Femi Ogbonnikan examines the strengths and weaknesses of frontrunners for the office of governor of Ogun State in the 2019 election.

In the coming governorship election in Ogun State, all eyes are on Ogun West senatorial district to grab the coveted office. Since the creation of the state in February 1976, Ogun West has never taken a shot at the governorship seat. However, recent political development are tilted towards ensuring a balance in the power equation among the three senatorial districts; Ogun Central, Ogun West and Ogun East. Deafening as the agitation is, Ogun West district, made up of Yewa/Awori people and five local governments (Yewa South, Yewa North, Imeko-Afon, Ipokia and Ado-Odo/Ota), is now relishing on the strength of the resolve and commitment of the incumbent governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun, who at various public functions pledged to cede power to a successor of Ogun West extraction.

Following the pronouncement, in Ogun West district alone, no fewer than nine (Rt. Hon Suraj Adekunbi, Temitope Kuyebi, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, Hon. Abiodun Akinlade, Sen. Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, Kola Lawal, Tolu Odebiyi and Adeleke Tella) governorship aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Chief Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (aka GNI) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have signified interest in the number one seat of the state.

The recent emergence of the much-touted ‘wizkid’, Olakunle Olude, who is rumoured as the incumbent governor’s preferred successor has continued to cause ripples and also, sent jitters down the spine of the nine strong contenders that earlier indicated interest in the plum job. While the elders and leaders of Ogun West senatorial district under different aegis have constituted a screening committee to produce a consensus governorship candidate, the governor who is the leader of the party in the state is hell-bent to, against the popular demand of the elders for inclusion in the decision-making, handpick his successor. But it does not seem as if the other senatorial districts are giving up without a hard fight. For instance, Ogun East has expressed open resentment for an arrangement that will handover the APC governorship ticket to Ogun West wholesale. Under the banner of ‘Ijebu Agenda’, it has resolved to defy every obstacle along its path to produce the next governor and gone ahead to pick Chief Bimbo Ashiru, the current Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, as its consensus governorship candidate.

Despite polarisation within the leadership of the PDP into two groups, two candidates-Hon Oladipupo Adebutu and Sen. Buruji Kashamu-have emerged as governorship aspirants from Ogun East. The PDP leadership has identified disunity as the major reason against ceding the governorship ticket to Ogun West.

All the contestants possess strong credentials that could propel or qualify them to win the governorship seat of the state.

However, experience, fame, pedigree, acceptance, clout, fund, personality, zoning arrangement (if any) and close working relationship with the incumbent governor may be some of the deciding factors to determine the chances of the aspirants.

Olalekan Olude

Olude hails from Imasai in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State. He is the Group Chief Operating Officer of Jobberman, a company he co-founded. The company delivers services across consulting, testing, advertising and outsourcing. Though he is yet to make public his interest in the governorship contest, strong indications have emerged that the young Olude who will turn 35 in September is the person being touted as ‘wizkid’ that Governor Amosun often makes a veiled reference to. He is touted as the most favoured to succeed him in office.

Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (aka GNI)

Isiaka is an illustrious son of Imeko in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of the state. The 55 year-old 1986 first class graduate of Accounting status from the then, University of Ife (now, Obafemi Awolowo University), was a two-time Ogun State governorship candidate of both the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) in 2011 and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. Isiaka, a multi-disciplinarian in different management fields is staging a comeback, the third time, on the platform of the newly formed African Democratic Congress (ADC). His defection to the new platform was a fall-out of several litigations within the PDP state leadership. He is reputed to be one of the most brilliant and experienced aspirants from Ogun West with a stronghold in virtually the enitre Yewa/Aworiland. But the only snag which many political analysts fear that may threaten his chances is said to be his inability to muster strong financiers and political god-fathers.

Temitope Stephen Kuyebi

Kuyebi, 43, and a native of Imasai in Yewa North Local Government Area of the state, is a mechanical engineer who is into the oil and gas downstream sector.

He was the first consensus candidate that was unanimously presented by Ogun West political leaders to represent them in the build-up to the 2011 governorship election until he was prevailed upon to step down for Sen. Ibikunle Amosun.

Kuyebi has been involved in active politics, predating the emergence of the AD metamorphosing to AC, ACN and APC. Of the 11 governorship aspirants at that time, he remains the only one that has not left the party and has been consistently supporting the governor and the leadership of the party in the state.

It could be recalled that the governor has resolved and has continually restated his commitment to hand over the baton to a ‘wizkid’ from Ogun West and Kuyebi possesses the qualities that perfectly fit into the description of the word, ‘wizkid’. He is courageous, young, agile, loyal, intelligent and generous. He started his grassroots mobilisation with the establishment of Temitope Kuyebi Foundation.

