[EXCLUSIVE] Guber poll: PDP and dilemma of ‘snatching’ Ogun State from APC’s Dapo Abiodun

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By Olaotan Falade

 

With the Presidential and National Assembly elections concluded and the All Progressives Congress (APC) comfortably winning the majority in Ogun State, the next task is the Governorship and House of Assembly polls now scheduled to hold next Saturday, March 18. 

As expected, politicians and political parties are leaving no stone unturned in their game to grab or retain power in the states. Going by the repeated assurances from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the elections will be free, fair and credible; and being the first nationwide poll to be conducted under the new Electoral Act, Nigeria has somewhat become the cynosure of the global community.

Investigations by NewsClick Nigeria revealed that despite the conclusion of the presidential poll and subsequent emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as President-elect, political gladiators in the states are still not slacking. While some governors seeking reelection in their states are said to likely have a walkover situation, others have been having sleepless strategy nights to weaken their oppositions and ensure their dreams of a second term in office is actualised.

One of such states where tensions are high with opposition insisting on squaring it out with the incumbent Governor is Ogun State.

Since losing the state to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011 and more recently the All Progressives Congress (APC) after the historic merger of about five political parties that upstaged it at both the centre and some states where it hitherto held sway as ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been making frantic efforts to return to the Oke-Mosan Government House, albeit unsuccessfully.

The party is taking another targeted shot at the Number One seat in the state on Saturday, March 18 but only time will tell if the effort won’t go down the drain like previous attempts.

 

Power rotation in Ogun State since inception

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Like all other states in the country, Ogun State is divided into three senatorial districts; Ogun West, Ogun East and Ogun Central. Since formation on February 3rd 1976, Ogun State has been governed more by the Military than Civilian Government.

So far, the State has been ruled by 13 Governors and three Administrators. Out of these, only five were democratically elected (civilians). 11 were appointed by successive Military Governments.

The State’s first Civilian Governor, Late Olabisi Onabanjo who was a protégé of the late Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo won on the platform of the United Party of Nigeria (UPN) and was from Ijebu, located in present day Ogun East Senatorial District. He held sway from October 1979 – December 1983. The second civilian Governor, Olusegun Osoba was elected in January 1992 under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and was in office briefly (January 1992 – November 1993) when the Third Republic was aborted by the Military.

From 1999 (inception of Fourth Republic) to date, Ogun East and Central senatorial districts have both produced governors in person of Olusegun Osoba (Ogun Central, 1999 – 2003), Otunba Gbenga Daniel (Ogun East, 2003 – 2011), Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun Central, 2011 – 2015), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun East 2015 – date) while Ogun West has never gone past the Deputy Governor threshold.

 

Amosun’s daring moves and Abiodun’s bumpy ride to power in 2019

The build-up to the Saturday, 9th March, 2019 governorship election in Ogun State was not without the usual political tantrums especially after then incumbent Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun openly opposed his party’s (APC) governorship candidate, Dapo Abiodun for his godson in another party.

When the outcome of the APC governorship primary held in October 2018 did not favour former Reps member, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, his adopted political son, Amosun despite being leader of the party in the state, pitched tenth with him in the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), barely six months to the 2019 governorship election.

Upon joining APM, Akinlade secured the party’s guber ticket and Governor Amosun was everywhere with him on his campaign train. Amosun did not play hide-and-seek with his alliance with APM. He openly campaigned for Akinlade and President Muhammadu Buhari who was seeking reelection. He spared no words during the campaigns to knockout Abiodun from the race. He even took Akinlade to President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Villa for endorsement. The 2019 Ogun State governorship election will no doubt go down in history as one of the most keenly contested in the country with residents having to choose amongst five heavyweight  candidates; Dapo Abiodun (APC), Adekunle Akinlade (APM), Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (ADC), Late Buruji Kashamu (PDP) and Dimeji Bankole (ADP).

However, against all odds, the APC candidate, Dapo Abiodun was declared winner of the election. He won with a 19,517 vote difference to defeat his closest rival, Akinlade who pulled a total of 222,153 votes against Abiodun’s 241,670. Isiaka, Kashamu and Bankole pulled a total of 110,422, 70,290, 9,666 thus coming third, fourth and distant fifth respectively.

 

Akinlade’s surprise switch to PDP

Akinlade pulled a string of surprises after his failed legal tussle to reclaim the state from the APC and Governor Abiodun. He quietly dumped the APM where his dreams of becoming Governor of the ‘Gateway State’ almost materialized in 2019. He rejoined the APC and dumped the party again in 2022 when it was obvious he wouldn’t get the ticket.

However, in what political pundits termed a strategic realignment, Akinlade did not return to the APM. He instead pitched tent with a faction of the PDP where he was later rewarded with the Deputy Governorship slot to Ladi Adebutu who fought tooth and nail to be the authentic governorship aspirant amongst the three laying claim to be the party’s candidate.

