Can Ibadan retain power?
As politicians step up preparations for the 2019 elections in Oyo State, BISI OLADELE examines the strengths and weaknesses of the Ibadan Zone in its quest to retain power in the next dispensation
Political activities are gathering momentum traction in Oyo State as politicians are gearing up for the next general elections, which are expected to hold in February, 2019. Governorship aspirants are multiplying. many of the rely on the strength of their constituencies or political parties.
Since civil rule returned to Nigeria in 1999, the Ibadan Zone has produced three out of the four governors. They are Lam Adesina, Rashidi Ladoja and Abiola Ajimobi (incumbent). The four other zones in the state are Ogbomoso, Oyo, Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun.
Prior to 1999, two of the three civilian governors were Ibadan indigenes – Dr Omololu Olunloyo and Chief Kolapo Isola. The late Chief Bola Ige, who was the first civilian governor of the old Oyo State, hailed from Esa-Oke (now in Osun State). Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, who was governor from 2007-2011, hails from Ogbomoso.
This history has propelled calls for power shift to other zones. Oke-Ogun Zone, which comprises 10 local government out of the total of 33, has been consistent in this call.
Ajimobi recently pandered to their desire when he voiced support for their agitation. Yet, most of the current aspirants are Ibadan indigenes. Will power shift in 2019?
Ibadan and other zones
In population and voting strength, Ibadan towers above other zones in the state. It has the highest population and by implication, the highest number of voters. With 11 local governments in a central city bubbling with commerce, civil service and agriculture, Ibadan commands a huge advantage in Oyo State.
Out of a total of 906,870 votes cast for the five top governorship candidates in the 2015 election, Oke-Ogun had 23 per cent, Ibarapa had six per cent, Oyo had nine per cent, Ogbomoso had 15 per cent while Ibadan had 47 per cent.
Similarly, Ibadan accounted for the 51 per cent of total votes cast in the 2011 governorship election. Oyo had 105,020, representing 9.7 per cent, Ibarapa 57,641, representing 5.3 per cent, Ogbomoso 151,803, representing 14 per cent and Oke-Ogun 216,299, representing 20 per cent, Ibadan recorded 552,994 votes representing 51 per cent of the total 1,083,757 votes.
Ibadan elders as factor
In governorship elections, Ibadan elders have a strong voice in determining the candidates that will emerge as the overall winner. Though the group is a coalescence of elite who see themselves as apolitical, it has strong influence on many indigenes living across Ibadan and other towns in the state. The solidarity of the group for any candidate goes a long way in swaying the result of the election, in spite of the fact that over 70 per cent of them are not card-carrying members of any political party.
The elders wielded their influence in 2007, although their preferred candidate, Abiola Ajimobi, did not win due to alleged rigging of the election. He was actually the adjudged winner. He was the candidate to beat and he gave Alao-Akala a serious nightmare. The 2011 and 2015 elections, however, went in their favour for Ajimobi.
Niyi Akintola (SAN)
Akintola, an erudite lawyer, hails from Ido Local Government in Ibadan. He is a former Deputy Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly and a close associate of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He resigned as Deputy Speaker in 1992.
The lawyer has won many election petition cases since 1999. By the reason of his career, he is a friend to many present and former governors and senators.
Akintola has been going round the state seeking the support of party members and critical stakeholders. He hinges his campaign on the need to sustain the good work Ajimobi started, stressing continuity is the secret of the stable success of Lagos State since 1999.
Senator Rilwan Adesoji Akanbi is currently representing Oyo South District. He hails from Ibadan North West Local Government.
A former member of the House of Representatives, business man and grassroots politician, Akanbi was a governorship aspirant in 2011. After losing the ticket to Ajimobi, he shunned politics, until he returned to contest and won the 2015 election to represent Oyo South District at the Senate.
Akanbi is keeping a tight hold on his constituents to serve as launchpad for the governorship race. All the densely populated local governments in Ibadan are within Oyo South District. They include Ibadan North, Ibadan South West, Ibadan South East, Ibadan North East and Iddo. The district also comprises the three local governments in Ibarapa Zone.
Adebayo Adelabu is a grandson of the late popular Ibadan political titan, Adegoke Adelabu (aka Penkelemeesi).
Currently a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), it is believed that the banker is seriously nursing the ambition to participate in the 2019 governorship election.
Young, brilliant and talented, Adelabu is thought to be a major contender for Agodi Government House. But, he has not openly declared his ambition.
Dr Azeez Adeduntan hails from Ibadan South East. A medical practitioner in the United States of America (USA), Adeduntan vied for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket in 2011 and lost before moving over to the Labour Party (LP) for the same ambition in the build-up to the 2015 elections. He joined the APC shortly before the election.
The Commissioner for Health, is not dropping his ambition to govern the state.
Adeduntan is said to be widening his tentacles within the APC to be able to give the 2019 race a good shot.
Accord is the major opposition party in Oyo State. Its leader, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, said he would unlikely contest in 2019. His decision leaves only Sen. Olufemi Lanlehin as the aspirant from Ibadan Zone.
Olufemi Lanlehin was the senator representing Oyo South from 2011 to 2015 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which metamorphosed into the APC. He crossed to the Accord party during the preparation to the 2015 elections.
The politician, who once served under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s administration in Lagos State as a Special Adviser, hails from Ibadan North West. He is also a former member of the House of Representatives.
He was a governorship aspirant in the ACN in 2011. He lost in the primary to Ajimobi. Since then, Lanlehin has sustained his desire to govern the state.
It is believed that the politician only retreated after the last election to gather more strength for the 2019 election.
Oluseyi Makinde, an engineer, is the backbone of the SDP in Oyo State since he joined the party from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. He has remained stable in the party and pulls many juggernauts together.
Since he joined the governorship race in 2015, he has remained resolute, rejecting offer of other positions.
Though the SDP is less popular in the state when compared to other leading parties, Makinde’s profile is rising as a young and decent politician with philanthropic credentials. His political machinery has started working in preparation for the 2019 election.
Though the aspirants from Ibadan have good credentials, belong to popular parties and will enjoy the advantage of a huge constituency, it is believed that whoever emerges as the flagbearer of the APC will need the support of the incumbent governor. With Ajimobi expressing support for Oke-Ogun candidacy on one hand, his natural interest in having a loyalist to succeed him and the need to sustain the relationship with Ibadan elders on the other, analysts believe that the coast is not yet clear as to where Ajimobi’s successor will come from.