By Adejumo Kabir
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Seyi Makinde, was declared the winner of the Oyo State governorship election that held on March 9.
Mr Makinde won 28 out of the 33 local governments in the state, leaving the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Adebayo Adelabu, with only five.
The governor-elect received 515, 621 votes to defeat his closest rival from the APC, Mr Adelabu, who polled 357, 982 votes. The margin of defeat is 157,639 votes.
Forty-two political parties contested the governorship election, even though many of them dropped their ambition at the last minute to align with either the PDP or the APC.
Their names remained on the ballot, notwithstanding and they received votes.
The defeat of the APC by the opposition was however not shocking for many Nigerians as the PDP earlier won the state in the February 23 presidential election.
PREMIUM TIMES in this analysis reviews how the activities of the incumbent governor, Abiola Ajimobi, helped his party lose the polls.
Mr Ajimobi contested in 2011 under the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and was elected in a keenly contested election as the governor of the Oyo State.
After his four-year first term, he contested for a second term in an election that took place on April 11, 2015, under the APC for re-election against two of his predecessors in office, Alao Akala and Rashidi Ladoja.
He was re-elected and became the first person to occupy the seat twice in the state.
This fetched Mr Ajimobi the nickname: “Kosheleri” (It has not happened before).
After his re-election, many believed that Mr Ajimobi ‘relaxed’ and felt too fulfilled to have broken a jinx.
“He allowed his re-election to ‘enter’ his head. He believed he has done what no man can do again. He neglected pensioners and talked to elders anyhow. He left some projects abandoned and allowed school children to even dislike him,” an octogenarian, Isiaka Alimi told PREMIUM TIMES.
Also, Mr Ajimobi enjoyed the confidence of the party’s national leadership to the extent of being entrusted with the reconciliation of members in other states.
However, he failed in reconciling the crisis of APC within his state.
This included the crisis between himself and the Ministry of Communications, Adebayo Shittu.
Having noticed that Mr Ajimobi was losing his grip in the state, after the presidential election,a national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, made efforts to bring back those that left the party, including Alao-Akala, to strengthen APC’s chances at the governorship election, but all efforts failed.
The battle with Olubadan
One of the straws that perhaps broke the camel’s back was the review of Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration by Mr Ajimobi.
This pitched the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, against the governor and the royal family alongside with some core Ibadan indigenes are yet to forget the embarrassment.
“The throne is bigger than anybody. If the Governor believes he has constituted authority, we have seen now. The relationship between the palace and Ajimobi is like cat and mouse. He spoke recklessly, and now, he finds himself in the pit,” a chief in the palace of Olubadan, who does not want his name on print said.
“This move was a plan to render Olubadan ‘useless’. The steps by Ajimobi was for a political reason, using the new kings to his advantage rather than having to rely on just the Olubadan.”
He also told our correspondent that Mr Adelabu “did not offend anyone”, but the fact that he was the ‘anointed’ candidate of Mr Ajimobi made people withdraw their support for him.
“Adelabu did not offend anyone. He fought a good fight, and we are proud of how the race went. But you know that cattle that walk with the dog will eat faeces,” he said in Yoruba.
Battles on all fronts
Mr Ajimobi’s perceived poor approach to issues affecting the state also affected the party.
In 2018, the Oyo State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners filed a suit against Mr Ajimobi and others over unpaid N42.3 billion pensions and gratuities to its members.
“… The first term of this government was rosy in term of the fund and 13th month was paid to workers. Such largesse was never extended to the pensioners.
“The alleged sin of these retired primary school teachers and council retirees is that they did not vote for this government in 2011 and 2015. Another election is coming in 2019, how do you persuade more than 16,000 retired primary school teachers and council retirees, and their dependants to vote for a government that had turned them into nonentities?,” Gbadegesin Akande, the head of Oyo pensioners had said then.
Also, workers of Oyo-owned schools and students have clashed with the APC led government in the state.
For several months, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (a school co-owned Oyo and Osun) was shut due to the inability of the government to fund the school. This was also obtainable in the state’s colleges of education and polytechnics.
In 2016, secondary school students in Oyo state protested over the new educational policy in the state which aimed at privatising school ownership. Some protesting students destroyed a billboard of the state governor.
Also, LAUTECH students played a major role in the fall of APC in Oyo State, many opined.
In 2017 while LAUTECH was shut, a video of Mr Ajimobi went viral where he rudely addressed protesting students.
“Ajimobi’s arrogance is so disturbing. You will recall how he displayed a lack of empathy when students protested eight months of closure of their school.
“Ajimobi said the students did not respect ‘constituted authority’ and told us to do our worst. Now, we have done our worst, and APC government is out of the state,” Kazeem Adefarati, a student leader in LAUTECH told PREMIUM TIMES.
“How can a governor say to protesters, “Go and do your worst. Am I the person that closed your school? The state lacks responsible and responsive leadership in Oyo, and if APC continues, there may be more problems.”
After the protest, Mr Ajimobi demanded an apology from the students saying they were rude to him.
“The example of what happened in Oyo is fast happening everywhere even in Kwara,” Mr Adefarati said.
Battle with Ayefele, others
“The demolition of Yinka Ayefele fresh FM also ignited the fire of hatred people have for APC government. You could remember that Seyi Makinde went to music house, consoled Ayefele over the incident,” Ajayi Aliu said.
“Even though they later reconciled and built the music house, his arrogance and approach to issues did not save him and his party.”
Another voter, Funke Ogunrounmu who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said: “You dare not talk to him while seated except he asked you to do so. There are lots of issues that left to his defeat. Imagine, asking parents of protesting pupils in 2016 to apologise before opening their school. He is no God.”
“I can tell you for free that Ajimobi attitude of Imperial Majesty-ship brought the APC in Oyo to where they are today.”
Funsho Soremekun, a public affairs analyst, told PREMIUM TIMES that the Oyo State election shows that “strength belongs to the people”.
“What happened in Oyo shows that strength belongs to the people. They maintain the right to elect and remove. That should send a signal to other government officials that they are being examined by people and if they fail, they will be removed,” he said.
Also, another, Sodiya Waheed said: “Not just Oyo but in all parts of the country. People have spoken, and ‘failed’ leaders are being thrown out. It is, however, a shame that they use their failure to affect that of their party candidates,” he said.