By Wale Adedayo
“Now that INEC has come out with the timetable for elections in 2019, the party should prepare itself for congresses at the wards, local governments, states and the Centre. We should strictly follow the constitution of the party in undertaking these party elections. We should ensure internal democracy and avoid shortcuts and illegal manoeuvres which have characterised the opposition party with the consequences that they are now divided. The APC has a history of conducting free and fair primaries whenever consensus about any candidacy is not reached. Regardless of the outcomes of the primary processes, it is imperative that we all work together to ensure the victory of our party.”
President Muhammadu Buhari might have had Ogun State in mind, when he uttered these words at the recently concluded National Caucus meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) meeting in Abuja. But its reverberations reached across Nigeria’s 36 states with those heaving a sigh of relief being mostly aspirants jostling for the gubernatorial ticket of the APC in their respective states. Incumbent Governors have been having subtle and open confrontation with gubernatorial aspirants perceived to be working against either such Governors, who are eyeing a second term ticket or their proposed handpicked successors.
In Ogun State, ongoing efforts by aspirants on the platform of the APC to secure the gubernatorial ticket of the party towards the 2019 general elections is being overshadowed by the incumbent’s, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, insistence on handpicking his successor. It was the pattern in the immediate past administration with Otunba Gbenga Daniel of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) picking Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka to replace him. OGD’s reason at the time is not much different from Amosun’s today, leading to implosion within the PDP as the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) produced the incumbent in 2011.
Ogun State is primarily made up of two divisions, Egba and Ijebu. These in turn have minorities, who are subdivisions, Egbado (now Yewa/Awori) and Remo. The rotational arrangement between the major divisions provides that the governorship moves from one side to the other. Late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo set the ball rolling in 1979 from Ijebu, with Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba from Egba stepping in 1992 and 1999. The ball of rotation moved back to the Ijebu Division in 2003 with Daniel from Remo at the driver’s seat.
The 2011 gubernatorial was the turn of Egba Division, thus, in the spirit of what the Ijebu Division did by giving the slot to its minority, Remo, it was naturally the turn of Yewa/Awori. But following divisions in their ranks, the majority Egba won the poll through Amosun, who contested on the platform of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). However, among party faithful across Ogun State, it appears the Ijebu are bent on ensuring that 2019 does not elude them, with a frontline aspirant, Otunba Jimi Lawal, pulling all the stops within the party structure to sell his message to members.
The first casualty of Amosun’s anger was Lagos West Senator, Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (Yayi), who is bidding for the ticket from the Yewa/Awori Division of Ogun State. He is currently a persona non-grata across all APC structures in the 20 local governments and 236 Wards of Ogun State, which has forced the legislator to shift his campaign base outside the party, canvassing for support among the general populace. But it appears Amosun is peeved with Yayi due to a belief within the Governor’s inner circle that the Senator is being sponsored by APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He had vainly sought to get the Ogun West Senatorial ticket in 2015, before being handpicked to run as a member of the upper chamber of the National Assembly in Lagos, a position which he occupies till date.
Amosun believes it is the turn of the Yewa/Awori to produce the next Governor in 2019. But he is firmly opposed non-resident Ogun State indigenes succeeding him, a position many believe is aimed at ensuring only his handpicked successor becomes the Governor. Speculations persist that The Governor’s Chief of Staff, Tolu Odebiyi, from Yewa, remains Amosun’s choice. But the man’s lack of charisma and suggestions that he also relocated to the state after his appointment might be responsible for recent claims that Mr. Governor is already shopping for a replacement. Notable among those being speculated is CEO of telecommunications giant, Airtel, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, who interestingly is an Ijebu from Imosan, Odogbolu Local Government Area.
But sources also claim that two aspirants from Yewa, Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Suraj Adekunmbi and former House of Representatives member, Hon. Abiodun Akinlade are also being considered as replacement for Odebiyi in Amosun’s camp. Of course, others continue to drop the Governor’s name, telling whoever cares to listen that Amosun has nudged them to run. These include an Ijebu, current Commissioner for Commerce, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru; and two others from Yewa, House of Representatives member, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade; and Commissioner for Forestry, Wasiu Kolawole Lawal.
