Guber Race: Battle Shift to Ogun West

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In this report, Okoye Dubem and Ifediora Obianujunwa write on the rising clamour by Ogun West senatorial district to produce the next governor of the state in 2019 and x-ray politicians from the zone seeking to succeed Governor Ibikunle Amosun.

In its 41 years of existence, only two out of the three senatorial districts have produced governors in Ogun State. The Gateway State has only been presided over by both Ogun East and Central while the third leg of the tripod that made up the state, ‘Ogun West’, is yet to produce a helmsman for the state. The uppermost the zone has gotten is a deputy governor’s slot.

But with 2019 in sight, stakeholders in the zone are coalescing to end the acclaimed marginalisation of the zone. Though, political analysts believe that two major factors have largely been responsible for the inability of the zone to produce a governor all the while.

First, pundits think the reason for this is because of the inability of the zone to present and support a single candidate and the failure to get buck votes from either one or both of the remaining senatorial districts in the state.

The zone’s usual slogan of “Yewa l’okan” meaning “it is now the turn of the Yewa” at every election year always vanished into thin air due to disunity and debilitated political structure in other districts.
However, with the renewed vigour and sense of direction of the zone, it appears Ogun West, which is endowed with prominent sons and daughters, both locally and internationally, is all dressed up to take up the gauntlet for the governorship seat in 2019.

Ogun West has a population of 1,109,884 which represents 31 per cent of the State population and almost equal percentage ratio with the other two senatorial districts of Ogun Central and Ogun East with 33 and 36 per cent ratios respectively.
With a land mass of 6,297.64km, which is 37 per cent of the total land mass in Ogun State, the zone is the economic hub of Ogun State, generating 75 per cent of the state’s internally generated revenue.

Also known as Yewa/Awori land, the zone 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.

Ogun West has not only suffered marginalisation in the aspect of producing a governor, the zone, out of the 20 local government areas in the state, has five local government while Ogun East and Ogun Central senatorial districts shared 15 local government areas.

Speaking on the perceived disadvantageous political structure of the zone, a leader of thought from the zone said Ogun West has been ‘suffering’ from an unbalanced political setting in the state and that has compounded its political and developmental woes.

According to him, the equity in representation has not been favorable to Ogun West in comparison to the other zones, adding that since the creation of the state the allocation of Electoral College had always been lopsided and thereby making the zone to fight from the rear.

He explained that: “Coming to the present structure, the uneven allocation still persists on the basis of wards allocation which is a key element in any political contest. Ogun West has 59 wards; Ogun East has 108 wards, meaning Ogun West is 50 per cent of Ogun East, while Ogun Central has 67 wards. So, if the three zones are going to contest primaries, since the delegates are going to vote base on wards representation, the candidate from Ogun West is already contesting from a disadvantaged position. That is the plight of our zone.”

He stressed further that, “Elections are won through electoral units and it’s also participatory, the equity has not been there in Ogun State, the zones don’t have equal number of delegate. From the units, wards, state constituencies and even local government allocation, there is no balance, the uneven distribution is so wide.”

Although the next general election is still two years away, the political space in Ogun State is already getting congested. With none of the politicians ready to be left behind or play second fiddle in the rat race, the various groups and movements have started oiling their political machinery, dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s for the race to the Oke Mosan Government House.
In every contest, there are contenders and pretenders, and Ogun 2019 is not an exception. Already, no fewer than eight aspirants from the zone are reported to be interested.

Suraj Adekunbi
The speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly is one of the early birds already out from the zone and his supporters believe he is the only aspirant from Ogun West that looks good to succeed Amosun.
Adekunbi, a seemingly refined politician who is cool, calm and collected in his approach, has been a ‘loyal’ partner to the incumbent governor, hence the seamless relationship between both arms of government. But whether the governance dalliance between the duo will translate to political relationship is another kettle of fish.

Although he has not officially declared his intention, it is believed in some quarters that he is on the consideration of the APC-led government in the state as a potential successor of Amosun. To rev up his exposure and credentials, he was reported to have recently attended a course in Harvard University, United States.
The issue with him might be whether he will be able to co-opt other structures because his attachment to the governor is seen in some quarters as too close for comfort and as such might be subservient to him.

