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How Tinubu, Atiku’s ambitions may shape Oyo 2023 guber poll

By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief)
09 October 2022   |   4:11 am
None of the 18 candidates and political parties jostling for the Agodi Government House, in Ibadan Oyo State, can boast of having what it takes to win the coming 2023 gubernatorial election as of now.

Photo by Kola Sulaimon and PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

None of the 18 candidates and political parties jostling for the Agodi Government House, in Ibadan Oyo State, can boast of having what it takes to win the coming 2023 gubernatorial election as of now.

Not even the sitting governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), can say he is well positioned to defeat his opponents, considering the crises currently facing the party both at the national level and in the state.

Current developments in Oyo politics does not indicate that Governor Makinde can break the second term jinx, a feat that was only achieved by former Governor Abiola Ajimobi in 2015, in the history of the state.

Candidate of the major opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Teslim Folarin, is also  uncertain about the commitment of critical stakeholders in his party to his ambition. The anger generated by the  congresses and the governorship primary that produced him, as the party’s flag bearer, is still raging within the party even though a reconciliation committee headed by Senator Femi Lanlehin, had submitted its report and made some recommendations to appease the aggrieved. The likes of Chief Niyi Akintola, who contested the primary but lost, Senator Ayo Adesuen and others are still insisting they will not work for the Folarin.

In similar vein, the former Deputy Governor of Central Bank and the governorship candidate of APC in the 2019 election, Adebayo Adelabu, is now the flag bearer of the Accord Party (AP). He defected from APC to his new platform after he came second to Folarin. He is also not certain if the AP will be strong enough to earn him victory, especially against  Makinde and the three term senator.

Also in the race is Mr. Joshua Olukayode Popoola, candidate of New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP). Recall that Alhaji Bisi Olopooeyan, one of the former leaders of the ruling party, who played an active role in the coalition that brought Makinde to power in 2019 is the godfather of the Oyo chapter of NNPP.  Olopooeyan and a host of others defected from PDP after irreconcilable differences with the governor.

The candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Michael Lana, is also expected to show some strength in the race even though his party lacks what it takes to win the election. Both the NNPP and SDP candidates are offshoots of the ruling party and their exit might have further depleted Oyo PDP.

The four parties are regarded as the major contestants while the remaining 14 are either going to form  a coalition or otherwise they stand no chance of making any impact in the election. Even among the four,  Makinde, Folarin and Adelabu are considered as the three likely winners depending on which among them NNPP and SDP, eventually form a coalition with. In the possibility of an alliance or coalition, Adelabu or  Folarin stand a good chance of reaping the benefit, while Makinde’s chances of getting an ally in the race may be difficult, if not impossible judging by the way he allegedly treated those that helped him to attain victory in 2019.

Considering that narrative, many of the electorate who spoke to The Guardian were of the view that whoever wins the coming governorship election in Oyo is purely going to be by chance and not on merit.

The political elite in Oyo does not see Makinde as someone that can be trusted and therefore he is not their favourite but the question is how many are they in population and how far can they sway votes away from the governor? But the incumbent is still very popular among the grassroots, especially among the market associations, transporters, traditional rulers and others. Not long ago, over 40 traditional rulers across the state endorsed Makinde for re-election.

Even among the same political class and elite, Folarin, will face personality challenges right from within his party where he has been labelled, Jagba, meaning an usurper, a political dent he might need to seriously work on as campaign will be taking off very soon.

Another factor that will play out in the contest is the presidential aspiration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the candidate of the APC and that of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Tinubu, who is the presidential candidate of APC, is alleged to be working on how to maximise support across the Southwest base to defeat or reduce the influence of his major rival,  Atiku. The former governor of Lagos State, will need more than APC’s membership votes, especially in Oyo State, the second largest voting state in the region.

A political analyst in the state said Tinubu will need Folarin just as he needs Makinde and Adelabu with other governorship contestants in the state. The source said since the former governor of Lagos may not get the prerequisite votes and support either in the South-South and or South-East, where Atiku and Peter Obi, presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) are likely going to wield influence.

