Dapo Oke is the leader of Ogun West Rebirth, a pressure group agitating for power shift to the Ogun West district in the 2019 governorship contest. Speaking with Femi Ogbonnikan, he reckoned that the current political structure in the state puts the people of Ogun West at a huge disadvantage for the race. Excerpts:
You are one of those in the vanguard for power shift to Ogun West senatorial district in 2019. How has the journey been?
The creation of Ogun State in 1976 – we were coming from two provinces – Abeokuta province, which extended up to Badagry, and the Ijebu province, which also extended up to Ikorodu and Epe. And so by the creation, you know, Epe, Badagry and Ikorodu have been cut off from Ogun State and so, we came in through the four administrative divisions. It was just for administrative convenience. We have the four divisions of Ijebu, Remo, Egba and Egbado, then (now Yewa), and of course, that is the four pillars on which Ogun State stands.
Therefore, you will now understand that Ogun State can be likened to a table with four legs. Presently, if you look at what has happened in Ogun State, you will see that the table is still standing on three legs. The fourth leg, which is the people of Yewa/Awori, has not been provided and unless that leg is provided, there cannot be equilibrium. And if democracy itself is about equity, it is about equal opportunity, and if democracy is all we are talking about, everybody being the same, then it means, the people of Yewa/Awori must definitely be allowed to actually have a taste from the pot of power in Ogun State.
Let me now tell you, how it has been. When Ogun State was created in 1976, the first democratic experience that we had was in 1979. Definitely, one out of the four districts must produce the governor. And so, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) was the party then. And so, the slot went to Chief Bisi Onabanjo, who was an Ijebu person. After that, Onabanjo was given another slot in 1983 for the second term, but the military truncated that. After that, the next democratic dispensation we had was in 1993 during the SDP, the one created by IBB. And at that time, the seat of power shifted to Egba, and we had Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba on the seat then. He was also given another chance but that was also truncated by the military.
But under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999, Osoba was also given that ticket to complete the Egba tenure of the second term, because technically, whether you spend one day in office or two days in office, it is assumed, that it is a term. Whatever happens there, it is just an irony of fate. I think Osoba wanted to go for another term, and of course, there was a court judgment, which says, he was eligible. But OGD came in from nowhere through the PDP and, then occupied the seat on the ticket of Remo, because at that time, people felt it was Remo’s turn.
Up to the point OGD occupied the seat it was assumed that if it was for Remo. And it was still assumed we are still rotating the governorship seat on the divisional level. In 2011, OGD and the PDP made efforts to ensure that the people of Yewa/Awori got the ticket, but unfortunately, the bickering within the party, and of course, the level of crisis in the PDP could not allow that shift of power to materialise. And of course, we had Amosun coming onboard. That is how it has been. So, the coming onboard of Amosun was an alteration of the rotation because it means Egba was coming up for the second term.
Having said that, let me now come back to the issue of senatorial districts and the divisions. I told you that at the creation of Ogun State, we were operating on the four divisional areas but by the 1999 constitution, the senatorial district came into prominence. And if you now want to look at how the governorship seat has actually moved in Ogun State, you will now realise, that the Ogun East, where Onabanjo and Daniel represented, has taken two terms at the governorship slot, the Ogun Central where Osoba, and Amosun, the incumbent governor come from has also taken two slots, whereas the people of Ogun West are yet to have a taste. So, my brother that is how it has been.
One thing is to agitate for power shift and another is to have a competent and capable person. Are your kinsmen and women ready to face stiff competition from contestants from the two other senatorial districts?
Yes. This takes us to one of the things, that our brothers from the other Senatorial Districts have been saying and it is very insulting. “Yewa ko l’eyan” (Yewa does not have credible and competent persons), and I want to ask, are you talking of colouration, whether there are blue or green people in Yewa, and it is only red people that can be governor? But let me tell you, if you are talking in terms of quality, the qualities of candidates that we have been presenting are even better than those that have emerged as governors in Ogun State.
