CONTRARY to insinuations, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, yesterday, dismissed a perceived frosty relationship between them. This came on a day the Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC, dissolved the Mandate Group, the Justice Forum and all other political groups within the APC in Lagos State. The Mandate Group, founded by Tinubu but headed by Aregbesola. It was reported that Aregbesola, a former governor of Osun State, is eyeing the Presidency in 2023, which has led to a cold war between him and Tinubu, who is also believed to be interested in the plum job. It was, however, gathered that an uneasy relationship between Aregbesola and Governor Gboyega Oyebola of Osun State, exists. Aregbesola has, however, denied nursing any presidential ambition. How Enilolobo emerged as Mandate leader The leaders of the Mandate Group, headed by Aregbesola, had resolved to re-organise and restructure the group ahead of the 2023 elections and other permutations that would go with the polls It was that resolve and the need to get a young and vibrant politician and activist to lead the group that led to the choice of Enilolobo. Enilolobo is the alter ego of Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. Sources said leaders of the group decided to inject young and energetic members into the leadership structure of the group by recognising the fact that there are more challenges ahead. Thus, a strategic meeting of the group was held on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Ikeja, GRA residence of the Interior Minister in Lagos. Those present included the lawmaker representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Senator Sikiru Osinowo; his counterpart from the Lagos West Senatorial District, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, Chief of Staff to Governor Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, and Cardinal James Odunmbaku, among others. It was unanimously decided that the mantle of leadership of the group in the state should rest with Enilolobo. That was how the state Organising Secretary of the APC, Enilolobo, became the new Chairman of the Mandate group in the state. Enilolobo took over from Alhaji Ganiyu Badmos, who had been Chairman for four years. It was also gathered at the meeting that the leaders decided that Aregbesola should remain the Grand Patron of the group, while Cardinal James Odunmbaku should be the Apex Leader.
Origin of JF, MD But tracing the origin of the Justice Forum and Mandate Group to the June 12 struggle, the GAC stated that such groups were not an end in themselves but a means to an end. Mandate Group was founded by Asiwaju Tinubu in the build-up to the 1999 governorship race to advance his interest in the defunct Alliance for Democracy race, which he won and eventually rose to the governorship. The groupings had polarised the party into members of JF and MD. GAC wields the big stick In a communiqué issued after a meeting, the party leaders stated that the Mandate Group and the Justice Forum will no longer exist. Though the communiqué was signed by Asiwaju Tinubu, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Obafemi Hamzat, the deputy governor, former governors Akinwunmi Ambode and Babatunde Raji Fashola did not sign the communiqué. Others are Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi, Henry 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. The communiqué was entitled: “June 12 struggle and the emergence of Justice, Mandate groups.” It reads: “As we approach Democracy Day on June 12, we must remind ourselves what that day symbolizes for Nigeria. We must remember the sacrifices made by so many to bring democratic government to reality for our nation. Lives were lost and blood was spilled. People were jailed and tortured. Some were chased from this land of their birth in abject fear of their lives. Despite the array of forces against us, the quest for democracy ultimately won because it answered the human desire for freedom and self-governance. Those involved in the quest for democracy may have had some differences between them. However, those differences were cast aside in pursuit of the greater goal, that of the advent of democratic civilian governance in place of autocratic military rule.
We must continue in the spirit of that era as much still needs to be done to firmly establish democratic good governance in perpetuity and to ensure that the nourishing fruits of such governance are equitably enjoyed and broadly shared among the people. All other political concerns are secondary and should be cast aside in pursuit of this greater goal. Following the annulment of the June 12 election, a group of progressive, pro-democracy political figures met to establish what we named the Justice Forum. The sole objective of that forum was to canvass for public support to reverse the annulment of the election and to have Nigeria recognize and implement the results of that election. We all put away our individual differences to focus on the overriding concern of June 12. Lagos became a fountain of pro-democratic activity. Members of the Justice Forum began to traverse the length and breadth of the country, talking to political and traditional leaders in every region of the nation. People everywhere rallied to the good cause we pursued and we opened up our arms to them in full and complete fraternity and singularity of purpose. Through this necessary inclusive process, the Justice Forum enlisted into the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO. During this time, Justice Forum was the fulcrum of pro-democratic activity in Lagos. “To advance his interest in the governorship race, Asiwaju Tinubu established the Mandate Group within the defunct Alliance for Democracy. When a consensus candidate could not be arrived at, the AD leaders called for a primary election. With the support of that Group, Asiwaju won the primaries with a landslide and emerged the AD candidate for the Lagos governorship election. He also subsequently won the governorship and was inaugurated Lagos governor on May 29, 1999. “We provided this background to explain the circumstances that led to the births of both the Justice Forum and Mandate Group and to properly situate their places in our political evolution. These two groups were formed to achieve important but temporary goals. The groups were not ends in themselves. “Attempts were made in the past by the Tinubu administration to unify and reconcile the two groups by appointing