Ahead of the 2019 governorship election in Oyo State, the people of Oke-Ogun zone have renewed their agitation for power shift. Assistant Editor of The Nation Newspaper, Leke Salawudeen examines why the coveted seat has eluded them for long and suggests how they could realise their ambition of producing a successor to Governor Abiola Ajimobi in 2019.
Indigenes of Oke-Ogun in Oyo North Senatorial District of Oyo State have for long been complaining of marginalisation by successive administrations.
Oke-Ogun is an area with 1.4 million people, according to the 2006 census. It occupies 60 per cent of land mass in Oyo State and it has 10 out of 33 local government areas in the state.
The grouse of Oke-Ogun people is the monopoly of the governorship seat by Ibadan indigenes. Since the creation of old Oyo State in 1976, Oke-Ogun has not produced a governor. The late Chief Bola Ige, from the Ijesha axis, was the first civilian governor of the state. He was elected on the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in 1979. He was succeeded by an Ibadan man; the erudite scholar and mathematician, Dr Omololu Olunloyo in 1983. After nine years of military interregnum, another Ibadan man, Chief Kolapo Isola, became governor in 1992. At the return of democracy in 1999, the late Alhaji Lam Adesina, an Ibadan man, took over the mantle of leadership. He was succeeded by another Ibadan indigene, Senator Rasheed Ladoja, in 2003.
However, in 2007, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, an indigene of Ogbomoso, was elected as the governor. His emergence was attributed to providence, because the Ogbomosos are minorities. Not surprisingly, Alao-Akala lost his re-election bid to Senator Abiola Ajimobi, another Ibadan indigene in 2011. Ajimobi was re-elected in 2015.
The highest position an Oke-Ogun man has ever occupied is that of the deputy governor. An Oke-Ogun man, Chief Iyiola Oladokun, was elected deputy governor during the tenure of Adesina. The current deputy governor, Chief Moses Adeyemo, is also from Oke-Ogun.
Many pressure groups from the Oke-Ogun area have decried the system that limits the governorship slot to a particular area, saying that it marginalises them, because it does not provide an opportunity for an indigene of the area to emerge as governor.
As the state gradually prepares for the 2019 general elections, these pressure groups, with the backing of traditional rulers, have started mobilising the political class, to ensure that an indigene emerges as a governorship candidate of one of the major parties.
A political activist and an Oke-Ogun indigene, Hon. Adekunle Sulaiman, lamented that the area is not being fairly treated in Oyo politics. He said the time has come for the people to fight for their right. He said: “The existing political equation appears to have put a ceiling to the office to which a citizen of the region can aspire to attain, as if perpetually restrained to second-in-Command to the highest political office in the state; budgetary allocation has consistently been below 10 per cent of the state’s total budget while lack of infrastructure is synonymous to Oke-Ogun zone.
“It may interest you to know that most of the roads traversing the region were constructed by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo administration during the First Republic they have neither been rehabilitated nor reconstructed. Successive administrations in the state have concentrated development along the Ibadan, Oyo and Ogbomoso axis to the utter neglect of Oke-Ogun.
“There is no federal or state university in Oke-Ogun, no tertiary health institution, no good roads and no pipe borne water in any part of the region. We are not ignorant of fifth columnists in our midst that prefer to serve the interests of their pay masters, rather than support the struggle for the political emancipation of the area. As a result of the neglect and injustices meted out to our people, they are now unified in the agitation for power shift in 2019. We have resolved not to play second fiddle or third position in Oyo State come 2019. Politicians cannot continue to deceive us with impromptu projects in 2019. Enough is enough.”
The Chairman of Oke-Ogun Consultative Council Forum (OCCF), Dr Olusegun Ajuwon, agrees with Suleiman. He said in a bid to produce the next governor of Oyo State the Oke-Ogun people have agreed to queue behind only a candidate from the Oke-Ogun axis, irrespective of the political platform.
He said: “In 2019, nothing will divide us, we understand the essence of unity in this game and at the appropriate time we shall endorse a candidate and all of us will queue behind that person. He reaffirmed that it is achievable because our people are ready to do all that is necessary to ensure Oke-Ogun person occupy the exalted office that has eluded them since 1976 when the state was created.”
Ajuwon argued that a situation where only a zone in the state produces successive governors is not in the best interest of the people. He believes rotation should be a factor determining who becomes governor. He said: “If you have followed the politics of the voting pattern in Oyo State since 1999, you will see that nobody will emerge governor without the votes from other zones. Ibadan votes alone cannot produce a governor in Oyo State.”
He said the Ibadan zone make up over 50 per cent of the voting population, while Oke-Ogun, Ogbomoso, Oyo and Ibarapa constitute 21 per cent, 15 per cent, eight per cent and three per cent respectively. Ajuwon it is only fair, in the interest of justice, equity and fairness, for the zone that constitutes 21 per cent of the voting population and next to Ibadan in electoral strength to be allowed to occupy the governorship seat in 2019.
But, a political analyst from Ibadan, Mr. Lasun Oyedeji, disagreed. He said politics is a game of numbers and that the voting strength of a people determines what they get. He argued that the Ibadan people would continue to leverage on their voting population to produce governor in the state. He added: “Beside the political supremacy, over 90 per cent of internally generated revenue (IGR) in Oyo State comes from Ibadan. Ibadan is responsible for over 90 per cent of the IGR in Oyo State.”
Oyedeji advised the people of Oke-Ogun to be cautious in their quest for the governorship position and that they should not hold their Ibadan counterparts responsible for their political woes. Oyedeji said Oke-Ogun people had the opportunity to elect one of their sons as governor in 2015, when the current Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, from Saki within the Oke-Ogun axis, contested the governorship election. But he lost the election. He got only 2,000 votes; meaning that even the electorates did not vote for him.
Public Affairs analyst, Dr Rasaq Adedeji, has predicted that the 2019 governorship election in Oyo State will be a straight battle between the Ibadan/Ibarapa and the Oke-Ogun zones. He said the election may not be fascinating, because the political gladiators from Ibadan might outwit their Oke-Ogun counterpart with monetized politics.
Adedeji said: “Given the history of winners who have occupied the governorship seat by the circumstances and the population, nobody has won governorship election in Oyo State from the Oke-Ogun axis; not because there are no qualified candidates from the zone, but due to political calculation which has been essentially opportunistic against the zone. The governorship seat has always been occupied by the Ibadan people; the exception is Alao-Akala who won the seat by accident, through the influence of the late Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu; with the support of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“Ajimobi broke the myth of governing Oyo State for two straight terms in 2015 and this brought to fore once again the agitation to present a new candidate from another zone, apart from Ibadan. In this regard, Oke-Ogun is favoured, because Ogbomoso, apart from having produced Chief Ladoke Akintola as Premier in the past, has also produced Alao-Akala.
“The bid to occupy the Agodi House, Ibadan, come May 29, 2019 will raise the stake for whoever is being presented against Oke-Ogun candidates. The race will not only be tough, but seriously competitive. It will be quite interesting again, because politicians from the Oke-Ogun are moving towards uniting efforts to present a single candidate to win the election and the zone seems to be where the votes will come from. The winning votes that helped Senator Ajimobi to break the myth of second term came from Iseyin, a town in the Oke-Ogun area in 2015.
“There are two strategies on game plan which might be the joker that will produce the next governor for Oyo State from outside Ibadan in 2019. One is the suggestion to use the rainbow coalition being built between the old PDP under Alao-Akala/Raji Rasaki/Teslim Folarin on one hand and majority of Accord Party defectors aligning with the APC to present Alao-Akala for governor in 2019. This arrangement might spring a surprise on the other splinter parties which are not popular in the state. However, as fascinating as this strategy might look, it will not please the Lamist (the Lam Adesina group) and majority of the APC members who are from the CPC, the ANPP and the ACN. This could be another albatross against the APC winning eventually.
“The second strategy is that whoever is supported by the Governor Ajimobi political machinery for sustainable regiment from any zone might be the winner given the party structure being built for the 2019 elections. By the time the election will be conducted in 2019, only governor will be controlling the chairmen of local government councils in the 33 local governments and the 35 LCDA in the state. All the 350 councillors will also work for the governor and vote for whoever the governor supports. The declaration of his preferred candidate by Governor Ajimobi in 2018 will give an indication of the zone that the APC candidate will come from.”
The agitation for a governor of Oke-Ogun extraction has received a boost from the Ibadan axis. For instance, Ajimobi has expressed support for the agitation. He, however, counselled that they must seek the support of other zones for the dream to be actualised, adding that Ibadan alone constitutes 52 per cent of the entire population of the state. He recalled that during the 2015 governorship election that he won in nine out of the 10 local governments in Oke-Ogun and “this aided my emergence as the first governor to secure a second term in office in Oyo State. I am using this opportunity to assure you that I will reciprocate your love for me”.
He added: “Without prejudice to the competence and legitimacy of aspirants from other zones nursing the ambition of succeeding me, I can say the people of Oke-Ogun deserve my support. But I will advise you seek the support of people from other zones. You must win them over to win a governorship election”.
Oke-Ogun indigenes that have so far declared their interest in running for the position in 2019 include: the Minister for Communication, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu; former Chief of Staff to Governor Ajimobi, Professor Adeolu Akande; the Editor-in-Chief of Guardian newspapers, Mr Debo Adesina; a legal luminary, Alhaji Ahmed Raji (SAN); and a former Permanent Secretary in the State, Remi Olaniyan.