Ogun State 2019: The Favoured, The ‘Damned’, and The Hopefuls
By Adediran Olufemi, Abeokuta
Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, is currently on the horns of a dilemma. And it goes beyond the challenges posed by Solomon Adeola (Yayi), the Lagos-West senator, who appears set to hijack the All Progressives Congress (APC) structure in Ogun State from Amosun. The governor has publicly declared his preference for his successor to be an indigene of Egbado Division of the state, with political associates of Amosun from the Ijebu Division quietly sulking and bidding their time.
Impeccable sources close to Uhuru Times have confirmed Amosun is grooming his Chief of Staff, Chief Tolu Odebiyi, as the next occupant of Oke Mosan, although speculations persist there is a rift between both men, forcing the governor into doubts about installing the real estate mogul his successor. An Egbado with deep family roots in the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Odebiyi’s father, Senator Jonathan Odebiyi, was a close confidant of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was a pillar of both the defunct Action Group (AG) during the First Republic and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the Second Republic aborted by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. It is a background that should endear him to the old guards of Afenifere, especially Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye among others who still wield some political influence in Ogun State. Odebiyi is also a godson to Obasanjo, who was close to the Chief of Staff’s father. Uhuru Times gathered that the candidacy of Odebiyi was first muted to Amosun by Obasanjo, an ardent advocate of an Egbado indigene as Ogun State governor in 2019, thus making him the most favoured aspirant among Ogun State power brokers with sympathy towards APC till date.
Incumbent governors always want to secure their legacies by installing loyalists as successors. Being largely in control of the party structure that determines the winner of primaries, they have a lot of clout. In Ogun State, the military did not allow that to happen as Buhari and his colleagues truncated the Second Republic. Self-style President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, also prevented that in 1993 during the aborted Third Republic as elected political office holders were swept out of office after IBB annulled the presidential election. Daniel failed to achieve the feat in 2011, owing largely to the in-fighting, which tore the ruling PDP apart at the time. Towards the 2019 elections, Amosun currently controls the APC structure in Ogun State despite the support being enjoyed by Yayi among some notable party officials.
But the Yayi factor, despite the controversy surrounding his ancestry and being a ‘Tekobo’ (Lagos-based politician), is currently giving Amosun and his strategists sleepless nights. At some point, given the location of his country home in Ilaro, Egbado South Local Government Area, many believed Yayi is an indigene of the place. It was later his supporters published facts to back up a claim that he is from Isaga, an Egbado part of Abeokuta North Local Government, placing Yayi as an indigene of Egba Division as the local government in question falls within Ogun Central Senatorial District, where Amosun hails from (http://www.theparadigmng.com/2017/01/31/true-history-sen-solomon-olamilekan-adeola-yayi-dapo-oke/). Former Deputy Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Tokunbo Oshin, is not even bothered about Yayi’s ancestry, but firmly opposed to a ‘Tekobo’ aspiring to be the next governor of Ogun State. He was among Ogun East Senatorial District leaders, who recently visited Amosun to complain about the governor’s open support for an Egbado to succeed him.
In his words, “The Ijebu and Remo Axis of Ogun State will not accept a ‘Todewa or Tajode’ as governor in 2019. We are not saying Ogun State indigenes resident outside the state cannot run for office here. But we are against those who at the pinnacle of their political career running back to Ogun State to hijack the governorship from those who have been toiling to build a political career and establish themselves among the people. What I mean is that, once you have been playing your politics elsewhere, stay there if you are still relevant and aspire for governorship there. None of our governors in Ogun State, including the incumbent, have been resident here before they became governors. Chief Olabisi Onabanjo and Otunba Gbenga Daniel were based in Lagos. It was the same with Chief Olusegun Osoba and Senator Ibikunle Amosun. But the difference with Yayi is that these men never played politics outside of Ogun State since the state was created, and they have always identified with their roots, not coming late in the night to reap where others have sown.”
