By Wale Ajani
Assumption of office in 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde was faced with a litmus test and a major decision that would soon reshape the political landscape in the state; constitute a State Executive Council that reflects the spirit of the pre-election Coalition.
Soon, private residents of notable political figures such as former governor, High Chief Rashidi Ladoja (now the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland), Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, Chief Bayo Lawal (Makinde’s 2019 Campaign DG), Baba Oyetoro in Igbeti, Olorunshogo, Baba Dr. Saka Balogun in Ogbomoso, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, Honourable Mulikat Adeola Akande, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, among others, soon became some kind of mecca as lobbying for different political appointments Intensified.
Governor Makinde, when asked how he felt about his electoral victory during a press interview with ThisDay in 2019, responded in a profound and heartfelt expression when he was quoted as saying: “I think basically we have to appreciate the people of Oyo State, because they were resolute in pushing forward their preference. Four years ago, it was a little bit different, because I ran on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). We moved to the SDP in December 2014 and the general election was to take place in February 2015. So, we didn’t have enough time to reach out to the people at the grassroots level.
“We managed to let the people know the kind of programmes we intended to pursue if they gave us the opportunity to serve the state. That message was out there; that if given the opportunity, we would do things differently and the message resonated with the people. They kept it in their hearts. Some of the people told me in 2015 to wait until 2019 and I was angry at that time. But we waited and here we are.
“Another major factor that made the 2019 experience different was the fact that, at the last minute, we had a coalition of political parties, with people like Baba (Rashidi) Ladoja, Senator (Olufemi) Lanlehin, Barrister Sarafadeen Alli, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, Alhaji Bisi Olopoeyan, and a host of other leaders leading different parties, which all came in to team up with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and that pushed the game beyond the reach of the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
The expression credited to governor Makinde wasn’t only profound but also an acknowledgement of the impact of teamwork on the overall outcome of the 2019 election.
Alas, governor Makinde constituted his cabinet comprising 17 Commissioners drawn from across the Coalition members. Well, at this juncture, either anybody wants to argue about Makinde’s approach to selecting his cabinet members and other key appointments as either right or wrong considering the political crisis that followed, one thing remains sacrosanct, and that is the fact that all Coalition members were represented in Makinde’s government.
Following what was later perceived as insatisfactory situation, two very key political personalities in the state who were also prominently active in governor Makinde’s 2019 electoral victory; Senator Lanlehin and Alhaji Olopoeyan lost their patience earlier than anybody would envisaged when they publicly drew battle line and severe political ties with the governor.
The grouses of the two political leaders as widely speculated within the political circle were different. While it was widely speculated that Senator Lanlehin had an UNconfirmed agreement with governor Makinde to become the Secretary to the Government of the State (SSG) being among the frontline Governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Alhaji Olopoeyan was said to have eyed the Chairmanship of Oyo State Park Management System (PMS).
In the case of Senator Lanlehin, it was ordinarily expected that it was almost impossible if not impossible for a typical Senator of the federal republic to accept any appointment that is far below his or her status such as a Commissioner, which allegedly occasioned why the Ibadan born Senator reportedly rejected Makinde’s Commissioner slot. While it was reported that Makinde offered the slot for Senator Lanlehin to give to his child, it was unclear however, if the governor was tacitly trying to directly or indirectly retire the former federal lawmaker from the mainstream politics in the state. Whichever way anybody chose to look at it, fact remains that he was offered a Commissioner slot.
On the other hand, Alhaji Olopoeyan was said to have made up his mind to stay off Makinde’s government having lost out to Alhaji Mukaila Lamidi popularly known as ‘Auxilliary on his most desired portfolio which was to become the Chairman of Oyo PMS. It was believed that the portfolio remained one of the juiciest even far more than that of any Commissioner. However anybody may choose to look at, it was indeed an influential and powerful office considering its revenue generating power in the transportation sector of the state.
Within government, political appointees were said to have been disappointed based on their expectations prior to their appointments as it was no longer business as usual under the leadership of Governor Makinde. Some angered appointees who could no longer stomach their grievances continued to hold secret talks about what was described as their high-handed experience as they no access to funds as it used to be under past administrations.
The situation was said to have got so bad that appointees were no longer getting running cost for the maintenance and operations of their offices as government complained of lack of funds. This and other similar situations led to some appointees of the Governor secretly resigning their appointments and returning to their private businesses.
The former SSG, Mrs. Olubanwo Adeosun is a woman some have described as a pawn on the political chessboard. While she was performing exceptionally well in her official duties and impressing the governor, she had over time grown a sizeable amount of enemies for herself within the political circle and government appointees. Why was that? Answer is simple, she came on board as an expert to help governor Makinde stabilize his government no matter whose ox is gored.
Innocent and naive with almost zero political experience, how could she have understood the terrain and political dynamics of Oyo as well as the players? To her, the only person that matters was the governor, yes! That’s right under normal circumstance but nothing is actually normal in it’s actual sense in the political arena and just like the saying goes in my mother tongue: Omo odo na o fi ogbon se e nitori bi a ba ran ni ni ise eru aafi t’omo je ni (the servant deploys wisdom to run his master’s errands, when one is sent on an errand as a slave, such errand could be carried out with a mind of a freeborn).
While succeeding in government as an SSG, Mrs. Adeosun was failing on the political front. Why? She failed to realize that there’s a critical role of helping the governor stabilize the political landscape as the SSG as it is to government. The office is too critical and at the same time sensitive such that a well politically experienced SSG is capable of helping a governor man the state and political affairs such that the governor could go on vacations and tend to other private life matters.
Many political appointees including Commissioners, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants, Heads of non ministerial offices whose files must pass through her table for certain approvals all lamented bitterly how Mrs Adeosun was inaccessible, and when she finally grants audience, funds approvals for government engagements were always cut down far below budgets but for lacking alternative choices, appointees were compelled to work with whatever she approved even at personal expenses in many cases.
Either it was lack of practical political experience that it was through such government engagements that politicians get patronages or not, or it was a secret agenda for her to execute as SSG, two things are certain; the former SSG dutifully succeeded in government with financial prudence and failed the political class that Make governor Makinde the new Sheriff in town, after all, there’s a saying that the party is the mother of government.
To be continued
Wale Ajani is the immediate past Director General of the Oyo State Government Liaison offices in Abuja & Lagos.