Of the lot, only Yayi, who Amosun has vowed would not succeed him and an Ijebu, Otunba Jimi Lawal, who is a Senior Adviser and Counselor to Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, have been touring the 20 Local Governments and Wards of Ogun State. While Yayi moves outside the party structures for his consultations, Lawal has been moving from one local government to the other undisturbed since last year meeting with APC stakeholders, especially Party Leaders, Executive members of Wards and those of Local Governments. His campaign Coordinators in the 20 local governments are former local government council chairmen. A current serving Vice Chairman in one of the local governments is also an alternate coordinator.
At the last count, Lawal has visited APC stakeholders in 19 of Ogun State’s 20 local governments. His ‘Consultative Meetings’ were usually with all the Executives of the party in every Ward along with their local government counterparts with key leaders of APC, who do not hold any office being invited to listen to his programmes and ask questions on any issue. Earlier, Lawal had paid the same visit to the state secretariat of APC, where he met with all Executive members. He also did the same with each of the three Senatorial Districts in Ogun State. In addition, Lawal met separately with Women Leaders and Youth Leaders across the 236 Wards of Ogun State, spreading a message of even development if given the APC ticket.
At a meeting with APC Youth Leaders from the 236 Wards of Ogun State recently, Lawal explained to a Yewa/Awori youth, who had insisted it was the turn of the sub-division in 2019 that, “In 2011, no Ijebu or Remo sought to be the Governor of Ogun State on the platform of any of the major political parties because our leaders felt it was the turn of Egba Division, and most importantly that of Yewa/Awori. You can check the records to confirm this fact. We abhor cheating, so we do not tolerate it from others. Once a division has completed its term, the seat moves to the other. It is now left for that particular division to decide where the pendulum should swing to. In your own case, Amosun got it from Yewa/Awori in 2011, and should not blame Ijebu for that.”
Lawal’s quest to be Ogun State Governor in 2019 is anchored on five key programmes, Economic Development; Human Capital Development; Infrastructural Development; Security & Justice; and Good Governance. His major concerns remain women and youths with an argument that once these two segments are properly taken care of, being the engine room of any society, almost every other challenge would have been tackled. In his words, “For instance, not many people will understand what the poor among us, especially the womenfolk, go through to bring up their children. It is always tough, as they want their children to succeed. And, that is why I felt very unhappy after reading news report that Ogun State will no longer be responsible for paying the WAEC fees of final year secondary school students. It will not happen under my watch, because we will pay. Nothing can be more saddening for parents, who have put children through secondary school to have the same kids back home after 12 years without the final year examination certificate. My administration will run free education and all that it entails.
“We’ll not run things just our way, as all of you, our people will be involved. You will constitute the School Boards in your area. You’ll be responsible for renovation of schools, maintaining discipline of staff and students. You’ll be involved in filling vacancies, because you are better placed to know the teachers the schools need. There’ll be no dilapidated public school during my administration. We will concentrate the best of efforts to ensure that our public schools are regularly maintained with a team of teachers and administrators, who have high morale.”
Primary healthcare, a quality micro-credit scheme along with skills development for women and youths formed part of his message too. “Every Ward in Ogun State will have a functional Health Centre within our first six months in office, and we will not leave out the General Hospitals and Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital. It is not just enough to go to school, our children must have skills with which to fend for themselves in today’s world. So, we will create skills acquisition centres in all our 20 local governments to be backed with a quality micro-credit scheme for our women and youths, who might want to go into full business but are being held back by lack of funds. And, don’t say, we cannot do it. You only need to look back at my record as a private person and public servant, because I have paid my dues and has never failed before,” he explained.
An Ijebu from Odo Esa, Ijebu Ode, Lawal was until his foray into public service an investment banker, who had a rough deal with late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, after his bank, the defunct Alpha Merchant Bank acquired the majority shares of the equally defunct Afribank. Abacha had shown interest in acquiring Afribank through a surrogate, but failed to clinch the deal. He later went after Lawal and his directors after he became Head of State in 1993 deploying state power to hunt Lawal out of Nigeria. Abacha’s death and the subsequent democratic dispensation, which began in 1999 brought relief with a court quashing all the indictments procured by the late dictator against him.
Chairman, APC Ifo Local Government, Hon. Saheed Ariyori, may not have put it better about Lawal’s aspiration during the Lawal’s consultative visit, “With the enviable place Ogun State occupies today in terms of development, we will ensure that persons, who might take us back to the past and cause retrogression for our state, are not allowed near the Governor’s office. It is for this reason I welcome you on behalf of all our party members in Ifo Local Government and to let them know that your quality background and experience have sold you to us.”