By Seye Olumide
It was a battle fought on three fronts. Yet the March 23, 2019 governorship election in Ogun State ended as a fight between the incumbent governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and some stakeholders of All Progressives Congress (APC), the platform on which he secured the tickets to run the affairs of Ogun State in 2011 and 2015.
On the other hand, the election seemed to be the continuation of power struggle between political stakeholders in Ogun West, the only senatorial zone yet to produce a governor since the state was founded more than 42 years ago, and Ogun East, which believes it is its turn to produce Amosun’s successor.
The rivalry culminated in the decision by Amosun to field his choice successor, Abdulkadir Adekunle Akinlade on the platform of Allied Peoples Movement (APM), which is against APC’s constituted authority.
The likes of former governor Segun Osoba, National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National Working Committee (NWC), led by Adams Oshiomhole, and others rejected the governor’s stance.
While Amosun looked outside APC to pick his choice candidate, Akinlade from Ogun West on APM’s platform, APC’s national headquarters settled for Dapo Abiodun from Ogun East instead.
The development was the fallout of the governorship primaries held last year in which Abiodun was declared winner against Amosun’s preference, a situation that pitted the incumbent against his party, and of which he got axed by the party.
Interestingly too, the election reechoed the internal divisions among the political stakeholders in Ogun West, which is one of the major factors that has always worked against the chances of the senatorial zone from producing the governor since Nigeria returned to democratic rule.
APC’s, PDP’s internal imbroglio
As at last year October when APC settled for direct governorship primaries in some state, two groups, one spearheaded by Amosun and the other having the backing of the NWC, claimed they held the authentic primaries as ordered by the national headquarters, which eventually produced two candidates.
While the state chairman of the party, Chief Derin Adebiyi declared the House of Representatives member, Akinlade as the winner, the electoral panel sent by the NWC declared oil mogul, Abiodun the winner.
Muhammad Ndabawa, who led the NWC Electoral Committee members, declared that Abiodun scored 102,305 votes from the 236 wards across the 20 local governments to emerge the candidate, but Adebiyi announced alternative results at the party secretariat in Abeokuta and claimed that the direct primaries were conducted across the 236 wards of the state.
Adebiyi described the national electoral committee of the party as being compromised and that it was not in town to conduct the primaries.
However, APC’s NWC upheld the result of Abiodun and forced the governor to seek alternative platform for Akinlade after several fruitless efforts to convince President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in his favour.
While Amosun was pursuing his ambition to go to the senate on APC’s platform, the incumbent was at the same time in a fierce political battle with the leadership of his party to install Akinlade as his successor instead of Abiodun, a development that nearly threw the state into political upheaval before the election.
The crisis deepened when President Buhari went to Ogun to campaign and he was nearly stoned by hoodlums allegedly operating on the directives of Amosun. The aim was to discredit Abiodun as an unpopular candidate while presenting Akinlade as the preferred choice.
One of the reasons Amosun advanced for fighting the leadership of his party might not be unconnected to the insinuated ‘colligate agreement’ reached by Southwest APC leaders in Ibadan during a reconciliation meeting where it was decided that each leader in the state should decide what happens in their domain.
The decision apparently led to the withdrawal of Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, who represents Lagos West, from the Ogun governorship race.
A source told The Guardian that since Adeola, who at the early part of last year, had gained inroad into Ogun politics, with a strong and formidable structure and financial muzzle to confront Amosun’s political machinery, withdrew from the state’s governorship race based on the party’s leadership’s instruction.
But the governor took it for granted that he could do whatever he liked without considering the interests of the likes of Osoba, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and others by dictating who occupies all the political positions.
The governor was also said to have been tempted to carry his ambition based on how the Lagos chapter of APC denied Governor Akinwunmi Ambode second term ticket.
In addition, the fact that Amosun, playing on his perceived closeness to Buhari might have been eyeing the 2023 presidential race like Tinubu.
By so doing, he was merely working to plant a stooge as his successor. It was a battle he fought with the aim of taming Osoba on one hand and to confront Tinubu ahead of 2023. His calculated move was also to spite the vice president; it inevitably triggered reactions that came with a political cost to his schemes.
THE state’s chapter of PDP is not exempted from its own internal crisis ahead of the poll, as it also produced two candidates from different primaries in the person of Senator Buruji Kashamu, who emerged as candidate of the party from the primary conducted under the supervision of the state’s factional chairman, Eng. Bayo Dayo while the group recognised by PDP’s NWC held its primaries at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) where Hon. Ladi Adebutu emerged as the candidate.
Adebutu relied on the party’s national headquarters for support but Kashamu held onto the court rulings that the executive that conducted the primary where he emerged is the authentic and recognised body and, at the same time, he was recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It was a lingering challenge that the party was neither able to resolve or overcome until last Saturday.
The crisis degenerated to the extent that when the court, a few days to the election, upheld Kashamu’s candidacy over that of Adebutu, former governor of the state and a chieftain of the party, Otunba Gbenga Daniel directed his supporters to vote for Abiodun of APC.
Kashamu, who is alleged to be working for APC on the condition he would be protected from being extradited to the United States of America to answer for some criminal charges, acted true to the allegation immediately the result, was announced on Monday morning by being the first opposition contestant to congratulate Abiodun. He even went as far as going to visit the Governor-elect at his Iperu home on Tuesday to celebrate his (Abiodun) victory with members of APC.
In his explanation, Abiodun dismissed having any pact with PDP through erstwhile Daniel, but said the support has nothing to do with APC and PDP, but it was basically in the interest of ensuring that the governorship slot returned to Ogun East where they both hail from.
The Guardian equally learnt that most supporters of Adebutu from Ogun East, who pledged to back Akinlade, reneged on Saturday by voting for Abiodun to bring the governorship slot back to the zone.
Although there was no crisis of selection of candidate for the governorship election in African Democratic Congress (ADC), which presented Mr. Gbenga Nasir Isiaka, who the former President Olusegun Obasanjo allegedly imposed on the party, his challenges, however, were that the platform is too weak and also lacks the financial wherewithal to thrive in the battle.
Unfortunately for Ogun West, if Isiaka and Akinlade had worked as a team going by the result as declared by the Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Professor Idowu Olayinka, the zone would have produced the governor by now.
Abiodun polled 241,670 votes followed by Akinlade who polled 222,153 while Isiaka came third with 110,422 votes. Kashamu scored 70,290. The Governor-elect won with a margin of 19,517 votes.
For instance, if Akinlade and Isiaka had joined forces in the race they would have had 332, 575 votes with a different of 90,905 votes over Abiodun.
It was also discovered that what caused voters’ apathy on Saturday was the desperation of Amosun to impose Akinlade aside the fact that the incumbent tried to play ‘god’ when he boasted that his preferred candidate would be governor.