In Ogun, History Repeats Itself

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Femi Ogbonnikan write the political path chosen by Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State was not unfamiliar. His predecessors had travelled that way and suffered dire consequences, yet the Ogun State governor could not be persuaded to change his course

Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State has assigned himself many tasks under the broad working theme, ‘Mission to Rebuild Ogun State’. Going by the physical presence of several projects dotting the landscape of the state, even his detractors cannot say that the governor was on a failed assignment. From hospitality establishments to road infrastructure, he transformed the state, particularly the capital city, Abeokuta, like no other governor before him. To his credit, Ogun entered an era of prosperity provoked by a robust pursuit of internally generated revenue.

All he needed to safeguard his glowing era in the annals of the state was a smooth transition to the next governor. Alas, this became his undoing. As if driven by an uncontrollable desire to self-destruct, Amosun set himself on a course to fight anyone who disagreed with his plan to handover to a predetermined candidate. For a long time, he kept dribbling his political associates including members of the state executive council, who he made to think that he was going to handover to one of them.

Working on the assumption that having been his close ally, they could easily continue his legacy, these commissioners, close aides and senior special assistants endured the many gimmicks of the governor until it became clear to some of them that they were hoping against hope. By then, Amosun had narrowed his choice to Ogun West. His body language was also becoming clearer. No one was in doubt who his preferred candidate was. Other victims of Amosun’s political incoherence were not in direct employ of the government. While he could restrain the public and civil servants, independent businesspersons who haboured ambition to govern the state were not under any obligation to do Amosun’s bidding. Those in this category readily called his bluff and went ahead to openly exercise their freedom. The courageous among the government employees resigned.

The political path chosen by Amosun was not unfamiliar. His predecessors had travelled that way and suffered dire consequences. The hurdles and end of their journey was public knowledge, yet the Ogun State governor could not be persuaded to change his course. Determined to hit head against a wall, not minding if he will return with a bloodied head or pass out in the process, the governor damned every appeal to good reason. Though the majority of the people and the elders of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC) indulged him by allowing to return to the senate, the governor was convinced he could ride rough shod over everybody; by insisting on having a cake that he had already eaten.

In the history of Ogun State, no governor has succeeded in foisting his choice candidate on the people, but Amosun was so sure he could set that record. His seeming strongest point was the perceived closeness to President Muhammadu Buhari. For a long time, Buhari’s name was the talisman the governor needed to forge ahead and he readily flaunted it to part raging seas and subdue mountains. Another sentiment deployed by Amosun was that he wanted to keep an imaginary ‘Lagos Cabal’ away from governing Ogun by proxy. Incidentally, the same cabal that ensured Amosun’s emergence as governor in 2011, when he was least favoured. Besides, the reference to Lagos was a ridiculous snide, knowing that most eminent indigenes of Ogun live and work in Lagos, including Amosun himself (before he became partisan).

However, the matter of handing over the baton of governance in Ogun State was an uncanny challenge that humbled previous governors, but Amosun ignored the past. His recalcitrant behaviour, apparently led to a repeat of the Ogun State 2011 governorship election that favoured him as candidate of the Action Congress (AC), against the preferred Peoples’ Party of Nigeria (PPN) governorship candidate, Prince Gboyega Isiaka who had the backing of the sitting governor (Otunba Gbenga Daniel).

Having exhausted all the tricks in his book to have Akinlade as the governorship candidate of the APC, Amosun brazenly supported opposition to his party. He openly funded Akinlade and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to take over Ogun State, while he strategically remained in the APC. One of the inglorious moments of Amosun was the assault on President Buhari and representatives of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo by agents of the Governor of Ogun State, even as he was on video supervising the removal of Abiodun’s publicity materials at a scheduled rally. Though he was suspended for anti-party activities, many thought that disciplinary action should have been served on him long ago.

The March 9 governorship election that produced the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Dapo Abiodun, as governor-elect, represents a true reflection of the will of the people of Ogun State.

After several months of dirty tricks by Amosun, to impose Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, on the state leadership and elders of the APC, the opposing faction, led by a former governor, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, resisted the unsavoury development. Dapo Abiodun, an Iperu-Remo born Prince and oil magnate, emerged governorship candidate of the party, following a direct primary election held on October 3, 2018, conducted by, and under the close supervision of the members of the National Working Committee (NEC).

