Since the key issues surrounding the just-concluded Ogun state party primary elections of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are still clearly in the public domain, all that needs to be done here as a preface to this piece, is a quick summary of the details that led to the emergence of Prince Dapo Abiodun as the party’s flag bearer in the 2019 elections.
On the night of Wednesday, October 3, 2018, the eight-member Electoral Panel of the party’s National Working Committee, led by Mr. Muhammed Indabawa, a retired Commissioner of Police, with a distinguished and unblemished record of service, declared Prince Dapo Abiodun as the winner of the APC gubernatorial primaries, “having polled the highest number of votes in a freely and fairly contested direct primary elections”. Evidently, Dapo Abiodun had polled 102,305 votes as against the following votes by his fellow contestants: Jimi Lawal (51,153), Otunba Bimbo Ashiru (29,764), Hon. Adekunle Akinlade (23,443), Senator Gbenga Kaka (17,771) and Hon. Abayomi Hunye (9,610).
The day before the announcement of the Indabawa-led Panel, the Chairman of the APC in Ogun state, Chief Derin Adebiyi addressed journalists at the party’s secretariat in Abeokuta and announced that their candidate, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade had emerged as the consensus candidate of the party, following the decision of the Yewa Elder’s Council and their own conducted ‘direct’ primaries!
Following the announcement of Chief Adebiyi, the party’s National Working Committee reissued its earlier statement, affirming that Dapo Abiodun, and not Mr. Akinlade was the official and declared winner as the Ogun State Conducted primaries was illegal. Indeed, the national leaders of the party including President Muhammadu Buhari, convened series of meetings to appeal to Governor Amosun to accept and recognise the legitimate winner of the only legitimate elections held in Ogun State in the person of Dapo Abiodun, to no avail.
Apparently, Mr. Akinlade was the Governor’s preferred candidate for the job and had, it turned out, been paraded by the Governor, for months before the elections as his natural successor. Consumed, it seemed, by hubris, the Governor had gleefully introduced Mr. Akinlade at public functions and even went to the extent of introducing him to the Chinese contractors working in the state as the ‘next Governor’ of the state in clear violation of the basic tenets of the democratic process. And to the outrage of party leaders, the Governor had without consultations with either party leaders or the rank and file of its members, single-handedly picked a deputy for Mr. Akinlade and all the other 38 candidates for electoral office in the state. Clearly, the stage was set for a show-down, which naturally, ensued, once the Governor’s preferred candidate failed in an election that was adjudged free and fair.
But unknown to the Governor, while he was busy introducing his preferred candidate as his successor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who had long decided to also run for Governor, had clearly commenced an exercise that would pave his way for victory at the primaries. Armed with the party register of card-carrying members and with the acute knowledge that in a possible future direct primary election, numbers would be crucial, he embarked on a registration exercise of members that would add over 50,000 new names to the party’s register of voters. This registration exercise brought him not only in very close contact with the grassroots leadership of the party, but also with poor, ordinary voters who were to determine the outcome of the primaries. Dapo Abiodun’s penetration into the party’s working details which was something of a masterstroke was achieved without a whimper and appeared to have caught the Governor and the party leadership completely unawares. In retrospect, now, that strategy paid off handsomely. It is safe to assume that this explains, in part, the wide jubilation that greeted his success at the primary elections.
Unfortunately, in all of these arguments, very few persons have really raised the questions that ought to occupy our minds, namely, the suitability or otherwise of these candidates for the office of Governor. Many have not bothered to look deeply into the credentials of each of these candidates, their backgrounds, their antecedents and even their programmes. Who really are these candidates? What do they have to offer as Governors?
Even the teeming supporters of Dapo Abiodun, who are partly endeared to him because of his perceived wealth and considerable resources, miss the key points of his enormous strength over practically all other candidates. Without question, it can safely be argued that not since Chief Bisi Onabanjo has anyone come better prepared and equipped for the office of Governor of our state, since the state was created in 1976, than Dapo Abiodun. A man of considerable background in Engineering and Accounting, Dapo Abiodun, who was born to Dr & Mrs. Emmanuel Abiodun from Iperu-Remo on May 29, 1960, is one of the largest indigenous players in the downstream, mid-stream and upstream oil and gas industries in our country. Through his several companies, among them, Heyden Petroleum Limited and First Power Ltd, he has provided direct employment to some 10,000 Nigerians and another 25,000, indirectly.