Yayi’s supporters believe it is APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is pushing his candidacy. But findings by Uhuru Times revealed this may not be so, given Tinubu’s tactics of keeping close to his chest a choice of candidate till almost the last minutes of an election. A close associate of the APC National Leader told Uhuru Times that, “It is certainly not true that Asiwaju is the one pushing Yayi to become the next governor of Ogun State, because that is not our leader’s style. You need to look at Asiwaju’s style from 2003 till now to understand what I mean. Asiwaju will never show his card this early, because he will never gamble. What you are talking about in Ogun State is the work of those around him, not Asiwaju directly. It is true Yayi is Asiwaju’s boy, but that does not mean he is the one pushing him. You need to look more in the direction of (Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf) Aregbesola and that of (Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi) Ambode. Those are the two people pushing Yayi forward, because I can tell you without any doubt that Asiwaju has no hand in it yet.”
A retired teacher from Igan Okoto in Egbado North Local Government Area, Alhaji Tobiloba Akinleye, believes equity and justice should be allowed to determine the place of origin of the next governor of Ogun State. He argued that, “Since the creation of the state some 42 years ago, the driver’s seat has always been occupied by people from Ogun Central and Ogun East Senatorial districts of the state to the exclusion of Ogun West. Before the advent of this present nascent democracy in 1999, the Ogun East and Central occupied the position with Chief Bisi Onabanjo of blessed memory and Chief Olusegun Osoba respectively. It was not for want of trying that the people of Ogun West have been denied a right in a tri-podal arrangement that is Ogun State. From the time of Chief Onabanjo, Ogun West people had always thrown their hat in the ring with many personalities like Chief Tunji Otegbeye, Professor Afolabi Olabimtan, late Dele Arojo, General Tunji Olurin (Rtd), Senator Iyabo Anisulowo, Prince Gboyega Isiaka and a host of others.”
Akinleye believes Yayi, who came made an abortive attempt to contest the 2015 senatorial election on the platform of APC, as the Ogun West candidate, was frustrated out of the race by Amosun, deserves the ticket. “They always claim that “Yewa o le’yan”, meaning that Yewa people lack those qualified and able to finance the project of becoming governor. So far, Yayi has laid that derogatory statement to rest, because God has blessed him so much for us. In addition that, support for Yayi in Ogun State today is coming from the former speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Tunji Egbetokun, from Ogun Central; the APC senatorial chairman of Ogun Central Hon. Kunle Adesina; Hon. Segun Osibote, a former member of House of Representatives from Ogun East; Hon. Tunde Kope, a former consultant to Governor Amosun; the former council chairmen of Ijebu Ode and Sagamu, Hon. A. Daada and Hon. Funmi Efuwape and many others in that category. In this connection of being firmly rooted in the two other senatorial district with key political figures, one can say no other Yewa aspirant have such a support structure across the state beyond Ogun west.”
Winning a second term election as Amosun’s predecessor, Daniel, did appeared to have boosted his confidence that an anointed successor should be an easy pick for him. But the intra-party crisis thrown up by the succession fever is getting to a pitch with observers liking it to what obtained towards the end of Daniel’s administration. A civil servant in Abeokuta, who does not want his name mentioned, observed that, “Yes, Amosun has a favoured candidate. But it is a 50:50 chance for him to successfully pick a successor, because the APC is factionalised already with many leaders secretly working against Mr. Governor. Those of us on the sidelines see things better than them, because when members of the APC state executive council down to the local governments and wards are fraternising with Yayi, it means all is not well. But I agree that Yayi is like a ‘damned’ politician as whoever fraternises with him risks getting punished by Amosun, no matter who you are.”
