Femi Ogbonnikan looks at the effort by Ogun West senatorial district to produce the next governor of Ogun State and those in the forefront of the campaign
As the 2019 general elections approach, potential aspirants are emerging for various elective positions, and they are engaging in wide-raging consultations with political leaders for advice and endorsement. In Ogun State, the political activity appears to be more intense in Ogun West senatorial district in their quest to produce the next governor of the state. No person from the zone has become governor in the Gateway State since its creation on February 4, 1976.
Considering the long years of neglect, the consequent infrastructural decay, and the domination of the political space by the other two senatorial districts, Ogun Central and Ogun East, the people of Ogun West have mounted a strong agitation for power shift to the area ahead of the 2019 governorship poll. Their slogan is “Yewa l’okan”, which in English means it is now the turn of the Yewa.
Ogun West has a land mass of 6,297.64km, which is 37 per cent of the total land mass in Ogun State, and a population of 1,109,884, according to the national population census of 2006. The zone is economic hub of Ogun State, generating 75 per cent of the state’s internally generated revenue.
Ogun West, also known as Yewa/Awori land, is made up of five local governments, namely, Imeko-Afon, Ipokia, Yewa South, Yewa North and Ado-Odo/Ota local government areas. The sub – ethnic groups in the zone include the Yoruba, Eyo, Anago, Awori, Ketu, Ifonyin, and Egun. The people have viewed the dominance of the political space by Ogun Central and Ogun East as an affront, and they appear ready to deal with it this time.
As the people make effort to have one of their own on the governorship seat of Ogun State in 2019, they are being counselled to eschew internal divisions, which has been identified as the bane of their governor aspiration.
A frontline politician from Ijebuland (Ogun East), Asiwaju Olajide Awosedo, blames internal disagreements for the failure of Yewaland to ascend the governorship seat at the 2011 general election, when they had an ample opportunity, which was, however, wasted with the division of their votes. Two strong candidates, Gen Adetunji Olurin of the Peoples Democratic Party and Gboyega Isiaka of the Peoples Party of Nigeria, had emerged from the zone, thereby dividing the votes, and giving the then Action Congress of Nigeria candidate, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the incumbent governor, an edge to emerge victorious.
According to Awosedo, who was the Labour Party governorship candidate in 2011, the problem of Ogun West is self-inflicted. In a recent interview with THIS DAY, he said what the Yewa people lack in their quest for the governorship is strategy.
But prominent indigenes of the state, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, have continued to support the Ogun West governorship aspiration.
Poised to actualise the zone’s political aspiration, come 2019, some aspirants of Yewa extraction have begun to emerge, though with no certainty yet as to their political platforms. Notable among them are the Ogun State Government Chief of Staff, Chief Tolu Odebiyi (scion of the Senator Jonathan Odebiyi dynasty); the incumbent Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Suraj Ishola Adekunbi; Senator Iyabo Anisulowo; Isiaka; Hon. Abiodun Akinlade; and Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (aka Yayi).
Adeola: A new comer in the contest for Amosun’s successor, Adeola is presently representing Lagos West senatorial district at the Senate. His permutations are said to be behind some recent defections to his All Progressives Congress. He is believed to be supported by Chief Bode Mustapha, Rt Hon Tunji Egbetokun, former council chairmen and ex-councillors, who worked for the emergence of Amosun in 2011. Yayi, a chartered accountant, was born on August 10, 1969 to the family of Mr and Mrs Adeola Ogunleye. He is an indigene of Ago-Isaga, Pahayi, of Agbole Onibata, Ilaro, in Yewa South Local Government Area.
But the hurdles before the Lagos West senator are many. His alleged sour relationship with Amosun, who effectively controls the APC structure in the state, may pose a huge problem for his governorship ambition. Adeola enjoys the support of the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who has a frosty relationship with Amosun.
Odebiyi: The entry of Odebiyi, the present Chief of Staff to Ogun State Government, appears to be reshaping not only the Ogun West aspiration, but also the whole governorship race. It is believed by many political watchers that his recent appointment as Chief of Staff by Amosun was actually meant to position him for emergence as the governor’s successor.
Odebiyi, an Ogun West senatorial aspirant in 2015, is the son of late Chief (Mrs) Kemi Odebiyi, who was Lagos State INEC Commissioner between 1999 and 2007, before her elevation as an INEC national Commissioner by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, her primary school classmate at African Church School, Ita Iyalode, Abeokuta. A popular son of Iboro, in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State, he holds a BSc in Building Construction and Engineering Technology from Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. He was Managing Director, Agbara Estates Limited, a development and investment company with over N20 billion in assets. At a time, he was Managing Partner of Travant Real Estate, a boutique real estate firm with a focus on residential and commercial developments, private equity investment and advisory. In recognition of his skills and competences, Odebiyi was selected to serve as a member of the think-tank transition committee on housing in Ogun State in 2003. He is currently a member of the Ogun State Judicial Service Commission.
Odebiyi is said to have previously spurned entreaties from Obasanjo to join the PDP and persuasion from the late Sir Olaniwun Ajayi to be Senator Adegbenga Kaka’s running mate in 2007 on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Alliance. He is believed to have been invited by Amosun to join APC. Those who know Odebiyi say he has a passion for poverty alleviation and has been involved in various philanthropic programmes among his native Yewa. His pet project, Alajobi, set up in 2011, is dedicated to promoting the Yewa governorship aspiration.
An APC chieftain in Yewaland, who wants to remain anonymous, said, “Alajobi is s philanthropic organisation, which was given birth to, to take care of the need for a benevolent leadership, genuinely caring for each other. The organisation cuts across different political groupings. We have the PDP, LP, ACN, etc. The idea was to make a difference in the lives of the people of Yewa. We lack exposure. We were to enlighten our people and also to empower them.
“With the genuine intention of Governor Amosun to hand over the baton to a Yewa candidate to succeed him in office, we are sure of the continuity of his good projects through industrialisation of the state. Sooner or later, Ogun State will record the largest number of industries sited in the country. The greatest thing to do, for the successor, is to key in to this industrialisation drives, so that all the three senatorial districts will benefit.”
Odebiyi’s late father’s legacies and closeness to the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, may also be an advantage.
Adekunbi: He is another contender for the Ogun number one job. Born on March 5, 1975 in Aiyetoro, Yewa North Local Government Area to the family of Alhaji Rahmon and Madam Elizabeth Adekunbi, he holds an HND in Mechanical Engineering from The Polytechnic Ibadan and a Master’s degree in Project Development Implementation (MPDI) from the Federal University of Technology, Akure. Adekunbi tested his popularity in 2007, when he contested, though unsuccessfully, to represent his Yewa North constituency in the House of Assembly. He never gave up. Showing resilience and commitment, he re-launched the bid in 2011 on the platform of ACN and won.
He was elected as the Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly on July 6, 2011.
Anisulowo: Anisulowo, 65, is a former Secretary to the defunct Egbado South Local Government Area, a two-time Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry, and an erstwhile Minister of State for Education. She was also the senator for Ogun West district at the upper chamber between 2003 and 2007. Anisulowo is a close friend of Amosun.
Isiaka: Isiaka (aka GNI) hails from Imeko, in Imeko – Afon Local Government Area of Ogun State. The 52-year-old politician had on two previous occasions contested unsuccessfully for the governorship on the platform of PDP. He is warming up for another contest in 2019.
Ahead of 2019, however, there are fears that the number of aspirants from Ogun West senatorial district may yet again ruin the zone’s governorship aspiration if not managed properly.