With the intimidating launch of the Allied People’s Movement in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Thursday, the 2019 governorship election in the state promises to be a battle of wit and relevance, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Yes, it is going to be a very tough battle in Ogun State, when the governorship election comes up next year March. And from all indications, even the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is not in a position to boast that it is capable of freely attaining victory in that election.
The reason for the assertion above is simply because the major contenders have their strengths and weaknesses and the combination of these factors will surely exert telling consequences on the outcome of the election.
Without prejudice to other contenders in other political parties, it is safe to say that there are five major contenders in the Ogun State governorship race. They include embattled Dapo Abiodun, running on the APC platform; a House of Representatives member, Hon. Adekunle Abdulkabir Akinlade of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) and Mr. Gboyega Nasir Isiaka of the African Democratic Congress (ADC); though his party seems determined to replace him, another heavy weight in the race is Senator Buruji Kashamu, who till now has the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket and more of an underdog in the race, is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole of the Action Democratic Party (ADP).
Considering what is at stake and the power game that would characterise the rivalry, bookmakers are already analysing that the election would not only be a very stiff competition, it is going to come with violent incidences no doubt; that it would be heated and definitely going to be tension-soaked is a fait accompli. In all, it is going to be as never seen before in the political history of the South-west state, because of the dynamics that come with it.
Ironically, unlike what some are thinking that it could be a repeat of what happened during the era of former governor Gbenga Daniel in 2007, when he was unable to determine his successor, it is actually incorrect because the equations on the ground are clearly different as they are presently situated.
First, Abiodun is considered by aggrieved APC members as an imposition or a candidate, who emerged surreptitiously through the conspiracy of some powerful forces within the party against a rather popular choice. So, now, he has been foisted on the party whereas, to some, he does not have the clout to create any upset whatsoever, even in his Ogun East senatorial district.
Talking about strong political figures in that area, anyone conversant with the Ogun East political terrain would first mention Buruji Kashamu, the Adebutu Keshinton family and of course, the Daniel factor. Of these power blocks, Abiodun is APC’s weakest links. Even if the ticket was withdrawn from Kashamu as some PDP members are currently rooting, contending with Mr. Ladi Adebutu, scion of the Adebutus in the East is still a tall order for Abiodun, given the investment of the Adebutus in that part of the state.
However, give it to him, Abiodun has some very strong forces behind him like former governor Olusegun Osoba, former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshimhole and a billionaire businessman from the north, believed to be funding him.
Regrettably, of all these people, only two are from the state, and of these two, only Osoba has a solid political base and clearly, what is on the ground is not a job for one man. The point also to be made is that when during the last election, Osoba defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) he could not make as much impact.
This is not to say, however, that Osoba is by any means a pushover in the state. He is still a force, who rides more on his name and integrity, first as a journalist. But unlike him, the number two citizen only has a high political portfolio; he doesn’t have any known political constituency at his beck and call in his home state. Perhaps, his debate could start with where he voted in 2015 and that would end the controversy.
This is why Abiodun is yet not seen in any critical political circle in the state as capable of pulling any significant surprises in the race. Unfortunately, again, with his current certificate scandal, which appears to dim not just his chances but that of his party from fielding a candidate in the election if the matter is followed through, the election, as far as his fate is concerned, might have been won and lost.
However, not many people will disagree that Kashamu is an institution on his own in Ogun State political firmament. He has grown to become a menacing political force that must be factored into considerations, when seeking votes in his eastern flank.
Now, he is running and cleverly, he has picked an intellectual in the person of Dr. Rueben Abati as his running mate. He has the financial war chest and he quite understands the terrain. He knows the politics and would naturally go all out to attract votes for his party in his Ogun East base. But two questions would have to be asked to ascertain his degree of relevance in the coming election in connection to his spread to other states. One, does his influence go beyond Ogun East? No. therefore, he can’t make any serious impact beyond Ogun East.
The second question is, despite being a well-known intellectual, what is the political relevance of Dr. Abati in Ogun State? It is practically zero. So, Kashamu will only undo the chances of the APC or any other candidate in the East alone. He would lock down that region considerably and diminish whatever chances any other candidate might want to pull off there.
But he also has the Adebutus to contend with. With economic and philanthropic relevance, this family has become a force in that part of the state. What this is means is that once it appears Ladi Adebutu has lost out of the equation, whoever they choose to support clearly would grab a good chunk of the votes from the area. They could serve as neutralizer to Kashamu’s hold on that part of town.
