Though the 2019 governorship election in Oyo State is still some 21 months away, the reality is that the state is already on edge, with the people itching to know who will take over from Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who, by then, will serve out his constitutionally-allowed two year-tenure. DAPO FALADE takes a look at the likely major contenders in the race to the Agodi Government House.
The race for Oke Oyinbo, as the Oyo State Government House is otherwise known, is more instructive in view of the fact that the Oyo State governor, Senator Ajibola Ajimobi succeeded in erasing the age-long belief that nobody can be a governor twice in the state. Ajimobi did not only win his first term of office in 2011, but also went ahead to attain victory in the 2015 elections, thus becoming the first sitting governor to occupy, twice and, in a succession, the highest political office in the state. That feat, beside earning him the appellation, Ko Seleri (Never Has It Happened Before) governor, also puts him at a vantage position as political grandmaster who will have more than a passing interest in who occupies the office after his exit on May 29, 2019. In fact, the story is that the governor is now the anointed kingmaker in the state
As of the last count, the number of those aspiring to take over the helms of affairs from Senator Ajimobiis not less than 30. This is as political analysts are of the view that the number may continue to grow as the coast becomes clearer, ahead the 2019 governorship race. The contention appears to be among the four major political parties in the state namely, the All Progressives Congress (APC),, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Accord Party (AP) , Labour Party (LP) while the Social Democratic Party (SDP) cannot be ruled out of the equation.
While the development is positive for the parties, it has become a headache and quandary of sort for the kingmakers and leaders of APC who had, hitherto, been struggling to manage the three clusters that existed before the gale of mass defections in the party. Before now, three distinct groups held sway in Oyo APC. They are SENACO, consisting of loyalists of Governor Ajimobi; LAMISTS, a group loyal to the late leader of the party and a former governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina and the PDP Reform, a group of politicians of different backgrounds, but largely PDP members who defected to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) prior to the 2011 elections.
As things stand now, the mass defection of strong politicians to APC has increased the clusters to five with two additional groups namely, the Akala team, belonging to the former governor of the state, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala and the other faction belonging to another former governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja. These five groups are already affecting the configuration and the positions of various leaders and members in respect of the choice of the party’s candidate for the 2019 elections.
The sitting governor and the APC leadership in the state can, ordinarily, be said to have an edge. However, it would not be out of place to say that the choice of the next occupant of the Agodi Government House would be decided mostly by these five distinct interests that have made APC a cocktail of parties, even as factors of place of birth would also play a major role in the process. This is in view of the increasing agitations that the Oke Ogun area should be given the opportunity to take a shot at the governorship seat, having not had the opportunity in years past. Nevertheless, the perception of individual aspirant by these groups and his ability to convince, navigate, mobilise and secure the support of majority of the pervading interests in the party would be the eventual determinant. A look into some of the aspirants may, indeed, provide a clue to shape and form of the electoral process.
Senator Fatai Buhari
Though he is yet to declare his ambition, the car merchant-turned politician and a philanthropist is said to be weighing his options ahead the 2019 elections. As a well blended politician and a close associate of the sitting governor, he is said to have all it takes to win all the groups. The major obstacle to Buhari becoming the next governor of the state is his place of birth. Buhari is from the Ogbomoso axis of the state. While this piece places little emphasis on place of origin, it would be a hard sell for any party to present an Ogbomoso man as a candidate, given the fact that the immediate past governor of the state, Chief Alao-Akala, hails from the same place. It is being said that if other zones of the state support such a person, it would meet a stiff opposition from Oke Ogun, the only big zone yet to occupy Agodi House.
Dr Isaac Owolabi Babalola
Though he is yet to make to public his ambition, the Ibadan-born medical doctor-cum politician is indeed taking measured steps as he is said to be one of the strong contenders for the governorship race in 2019. A medical practitioner Owolabi is a politician with a deep sense of history and deep-rooted intellectual capacity. A former Commissioner for Health, twice, in the Alao-Akala administration (2006 and from 2007 to 2011), he is reputed to be one of the few personalities in the immediate past administration in the state who were bold enough to look at his boss straight in the face and point the way whenever he (the former governor) was about taking a wrong step or a bad decision.
Professor Adeolu Akande.
A visiting Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at the Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State and former Special Assistant to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, he is also the immediate past Chief of Staff to Governor Ajimobi. He is an indigene of Otu in Itesiwaju Local Government Area of Oke Ogun which gives his candidacy some strength because of the clamour for a governor of the Oke Ogun extraction.
At 52, Adeolu Akande falls in the age bracket that many observers of Oyo politics canvass and his education and experience, at both federal and state levels put him in good stead. He has a reputation for philanthropic activities, and he is also widely connected with politicians of note across the country.
