Ogun: Much ado about ministerial nominees

Sunday, April 4, 2010

By ADEMOLA ONI, Published: Monday, 5 Apr 2010

Ordinarily, the list of ministerial nominees from any state shouldn‘t have been an intractable issue if the situations on the ground are normal. But in Ogun State, situations in the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party are not normal. Hence, the uproar that greeted the ministerial nominations from the state couldn‘t have been said to be surprising. What seems to have defied simple explanation centres on the intensity of opposition and the support their nominations from the state have generated. The announcement of the names of the former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye, and a management consultant, Mr. Nojeem Awodele, as ministerial-nominees for the state had sparked off divergent views.

With the announcement, members of the House of Assembly, who had gathered in the office of the Speaker, Mr. Tunji Egbetokun, began a wild celebration.

The observation that Martins-Kuye, a former Senator who later became a minister during the first term of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, appeared to be off curve for a minister‘s job at his age, swayed the legislators, comprising the 15 lawmakers who have been engaged in a running battle with the state Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.

As it turned out, the nominations of Martins-Kuye and the relatively unknown Awodele meant many things to many people, depending on the political affiliations of the people involved, especially within the PDP. The critical point, however, has been how these two personalities emerged and why the hue and cry over their choices, even when their confirmation looked certain. It was gathered that Martins-Kuye and Awodele are ‘candidates‘ of Obasanjo, whose influence in the current dispensation cannot be wished away, having been instrumental to the emergence of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan as the Vice President to President Umaru Yar‘Adua in 2007. It is uncertain what could have informed Obasanjo‘s choice as he was the one, as President in 2003, who dropped Martins-Kuye as a minister. The furore that decision generated, some claimed, was yet to settle till date.

The choice of the former President appeared to have ignored what has become a critical and sensitive development in the politics of the state. Martins-Kuye is from Ogun East, while Awodele is from Ogun Central; that leaves out Ogun West, populated by the Yewa-Awori stock, from the ministerial list, though the first time. The latter has never been considered good enough to produce a minister since the return to democracy in 1999. It has neither been able to produce the state governor since the state was created in February 1976. As the Yewa/Awori have been considered as a people with an unusual gift of long suffering; no voice of dissent was expected to be heard from the zone aside a full page, open letter in a national daily to the Acting President. In it, the zone wondered what had been the sin of the Senatorial district to be sidelined when appointments to federal posts or agencies are to be made in the state. Senator Ayo Otegbola and three others, who signed the advertorial, explained that they were not ”joining issues or begrudge those who were fortunate to be so appointed, rather we are contending the sharing formula of key political offices in the state with reference to federal appointments.

The Yewa-Awori Youth Agenda Forum compiled a long list of how the other two senatorial zones had lorded it over the West in federal appointments allocated to the state. Since 1999, YAYAF, in a letter to the Acting President, signed by its National Coordinator, Mr. Kayode Oni said, ‘‘among other officials, seven ministers had been selected from the state, all of them ”selfishly shared between the East and the Central.” The two zones had equally shared the three ambassadorial appointments to the state while the West had been allocated four slots of the 23 federal board appointments. The Speakership of the House of Representatives and the Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the PDP are occupied by Ogun Central through Mr. Dimeji Bankole and Obasanjo respectively. With a population of 1.1million out of the 3.6milion people in the state, will it be right to be tempted to align with the claim of marginalisation of the zone?‘‘ Aside the Ogun West opposition, however, the state chapter of the PDP distanced itself from the nominations, contending that the list was not a reflection of the wish of the party in the state. In a letter it directed to the National Chairman of the party, the Secretary, Chief Pegba Otemolu, demanded that the list be returned to the state in the interest of peace. In the letter dated Friday, March 26, copies of which were sent to Jonathan and Senate President, David Mark, Otemolu, who cited the resolution of the State Working Committee meeting, said the party was not privy to the emergence of the nominees. The letter reads in part, ”Sir, in view of the above, we urge you to use your good office to prevail on the Acting President to drop the two nominees in the interest of peace, fairness and equity, which are the basic ingredients that democracy needs worldwide. ”It is no longer news that Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye has been curiously providing leadership for a group that has been factionalising our party in Ogun State”

bThe secretary named the following as those nominated by the state party;Chief Iyabo Apampa (Ogun West); Prof. Olukayode Oyesiku (Ogun Central) and Chief Kola Onadipe (Ogun East). The Deputy Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Pastor Remmy Hazzan, however, faulted the statement of the party, saying the authors of the letter spoke for themselves and not the party. The lawmaker went further to supply the names Daniel allegedly submitted for consideration as Onadipe, the governor‘s Chief-of-Staff, Chief Yomi Majekodunmi (Ogun Central) and Mrs. Lola Abiola-Edewor (Central). He described the inclusion of Apampa as ”an afterthought,” explaining that the governor included the former Chairman, Board of Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority after his initial list was rejected. The deputy speaker called for a referendum in the party to determine the acceptability of Martins-Kuye‘s nomination.

Last Monday, there was a protest by representatives of clubs, associations, community and religious leaders and serving government officials took to the streets of Abeokuta, the state capital, protesting what they called the marginalisation of Ogun West in the sharing of federal appointments among the three zones in the state. The protesters comprising women, students, artisans, politicians, and government officials took off from the Ita Oshin end of the town and marched through major streets in the state capital. Some walked, while others boarded vehicles generously made to convey people from the five local governments in Ogun West. Also, political appointees, and some of those eyeing Daniel‘s seat in 2011 were not left out in the trek covering about seven kilometers. They were to later meet with the governor. The strands that ran through their songs of lamentation and a bedlam of noises, did not address the nomination of Martins-Kuye and Awodele. They were more concerned on how the zone had been consistently left out in the scheme of things in the state. Hence, they wanted justice to be done. The speeches made by Otegbola, the President, Association of Clubs and Societies in Ogun West, Chief Ajibola Olagbaye; Iyaloja of Yewaland, Alhaja Yemisi Abass; an industrialist and Mr. Kayode Ajibola said it all.

In a two-page letter the zone handed over to Daniel and addressed to Jonathan, the people of Ogun West demanded that the list of nominated ministers be returned to the state so that the name of a Yewa-Awori person could be included. Part of the letter signed by seven of the officials from the zone reads, ”We have observed with dismay that since the return to democracy in 1999, there has not been any one from Ogun West, neither Yewa nor Awori in the Federal Executive Council nor a head of any federal board or agency, including ambassadorial appointment. It is not only unfair, it is very ungodly... We are tempted to ask, is Ogun West still part of Ogun State? Who is afraid of Ogun West? Who does not want Yewa/Awori to remain in Ogun State? Who wants to create another Delta-like militant in Ogun State?”

In his response, Daniel promised the letter would be delivered to the Acting President and told them that neither Ogun East nor Ogun Central hated Ogun West.

He said,”You have shown your grievances and those who are supposed to hear will hear. The Acting President is a good man and we only need to pray that he will not be misled. It is not true that Ogun East and Ogun Central are against Ogun West; it is only a tiny few who are playing this type of bad politics. Ogun State remains united.”

Right in the midst of the protest, some highly placed government officials wondered why the zone had to stage the protest when it had become very late.

It remains to be seen what position would henceforth be accorded the zone after the protest as one of the protesters told our correspondent that the protest had sounded a note of warning that Yewa-Awori would no longer take the back seat without a good fight.

Source: Nigeria Punch Newspaper

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