Thus, the announcement of the APC candidate as governor-elect by the Returning Officer (RO) of the Ogun State Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Idowu Olayinka, who is also the Vice-Chancellor (VC), University of Ibadan, Oyo state, in the wee hours of Monday, March 11, set the agenda for a new dawn.

The progressives elements (cutting across all other political leanings), the sitting governor’s benefactors, ‘Lagos cabal’, monarchs, civil and public servants, student groups, civil society groups, traders, artisans, the Ijebu-Remo mafia who dominate a substantial part of the economic heart-beat of the country, could not hold the breath of their happiness, with the turnout of the event, that favoured Abiodun. Street carnivals, home parties, mosque and Church “Thanksgiving” services were thrown up to celebrate the emergence of Abiodun as Governor-elect.

In a rare display of sportsmanship, co-contestants like Senator Buruji Kashamu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Gboyega Isiaka of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Rt Hon. Dimeji Bankole of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Otunba Rotimi Paseda of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and others thronged the Iperu residence of Abiodun to congratulate him on his victory. Not left out, aggrieved PDP and ADC National Assembly, State House of Assembly candidates and chieftains also visited the Iperu residence to congratulate him.

In his magnanimity, Abiodun embarked on a tour across the state and Lagos where he met with the four prominent traditional rulers (the Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, and Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Adewale Ajayi) in the state. The national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Founder and chairman, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Plc, Chief Subomi Balogun, Chief Kunle Soname and a host of others, all played host to the Governor-elect when he paid “thank you” visits to them, individually.

Abiodun, at the formal presentation of certificates of return to himself, deputy Governor-elect and elected members of the State House of Assembly, held at the Ogun State INEC headquarters, Magbon, Abeokuta, on Thursday, March 28 said, the presentation of the certificates to him and his deputy, Mrs Noimot Salako-Oyedele, signaled the formal end of the 2019 general election in the state.

According to him, “the victory at the polls is neither that of our great party (APC), nor mine alone, it is indeed victory for all the good people of Ogun State who, despite the challenges that could have dampened their spirit and prevented them from exercising their civic duties, defied the odds and came out in large numbers and laid the foundation for this ceremony. You are the real heroes and heroines of this success and democracy.”

“Elections are the bedrock of democracy with people having inalienable rights to periodically choose those they want to entrust their affairs to. These rights must not be abridged in any way and when people have clearly expressed their preferences, as they have done in the instant case, all of us must respect the will of the people, put electioneering and bickering behind and rally round to address the challenges confronting our state and our people, indeed our motivation is to serve.

“It is gratifying to note that almost all my major co-contestants have demonstrated spirit of sportsmanship, congratulated us and even responded to our hands of fellowship. I salute your character which confirms that your motivation is beyond aspiration for office or personal interests. Our hands of fellowship remain wide open to all.

“Let me reiterate once again: I solemnly pledge that our administration will be fair, just, equitable and inclusive, a government that truly earns and deserves confidence and trust of the citizenry through transparent and accountable leadership, focused and qualitative governance that creates the enabling environment for an enduring economic development and individual prosperity of the people of Ogun State. Indeed, a government for all not a few,” said Abiodun.

Subsequently, in appreciation of the enormous kindness and support thrown behind his aspiration, he and his deputy, Salako-Oyedele, while armed with their respective certificate of return, paid a “thank you” visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Villa, and the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, on Thursday, March 28.

While a good number of eminent opponents in the Ogun governorship election have shown willingness to work with Abiodun, the outgoing governor has maintained his trite stance and even encouraged Akinlade along the same line, which began when they refused to recognise Abiodun, as the party’s governorship candidate, despite several overtures to broker peace.

Apt in the description of the collapse of his political structure, a former House of Representatives member who craved anonymity, in the state simply put it, thus: “Amosun obviously does not have a political dynasty and he cannot lay claim to one. He ends up being a bad student of Machiavelli who in his book, “The Prince”, effectively gave “evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power. He (Amosun) is a stiff-necked person, hence he should be ready to face the consequences of a haughty character who acts superior and looks down on others.
“He seems that he doesn’t give a damn about the consequence anyway. Life, for sure, is a rollercoaster.

Rollercoasters are great metaphors for life. What goes around….comes all the way back around.
“How can someone in good conscience, conclude that his woeful defeat (now on his road to political perdition) is a win-win for all sides? It is definitely, a victory for the progressives and a shameful defeat for a totalitarian whose only mission in the party is to enforce his aggressive political interests.”