Those aspiring to become governor of Oyo State, must recognise the overriding influence of the incumbent governor, Abiola Ajimobi and a former governor of the state, Rashidi Ladoja, writes Ademola Babalola
The two dominant political parties; ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party stand shoulder high to produce a successor to the incumbent Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
While the governor ostensibly remains the incontrovertible leader of the APC today in the 42-year-old Pace Setters State, the PDP has been put under the firm control of a former Governor Rashidi Ladoja, an old war horse politician who wields enormous power to decide the fate of would-be standard bearer as the race to the Agodi Government house gets under way.
For bookmakers, both Ajimobi and Ladoja are the gladiators who hold the aces on who gets what as far as both parties are concerned. A number of other parties are also getting ready to give these dominant parties, a run for their much-acclaimed popularity. In this category are the touted ‘Third Force’; the remnants of Labour Party; Accord and Alliance for Democracy. Like 2015 election, Oyo State is likely to have five formidable governorship candidates in APC, PDP, Labour, AD and possibly ADP.
Permutations across political circles give vent to such information as far as the forthcoming politicking is concerned. Except the unthinkable happens, both the APC and the PDP still stand the chance to occupy the seat of power in 2019.
Curiously, while Ajimobi will be serving out his second term as governor, Ladoja fought effortlessly for the same opportunity but providence would not allow this to be. Ladoja is a man loved and loathed for his style of politics; depending on which side of the divide you belong.
At the moment, the battle ahead appears a straight fight between the APC and the PDP. And it will be fought and won by the duo of Ajimobi and Ladoja who are today sworn enemies as they seek to test their capability in the race to the coveted seat, this time around through their protégés.
Their third; Adebayo Alao-Akala also a former governor is on the match again to try his luck the third time; having failed in 2011 as a sitting governor and in the 2015 as the candidate of the Labour Party. Presently, eyeing APC and looking fervently for the favour of both Ajimobi and APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu to hand him the party ticket, it remains to be seen if his wish this time around would not be a forlorn hope as over 30 other aspirants lined up to undo one another in the battle for the ticket of APC.
Aside, Akaka, other front liners seeking Ajimobi’s blessing to secure APC governorship ticket are (not in particular order of popularity); Deputy Governor Moses Adeyemo; Bimbo Adekanmbi (Current Finance Commissioner); Dr. Yunus Akintunde (Former Works and Transport Commissioner); Prof. Adeolu Akande (former Chief of Staff); Mr. Bayo Adelabu (Deputy Governor of Central Bank); Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN; Engr. Remi Olaniyan and Mr. Soji Eniade, the immediate past Head of Service.
Others in their category are the serving Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu; a member of the House of Representatives, Temitope Olatoye Sugar; Commissioner for Health, Dr. Azeez Adeduntan and one of his predecessors in the same ministry, Dr. Owolabi Babalola; Mr. Kehinde Olaosebikan; former Guardian Editor, Mr. Debo Omotoso among others.
Just as aspirants on the platform of the APC are seeking the blessing of Ajimobi, the same is also for Ladoja. Aspirants jostling for the PDP ticket are counting on his support to pick the ticket. Among them arE two former senators; Femi Lanlehin and Ayoade Adeseun; a former Secretary to the State Government, Sharafadeen Abiodun Alli; businessman, Mr. Seyi Makinde; a former deputy governor, Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarumi; Mr Femi Babalola (Jogor); and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde; among others.
Feelers from both camps say Ajimobi and Ladoja would use the opportunity of the 2019 race to undo each another as they set for political retirement. However, while Ajimobi is eyeing senatorial seat once again having served in the same capacity between 2003-2007, Ladoja has made it clear that he was no longer contesting for the governorship.
A government house source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said “Ajimobi is unlikely to watch PDP overrun APC in 2019. He is set and going into the forthcoming poll with all arsenals at his disposal. He has beaten Ladoja twice and is set to repeat such feat again in 2019. He knows what is at stake and that was why his group is the most formidable political platform today in Oyo state. He attracted Akala to his side; ditto for other politicians like ex-Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin; a serving member of the House of Reps, Segun Odebunmi, a number of professionals and captains of industries to the party.
“He is much aware that the coming back of the PDP would rubbish all his achievements as governor and he believes so much in continuity and his major preoccupation today is to handover power to another APC elected governor for the ongoing transformation and repositioning agenda he started in 2011 to continue unhindered”.
Like a wounded lion, Ladoja on the other hand, will be working towards ensuring PDP’s success at the poll, said a party chieftain who prefers anonymity.
Sources close to Ladoja confided in THISDAY that he was not sparing effort in his commitment to put forward “the best striker among the top PDP contenders to ensure successful prosecution of the governorship poll in the party’s favour. Do you know that a number of things are running in his chest as we speak? First is the need to pay Ajimobi back in his own coin by ensuring that the governor fails in his disposition to install a successor. Secondly is the need to ensure status quo in the Olubadan chieftaincy system which the governor attempted to rubbish by installing new kings in Ibadan.
“He knows that an APC governor will continue such infamous chieftaincy reform and as an high chief himself, he is determined to ensure a reversal of the review. And above all, he appears to be favourably disposed to having an all-inclusive party primary devoid of acrimony where the best candidate can emerge and others working with the winners for the party’s victory in general election”.
Whatever is the thinking in the gladiators’ camps and across political divides, Oyo State needs a leader who can deliver on electioneering promises and rule with the fear of God. Personalities issue would come into play and focus as people yearn for progressively upward mobile governor who will provide quality leadership that can earn the state its true sobriquet, pace setter.
As things stand today, the talk that power is never served ala carte will continue to come handy as the march towards 2019 starts in earnest. A point to this, for instance in PDP is the recent uproar over reported harmonization of the PDP State Executive and counter instruction to that effect. It was the same ball game in the ruling party as the members are currently up in arms against the party leadership on the botched local government party primaries.
As things stand today, both parties have tendencies to implode but the wisdom and sagacity of both leaders, Ajimobi and Ladoja will soon be put to test and the outcome of such, will greatly determine the swing of pendulum in 2019.
Every gubernatorial contender appears woken up to the stark reality and wise saying thus: “When you think that your problems are unique, remember, the fish in the ocean cannot ask for a shark-free ocean…, the same way the deer in the jungle cannot expect a lion-free jungle….,
All they can do is outsmart the predators!”
At the moment, the battle ahead appears a straight fight between the APC and the PDP. And it will be fought and won by the duo of Ajimobi and Ladoja