Dapo has also served as a member of various Presidential Committees and organisations, including the Presidential Think Tank in 2001; appointed Chairman, Oil and Gas Committee, Ogun State in 2009, Chairman, Depot and Petroleum Product Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) in 2012 and later, Chairman, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2018. In July of this year, the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti at its 23rd Convocation ceremony, deservedly conferred him with a Degree of Doctor of Finance, honoris causa. When Dapo Abiodun was first elected to the Nigerian Senate on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) in 1992, he was only 33, the youngest Nigerian ever to be so elected. It is also instructive that as a Senatorial candidate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014, he single-handedly provided the seed funds needed to purchase a 33KVA Power Line for Ogun state waterside communities, which had been without power supply for years. Undeniably, Dapo has acquired considerable experience and discipline from his entrepreneurial ventures in ways that fully equip him for the complex challenges of public office.
But Dapo Abiodun’s most formidable asset, one that puts him head and shoulders above his fellow candidates for the job of Governor of Ogun state is his sound articulation of his programmes for the people. Speaking recently with a group of journalists about his “masses-oriented programmes,” that would add value to the lives of “the masses of our people,” Dapo Abiodun has vowed “to open up rural roads so that our farmers can get their farm products to the market in good time in ways that would adequately link our towns and rural communities in the state”. Snippets of his soon-to-be-realised manifesto betrays a clear vision of how he intends to tackle the endemic problems of unemployment and wealth generation, through the deployment of Farm Ranches as part of a massive revolutionary Agricultural programme in a manner reminiscent of the days of the old western region, under Chief Obafemi Awolowo. His proposed empowerment schemes, which would be owned, driven and run by young entrepreneurs and medium-scale farmers, are remarkable for their innovation and vision. His promise to commit huge amount of resources to Education and Healthcare point to an unprecedented new dawn for the state. His professed desire to engage in genuine quarterly Town Hall meetings for all the people once he becomes Governor (as distinct from cozy briefings with only party faithfuls) tells you where his heart is in relation to the masses of our people, their needs and their hopes. Essentially, Dapo Abiodun is a gifted man who would do us proud as Governor of our state.
By contrast, our party leadership’s purported candidate, Mr. Akinlade, is something of a political light-weight. Bereft of concrete ideas, his only claim to any knowledge at administration and governance is a controversial stint as Governor Amosun’s Taxation Adviser and now, as a first-term member of the Legislature. Nowhere is he known to have articulated his vision for the state, either in writing or in public. Even his presentation as an appropriate representative of the people of Yewa is somewhat, defective. While he is truly from Yewa, the fact that he comes from the Ipokia local government area, on the border with Benin Republic, makes him a minority within a minority.
In writing this, I do not, as a prominent indigene of the state and a card-carrying member of the party, claim to speak for all our people on the suitability of Dapo Abiodun for the office of Governor. But if the jubilation that greeted Dapo Abiodun’s choice, one that cut across religion, class, ethnic divide and creed is anything to go by, then, we have the best going for us, not just in the party, but also in our state. And as someone who is close to royalty, I know that behind the hallowed palace walls of Ijebuland, Remoland and even Egbaland, there is unconcealed jubilation about the future that Dapo Abiodun’s tenure portends as Governor.
The only persons who have refused to see this are the State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun and a minor disgruntled section of the party leadership in the state. Unable to lose gracefully, the Governor has got himself mired in very undignified arguments about the imagined conspiracy contained in the silence of the erstwhile Governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba and that of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu! Even more psychologically baffling is the Governor’s persistent assertion that on May 29, 2019, he would hand over power to Mr. Akinlade whose name would now not be on the ballot for the elections!! In a state that prides itself as being politically advanced, these delusional antics by a departing state Governor wanting to impose his lackey for high political office are unheard of on this scale. Even in the face of the massive support of some 276 state Councillors in the state, Governor Amosun continues to sponsor daily protests across the state to achieve a bogus purpose. Many of these ‘rented’ protesters now see this as their opportunity to collect their share of government largesse.
For some strange reason, the Ogun party leadership is in denial and refuses to understand that it has lost out in this intra-party squabble. The party leadership should wake up and smell the coffee! It’s a new day in Ogun state, a day when, in the words of the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, “power must flow from the people when it comes to popular elections,” and not from an entrenched, powerful few. The party leadership must also understand that old American saying: ‘when you are in a hole, stop digging’!! This is the time to stop digging and for the party leadership to rally round the recognised candidate of the party to ensure victory.
In ending, I should add that the issue at stake here is not merely or only to ensure that Dapo Abiodun becomes Governor. Ironically, it is also about Governor Amosun’s own legacy and how to secure that legacy. Because, in fairness, Governor Amosun recorded some achievements in places, especially in the area of infrastructure, even if most of that was skewed in favour of certain sections of the state. But there is a legacy all the same. More than anyone else, Governor Amosun has a responsibility to protect that legacy so that it can also be said of him tomorrow that he did his best when it mattered the most.
–––Chief Bayo Sorunmu, writes from
Otta, Ogun State.