Though wealthy, his Achilles’ heel is his perceived inability to curry the support of financiers.

Kola Lawal Mobolorunduro (aka KLM)

Born 55 years ago, Lawal hails from Eyo Quarters, in Oke-Odan, Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State.

His foray into the partisan-politics began with his philanthropic antecedents which brought him up for recognition, this underscores his grassroots connection and relevance.

KLM, as he is fondly called, has had a 20-year stint with ExxonMobil Producing Unlimited where he rose to the executive cadre. He is a tested and an experienced politician, having once entered the governorship race in 2011 on the platform of the PDP.

KLM is considered to be a strong contender for the highest political office in the state, but he may not have the financial muscle to prosecute his gubernatorial bid.

Sen. Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (aka Yayi)

He is a political heavy weight whose gubernatorial ambition has ensured that he is not on the same page with the incumbent governor. Though both men belong to the ruling party, APC, Sen. Adeola, fondly called Yayi, is the current legislator representing Lagos West district in the Senate. He is said to be considering using the newly resuscitated Social Democratic Party (SDP) to actualize his ambition. However, controversies trail his original family in Pahayi Compound, Ilaro, Yewa South Local Government Area. But political analysts have warned of dire consequences of under-rating the Yewa-born politician who is reputed to be enjoying the full support of the governors of Lagos, Oyo and Osun States. He is credited with the ability to spring a surprise and coast home to victory.

Tolu Odebiyi

He is the current Chief of Staff (COS) to the Ogun State Government. Born 55 years ago to the family of late Sen. Jonathan Odebiyi, a political icon and one of the political war-horses of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he is also pulling his weight to succeed the incumbent governor in office. The Iboro Yewa North Local Government-born aspirant is not expected to go far with his ambition, as relies heavily on his late father’s achievements and feels he could ride it to actualize his ambition.

Hon. Suraj Adekunbi

Adekunbi is the current speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly. He hails from Aiyetoro in Yewa North Local Government Area of the state. The APC governorship aspirant is not a pushover in the contest for the plum job. His tenure, as a two-term (the longest serving speaker), is said to have received a major boost with the unalloyed support of the Governor. But it is feared that Adekunbi might end up being a pawn, for making himself a willing tool of approval for every bill that passes through the legislative arm.

Bimbo Ashiru

Ashiru is the current Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. The 54-year-old aspirant who is the Ogun East APC consensus governorship candidate is a native of Ijebu Ode. He is reputed to be one of the trusted and reliable kitchen cabinet members of the Amosun-led administration. As the commissioner in-charge of a sensitive ministry, he has brought an unprecedented turn-around, which has helped to shore up the IGR base of the state from the hitherto paltry sum of N730 million inherited in 2011 to N7 billion. He is the most favoured aspirant from Ogun East and he is said to be enjoying the full support of the influential and prominent indigenes of Ijebuland, the Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, and other traditional rulers from Ijebu Remo axis.

Those who are closed to him claim he is independent-minded and would not want mortgage the treasure of the state because of a single individual. He is believed to be in the best position to continue with the lofty programmes of transformation of the ‘mission-to-rebuild-Ogun-state.’

Sen. Buruji Kashamu

Kashamu is the current legislator representing Ogun East district in the Senate. The 60 year-old PDP heavyweight is an indigene of Ijebu-Igbo, in Ijebu North Local Government Area of the state. He is a strong contender for the plum job. Kashamu who is loved by the young and the old established foundation, ‘Omo Ilu’, which plays significant roles in the lives of the poor citizens across the three senatorial districts of the state. His greatest setback in his bid to become governor of Ogun State is the on-going controversy over his deportation saga to US, but he has approached the apex court for redress.

Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu

He is the current legislator representing Remo Ikenne/North/Sagamu Federal Constituency. Ladi who hails from Iperu, in Ikenne Local Government Area of the state, is the scion of the industrial mogul, Chief Adebutu Kessington (aka Baba Ijebu). His PDP faction is loyal to the current national chairman, Chief Uche Secondus.

Rotimi Paseda

He was the Ogun State governorship candidate of the UPN in 2015. Paseda, a native of Omu-Ijebu in Odogbolu Local Government Area of the state sprang surprises in the 2015 governorship race as he finished in the third position after the APC and PDP candidates.

The 53-year-old aspirant is a successful industrialist whose clout continues to tilt the governorship race in his favour. But the UPN the party does not seem to enjoy as much wide spread and acceptance as during his previous bid for the office of governor of Ogun State.