Let me start by saying, I have mentioned Jonathan Odebiyi. As at the time Onabanjo emerged, you cannot compare the political credentials of Onabanjo with that of Odebiyi, but because it was in the interest of the party’s leadership, Onabanjo emerged. Don’t forget Onabanjo was chairman, Ijebu Ode local government and a member of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, and in the real sense of it, Odebiyi was two-time Minister and was head of the parliament. When Osoba contested, he contested against Prof Abimbola Olabimtan. Olabimtan was a professor at the University of Lagos.
He was a scholar of great repute, an international scholar, writer and all good things you could say about the man. Are you saying that his credentials were not superb? It was only when Daniel contested that the people of Yewa/Awori didn’t contest. The arrangement then in the party was that OGD should contest and that was why the people of Ogun West didn’t contest, when he was contesting. But let me again mention that at the time, at the initial stage, Arojo also aspired.
And of course, we knew where Arojo was coming from. He was coming from the private sector, like OGD. But by the time Amosun contested and won, and yes, we are talking of Brig-Gen Adetunji Olurin – somebody, who had been in the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), the highest ruling body in Nigeria. He had gone on international assignments and had actually succeeded and excelled and had been military governor of Oyo State, which is times two the population of Ogun State. Of course, you cannot say such a person is a pushover.
And of course, GNI himself, he is also another investment expert, somebody who has excelled in banking and finance and, then who came to Ogun State and ran the financial profile of Ogun State well. Somebody the governor himself was satisfied with his performance while in office. You cannot say we don’t have them. In every contest, we have always brought out people that are equal, if not above the ordinary level. They are also people that can flaunt their credentials anywhere in the whole world. They can be anywhere. They can occupy any position in the international realm, not to talk of ruling Ogun State alone.
Can you possibly identity why the governorship slot has always eluded the Ogun West district since the creation of the state 40 years ago?
The first problem is that the political structure was created in such a way that the Yewa/Awori people were put in a disadvantaged position. In the Electoral College, where we had 50 delegates, the Ijebu had 20, the Egba had 20 and the Egbado had 10. How do you think 10 delegates can defeat 20 delegates from a zone in a free and fair contest? And I have told you that all the delegates voted along ethnic lines.
The second one is that with the present political structure in Ogun State, Ogun West has 59 wards; Ogun East has 108 wards, that is, Ogun West is 50 per cent of Ogun East, while Ogun Central has 67 wards. Now, consider a situation, that we are to send 10 delegates each and, then multiply Ogun West delegates by 10 that is 590, whereas the delegates from Ogun East would be 1,080. Is that not it, while delegates from Egba would be 670?
Now, tell me, if they are going to contest primaries, since the delegates are going to vote, the candidate from Ogun West is already contesting from the disadvantaged position. That is that. Go and see the criteria for selection of people that go into the delegates thing, then you will find past political office holders too, and go and see how many of our people have been ministers.
But let me tell you that the emergence of governors in Ogun State has not been through the efforts of the people but through the leadership caucus. It was Awolowo that determined, who became the governor of Ogun State in 1979. He was the founder of the party. If Awolowo had been from Egbado, Odebiyi would have been governor. If he had been from Egba, may be, Odunjo would have been the governor. I am not saying Awolowo was tribalistic, but I am telling you that he was also a human being.
Let me again say, that the incumbent governor of Ogun State – we knew how it happened at Bourdillon. He was actually the candidate from the Bourdillon and that was how he got the seat. Because as at that time, Tinubu was the de facto national chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). You will see that in all the emergence of governors in the state, the leadership is number one factor.
The first problem is that the political structure was created in such a way that the Yewa/Awori people were put in a disadvantaged position. In the Electoral College, where we had 50 delegates, the Ijebu had 20, the Egba had 20 and the Egbado had 10. How do you think 10 delegates can defeat 20 delegates from a zone in a free and fair contest? And I have told you that all the delegates voted along ethnic lines