A legal practitioner, Adebayo Shittu (also known as the Bayo that I know) is the current Minister for Communications. The man has not hidden his ambition to succeed Ajimobi as he seizes every available opportunity to make known his intention. He is from Saki in the Oke Ogun area of the state and this should naturally be a plus for him in his quest to become the next governor of the state. At 65, he is one of the oldest aspirants in the race. As popular as his ambition is, many analysts are of the view that his major strength lies in his closeness to President Buhari Muhammadu (being a member of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the two political platforms where the president unsuccessfully sought to realise his ambition then.
Chief Dele Adigun
A former permanent secretary in Oyo State, Dele Adigun, was a super civil servant who got to the zenith of career before he retired from the Oyo State Civil Service in 2002. He had variously served as the Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff and as a a commissioner. Adigun, a veteran in the governorship is second to none in terms of knowledge of government and governance.
He is a top chieftain of the Accord Party but is romancing APC, reportedly for the purpose of the 2019 governorship race. He was said to had waited in the wings in the Accord Party, hoping that if Senator Ladoja did not run in 2015, he would support one of them.
Alhaji Kehinde Olaosebikan.
Olaosebikan is an accomplished journalist, tourism promoter and public relations expert. Well-rooted in grass-root politics, he made his entry into the state politics when he was appointed the Chief Press Secretary to the late Governor Lam Adesina in 1999.
After an unsuccessful attempt to take a shot at the House of Representatives as the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) for Oluyole Federal Constituency in 2003, Olaosebikan was elected chairman of Oluyole Local Government Area in 2007 during Senator Ladoja’s administration. An adroit politician, he was also appointed by Governor Alao-Akala as the chairman of the same local council in 2010.
Rumoured to have declared interest to run, again, for office of chairman of Oluyole Local Government Area, Olaosebikan has made known his intention, though not yet a formal declaration, to take another shot at the governorship race in 2019, has tried unsuccessfully in 2015. He is the chairman of one of the Schools’ Governing Boards recently inaugurated by Governor Ajimobi and, with his antecedents, he is said to be at home with the LAMISTS; PDP Reforms; Akala Team and Ladoja Faction. And if his recent embrace by Governor Ajimobi is anything to go by, he can also be said to be a SENACO man.
A practicing engineer, Olaniyan is from Igboho in the Oke Ogun area of the state. He is said to be a gentle and soft-spoken new politician who recently retired from the Oyo State Civil Service as a permanent secretary. A former chieftain of the Accord Party who recently defected to APC, Olaniyan was the General Manager of Oyo State Road Maintenance Agency (OSTROMA) where he was said to have made some significant positive contributions.
More importantly, Olaniyan can be described in politics as a Senator Ladoja man. That he left Ladoja to join APC remains a surprise to close political watchers. .
Dr Azeez Adeduntan
Adeduntan is the Commissioner for Health and he is a respected surgeon from the United States of America and a brother of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu. He was said to have been primed by Governor Ajimobi for the governorship seat in 2019. However, insiders in the government circles said the handling of the ministry has pitched him against the state First Lady a couple of times and this has made the governor to change his mind about him.
The medical doctor had tried to realise his governorship ambition, using virtually all the available political platforms in the state, the last being PDP. But as soon as he could not get the ticket, he jumped ship and moved to APC. Besides, at 65, Adedutan does not fall in the age bracket that many people are looking at for the governorship come 2019 as the contention is that Oyo State deserves a break from electing old people as governors.
Niyi Akintola (SAN)
Niyi Akintola is a notable and highly successful legal practitioner from Ibadan in Ido Local Government Area of Oyo State. He was Deputy Speaker in the Oyo State House of Assembly during the aborted Third Republic before he gave politics a break. He has declared his intention to vie for the governorship seat and he is an aspirant that merits the position in all considerations, especially given his exploits and accomplishments in the legal profession.
However, many are saying the strength of the legal giant lies in his closeness to many top-shots of APC for whom he had handled many electoral cases. As far as politics is the main consideration here, he may not be able to go far with a simple fact that he is more of a stranger to the clusters in the party.
Among the recurring names in the race for the governorship seat in Oyo State is Adebayo Adelabu (FCA), one of the grandchildren of the late popular Ibadan politician, Chief Adegoke Adelabu. A distinguished accountant and an accomplished banker, the relatively young man has carved a niche for himself, directing the affairs of the nation’s apex bank as a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Though he is yet to declare his ambition, he is said to be under intense pressure to run for the governorship seat. For those craving for him to join the fray, Bayo Adebayo is eminently qualified on all fronts, vis-à-vis: that he has distinguished himself in his chosen corporate career. Two, as a successful private sector operator, he qualifies to run the affairs of the state as he would be in a good stead to increase the revenue base of the state by increasing its IGR. Lastly, as a young man, Bayo, who is still under 50 years of age, is seen by many as more than qualified to be the governor in a state where the people are seeking for a paradigm shift from the older, a deviation from the aged directing the affairs of the state.