The Gateway State has four informal Divisions among politicians, Remo, Ijebu, Yewa/Awori (Egbado according to the 1999 Constitution) and Egba. But constitutionally divided into Senatorial Districts – East (Ijebu and Remo), West (Egbado) and Central (Egba). Among Ogun State politicians, the state has been informally divided into two since 1979, as Ijebu Division, comprising Remo and Ijebu areas; along with Egba Division, consisting of Egba and Egbado. Both Divisions are further partitioned into four, Remo and Ijebu; Egba and Egbado. Of the four Divisions, Ijebu produced late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo (1979); Remo got Otunba Gbenga Daniel (2003 and 2007); Egba produced Chief Olusegun Osoba (1992 and 1999). But the natural and politically agreed turn of the Egbados was buried in 2011 with the emergence of another Egba, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, as governor, due mainly to internally bickering within the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, followed the unwritten agreement among political leaders in the state that an Egbado should succeed his Remo Division through which he became the governor. This was also the position of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who, according to a revealing interview published by Ogun West News recently had directed in 2002 that leaders of Egbado Division should allow a Remo to become governor in 2003, insisting that 2011 would be their turn.
Speaking during the interview, Taiwo, a prominent Egbado leader and an Awori from Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area, said, “Let me tell you what you don’t know: when we started the struggle in 1999, then we believed that President Olusegun Obasanjo was going to support the Yewa-Awori agenda. We sent a delegation to Aso Rock. I was part of the delegation. We got two members of a group, YAYAF, that is Hon. Isiaq Akinlade and one other person. When we got to Aso Rock, we had a meeting with President Obasanjo. Senator Jubril Martins Kuye was at the meeting and we presented our agitation. President Olusegun Obasanjo told us point blank that it is the Egbas and the Ijebus that we need to appeal to. He also said he was not expecting both the Egbas and the Ijebus to contest for that particular guber election in 2003 (but a Remo). He also added that if a Remo man becomes the governor and rule for eight years, and whoever it was had the interest of the Yewa-Awori agenda at heart, it would be easy for us to actualise our agenda.
“That statement was what spurred us. So, immediately we left Aso Rock Villa, I told members of the delegation that if they think very well and interpret what baba (Obasanjo) told us, they should realise the path baba is directing us to. So, what we did immediately we got home was to look for a credible Remo man and luckily Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD) who is a known and well-respected Remo man surfaced. Thereafter, we pulled all our structures together to support his gubernatorial ambition, but it was not until we agreed in terms and conditions that will oil the machinery of our agitation which is primarily to install a Yewa-Awori man as his successor. We told OGD without mincing words that we will support his ambition, but these are certain things he must do for us. You must give us deputy governor and Commissioner for Works aside other posts our district is entitled to. We set up a negotiating committee which comprised of some notable personalities of Ogun West led by Alhaji Ali Ajibode, a retired civil servant.
“The committee’s decision was brought back to the table, OGD read it after it was prepared in form of Agreement document, and he signed and we also signed. Three of us signed on behalf of Ogun West; my humble self, Chief Mrs. Apampa and late Chief Lekan Ojo. In fairness to OGD, after he became the governor, he fulfilled all his promises as agreed prior to election. There was no local government that did not get a post of commissioner in Ogun West, unlike what is happening now. All the five Local Governments in Ogun West during OGD tenure had a commissioner in his cabinet and of course the Commissioner for Works which we specifically demanded for was giving to me, making me and my local government one of the beneficiaries of the agreement. And then we also include in that agreement that he must support Ogun West agenda by making one of us his successor after his two terms. So, for now, I will say he is a man of God because, at least he stood by our agreement to the very end. He supported Ogun West agenda. How we lost was not Daniel’s fault but the fault of the people of Ogun West themselves. They use an Ogun West man against another Ogun West man. That was how we lost that golden moment of Ogun West political history.” (http://www.uhurutimes.com/how-gbenga-daniels-intransigence-destroyed-ogun-state-pdp-hon-waliu-taiwo/)
Oshin, a close confidant of an Ijebu aspirant for the governorship seat, Senator Lekan Mustapha, was adamant that the next governor should be produced by the Ijebu and Remo Axis in consonance with how the state came into being in 1976. And, he is very close to Amosun as well just as Mustapha, who many believe remains the governor’s eyes and ears in matters concerning APC politics and politics in Ogun East Senatorial District. Oshin said, “Ogun State was created joining the old Egba Division with the Ijebu and Remo Division. It is like what obtains between Northern and Southern Nigeria. Although, it is not written in the Nigerian constitution, when the rotation goes anywhere, it is left for those in that particular axis to determine which of them should produce the governor. And, for your information, nobody has ever prevented the Egbado people from contesting since 1999 because they have always done so. If they are laying claim to being persecuted because they are a minority, the Remo with just three local governments are more of a minority than the Egbado who have five local governments. But when it was Remo’s turn, they lobbied around Ogun State, they did not base their argument on marginalisation. Let the Egbado people do the same thing. In this part of Ogun State, we do not want what happened to Nigeria in 1979 to happen to us. Somebody wanted to go to the senate, and his people dragged him to become president. Nigeria is still suffering for that today. As far as we are concerned, the next governor of Ogun State must come from the Ijebu and Remo Axis. We in that axis know whose turn it is when we want to present a candidate. It is as simple as that.”
