The hostility between the outgoing Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun and the Governor-elect of the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun, intensifies ahead of the May 29 handover date, KUNLE OLAYENI reports
As Governor Ibikunle Amosun prepares to hand over the baton of governance in Ogun State, there is no let-up in the rift between him and the Governor-elect, Dapo Abiodun. The no love lost appears to have constrained the transition period and from all indications, it would be a fight to the finish by the camps of the two gladiators.
In the run-up to May 29, the governor and his successor-to-be are locked in a tussle over “last minute” appointments and transactions by the outgoing administration. The development has further stoked tension even as both divides continued to fight each other at the election petitions tribunal over the outcome of the March 9 governorship election in the state.
Amosun supported the Allied People’s Movement (APM) gubernatorial candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, in the election but Abiodun, who ran on the ticket of All Progressives Congress (APC), defeated the governor’s anointed to emerge victorious at the polls.
The APC candidate is widely believed to have been backed by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos State governor; National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and former governors of Ogun State – Chief Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel – an alliance which dealt a big blow to the succession plans of the incumbent governor.
However, few days to vacate office, Amosun has come under fire over alleged heavy withdrawals from the state treasury, award of contracts, mass recruitment into the civil service and installation of traditional rulers.
Loyalists of the Governor-elect considered the decisions of the outgoing governor as a deliberate ploy to put in place financial landmines and booby traps for the incoming government. Consequently, they are warning against actions that could unnecessarily balloon the state’s wage bill and undermine the next administration.
Some of the recent “contentious decisions” of the Amosun government include the appointments of 21 new permanent secretaries as well as management and Governing Councils for Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH) and Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia.
The two institutions, for instance, had yet to take off. A worried APC chieftain observed that appointing a Vice Chancellor and inaugurating a Governing Council for a university that is yet to take off and has no students, is a deliberate attempt to incur unnecessary financial burden on the next government.
The party chieftain also bemoaned the appointments of a Rector and Governing Council for the Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia, when the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, was experiencing uncertainty.
Also, the outgoing government announced new General Managers for both Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC) and Ogun State Television (OGTV), despite the fact that they had been in acting capacities for almost a year.
Abiodun’s supporters kicked, insisting that the appointments were done in bad faith and must be reviewed upon assumption of office. Some of them recalled how Amosun relieved many permanent secretaries inherited from his predecessor of their appointments, stressing that similar action should not be unexpected.
At the May Day celebration held at the MKO Abiola International Stadium, Abeokuta, Amosun defended his administration’s recruitment into the civil service, saying it followed due process. No fewer than 1,000 workers were recently employed.
According to the governor, the latest recruitment was carried out via the Public Service Entry Examination conducted by the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) early last year.
His words: “The newly recruited staff is not a Kangaroo recruitment. These are people that sat for the exam almost a year back and the procedures were followed; not that Amosun just woke up one day and said because I am leaving, I will bring in more people.
“These are the people that wrote ASCON exam since early last year. We just took 1,000 from them. If we are to pick all that wrote the exam, we may probably say we want to pick 5,000. We picked 1,000 from those that sat for the ASCON exam. We have given them their (appointment) letters.”
Besides, the governor promised to offset unpaid deductions, leave bonuses, gratuities and some outstanding financial obligations to civil servants in the state. He specifically said the state government would commit the sum of N20.2billion to offset outstanding deductions and the April salary of workers.
Amosun expressed satisfaction that he was leaving the state as governor better than he met it. His camp maintained that the business of governance cannot be halted on account of transition.
The governor went further to elevate 75 village chiefs, otherwise known as Baale, to Coronet Obas. Other monarchs are billed for installation and appointment in coming days. This, of course, would increase the number of traditional rulers in the state currently at 245.
Amosun said his decision was part of efforts to enhance grassroots development and sustainability of the developmental strides being witnessed in the state.
But Abiodun’s loyalists are not persuaded. They argued that “hurried transactions” would not necessarily be binding on the incoming administration. Some of them are of the opinion that the incumbent should be preparing its handover notes for a smooth transition instead of digging pits for the incoming government.
Spokesman of the APC Caretaker Committee, Tunde Oladunjoye, while commenting on the development, declared that all loans, overdraft and financial obligations that do not follow due process, including the approval of the Ogun State House of Assembly, would not be honoured by the next administration. He, therefore, cautioned financial institutions from granting loans, overdrafts and other financial instruments to the outgoing government
In a statement he recently issued, Oladunjoye said Abiodun will review all the last minute appointments and contracts carried out by Amosun. He contended that it was morally unacceptable for the governor, at the twilight of his government, to be embarking on mass appointments and committing the incoming administration to unsustainable financial obligations.
He pointed out that all appointments, installation of traditional rulers, contracts, commitments and obligations entered into during the transition period after the elections will be reviewed.
Oladunjoye said: “Though a Joint Transition Committee of the incumbent and incoming governments has been set up, Senator Amosun has made last-minute appointments and awarded contracts without due consideration to the incoming administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun.
“Whilst we accept that the term of this government expires on May 29, 2019, it is morally unacceptable that a governor with less than one month to the expiration of his term in office will make mass appointments and promotions, thereby committing the incoming administration to unsustainable financial commitments and obligations.
“We hereby alert the general public and those to whom it may concern that all appointments, installation of traditional rulers, contracts, commitments and obligations entered into during the transition period after the elections will be reviewed and may not be binding on the new administration.”
As the face-off deepened, Abiodun’s camp raised the alarm that the Amosun administration denied it access to some state-owned facilities for inspection. The facilities include the Valley View Auditorium, Presidential Lodge, MITROS Residences, June 12 Cultural Centre and MKO Abiola Stadium.
But the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Taiwo Adeoluwa, denied the allegation, saying the facilities were being used for government business.
Adeoluwa explained that the state was preparing for the working visit of President Buhari to the state and would need the key state-owned facilities.
“Understandably, all hands are on the deck and most of the named state facilities will be in use. During the month of Ramadan, the state organises and engages in a number of daily programmes, culminating in the state’s special Iftar for which we routinely use many of the named facilities,” he said.
Also speaking, Amosun’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Rotimi Durojaiye, said the allegation from the incoming administration was unfounded, distasteful and unsavoury.
His words: “The allegation that the outgoing government is denying the transition committee of the incoming government access to some state-owned facilities for inspection, is nothing, but another in a series of political propaganda to tarnish the image of Governor Amosun.
“This and other false allegations should be disregarded and ignored in their entirety as they are only meant to score cheap political points.”
Buhari is billed to visit the state on Saturday, May 25. The President will inaugurate some projects executed by the outgoing governor. However, the questions are: Will the presidential visit end the hostility or will the conflict be aggravated by the emerging politics of ministerial nomination? Not a few observers would be interested in how the ongoing cat and mouse game will eventually play out.