In Oyo, the race for Agodi gets crowded
As the administration of Governor Abiola Ajimobi enters the last quarter of its run of governance of Oyo State, several aspirants have signified their intention to contest the election for the gubernatorial post and have actually commenced preparations to succeed the incumbent.
In fact, the race for the Agodi Government House seat of political power in Oyo has never been this dicey and crowded in the history of the state. It is as if all capable and experienced politicians and some neophytes have suddenly woken up from their slumber and decided to throw their hats of various shades into the ring.
Political activities, which grinded to a halt immediately after the court victory of Ajimobi some months ago, had suddenly began to return as the aspirants started oiling their machineries to seek the peoples’ mandate.
One of the new entrants into the race is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, who declared his intention to contest the election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, (APC).
Akintola who is known to be close to the top leadership of the party in the Southwest geo-political zone and who must have been encouraged to join the race because of the success of fellow silk, Rotimi Akeredolu in last year’s governorship election in Ondo State, is in the company of not less than 15 other aspirants.
Other political bigwigs and young politicians like the Senator currently representing Oyo North at the upper legislative chamber, Abdulfatai Buhari; two serving Commissioners in the Ajimobi administration, Isaac Omodewu and Dr. Azeez Adeduntan of Ministry of lands and Health respectively, are also in the race.
Others include a popular lawmaker at the House of Assembly, Temitope Olatoye, top lawyer Ahmed Raji, SAN, former Chief of Staff to Ajimobi, Dr Adeolu Akande, former Commissioner, Zaccheaus Adelabu and a Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Adebayo Adelabu.
The long list of aspirants also include another APC chieftain and Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin; former Minister of Sports, Professor Taoreed Adedoja; former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi and former SUBEB boss, Professor Soji Adejumo.
Also of importance among the list is a former Senator, Femi Lanlehin, who is reported to be preparing to dump the Accord Party (AP) for a yet-to-be-decided party, and oil magnate, Seyi Makinde, regarded as the richest Ibadan indigene. Makinde is yet to declare on which platform he intends to run for the election.
Ironically, most of the aspirants that have so far shown interest are from the ruling APC, a platform that has become a sort of comfort zone to all manners of politicians eyeing elective offices.
Meanwhile, there are allegations that Shiitu had instigated the agitation for the conduct of local government elections in the state as he had publicly challenged Ajimobi over the issue.
This has also resulted in some members of the APC challenging the governor over the list of the caretaker chairmen he released for the 33 Local Governments and 35 Local Government Development Areas, LCDAs, a development that is already raising the tempo of political activities in the state.
Last week, during a statewide media chat, Ajimobi publicly declared the zoning of the governorship slot to the Oke-Ogun area of the state. Before this declaration, the agronomy-based communities that made up the seven local councils of the area have been aggressively clamouring for a change of baton from the Ibadan axis that has produced about four past governors, including the incumbent. Despite this however, prominent Ibadan indigenes are already gearing up for a shot at the office.
Recall that only one of the four governors the state had since the advent of the current democratic dispensation, Christopher Alao-Akala is not from Ibadan. The others, Lam Adesina, Rashidi Ladoja and incumbent Ajimobi are Ibadan indigenes.
Akintola, a member of the last Sovereign National Conference, convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan, and former member of the House of Assembly, was the first to unveil his ambition during a much-publicized visit to an influential Ibadan political leader in Omi-Adio, Iddo Local Government Area, Alhaji Kammadeen Ajisafe.
Apparently impressed by Akintola’s profile, Ajisafe has expressed his support for the highly-regarded constitutional lawyer saying, “We are impressed by his humility of coming home to roost. Coming here to his Ward 9 to seek support of his people has greatly endeared him to us.”
But some are considered as outsiders in the race. Among them is Raufu Olaniyan, who recently defected to the AP. Investigations by The Guardian showed that the race might be a three-horse race as only three of the aspirants are considered strong contenders for the seat. These include Lanlehin, Makinde and Senator Buhari.
Out of the trio however, Ogbomoso-born Buhari is believed to have the brightest chance, as he is close to the APC hierarchy. Buhari’s annual empowerment programmes, right from his days in House of Representatives, have also endeared him to his constituency and beyond.
Despite these contending forces however, a surprise package that could shock many people may come from one of the close associates of Ajimobi in the Oke Ogun area. He is Omodewu, who hails from Itesiwaju local council.
A business man and farmer, Omodewu hopes to ride on the APC platform to emerge as the governorship candidate and feelers from the Agodi Government House indicate that he may be on top of the list of the ‘’Big 5’’, that the governor was referring to when he said that he has identified some individuals that he may back to succeed him. A cerebral personality, Omodewu is said to enjoy the support of the people of Oke Ogun, the area that Ajimobi favours to produce the next occupant of the top seat.
But one should not push aside Adelabu, the CBN Deputy Governor, who has also signified his interest in the plum job, especially as he is regarded as having the financial war chest to prosecute the gubernatorial project.
His pedigree as a scion of the acclaimed Ibadan politician, Adegoke Adelabu, also known as ‘Penkelemeesi’, could assist his ambition when the chips are down. One fact remain sacrosanct, the battle for Agodi Government House would not only be fierce but interesting.