So far, about 20 aspirants cutting across all the political parties, have either directly or indirectly shown their interest to succeed the incumbent. But the race has never been this dicey and crowded in the history of the state as the number of aspirants is likely to increase before 2018. With his fast dwindling popularity due to the parlous economic situation in the country, Amosun is currently faced with the big challenge of selecting a suitable and sellable candidate to succeed him come 2019 when his second tenure in office will end. The Egbado, thus far has the highest number of aspirants. These include Yayi; Odebiyi; current Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Suraj Adekunbi; Senator Iyabo Anisulowo; 2015 gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (GNI); Chief Kola Lawal; Hon. Rotimi Ramon; Senator Gbolahan Dada; Ayo Olubori; and Hon. Abiodun Isiaq Akinlade.
The Ogun East aspirants include, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru; Prince Dapo Abiodun; Asiwaju Olajide Awosedo; Mr Jimi Lawal ; Prince Rotimi Paseda; Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu; Senator Lekan Mustapha; and Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora. Former Speaker, House of Representives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, is so far the only aspirant from Ogun Central Senatorial District. Amosun openly said at a gathering that in pursuing fairness and equity, he would support a Yewa candidate. But observers are of the view that, the Egbados are not likely to rule the state any time soon because they are not united and they have always been working against one another other during elections unlike the Ijebus and Egbas who have been presenting popular candidates during elections, Egabdos, would always present more than two or three candidates to contest the seat and thereby dividing their votes.
However, the recent judgement of the Supreme Court in recognising the Senator Ahmed Markafi faction as the authentic leadership of the PDP may have thrown a spanner in the works for APC, as the opposition appears set as a united team to battle the ruling party towards 2019. Calculations in APC had included poaching popular aspirants within the hitherto fractured PDP fold, including Daniel, Isiaka and others. It will be recalled that in the last few months there were unconfirmed reports that Amosun was trying to woo Isiaka, the PDP governorship candidate in the 2011 and 2015 elections. Isiaka was spotted at the Nikkah Ceremony of Amosun’s daughter to Abike Dabiri’s son in Abeokuta, the state capital recently. Amosun’s reason for ‘toasting’ Isiaka may not be unconnected with the fact that GNI remains the best aspirant PDP has to offer as a gubernatorial candidate today.
But underground moves observed by Uhuru Times suggest that most PDP leaders currently favour rebuilding broken bridges of understanding to correct past wrongs in order to present a formidable front in 2019. A leading PDP figure told Uhuru Times last week that, “We are currently putting our house in order despite all the war you see on the social media. The Supreme Court verdict was a miracle, because without it, PDP would have died in Ogun State as the APC was ready to absorb almost all our credible leaders. But we are determined to follow the words of our National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, that there is no defeated side. We remain one big family, who sometimes fight, but always settle it.”