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Will Ekiti grant Oni his comeback cut as Southwest plots SDP’s rebirth

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
05 April 2022   |   2:49 am
By June 12, 2023, it would be clear 30 years after the memorable Presidential election that would have ushered in Chief Moshood Abiola as Nigeria’s President.

Segun Oni

By June 12, 2023, it would be clear 30 years after the memorable Presidential election that would have ushered in Chief Moshood Abiola as Nigeria’s President.

Chief Abiola, who contested the poll on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), ran a well-oiled and well-received national campaign under the banner of Hope ’93. The theme song of that Presidential campaign was ‘On the march again!’

Nearly 30 years after, could it be that the Southwest geopolitical zone, noted for its progressive cum opposition politics is on the march again? Barely two weeks after the queasy national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), there are many telltale signs that something is in the works to happen politically in Southwest.
First was the Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka’s scathing criticism of the emergence of Senator Iyiola Omisore as the governing APC’s national secretary. Then there was the open defacement of APC insignia by members loyal to the current Minister for Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as they announced their defection to SDP.
But, while these unrelated developments were taking place, former Ekiti State governor, Engineer Segun Oni, seemed to have positioned himself as a forerunner to a new thinking in Southwest, particularly the tendency towards SDP’s renaissance.
By his decision to quit opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and join SDP, Oni has, unknown to him, tactically positioned the forthcoming June 18 Ekiti State governorship poll as the acid test for the shifting political dynamics in the zone.
That apart, Ekiti State has shown great latitude for independent voter behaviour during the staggered governorship polls. In 2014, the Ekiti electorate shocked the incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, by settling for Ayodele Fayose, whose journey was cut short midway into his first term in 2006 by PDP’s garrison politics.
Then, in 2018, the same Ekiti voters left Fayose in severe pains when they rejected his anointed Prof. Kolapo Olushola Eleka, to return Dr. Fayemi to power for his cherished second term mandate.
Like Fayose, who in his final term endorsed Prof. Olushola-Eleka, his then deputy, the outgoing governor, Dr. Fayemi has thrown his weight behind his former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Biodun Oyebanji. Interestingly, Oyebanji served as Fayemi’s Chief of Staff in his first term.
It could be recalled that in the build-up to the 2018 governorship poll in the state, former governor Fayose after a visit to Engineer Segun Oni at his country home, stoked speculations of a possible support for the former governor’s ambition. Oni was removed by the courts to pave way for Fayemi, who was adjudged as the rightful winner of the 2007 election.
Whether on account of the publicity and speculations that attended his visit to Oni, Fayose, in a move considered popular, shunned the former governor and settled for his loyal deputy, Prof. Eleka.
Four years after, Fayose looked beyond Prof. Eleka and Oni to settle for the state chairman of PDP, Bisi Kolawole. But, peeved by the processes leading to his loss to Kolawole by 330 to 671 votes during the PDP governorship primary, Oni decided to take his political destiny in his own hands by strutting to the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
It is not yet known whether Senator Biodun Olujimi, the other female contestant that denounced the governorship primary would join Oni on SDP, especially given that Fayose has endorsed his former deputy, Eleka for the Ekiti South Senatorial seat currently occupied by Olujimi. Oni’s move to SDP could provide a third way and pave the way for his return to power like Fayose and Fayemi as both former governors try to sale their anointed candidates to independent-minded Ekiti electorate.
This is because signs that things have started looking up for SDP emerged shortly after last week’s national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), when Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, deprecated the selection of Senator Iyiola Omisore as the governing party’s national secretary.   
Although Soyinka is not a card-carrying member of any political party, his intellectual input and strong voice had in times past helped to colour the political picture of Southwest. This is more so given that the Nobel Laureate’s criticism came after and not before the consideration of Omisore as APC national scribe.
Opinions are divided on the implication of Omisore’s new position on the Presidential aspiration of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. They were not best of friends over the bola Ige matter, Tinubu, being a core Ige loyalist. But in politics, only interests are permanent, not enemies.
In a statement titled, “Perhaps closed files should remain just that-Closed?”, the Nobel Laureate recalled how following his call during the 20th anniversary of the murder of, Chief Bola Ige, the late Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Alkali, to re-open the case.
Soyinka expressed dismay that “the emergence and anointing of Otunba Omisore was coming barely just three months after the call was made and the president’s swift order.”
“That pledge was to re-open the files on the spate of unsolved political assassinations that had plagued the nation in recent decades. Prominent among those cases was that of the Minister of Justice, murdered on his way to take up a prestigious position with the United Nations,” Soyinka had stated.
He contended that the resumption of probe into the murder of Chief Ige has already been discredited by electing Senator Iyiola Omisore, whom he described as a prime suspect, as the APC National Secretary.
Although in the course of investigation into the murder of Ige, the former Osun State deputy governor, Omisore, was arrested in connection with the murder of the former AGF, nothing concrete was made public about the probe.
Yet, in his statement, Soyinka declared: “With the emergence of the said prime suspect as National Secretary of the ruling party, is the Inspector-General of Police equipped to confront political obstacles in a resumption of investigation? Is there any guarantee that the result will see the light of day? How suspect, ab initio, will be the conclusions, given the present political ordering?
“To this layman, that investigative revisit is already hamstrung and disrobed of credibility. I think the nation should simply relieve President Buhari of his pledge. I am certain the Inspector-General of Police will be equally relieved and can now turn his mind and energy to the national accustomed posture – Business as Usual.”
Political metaphor/Lai movement