Gboyega Isiaka
Isiaka has a brilliant and pleasant personality which has earned him measures of goodwill in the state. If analytical skills and experience are the determinants for governorship race, GNI, as Gboyega Isiaka is usually called, fits the bill. He has a strong grasp of attendant issues affecting Ogun State especially when it comes to the realisation of the economic potential of the Gateway State.

His first two forays as governorship candidates of Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011 and 2015 respectively wasn’t a sweet experience for the First Class graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).

On both occasions, he was carried on the back by two different power brokers, Gbenga Daniel in 2011 and Senator Buruji Kashamu in 2015. Interestingly, after losing to the incumbent in 2015, he appears to have detached himself from the apron of any godfather and nurturing his political structure across the 20 local governments in the state. He recently launched his ‘Believe Movement’ which is aimed at re-oiling his political machinery.
The challenge for him as 2019 approaches is what platform to launch his campaign. He is tipped to join the APC.

Senator Solomon Adeola
Ordinarily, the political antecedent of Senator Adeola should have conferred the plum job on him without much eyebrow but the many intrigues involve in politics won’t allow that. Popularly called Yayi, the Senator is presently representing Lagos West senatorial district.

Currently, it appears he is the issue in the governorship race two years to the real election. Having failed in his bid to pick the APC senatorial ticket for Ogun West in 2015, he is back to fight for the APC governorship ticket and expectedly, legion of opposition are on his path.

Interestingly, there are serious contentions on whether he is from Ogun West or not, but the popular politician appears unfazed by such insinuations. Clearly, he is one of the subject matter in the fight for the APC ticket because he is popular and has a strong financial war chest. But the big question, regardless of his aloft stature is whether he will be able to get the ticket of the APC especially with the no love lost relationship with the incumbent governor.

Hon. Abiodun Akinlade:
Akinlade is a son of the soil and his name in the political equation of Ogun State cannot be undermined. His popularity has been tested and he came out in flying colours. He has contested the Federal House of Representatives ticket on the platform of the two leading political parties in the state; the PDP and APC, and he won.

Regarded as a politician who represents new realities and possibilities for Ogun West especially during his 12 years in the Green Chamber, Akinlade, had close shave with governorship ticket in 2011 and 2015.

Owing to his commitment to the politics of reconciliation and reasons, he gave up his aspirations on the two occasions for tranquility to prevail. His area of strength include grassroots popularity that has enabled him to empower thousands of people in his zone and beyond.
Celebrating his 50th birthday recently, the Owode-Yewa born politician, who has the mastery of the workings of the National Assembly, declared his intentions to vie for the state governorship seat. His recent defection to the APC alongside his supporters across the state has changed the equation in the party and the zone. His virile political structure across the zone and the state is perhaps giving other aspirants sleepness nights.
His Achilles heels is the fact that he is a new entrant into the party and there are many things to fight for. However, if anyone can move this needle for Ogun West, Abiodun Akinlade can, but whether he will be third time lucky is what is left to be seen.

Tolu Odebiyi
He is the current Chief of Staff to Governor Amosun and he is said to be on the list for consideration as governor. He is articulate and passionate about the youths of the state.

Coming from a popular family, Tolu is the son of the late politician, Senator Jonathan Odebiyi. But that is not all about him as he is a successful technocrat who has strong profile in property development and investment.

While some political analysts in the state believe that the governor was only using him to test the waters ahead of the race, others believe that Amosun and some other stakeholders may eventually settle for him. Regardless of the divides, his weakness is his perceived absence at the grassroots level.

Personalities bandied around in the race include Senator Gbolahan Lawal; former Commissioner of Forestry, Mr. Ayo Olubori; the lawmaker representing Yewa South/ Ipokia Federal Constituency, Hon. Kunle Akinlade (Tripple A); the chairman of Local Government Service Commission, Rotimi Rahmon (Arugbo); Commissioner for Forestry, Kola Lawal (KLM) and among others.

Clearly, there are host of sensitive, challenging areas in the course of breaking the 41-year- old jinx, but like it is said in politics, the road is always tortuous but not impassable.