo to succeed Alhaji Ganiyu Badmos as the new Mandate Group helmsman was also endorsed by the Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Sikiru Adebayo Osinowo (a.k.a Pepper) his counterpart from the Lagos West Senatorial District, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (a.k.a Yayi) Chief of Staff to Governor Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, Cardinal James Odunmbaku (a.k.a Baba Eto), among others.
Another far-reaching decision reached at the meeting was that Aregbesola will remain the Grand Patron of the group while Cardinal Odunmbaku would serve as the Apex Leader.
But these decisions, Thepledge gathered were taken without due consultation and approval by Tinubu, who was said to be infuriated by the move of his political associates behind his back.
The glaring division within the Tinubu camp was becoming visible before Monday’s extra ordinary meeting of the Governors’ Advisory Council Meeting (GAC), where a communiqué was issued to ban all political groups in Lagos within the APC in the State.
According to the communiqué, both the Mandate Group and the Justice Group, the two most prominent groups in the State will no longer exist, a move, Thepledge gathered, is a tactical one by Tinubu to consolidate his hold on the politics in the state and cut Aregbesola to size.
Part of the communiqué read, “it was unequivocally resolved that all factions like JG and MG are inimical to party unity and are hereby permanently disbanded and prohibited within the party.
“Party members should no longer make use of these factions or their names with regard to future party business and activities. To continue to hold meetings in the name of these groups or to continue to promote such associations will amount to a violation of this resolution.
“The only permitted use of the names will be limited to historic references. Any violation of this decision is subject to party discipline, including suspension and expulsion. This prohibition extends solely to official party business. We are in no way trying to abridge anyone’s constitutional rights to free speech or assembly. The party chairman is hereby tasked with promulgating more detailed regulations with regard to prohibited and permissible activities for sub-party groupings.
“The party remains supreme. It has developed structures from the ward level to local government and state levels. These are recognized by the party’s constitution. They are adequate platforms for members to congregate and to present their views.
“The APC in Lagos is one party and one family. We must always act in this spirit if we are to attain the dream of democratic prosperity that we set out to achieve. We must do this in honor of June 12 and those who gave of themselves to make democracy our reality.”
The communiqué was signed by 27 party chieftains, including Tinubu, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the state governor, Obafemi Hamzat, the deputy governor. Former governors, Akinwunmi Ambode and Babatunde Raji Fashola were absent.
Others are: Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi, Henry Oladele Ajomale, Bushura Alebiosu, Abiodun Ogunleye, Murphy Adetoro, James Odunmbaku, Tony Adefuye, S.A. Seriki, Olorunfunmi Bashorun, Rabiu Oluwa, M.A. Taiwo, Mutiu Lawal Are, Yomi Finnih, Muyiwa Sosanya, Tunde Samuel, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Rasak Lanre, Mudashiru Adisa Obasa (speaker), Babatunde Balogun, Wale Edun, Ranti Adebule and Kemi Nelson.
Many of the GAC members, Thepledge learnt, were supportive of Tinubu’s move to checkmate the excesses of Aregbesola, as there is no love lost between the elders and the Mandate Group which they see as a threat to their interests in the State.
Thepledge also learnt that Tinubu was not favourably disposed to the persistent attack on his nephew and Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola by Aregbesola’s stooges.
Oyetola, sources said, has endured continuous attack by some party members loyal to Aregbesola, especially after the former reversed some policies of his predecessor-in-office late last year.
“There is no way Tinubu would be comfortable with the persistent animosity brewed by Aregbesola and his boys against Governor Oyetola. It’s only distracting the governor, but also making it difficult for him to face the difficult task of governance”, the source said.
Tinubu’s grouse with Aregbesola, Thepledge also gathered went a long way in deciding the successor for the vacant Oniru stool.
While the path to emerge as the 15th Oniru of Iruland seemed to have been cleared for Prince Hakeem Ajasa, a former Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to Aregbesola, Tinubu waded his influence and thwarted the plan.
Only last week, a former Commissioner for Agriculture in Lagos and Tinubu’s ex-ADC, Prince Gbolahan Lawal was thrown into the race as the next in line. Lawal’s nomination was ratified by the Lagos State Executive Council and within 72 hours, he was installed as the new Oniru of Iruland.
But the development was another score for Tinubu over Aregbesola. A reliable source said that Tinubu was opposed to Ajasa’s candidacy to ascend the throne due to his closeness with Aregbesola and felt that he (Ajasa) will not be subservient to him when the chips are down.
Tinubu’s overwhelming influence in the political landscape in Lagos, Thepledge gathered also saved the blushes of embattled Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa from a possibly impeachment.
Slammed with weighty allegations of fraud and misappropriation leveled against him, Obasa has remained undaunted, resting his hopes on Tinubu’s backing and the 40 lawmakers in the House, who are loyal to the party’s national leader.
Sources said Tinubu was not ready to dump Obasa for an unknown lawmaker, who may not be loyal to him.
“The National Leader, being a strategist, knew quite well that the devil he knows is better than an unknown angel. That was why he decided to back Obasa for now”, the source said.