Ogun Governorship: Where will the Pendulum Swing?

0
Ibikunle Amosun

SATURDAY POLITY 

Femi Ogbonnikan writes on the intrigues and horse-trading that characterise the governorship and House of Assembly election race in Ogun State

Politics is a game of numbers. It is either you win or you lose. Thus, the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Ogun State last Saturday points to the direction where the pendulum would likely swing in the next two elections (governorship and House of Assembly).

The stage is now set for strong contenders to prove their mettle.

By and large, Ogun State politics, unlike others, is characterised by revolt against any attempt by a sitting governor to foist his anointed “puppet” on the people of the state, as his successor.

Since the advent of the fourth republic on May 29, 1999, no incumbent Ogun State governor has succeeded in installing his preferred candidate as successor. The immediate past governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, attempted it, but failed.

However, the incumbent Ibikunle Amosun, appears to possess a magic wand to spring surprises and break the jinx.

In late 2017, when the issue of succession plans began to gather momentum, the real traits in Amosun started to manifest. At various fora, he often made known his intention to pick a “wizkid” from Ogun West district as his preferred candidate. But this development didn’t go down well with the people of Ogun East district who were laying equal claim to the number one plum job of the state.

Thus, the agitation for a power shift by the people of Ogun East eventually gave rise to the birth of “Ijebu-Remo Agenda”.

Amosun rebuffed every wise counsel from the chieftains of the party, leaders of thought and close aides, to seek collective input into “who becomes the governor of the state”. Rather, he insisted on single-handedly picking his preferred governorship candidate. At all levels of the party leadership, ranging from the state to the ward, he ensured that all his trusted aides were elected into congresses. Subsequently, the development sparked off a violent protest from the rival camp (Olusegun Osoba) which kicked against the mode of electing the delegates.

Against all odds, the governor fortified his stronglehold on the leadership of the party and he was calling the shot. He was running the party, like a personal estate. Not surprising, when the issue concerning the mode of electing the governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly candidates came to the fore, he was quick to opt for a “consensus” method. He unilateral picked his governorship candidate, Hon Adekunle Akinlade, the deputy, Mrs Adebimpe Adebajo, three Senators, nine National Assembly and 26 State House of Assembly candidates. The situation generated bad blood. There was angst, disaffection and protest against the method, a situation that curried the prompt intervention of the national leadership of the party.

The emergence of Prince Dapo Abiodun from the October 3, 2018 direct primary jolted Amosun. With his inability to accept the defeat, Amosun resorted to name-calling. He spared no rod and boldly fingered the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,  Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, and former governor of the state and a chieftain of the party, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, as the masterminds of his political travails.

Amosun visited his political godfather, President Muhammadu Buhari, in Aso Villa, Abuja, to wade in, on his behalf and reverse the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party by declaring his preferred candidate, Akinlade, as the governorship flag bearer. This mission failed. Amosun defied all pleas and persuasions, and elected to field all his candidates in a fringe party, Allied Peoples Movement (APM), to actualise his dream.

Shortly after, aggrieved loyal aides, who were unfavourably disposed to the movement to the new party, began to desert his administration in droves. Among them, his Chief of Staff, Chief Tolu Odebiyi (who is an Ogun West senator-elect on the APC platform); former Special Adviser (SA) on special duties, Princess Peju Shote; former Special Adviser (SA) on Forestry, Chief Yinka Odufuwa; Special Assistant (SA) on Energy, Mrs Adenike Osoba; Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Environment, Chief (Mrs) Yetunde Onanuga (now, newly elected member, House of Representatives for Remo North/Ikenne/Sagamu); former Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Mr Afolabi Afuape; Special Assistant (SA) on Culture, Mr Sunday Baminola; Chief Ayo Olubori and a host of others.

On why he bowed out of the government of Amosun, the erstwhile Chief of Staff laid the blame on the doorstep of the former who had promised him the governorship seat, only to change his mind mid-way. In a recent interview, Odebiyi said, “At various fora, Amosun said he was considering me for the Ogun State governorship ticket. I thought over it and I decided to contribute my quota to the development of the state.

“We discussed the idea of looking at the governorship race and he (Amosun) asked me to consider it. He asked me to start making necessary contacts and consultations across the length and breadth of the state. We started consultations at all levels and he (Amosun) took his decision at the end of last August.

“The main reason I went a separate way with Amosun was when the issue of going to the new party came up. Because Amosun’s candidate, Akinlade, wasn’t recognised by the NWC, the governor mooted out an idea to me. He asked me to get back to him. I got back to my people and they were averse to the idea.

“When I got back to the governor, what my kinsmen said, the thing was not well received by him. I don’t like switching political parties. I respect party’s supremacy, because my political pedigree has to be maintained. I stay in a party and build it. Turning my back on the party is like turning my back on the people. The loyalty and commitment for President Muhammadu Buhari is to remain steadfast. I feel a sense of responsibility to my followers to remain in the APC, because it is critical to the development of my party. I knew the roles my late father, Senator Jonathan Odebiyi, and mother, Mrs Kemi Odebiyi, former Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), played. So, leaving a progressive party, like APC is tantamount to severing relationship with my people. I am not leaving the party and I am ready to give my support to President Muhammadu Buhari.