PLACED side by side with the happenings within the governing APC, particularly as older stakeholders are not determined yet on 2023, watchers of Southwest politics conclude that Soyinka’s diatribe could be a rich political metaphor to situate the diminishing appeal of APC in the zone.
Although Ige was very popular in Southwest politics, his beef with former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, informed his decision to accept to work as Minister of Justice and AGF in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term.
It was speculated that his plan to quit Obasanjo’s government was informed by his aspiration to contest the 2003 Presidential poll on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to make up for the loss of opportunity in 1999 when Falae became the consensus candidate for the AD/All Peoples Party (APP) accord.

The confusion that attended Ige’s murder revolved around the complex mix of politics and electoral considerations, which his participation in the 2003 Presidential poll could trigger. That in part explained Soyinka’s call on President Buhari in 2021 to repair “the broken lines of justice” by reopening investigation into the murder case.
However, while the dirt of criminal allegations was being splashed on the new APC national scribe, what happened in Kwara State played up the political angle further.
Feeling side-lined and supplanted in the state chapter of APC, supporters of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, went berserk and in a fit of rage decided to make a burn fire of their APC flags and brooms in public denunciation of the governing party.
The irate former APC stalwarts announced their defection to SDP, even as they chided Governor AbdulRazaq AbdulRahman for excluding those who powered the o’otoge movement that brought him to office.
Rival chairman of Kwara South Senatorial chapter of the party, Rasak Alabi, told journalists in Ilorin that they have embraced SDP as their new platform.
“In less than two months into his administration, he started embarking on inexplicable desire to remove the party chairman and thereby demolishing the vehicle on which he rode to power.
“Despite our endurance in the face of the inhuman treatment meted to us in the party, it will be correct to suggest that the Kwara State governor, working in tandem with the former National Caretaker Committee Chairman, Mallam Mai Mala Buni has decided to edge us out of the party against our wish.
“And to make matters worse, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, who once headed the party’s National Reconciliation Committee, has denied us fair hearing but rather turned himself to Governor AbdulRazaq’s solicitor and advocate, is now the party’s national chairman. How then can we be hopeful of getting justice in this circumstance?
“Consequent upon the wishes of our numerous supporters and the majority of Kwarans, we announce to you today the official defection and mass movement of supporters and party members from the APC to the Social Democratic Party (SDP).”
He explained that the resolution to defect was supported by the 193 ward chairmen, 16 local governments chairmen, and all the working committee members.
SDP National Publicity Secretary, Ambassador Rufus Aujenigba and the state chairman, Mallam Ibrahim Yahaya, were on hand to receive the new members, even as they assured the defectors that SDP would not discriminate, but treat them as equal members.
While assuring the former APC stalwarts that SDP will allow them to actualise their political dreams, Amb Aujenigba noted that SDP is the best alternative party that would restore the lost glory of the country.
It would be recalled that plans to vouchsafe SDP as an alternative platform began midway into President Buhari’s first term, when Tinubu, who was described as the APC national leader, was being given cold shoulder by the government.
But, in an interview with The Guardian at his Akure home, the then national chairman of the party, Chief Falae, denied any knowledge of an attempt to use SDP as Plan B, adding, “nobody can programme me.”
Also, Omisore, the current APC scribe, who contested the 2018 Osun State governorship poll on SDP platform had some differences with Falae before shifting support to APC after the election was declared inconclusive and providing a stalemate between APC and PDP candidates.
With Falae no longer the national chairman, could SDP be programmed in such a way as to call APC’s bluff in the ongoing schemes to deny Southwest the party’s Presidential ticket? Would Tinubu, in the event that things do not go his way in APC rebuild Southwest opposition politics? If so, could Asiwaju’s candidacy rekindle the magic of Hope ’93 to impact on Nigeria’s Presidential poll 30 years after Abiola’s bold try?
Answers to the posers will soon be apparent as the political parties open their campaigns leading to the presidential primaries.

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