Abiodun and the War of Ogun Political Godfathers

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Kayode Fasua writes that Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State may be struggling with meeting the expectations of the G-5, comprising Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Bola Tinubu, former governors Olusegun Osoba and Gbenga Daniel; and Senator Solomon Adeola, who provided the support base that enabled his victory in the 2019 governorship election

Like rivulets trickling down the cottage rack, aggrieved women in large numbers had marched in a protest to the Oke-Mosan Governor’s Office in Abeokuta, Ogun State, recently, to complain about what they described as the marginalization of the womenfolk in the constitution of the state cabinet by Governor Dapo Abiodun. This was at the time 19 commissioners composed including two women had been nominated for screening before the state’s House of Assembly.

On the surface, it was seen as a genuine protest aimed at checkmating a culture of untamed male chauvinism. But not a few political observers saw through the smokescreen. Most of the protesters, it was averred, were political loyalists of Ogun’s respected statesman and former governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba.

Though there were many political forces that coalesced to ensure the victory of Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in last year’s governorship election, Osoba’s factor was considered exemplary. Apart from him, the senator representing Lagos West at the National Assembly, who is an indigene of Ilaro in Ogun State, Senator Solomon Adeola, better known as Yayi, is also believed to be one of the governor’s political backbones.

Besides Yayi, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Leader, Chief Bola Tinubu; a former governor of the state, Chief Gbenga Daniel, and lately, Senator Kashamu Buruji, were all considered to have made considerable inputs in making Abiodun governor.

This was against the backdrop of the fact that outgoing Governor Ibikunle Amosun, at the period, was determined to make his anointed candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, succeed him. When the groundswell of opposition from political heavyweights that count for Ogun barred Amosun from solely installing a successor, the former governor, who is now a serving senator, played a quick game by asking Akinlade to go pick the ticket of Allied Peoples Movement (APM) a relatively unknown party. While oiling the engine of APM, Amosun remained in the APC, thus wearing two faces; an action that later led to his suspension from the APC.

In the long run, Amosun’s candidate and other contestants were trounced by Abiodun’s political blitzkrieg, which was then fortified by those who have come to be known today as political godfathers. Essentially, those considered as the governor’s political godfathers, especially at pub talks, are Osoba, Yayi, Tinubu, Osinbajo, Daniel and Kashamu, whom some people who are given to jocosity now classify as The G-5.

Out of the pack of five, however, Osoba and Yayi are considered most dominant, especially when the recent appointment of commissioners and special advisers in the state is used as yardstick. The women who protested were seen by those who should know, as Osoba’s supporters, noting that the women were tacitly drafted out to protest the domination of Abiodun’s cabinet by Yayi’s loyalists.

Yayi, when dissected in Ogun politics, had launched a cross-over from Lagos politics to Ogun’s, as he wanted to become governor. But Amosun would have none of it. The then governor, re-collectors say, literally gave Yayi a hot chase, as in the virulence of a taunted tiger. It was at that stage that the political godfathers formed an alliance and brought in Abiodun, a taciturn politician, whose commitment to private business outclassed political scheming.

After Yayi sacrificed his governorship ambition and returned to Lagos to reclaim his senatorial ticket, he reportedly handed over his political structure, which cut across Ogun’s three senatorial districts, to Abiodun. As for Osoba, however, the old man only strengthened the deal by the immeasurable respect he enjoys among the people of Ogun State, who see him as a legend.

Now, the Osoba group seems to be crossed that the population of Yayi’s men in Abiodun’s government outweighs that of Osoba, whom the group believes is on ground in the state. Funnily, however, neither Osoba nor Yayi is willing to speak on the hoopla, as both keep reserving kind words for the performance of the governor since he assumed office on May 29, last year.

In public circles, therefore, many have held on to the believe that the seven-month delay in the constitution of Abiodun’s cabinet was a by-product of the prolonged headache caused him through disconcerting whispers from political godfathers.

But largely bemused by such insinuations, Governor Abiodun has come out on many occasions that none of his actions had ever been influenced by the directive of a godfather. He said as respected political leaders in the state, those described as godfathers could offer him suggestions, but that he was not under compulsion to take them.
His gale of denial against being railroaded by the godfathers came to a head on the day he was to swear in his commissioners and special advisers.

Abiodun had declared to the new entrants to his government, “Let me say that your appointment comes at a very important period in the history of our dear state. Some have insinuated the appointment of members of the State Executive Council is late.

Nevertheless, to procure the very best, that is, game-changers who believe in our all-hands-on-deck-approach, team players who will make an impact, one must consult widely. We have thus made sure that the best hands emerged. I must also state that no individual or group is solely responsible for your emergence. You are therefore not answerable to any one individual, group or godfather. You are accountable to the people who must be at the centre of your work at every point in time.”

Nevertheless, Abiodun has also come out with an olive branch to assuage the feelings of those who felt aggrieved by the composition of his cabinet, saying there is still room for more appointments.
He made this known recently while receiving the governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the last election, Mr. Ganiyu Nasir Isiaka, widely known as GNI, into the APC fold.

He said, “I want to assure that we are not yet through with the appointment of political office holders…We still have a lot, and we will ensure that everybody has a sense of belonging and a sense of participation; so please do not worry.”
Assuredly, however, beyond the offices of commissioners and special advisers, there are other juicy positions that are yet to be filled both in the state and through the influence of the governor at the federal level.

There are, for instance, board and agency appointments almost in excess, while ambassadorial position and appointments into federal boards and agencies that will soon crystallize, will not occur without the state governor’s fielding their candidates.
Meanwhile, former Governor Daniel has urged agitators to let the governor be, as he is impressed with the latter’s performance so far. To Daniel, what counts in governance is performance, saying Abiodun’s busy schedule in terms of provision of social amenities should be appreciated by all, and should supersede political hustling.

Speaking with THISDAY at his multi-billion naira Conference Hotel, Abeokuta, Daniel said, “Abiodun has impressed me, so far, with his performance. He is taking his time to build a solid foundation for the development of the state and that is the best thing to do. He shouldn’t allow anyone to stampede him. The last time I was in his office, he told me that ‘I am just going through your (Daniel’s) handing-over note; and he will do well to make use of the document.”
Nonetheless, Daniel also seems best impressed that Abiodun is not playing a divisive politics, as he is rallying hitherto aggrieved persons to join him in administering the state.

Daniel is a beneficiary of the governor’s lamb mien, as he allowed the former governor to re-open operations at his hotel investment, which the former administration of Amosun shut down for eight years.
In Ogun, the drama of the touted political fathers, therefore, may still be at play, as more scenes are still being awaited.