Politics is in the air in Oyo State. Twelve party chieftains are eyeing Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s job. They belong to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). They include senators, commissioners, former commissioners, other appointees and professionals. While some of them are major contenders, some are minor contenders, judging by their political weight.
The aspirants include Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN); Minister of Communication, Barr. Adebayo Shittu; Senator Adesoji Akanbi; Sen. Fatai Buhari; Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Mr Bayo Adelabu. Others are Prof. Adeolu Akande; Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Survey, Mr Ajiboye Omodewu; his Health counterpart, Dr Azeez Adeduntan; former Commissioner for Works, Yunus Akintunde; former Commissioner for Health, Dr Babalola Owolabi, renowned newspaper editor, Debo Adesina and a former Permanent Secretary, Engr Aderemi Olaniyan.
The aspirants are traversing the length and breadth of the state. They are soliciting the support of individuals, groups and communities. The party primary will determine who ascends the hilltop Agodi Government House.
APC regained power in Oyo State in 2011 when Ajimobi defeated his two predecessors, Senator Rashidi Ladoja and Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala to emerge the seventh civilian governor. He contested and won on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which transformed to the APC in 2015.
Since then, the party has been gaining more popularity, in spite of the criticism of the opposition. Ajimobi’s historic victory in the 2015 election enabled the party to consolidate on its popularity. He is the first governor to win a second term in the state. But, that was not without a drop in the party’s popularity in Ibadan, the state capital, due to its urban renewal project. It gained more popularity in Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa areas in the last election. Now, Ogbomoso is added to its base, given the defection of Alao-Akala and his followers to the ruling party.
Yet, candidates of Ibadan origin are still believed to be in an advantaged position to win governorship election due to its population strength of the city. It accounts for about 50 per cent of the total votes in the sate. As the next election draws nearer, however, analysts believe that individual candidates will wield more influence than the party’s. This is because of the cris-crossing of politicians across parties which has generally eroded the ideological basis used to classify political parties. Many Nigerians also believe that the APC has not fully lived up to expectation at the federal level in view of the flip-flopping economy since President Muhammadu Buhari took over mantle of leadership in May, 2015.
An erudite lawyer and a native of Iddo Local Government of Ibadan, Akintola has played an important role in progressive politics for about three decades. He was the Deputy Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly in 1993. He has also handled many cases for the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the APC.
The legal icon is popular with top political leaders and traditional rulers across Southwest. He hopes to leverage on this to climb the governorship ladder in the elections.
Akintola has been engaging stakeholders in the last one year, assuring them that he would sustain the legacy of Ajimobi, if elected. He has repeated at different fora that he has a second address, if he does not get the ticket or win the election, meaning that he is not desperate to be governor.
But, it is unclear if the lawyer is popular enough among party members to win the primary.
Shittu is the Minister of Communication. He hails from Saki in Oke-Ogun area of the state. He is a former member of the Oyo State House of Assembly and a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
He was the governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 2011 election. But, he joined the APC during its formation in 2014. It is widely believed that his emergence as the CPC governorship candidate in 2011 brought him close to Buhari which culminated in his appointment as minister in 2015 to the surprise of the party in the state. He had challenged Ajimobi’s emergence as the APC governorship candidate in court in 2015 but withdrew at a stage.
Shittu has been trumpeting his ambition at every forum, assuring that he would succeed Ajimobi. Their relationship has degenerated. The inauguration of the Southwest Buhari/Osinbajo re-election office in Ibadan last week was poorly attended due to the obvious crisis between him and the governor. The idea is being spearheaded by Shittu.
Analysts believe that the minister is counting on Buhari to influence his emergence as the APC candidate.
Though battling Ajimobi makes his name resonate all the time, it is difficult to say that the lawyer is popular within the party or that he is acceptable to the general public. However, he trudges on in his quest to succeed Ajimobi.
Akanbi hails from Ibadan North West Local Government. A former federal legislator and businessman, Akanbi’s name has been associated with governorship since he joined the race in 2011.
Given the massive grassroots constituency projects he undertakes, it is clear that the politician is serious about his ambition to become the number one citizen of the state.
A close associate of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Akanbi hopes to leverage on his goodwill within his current Oyo South Senatorial District and among top APC leaders to make it to Agodi Government House.
Buhari is a former federal lawmaker and commissioner. He hails from Ogbomoso South Local Government of the state. He currently represents Oyo North Senatorial District covering the 10 local government areas in Oke-Ogun and three others in Ogbomoso.
Buhari, a grassroots politician, is well connected with the people. He is popular because of his generousity and simplicity. He was one senator that pulled a great surprise in the last election by defeating his rivals in other parties. He was really underestimated because he hails from Ogbomoso whose part formed a minor area in the senatorial district. But, his personal qualities and the platform earned him the electoral victory.
A professor of political science at Igbinedion University, Okada, Akande was a media strategist to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Chief of Staff to Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
Akande, who hails from Otu area of Oke-Ogun, is also sustaining his handshakes across communities, groups and other stakeholders.
He plans to use agriculture to revolutionise the economy of the state. Akande believes that his experience as a journalist, academic and politician will make accomplishment of his vision for the state easy. But he has a long hurdle to cross within the party.
A former Permanent Secretary in the state and an astute businessman, Olaniyan hails from Igboho in Oorelope Local Government Area. A grassroots politician, he hopes to latch on the belief that the party will offer a level-playing ground for all aspirants. His Oke-Ogun origin may also play a role as the area hopes to enjoy the push for zoning. The engineer has a long hurdle to cross to achieve his goal.
Adelabu is the Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He is the grandson of the late famous Ibadan political juggernaut, Adegoke Adelabu (aka Peculiar mess), Adelabu hopes to leverage on his grand father’s fame in combination with his rich background in the finance world.
He has the ears of Ibadan elders and other critical stakeholders in Oyo politics. His youthful age may also be an advantage when considering the need for generational change. But, he faces a tough hurdle in the party. It is also unclear if the private sector guru is prepared for the rough world of politics.
Omodewu is the Commissioner for Land, Housing and Survey. A native of Otu, Itesiwaju Local Government, he is one of the closest politicians to Ajimobi. It may also account for why he has been serving with the governor since inception. He was reappointed twice when the governor sacked his cabinet.
Omodewu has been working hard to pick the APC ticket since he returned to office in 2015. He is a strong party man and a committed follower of the governor. His name resonates every time Ajimobi’ successor is considered. He said: “Governor Ajimobi is my boss. He is my leader. I wish to succeed him, but if he asks me to stand down, I will honour him. So, it is not a do-or-die thing.”
Owolabi is a medical doctor. He was the Commissioner for Health during the tenure of Alao-Akala. Now an APC member, Owolabi, who hails from Ibadan, is working hard behind the scene to emerge as the party’s flagbearer.
He has experience as a professional and a politician. He is able to connect with the people. He is brilliant. He is well travelled and has consulted for several international organisations. But it is not clear if the party will favour him.
The aspirants are many. The lucky one is being awaited as the APC and other stakeholders in the state make their choice for the 2019 election.
A reputable journalist, Adesina is a former Editor of The Guardian. He is one of the longest serving editors in Nigeria. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian.