In Oyo State the permutations for Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s successor in 2019 have gathered steam as the opposition gang up for the plum seat, reports Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan
Former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, has once again indicated interest in succeeding Senator Abiola Ajimobi as the Governor of Oyo State in 2019. Ajimobi is currently rounding off his second term as the governor of the southwest state and as such, will not be eligible to seek re-election during the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state.
Aside Folarin, about ten other opposition politicians are eyeing the Agodi Government House, Ibadan, after the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent governor. This is just as Ajimobi and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are working round the clock to ensure that the party continues in government beyond the 2019 governorship election.
The Nation gathered that opposition parties in the Pacesetter state may set aside their differences and work together in a bid to dethrone the ruling APC in 2019. Indications of this possible co-operation amongst opposition parties in the state are currently rife as leading opposition politicians continue to close ranks and hold talks ahead of the coming election.
Reliable sources within the opposition camp also told The Nation that the growing number of opposition aspirants in recent weeks is a product of ongoing talks within the camps of those opposed to the continued stay in government of the ruling APC. They added that while the mode of the expected collaboration is still unclear, ongoing talks are aimed at working out the modalities as soon as possible.
“The government of the APC in Oyo has not been in the interest of the good people of the state. The agony and suffering unleashed on the people is so much that the people are now crying out to the opposition parties to come to their aid. This is why we are in talks to see how best we can tackle the ruling party and free our people in 2019.
“However, it is obvious that a divided opposition cannot wrestle down the ruling party in the governorship election. There is need for us to go into the election more united than we currently are. Unlike ever before, I can tell you that the desire of those of us in the opposition is to see APC out of the government house in 2019. It no longer matter which party will replace it,” Hon. Lai Oni, former Scribe of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), in the state said.
The Nation learnt that leaders and chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Accord Party (AP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Labour Party (LP), Action Alliance (AA) and a number of other opposition parties, have been holding talks following growing calls on the opposition parties to close rank if they want to defeat the ruling APC in the 2019.
Confirming alleged talks among opposition leaders, National leader of the Accord Party, Senator Ladoja, recently said his party would lead the coalition to mop up all opposition parties into a big political platform in the state ahead of the 2019 election. The former governor said he and others were working hard to bring about this coalition.
Speaking on the readiness of the opposition parties to challenge the APC in 2019, a chieftain of the SDP and former Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Kehinde Ayoola, said there is hope for a vibrant opposition challenge in the state. According to him, the SDP and many other opposition parties are on ground in the state.
“We have the structures at the state, local and ward levels. We have our executives in the state and they are carrying out activities. In so far we are not in an electioneering period you may not see so much. We are reaching out to other parties to form a synergy which would help to form a government that truly responsive and responsible to the people of the state. We’re talking to people across board. Even APC members,” Ayoola said.
Perhaps buoyed by the ongoing talks towards a formidable opposition platform ahead of the 2019 governorship election, a number of opposition politicians have been indicating interest to contest the gubernatorial tickets of their various political parties in their bid to succeed outgoing Governor Abiola Ajimobi after the next governorship election in Oyo state.
Within the PDP, aspirants including notable party chieftains liker the former Senate leader, Senator Teslim Folarin; former Minister of Sports, Professor Taoreed Adejumo; former deputy governor, Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi and former SUBEB boss, Professor Soji Adejumo, are currently revving their political machineries reportedly in preparation for the 2019 election.
Senator Folarin was the PDP gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 election in the state. His emergence as the candidate was so controversial that the party became further weakened in the run up to the governorship election. And by the time the result of the election was released, Folarin finished a distant fourth position behind eventual winner, Ajimobi, Ladoja and another ex-governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala.
2015 was the second attempt by Teslim to govern the state. A well known politician with strong political machinery across the state, he was the senate leader on the platform of the then ruling PDP until 2011 when he decided to compete for the Governorship position. He is considered by many analysts as a strong aspirant in 2019 on the strength of his youthfulness and structure.
“Folarin will contest again in 2019. He is still the best candidate for the job in PDP today. He will win the election this time around because the party is solidly united behind him unlike in 2015 when internal wrangling and anti-party activities militated agains his victory. Let me assure you, all hands are on deck to ensure PDP win in 2019,” an aide to the Senator said.
Accord Party’s Senator Femi Lanlehin is also eyeing the governorship seat. He looks good to clinch the ticket of his party. This likelihood of his emerging as the Accord Party candidate is premised on indications that Senator Ladoja is not interested in contesting for the governorship seat in 2019. Given his antecedent, Lanlehin is a well liked politician across the state.
“With Lanlehin still in our party and willing to lead the quest for Accord Party to chase away the clueless APC from government house, the party can boast of a good replacement for Senator Ladoja as our gubernatorial candidate. He is capable, ready, well liked and acceptable across the state. 2019 is for Accord Party and we are prepared to take our chance,” a chieftain of the party in Ogbomosho told The Nation.
Lanlehin, who lost his senate seat to Honourable Soji Akanbi of the APC in 2015, was formerly a member of the ruling APC. But he defected to the Accord Party in the build up to the 2015 general elections following protracted disagreements with Governor Ajimobi and the leadership of the state chapter of the ruling party.
Also believed to be interested in the race is Engineer Seyi Makinde of the SDP. He emerged as the governorship candidate for SDP in 2015 after he dumped the PDP. An old warhorse in the politics of the state, his spirited and gallant fight for the position in the last governorship contest endeared him to many within and outside his political party.
Not a few pundits in the state are of the opinion that with him as candidate, the opposition coalition will find it easier displacing the ruling APC. “Makinde is a vibrant politician with his eye on the goal. His efforts in 2015, despite having to contest on the platform of an unknown party, exemplified him as the man to beat if the platform is right and vibrant,” a source said.
But how ready are the opposition parties to contend with the ruling party in the much awaited 2019 gubernatorial election? A PDP governorship aspirant in 2015 in, Femi Babalola insists that the PDP is very much alive in the state though it went through some problems which, according to the politician, are being resolved.
“If we have local government elections today in Oyo state, PDP will field candidate for all slots and we will perform creditably well across the state. We are aware that there is crisis at the national, which is indirectly affecting us. But within the family of PDP in Oyo State, we are going through some re-organization, which to the glory of God we have been able to achieve.
“We also understand the need to reach out to other political groups ahead of the next election. We have made advances to Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, Seyi Makinde and many other stakeholders across the state. We had very useful discussions with them and people will start seeing the results very soon,” Babalola claimed.
Meanwhile, in spite of the reported ongoing gang up against its next gubernatorial plans, the APC in Oyo State says it is ready to confront the opposition in 2019. The party said it remains a united and progressive platform through which the state will be developed. The ruling party claimed that the people of the state will reject any opposition to its continued stay in government come 2019.
And contrary to speculations in some quarters, Olawale Sadare, the ruling party’s Director of Publicity and Strategy in the state, told The Nation that the party was not enmeshed in crisis. He insisted that given the level of unity of purpose currently being experienced within the APC today, no amount of collaboration by the opposition can defeat the ruling party in the state.
“Insinuation that all is not well with the state chapter of the APC is a figment of the imagination of some mischief makers who would wish that the party became scattered for their selfish benefits only. As much as we would have desired to see the opposition in other political parties as formidable enough to play the role expected of them, their camps are becoming more vulnerable to emptiness.
“This is simply because more discerning people are realising that the APC could deliver the goods regardless of the odds. The daily influx of influential members of the opposition is a pointer to how ready APC is in Oyo today. The recent composition and inauguration of a Council of Elders of the party became necessary to further strengthen the mobilisation and crisis management machinery of the party at the grassroots.
“The council, though not a creation of the APC constitution, is purely an advisory body which was the initiative of both the governor and the Chief Akin Oke-led State Executive Committee. The council is not meant to replace the party executive committee at any level as being erroneously rumored in some quarters,” the party’s spokesperson said.
In a related development, key stakeholders in the ruling APC in the state recently pledged their unwavering loyalty to Governor Ajimobi while distancing themselves from purported cracks in the party. Of interest is the fact that the stakeholders are former disciples of Senator Ladoja, the leader of the Accord Party in the state.
The state leader of the group formerly known as “Ladoja Idera De”, Alhaji Rasaq Lawal Akilapa told journalists that “there was no basis for any member of our group to ditch APC following the unmatched political prowess and unequalled achievements of the governor, whose reign had returned hitherto elusive peace and had brought all round developments to the nook and cranny of the state with APC members taking the glory of his unprecedented selfless service to the people of the state.”
Reacting to insinuations that the large number of governorship aspirants within he APC will work in favor of the opposition in 2019, a chieftain of the party, Rauf Aderemi Olaniyan, insists that the growing number of APC members eyeing the governorship seat in Oyo state would not undermine peace and harmony in the party.
Olaniyan, who recently decamped from Accord Party to the APC, desires to become the governor of the state. His words: “Are they up to 1000? Even if aspirants are up to 1000, the political space is wide enough…