But losing out is not on the card yet, because the Appeal Court, last week, upheld Adebutu’s candidacy, putting Kashamu’s chances in serious strain, although the latter has since appealed the ruling.
Then come to Akinlade, Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s choice candidate. The governor is not hiding his preference for him. To his advantage is the fact that he is from Ogun West, the part of the state currently clamouring for governorship. He is a sitting House of Representatives member and so, he is likely to get widespread support among his people, who are considering him as being persecuted without justification. And with the backing of Governor Amosun, Ogun Central is equally sure and on lockdown for him.
In other words, the battleground for him will be the East. So, expectedly, he would simply join other candidates to slug it out in the east. The calculation in his camp is that he would hold his West for himself while Governor Amosun will hold Central for him, so whatever he gets in the East, perhaps through alliances with the like of Adebutu, would only come as an addition for him.
So, in theoretical calculations, Akinlade stands a pretty good chance to clinch victory in the Ogun 2019 poll, even though he has crossed to a different party. Nothing however lends credence to than his kick-off rally last Thursday with an unprecedented crowd that shook the whole town. He is currently the man to beat and certainly the issue in the election.
No doubt, Isiaka, popularly known as GNI has come of age in the quest for Ogun State governorship. He has run twice against Amosun and this is the third adventure in the race for Oke Mosan, so, he understands the game very clearly and would get staggering votes from the West, where he comes from. He is also likely to get some sympathy votes from that side of the state.
His only setback is that he can’t make strong impact in the Central and surely cannot hope for much from the East. Worst still, he doesn’t have the financial war chest to contend with most of the other candidates, who have enormous money to spend to prosecute their ambitions.
That has been his major undoing. If he had the required war chest, he probably would have been able to poach the Central and East sufficiently but even without that, in the West, where he comes from, money or without money, his people will vote for him. He stands a very good chance in his West, albeit running neck-and-neck with Akinlade.
Bankole is not one to affect Amosun’s chances and influence in the Central. There is no controversy about the fact that he is a good candidate – young, impressive and intellectually sound. He is the kind of leader the people would want but one of his setbacks is that since his speakership, he has not actually come up strong on the political turf again. Beyond that, like GNI, he is not likely to have the war chest needed to prosecute his ambition.
Another setback for Bankole is that even if he is attractive to the electorate, his chances are further reduced because the outgoing governor is from Centr
al and he had been on the saddle for two terms of eight years. So, in the interest of fairness, equity and justice, it would only be nearly impossible that the same senatorial district is voted into power, when Ogun is not Rivers State.
He is therefore further disadvantaged by the fact that he is from Central, where the incumbent is leaving. So, he is unlikely to get anything meaningful from his district. People from other districts would equally not give him serious consideration. Therefore, his ambition would not fly in the West or in the East as far as 2019 is concerned.
From all indications, the Ogun race is going to be Amosun’s real battle against the other forces and the truth is that apart from being solidly on the ground with intimidating structure and statewide network, the governor also has sound performance record to his name, a statement of fact that cannot be denied him.
To push Amosun out is not a task that is achievable with the kind of formation on the other side. They would need much more than they have currently put together. Whilst the national leadership is not backing off especially with their recent dissolution of the state’s executive, which the governor has dismissed as joke, Amosun appears seriously battle ready, roving like a wounded lion.
Besides, there is a swirling assumption that President Muhammadu Buhari is also not happy with the way the governor has been treated by the party leadership. Therefore, whatever Amosun may be doing now that is considered anti-party in some quarters may not be taken up against him. The president may not be interested in the attendant wailing and would definitely look away the way he was seen to have done when Amosun too was badly treated at the primaries. He would not wade in.
But back to the permutations in some quarters that this might be a repeat of the Daniel era, when the former governor was on the wrong side of the presidency, Amosun is not in that fit with the Buhari presidency and so, may not get any such treatment.
Give or take, Amosun’s candidate appears to stand a really good chance in the elections as campaigns kick-off fully. In fact, with his ravaging launch, even Amosun’s election is under the threat of APM. But there is no deceiving anyone that it is going to be a battle as never seen before – a joker that will be thrown up in the political history of the state and good for class study in years to come.