As if it wasn’t over, another casualty recorded in the scheme of the power- play was Chief Bode Mustapha, whose appointment as the Chairman, Board of Directors, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), was withdrawn and replaced by Mrs Ronke Shokefun, former Ogun State Commissioner for Physical and Urban Planning Development. Mustapha was the Director-General (DG), second term of Governor Ibikunle Amosun in 2015. The duo fell out, following irreconcilable differences, emanating from an alleged inconsistency of Mr Governor who failed to redeem his pledge to compensate the DG with a ministerial appointment, which later favoured the former Minister for Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun.

Amosun, who is sponsoring Akinlade, didn’t leave the APC, while he moved all his candidates to APM.

According to a political analyst, Chief Segun Olakunle, who hails from Abeokuta South Local Government Area, “they have started again and you seem not to know that they have their agenda. Amosun, who is sponsoring Akinlade, didn’t leave APC, just like Gbenga Daniel did with Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN).

“Amosun knew he could not have won the senatorial seat without riding on the goodwill of Buhari (not APC). If he had contested on the platform of APM, he would have lost like the rest that he planted in APM. Tolu Odebiyi was wiser, he persuaded him to move to APM but he declined.

“Unfortunately for them, they have always relied on godfathers who will never drive them to the Promised Land. The godfathers have always polarised them along ethnic lines by picking one person from one side of the divide while another godfather will also pick from the other side of the divide

“Forget about your godfathers. Where did they land you in 2011? Obasanjo who sponsored Olurin eventually switched over to Amosun, his kinsman. Gbenga Daniel, who sponsored GNI switched allegiance in 2015.

“For somebody who had to ride on the popularity of Buhari to win election, to now be sponsoring the Yewa/Awori agenda.You had better think twice.

“Is Amosun really interested in the Yewa/Awori agenda? I have it on good authority that when Amosun assembled Yewa Elders in APC to pick a candidate from Ogun West, it was Biyi Otegbeye that came first followed by Tolu odebiyi. He single handedly subverted the people’s will by choosing Akinlade. Is Akinlade therefore the choice of the Yewa/Awori people in the first instance?

I have never met any of the two candidates from Yewa/Awori but I know one is far more popular than the other and these are my reasons: One of the candidates who did not have any strong financial backing from any godfather was able to assert his influence as his personal popularity made his candidate for the House of Representatives from his axis to win very convincingly. “As a result of his popularity in Ogun Central, his party’s candidate came second in the senatorial election in spite of huge amount invested in vote buying by her opponents.

“Meanwhile, the Ijebu people have vowed not to vote for Amosun’s candidate because they are very bitter about the level of infrastructural decay under the Amosun administration.

“The Ijebus have a rallying point in Awujale who can always invoke the spirit of their ancestors on anyone who works against Ijebus’ interest. As a matter of fact, he (Awujale) refused to see Akinlade when he went there to visit, saying “Ijebu people have their own son”.

Daring the national leadership of the party of alleged anti-party activities, Amosun has begun campaigning for his preferred governorship candidate, Akinlade, of the APM.

Meanwhile, the voting patterns in the last Presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday, February 23, in the state, and their subsequent outcomes are clear indicators of what would happen next Saturday in the governorship contest.

Virtually all leading figures the APM fielded for the National Assembly seats lost to the rival APC candidates. Prominent among them are the Ogun West Senatorial candidate, Segun Gbeleyi; Hon Mikhail Kazeem who vied for Abeokuta North/Odeda/Obafemi-Owode Federal Constituency whom Olumide, son of Osoba, drubbed at the poll; Mr Rotimi Rahman (aka Arugbo) who failed to clinch the Ado-Odo/Ota Federal Constituency; Hon Yinka Mafe who contested for Remo North/Ikenne/Sagamu Federal Constituency; Mr Leke Adewolu, who also contested for Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency and Bayo Adeyemi who vied for Egbado North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency.

Amosun, who is relishing his electoral victory as Ogun Central Senator, has quickly forgotten the massive votes he enjoyed from his arch-rival group. Earlier, Osoba had, in both newspaper publication and short-message-service (sms), courted the chieftains and supporters of the APC in the Ogun Central, who were averse to the aspiration of the governor, but wanted to seize the occasion as a payback time, to jettison such a plan and throw their support for Amosun, just for the collective interest of the party, for posterity sake.

In his current travails, Amosun has a lot of hurdles to cross. He has axe to grind in his face-off with Ogun State government workers who are poised for a total showdown for non-payment of pensions and gratuities, cooperative deductions and other allowances.

Abiodun stands a good chance of emerging governor. He is enjoying the support of the masses of the people, national leadership of the party, seasoned technocrats, organised labour, students and traditional rulers to shore up his political base that looks good to translate into victory next Saturday.