The source explained that Tinubu will need the vote of Southwest and the north to achieve his aim. “It is on this premise the APC presidential candidate  will need to carefully work along with Makinde, Folarin, Adelabu and others ahead of the February presidential election. Discussions are ongoing that can lead to serious negotiations.”

Just this week, Governors Nyesom Wike, who is a close ally of Makinde and some others pulled out of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council but they are yet to disclose the candidate they may likely to support if the PDP crisis is not resolved before next year.

But a source in the PDP national headquarters told The Guardian that the Atiku’s camp is not foreclosing the possibility that Makinde may eventually negotiate with APC and Tinubu, while Folarin and Adelabu may be offered something tangible or that the incumbent may sacrifice his reelection ambition for a juice appointment at the federal level if that  will facilitate power to return to the south after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the source, “From the look of things it is not certain if the ongoing crisis in the PDP at the national level of which Makinde is deeply involved will be resolved. It will definitely affect the incumbent governor and he may therefore be compelled to negotiate his stay in power or what he will get outside office if he eventually loses next year.”

Makinde also has a very strong tool to negotiate with based on the fact that as at today, the electorate in Oyo State, still prefer him to Folarin and Adelabu but his acceptability among political elite is zero.

But speaking with The Guardian on the chances of the three major contenders, a political scientist, Associate Professor, Dr. Aaron Ogundiwin said he did not see any three-horse race to the Government House Agodi but one, whom he said is Governor Makinde.

According to Ogundinwin, “Makinde has performed beyond expectations not to be reelected. His opponents should come and tell the people of Oyo what the governor has not done that they would like to perfect or do.”

FOR Folarin, the APC candidate will not have an easy victory if at all he is going to defeat the incumbent. Cogent among the factors that will work against him is the issue of credibility and perception before the Oyo electorate. Some stakeholders in his party are not also helping his course. The negative label, Jagba  , meaning someone who usurped what does not belong to , which members of APC tagged on him after the party’s congresses and primary is working against the senator, in no small dimension among the Oyo electorate.

But in spite of the negative perceptions and lies against the person of Folarin, the APC’s candidate  is a product of Harvard University, University of Ibadan and a successful three term senators witn records of achievements in the upper legislative chamber.

But one of the aggrieved members of Oyo APC, who has since reconciled with Folarin and has been appealing to other aggrieved stakeholders to sheather their swords amd work with the senator, Adebayo Shittu, a former minister of communication, assured The Guardian that discussion is ongoing to calm all the frayed nerves in the party.

Also the Soutwest Zonal Chairman of APC, Isaac Kekemeke, said, whatever grievances within the party and animosity against Folarin would be addressed before the election.

Kekemeke said Oyo is as good as being taken by APC in the next governorship election.

But while some members criticised Folarin, others believed that the chairman Senate Committee on Local Content couldn’t have lost the party’s primary to any other contestant because he invested in APC after the party lost in the 2019 governorship election to PDP while the likes of Adelabu allegedly relaxed.

Adelabu of the Accord party will face not one but two issues in the quest to defeat Makinde and Folarin. First is that he does not have anything to hang on like the governor who possesses incumbent power and the senator who will play on the sentiment that Tinubu, who is APC’s presidential candidate cannot afford to play anti-party game in the 2023 contest.

Immediately after he was affirmed as the AP governorship candidate in Oyo state for the 2023 election, Adelabu hit the ground running and has been declared in some quarters a star boy of the coming election, having plied the terrain in the past.

The development followed the crisis, which rocked the APC with Adelabu defecting to the AP after Folarin won the APC governorship ticket in May.

Ayodele Oyajide had stepped down and relinquished his mandate to Adelabu in the presence of the AP National Chairman, Mohammed Nalado; National Secretary, Alhaja Bukola Ajaja; Oyo state Chairman, Ojo Kolade; as well as other prominent leaders of the party.

Addressing party faithful, Adelabu said: “The change is here. Our coming to Accord is not by accident; it is a divine arrangement. This is the time the Accord Party will produce its first governor in Oyo state.

“We are ready to do everything to make sure we win. We will win the three senatorial polls; 14 House of Representatives seats and 32 House of Assembly seats. We need oneness. Adelabu cannot do it alone; we need your support. Work has started today.”