However, the question is, will the top banking executive join the fray? The question becomes pertinent in view of the height he has attained in the corporate world. In terms of popularity, he is quite popular as he has done quite a lot to positively change the face of Ibadan and its people. He is said to be keeping mum.
Though the young man has not expressed interest in contesting for any political office, there are strong indications that his possible candidacy is likely to enjoy the support of influential political and socio-cultural blocs in the state that dictate the political pulse of the pacesetter state.
A journalist, Debo Adesina is seen as one of those political gladiators eyeing the highest political office in Oyo State, currently occupied by Senator Ajimobi. Described as the longest serving editor in Nigeria, he was appointed the Editor-In-Chief of the Guardian Newspapers, after a major shake-up of the senior staff of the newspaper in November, 2012. Prior to his elevation, he was the Editor, Daily and Deputy Editor-In-Chief of the newspaper.
Though he is yet to make public the platform upon which he is to realize his political ambition, speculations are rife that the Okaka, Oke Ogun-born guru of journalism may eventually bow to pressure and throw his hat into the ring as the race towards the Oyo State Government House gathers momentum.
The state Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development was the Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Ajimobi in his first term. An indigene of Ibadan from Ona Ara Local Government Area of the state, he is said to be about the closest appointee in the government to the Ajimobi family and handles most of the big assignments in the government like the ‘Yes O’ youth employment programme, the SUBEB award of contracts, the state community development agency and many of the infrastructure projects. It is these assignments in which the party leaders and members of the APC feel they are not well represented that pitched them against Adekanbi’s ambition.
Senator Soji Akanbi
A veteran of Oyo politics, Senator Rilwan Soji Akanbi has been relevant in Oyo State politics since 1992 when he represented the Ibadan South West/North West Constituency in the House of Representatives. The Ibadan-born politician also served as a Special Adviser to the late Alhaji Lam Adesina between 1999 and 2003 and he is the current senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District. In the present configuration, Senator Akanbi is an active LAMISTS with strong influence in the party structure. With his known closeness to Senator Ladoja, Senator Akanbi would enjoy a degree of sympathy in the Ladoja cluster. He cannot however be associated with the SENACO as he was a prominent member of the group that opposed SENACO in 2011.
Senator Teslim Folarin
Senator Teslim Folarin is yet to announce his governorship ambition, probably waiting to know where he stands in PDP after Supreme Court judgment on the leadership crisis in the party. He is about the only prominent PDP member in the Sheriff faction in Oyo State. Folarin contested and came a distant fourth in the 2015 election. His strength used to be his links with the national leadership of the party, but the crisis in the party now makes that doubtful. He is also said not be to strong at the grass roots.
Senator Ayo Adeseun
Adeseun had been in the House of Representatives and the Senate. He has never hidden his intention to run for the governorship seat in the state and he was said to have parted ways with Governor Ajimobi, owing largely to to his ambition for the office in 2015. His strength lies in his performance in the National Assembly which brought development to his constituency. He is also reputed to be a generous grass-root politician. However, the sentiment in Oyo State does not favour his Ogbomoso area and there are insinuations that he may consider going back to the Senate if the governorship slot proves difficult, again.
A veteran in the governorship election, Lanlehin’s name was first heard in the present political dispensation in Lagos where he served as Special Assistant to Governor Bola Tinubu early in his first term in office. He was later to part ways with Tinubu and relocated to Ibadan, his home town. Benign and calculating, Lanlehin is the immediate past senator for Oyo South Senatorial District.
He ran against Ajimobi in the 2011 race before the party settled him with the senatorial ticket. He defected to Accord before the 2015 elections which he lost to Senator Soji Akanbi. He defection was after he fell out with Governor Ajimobi.
A trained engineer and oil magnate, Seyi Makinde came into political limelight in Oyo State in 2005. He is a veteran of elections in the state, having contested and lost elections in the last 10 years, the main gladiator in the Oyo State chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is a man with a very large heart. Reputed to be a man of great and immense wealth, the Ibadan-born politician who will turn 50 in December has been single handedly financing the SDP in the state, as manifested in the buildup to the 2015 elections.
Though with good intentions, the view however is that his party lacks statewide base .
Sarafadeen Abiodun Alli
Within the state chapter of the Labour Party is another political veteran, Sarafadeen Abiodun Alli, who, as of the moment, is the only known governorship aspirant of the party. A former local government chairman, former Secretary to the State Government, former Chief of Staff, former chairman of O’dua Group of Companies, Alli has an intimidating political profile.
A lawyer by training, Alli is widely and highly regarded in the conservative political class. He was running mate to Alao-Akala in the 2015 elections. He commands a cult-like followership in his camp, although the group is said to be dwindling by the day. He is seen as belonging to the old guards which the state and, although a candidate in many elections, it is difficult to identify him with any policy thrust on how to govern Oyo State.