Ilori: Ondo’s New Kid on the Block


With his strategic role in the recent ‎Ondo State governorship election, the Director-General, Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, Mr. Bola Ilori, is an emerging face to watch, writes Shola Oyeyipo

There were so many lessons learnt from the just concluded governorship election in Ondo State won by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) but of particular interest is how the Alliance for Democracy (AD) resonated and made significant show in the hotly contested election.

There is no doubting that the election was both competitive and tension-soaked, especially as the processes that threw up Akeredolu and the eventual Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede were characterised by crisis.

But as the fallout of alleged irregularities in the APC governorship primary, one of the APC aspirants, who is also considered ‎a remarkable grassroots politician, Mr. Olusola Oke opted out and pitched tent with the Alliance for Democracy (AD) on which platform he contested.

For many reasons, including the fact that he left the APC, the rumoured support for his candidacy on the AD platform by the APC national ‎leader, Senator Bola Tinubu and his reassurances to the people that he would win the election, Oke quickly won the attention of watchers of the keenly contested election.

‎Though at the end, APC’s Akeredolu scored 244,842 votes to defeat PDP’s Jegede, who polled scored 150,380 while AD’s Oke garnered 126,889 votes to come third. But the latter made resounding impacts in the buildup to the election.
First, his pre-election campaigns easily became a spectacle due to the mammoth crowd that attended each of them and that was closely linked to the political wizardry of his campaign manager, Hon. Bola Ilori, who won the admiration of many as a great mobiliser and remarkable political tactician.

So massive were the crowds trailing Oke’s campaign that the APC in Ondo State accused Oke of “importing” supporters from Lagos and Osun States for his kick-off campaign held at the Democracy Park, Akure, the Ondo State capital. The APC alleged that this was to give an impression that he was a popular candidate in the state because to them, the AD was unpopular in the state.

That Oke eventually polled 126, 889‎ votes did only attested to his popularity, also confirmed Ilori’s dexterity in managing his statewide marketing, which won him accolades as the new kid on the block – someone to watch out for in the foreseeable future.

Ilori, one of Tinubu’s political proteges‎, was the executive Secretary of old Alimosho local government.‎ He later became the Special Assistant to former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on Environmental Matters, before he was appointed Special Adviser to the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, also on Environment and Sanitation. He has managed the environment ministry in three of the six states in South-west Nigeria.

After Oke defected to the AD, the Ondo State chapter of the party named Ilori the Director-General of the Olusola Oke/Ganny Dauda Governorship Campaign Organisation. And iIn the buildup to the election, Ilori was the only APC member with viable structure but was not contesting. He hails from Ondo Central and people considered Oke’s choice of Ilori as politically wise.

With his job as the DG of the Oke campaign group, the well-known Tinubu loyalist was to drive the AD efforts to win the November 26 governorship election in the state.
In fact, the insinuation that Tinubu was behind Oke was simply buttressed by Ilori’s role in the election, particularly when during an interview on a national television, he said he and some other APC members joined the APC on Tinubu’s directive.

“I don’t know APC before, it was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that said we should move to APC and we did. He has said AD is the option now; even If he said AA we won’t look back before we move to the party. All they are doing at the national headquarters of the party (APC) is Anti-Tinubu policies, not in Ondo alone but also in Kogi, Edo, Ogun and other parts of the country.

“Let Oyegun resign first and the problem of the party will be drastically reduced. Some people said it is because I want to be deputy governor at all cost. No! No! that is not true. We are fighting for what is not right. The younger generation of the party is bitter with what is happening in the party. We don’t have option than to move out.

“Some people are using president Buhari’s name to do the evil but I don’t know why the President kept silent. Someone who keeps silent in a situation like this – it is either the person is a coward or confused”, he said.

The Ondo APC story is recent and not lost on Nigerians. ‎Tinubu initially said he was not going to support any candidate until two weeks when he made the final call to support Abraham only a week to the primaries. It was then that Ilori joined Abraham’s camp in compliance with Asiwaju’s directive about three days to the primaries.

The acrimony followed alleged delegate list manipulation, which led to a situation where Ilori’s delegates were allegedly disenfranchised. His team raised a petition in conjunction with other aggrieved aspirants and the appeal panel ordered the cancellation of the primaries.

The NWC upheld the verdict of the appeal panel. Six members voted for cancellation and five for Akeredolu, but the National Chairman single-handedly submitted Akeredolu’s name to INEC.
Hence, Ilori and Oke came back together and formed a common front to challenge the impunity by reviving AD which was the fore-runner of APC in Ondo State. Oke was the candidate and Ilori led the rigorous campaign, electrifying the process and making it more competitive as never seen in recent times.

Coming from obscurity, the AD and its candidate quickly became forces to reckon with as potential winner. The people accepted the party as it spread like wild fire within the six weeks it had to prepare for the election. It was its acceptability that explained how it grew so fast and why its rallies were so huge.

Though they may have lost the election, the awareness that the AD created through Ilori and his principal has shown he has something strong deposited in him politically. The candidate and his DG made a very strong showing in the race‎.
Thus, whilst all the old men like Akeredolu, Oke and Mimiko will soon go out of reckoning in the state’s polity, the like of Ilori are set to take the stage from them.
And when the future comes, he has some elements working in his favour. First, he is politically-aggressive, grassroots-oriented, media-friendly, resilient and confident. All these came together to help him organise one of the most feared campaigns ever witnessed in Ondo State. It shook Ondo to its foundation within six weeks and watchers are looking towards 2020, which is just around the corner. He is expected to make even greater impacts.

That Oke eventually polled 126, 889‎ votes did only attested to his popularity, also confirmed Ilori’s dexterity in managing his statewide marketing, which won him accolades as the new kid on the block – someone to watch out for in the foreseeable future