members of each group into his cabinet. Several meetings were also held to eliminate divisions that could hurt the party if left unattended. “We recognize that membership in a political party is mostly cooperative but also some competition is inherent. For the party’s nomination to any given position, there is only one winner; but there can be multiple aspirants. They will compete and there must be some basis upon which that competition is founded. While we expect all party members to have the same general political outlook and philosophy the truth is some members will gravitate more to certain members, than others. This is true of any human community of any large number. There is a tendency to form subgroups. While this has some positive aspects it also has dangers if left unrestrained. Such groups are necessary when it comes to primaries and the internal competition that primaries call for. “However, we cannot allow such groups to become permanent identifications that rival what should be the primary identification as a party member. If we allow factionalism sway, we not only weaken the party, soon those who should see each other as brothers and sisters in the same party will view each other with increasing enmity as rivals instead of members of the same political family. We have watched with some disappointment the stubbornness with which some people cling to these two informal affiliations as if the contest between the two is the most important matter. “If you are preoccupied with factional infighting, you will have little time for the hard work of progressive governance. In fact, you will eschew this work which is the true essence of our existence. You would have turned us into just another political party. However, we did not suffer through the dangers and pain of the pro-democracy movement for our party to disintegrate in such a manner. Too many of us sacrificed too much for empty factionalism to taint the fate of the party. We have announced on many occasions at Consultative Forum and other fora that such permanent factional groupings breach the spirit, letter and history of our party. “While members are allowed to create ad-hoc groups to canvass support during a party primary or to advance some identifiable policy initiatives, we can no longer afford any permanent factions particularly when the factions bear no true ideological distinctions but serve merely as vehicles to foster and advance personal ambitions at the sacrifice of party cohesion. “In consideration of the above, the leaders of the party held a meeting today. At that meeting, it was unequivocally resolved that all factions like JP 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 the 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 honour of June 12 and those who gave of themselves to make democracy our reality.” No cold war between Tinubu, Aregbesola —Tinubu’s media aide Dismissing the existence of a cold war between the APC National Leader and Aregbesola, Tinubu’s Media Office described it as a figment of the imagination of the news organization. In a statement by Mr. Tunde Rahman, the media office said: “Today, the Governor’s Advisory Council, the highest decision-making body within the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, passed a resolution calling for the disbandment of all factional groups within the party. This was to promote discipline, harmony and cohesion and engender party supremacy. The APC is one united political family in Lagos. “Our attention has, however, been drawn to a report in an online newspaper alleging that the GAC’s appropriate and candid resolution had worsened a phantom cold war between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. “This is a figment of the imagination of the news organization that authored the report. Asiwaju Tinubu remains Ogbeni Aregbesola’s leader. The former governor of Osun State has been unswervingly and wholly committed to the progressive ideology of the Tinubu political family. There is no war, cold or hot, between them. There has never been and there will never be. Asiwaju believes in him and he believes in the APC leader. “Our political family remains strong. And we are staying focused on our commitment to building and maintaining a cohesive political party. “The GAC is a very strong body within the APC leadership structure in Lagos. Its resolution is not targeted at any particular individual or collection of individuals. The resolution was to restate the often-stated position that the only group known to us is APC and not any of the factional groups. It was to renew the commitment to APC and its unity. “Ogbeni Aregbesola is a strong member of the political family. The GAC position does not imply any division within the group. The resolution is well-meaning and should not be misinterpreted. “To do so impulsively as the authors of the report has done is to take the frontier of reporting away from facts to the realm of groundless speculations.”
I have no rift with Tinubu — Aregbesola On his part, Mr. Aregbesola debunked claims of nursing presidential ambition in 2023 just as he described claims that he is at war with his leader and mentor, Asiwaju Tinubu. Speaking in Abuja against the background of the lies peddled by an online publication, Aregbesola said his loyalty to Asiwaju is not the only total, his commitment to whatever the leader wants is unwavering. The minister revealed that he knew where the story was coming from and the identity of those sponsoring it. The minister said: “A rift with Asiwaju Tinubu? Nothing can be more impossible! Nothing can be farther from the truth. I remain committed to my mentor. The group our detractors claim has been banned is the most committed to the realization of Asiwaju’s ambition. “They even said I have presidential ambition, it is false.” Aregbesola reiterated that the APC is one, adding that the party is like an oak tree that keeps growing. Led by the Organising Secretary of APC in Lagos State, Alhaji Abdullahi Enilolobo, the Mandate Group is arguably the most potent and biggest group in Lagos APC. Why we groups were dissolved — GAC member Explaining the dissolution of the groups within the Lagos APC, a member of the GAC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was in the best interest of the party. The GAC member said: “There should be no factionalisation in the party, the party should be united and must remain one. What Asiwaju is saying is that there should be no more grouping at the party which is good for the party.”