Speaking on Akinlade’s defection to PDP and his relationship with former Governor Amosun, a close source to the former lawmaker in an interview with NewsClick Nigeria said: “He (Akinlade) does not embark on any political move without consulting former Governor Amosun. In most cases, Amosun will even have to give a go ahead before the action is taken and the defection to PDP is not an exception. It is out of humbleness and for the betterment of the people of Ogun State that he accepted to be a partner in the arduous task of moving this state (Ogun) forward from the dunghill of underdevelopment, insecurity and poor governance that Abiodun moved it in just three and half years that he has been in charge.”

On the crises rocking the state chapter of the party and its chances of emerging victorious at the polls, the source who pleaded anonymity said: “The light at the end of the tunnel is getting clearer by the day. Most of the cases have either been struck out or are being appealed. In fact, as I speak today, PDP in Ogun does not have a pending case in court. The party is now united and it is clear that what the APC thought was going to be a hindrance to pursuing them from Government House is now a stepping stone to achieving it. You can’t beat the strategic combination of Ladi Adebutu and Adekunle Akinlade. This is just a reminder to the APC Government that the good people of Ogun State have rejected them and this will be clear next Saturday when the people shall make a bold statement with their votes. Abiodun and his cohorts have till May 29 to hand over power to a responsive government and responsible leaders. Ogun State has suffered enough,” he said.

 

PDP as a house divided against itself?

Ogun PDP Senatorial candidate, Aderinokun rejects results

From 2011 when it lost the bid to retain the state, the PDP has suffered endless political misfortunes which are mostly self-inflicted. Before the recent court judgement, three candidates; Ladi Adebutu, Jimi Lawal and Segun Showunmi paraded themselves as the party’s 2023 gubernatorial candidate. While the court has declared Adebutu as authentic flag bearer amidst massive support from the party’s national secretariat, many in the state are still unaware of the development.

“It’s unfortunate that at every election circle, Ogun PDP ends up being factionalised and producing two or more gubernatorial candidates via parallel primaries that will later degenerate into a legal tussle that can ruin our chances even if one of them eventually emerges the overall winner.

“The PDP in Ogun State is never united. And the ruling party usually takes advantage of that. In 2019, PDP could have won but again, there were two heavyweights; Ladi Adebutu and late Buruji Kashamu claiming to be the party’s governorship candidate. INEC later recognized Kashamu as the party’s candidate and the result is there for all to see. A once ruling party could not even come second. It came a distant fourth. That is what happens to a house/kingdom is divided against itself,” a party chieftain, Adebiyi Aluko told NewsClick Nigeria.

Aluko said the 2019 scenario is again playing out and the PDP might just miss it again.

“The party appears not to have learnt from the ugly occurrences of 2019. Every day, you hear of a faction expelling members of the other faction. You hear of court judgement nullifying the emergence of one and another court judgement reversing the judgement. They keep playing on voters’ intelligence and getting them more confused on who to support. If Ladi Adebutu, Jimi Lawal and Segun Showunmi are saying they are governorship candidates of the same party in the same election, who will be governor should the PDP win? Of a truth, Ogun residents are desirous of a change in government but the PDP is not serious enough to take on the challenge,” he said.

However, another party chieftain, Durojaiye Ademola is optimistic the party will get it right this time. He said the recent court judgement affirming Ladi Adebutu as authentic governorship candidate has put a stop to initial fears.

“Yes we have our inter-party issues and that is part of the beauty of democracy. This is not a PDP thing alone. It happens in other parties and countries where democracy is fairly practiced. But I think we have scaled that ugly phase now with the recent court affirmation of Ladi Adebutu as the party’s sole candidate. The other factional candidates have pitched their tents with Adebutu. We can now put our house in order and go into the elections with heads and shoulders high. The incumbent government has failed and Ogun residents are indeed looking up to the PDP to restore its lost glories.”

 

Adebutu and Sowunmi sheathe swords to confront Abiodun

Meanwhile, Adebutu and Sowunmi seemed to have reconciled ahead of the March 18 governorship election in the state.

Sowunmi has been at loggerheads with Adebutu over the Ogun PDP governorship ticket.

He had alleged that the national executive of the party were biased towards Adebutu during the governorship primary.

The suit he filed against the candidacy of Adebutu is still at the Supreme Court.

Sowunmi had always said that he was waiting patiently for the Supreme Court to give judgement on the matter.

He had always assured his supporters that he will regain the gubernatorial ticket of the party at the apex court.

However, Sowunmi seemed to have laid his agitations for the governorship ticket to rest on Thursday (9th of March 2023) when Adebutu called in during a live radio interview programme he was appearing in.

The PDP governorship candidate urged Sowunmi to support him in his quest to wrestle the governorship seat from the incumbent, Gov Dapo Abiodun during March 18 governorship election.

Adebutu said that as much as he believes that Sowunmi might truly have reasons to be aggrieved, he should please for the good people of the state currently bearing the brunt of bad governance of the APC-led administration team up with him to be the next governor of the state.

Again on Friday (March 10, 2023), Adebutu visited Sowunmi at his residence in Ibara GRA as he promised on the radio with his loyalists.

At a well-elaborated welcome party, Sowunmi urged his supporters to sheathe their swords and work for the success of Adebutu at the March 18 Governorship election.

Sowunmi who was ecstatic, pleaded with his teeming supporters to bury their hatchet and go back to their polling unit to canvass support for Adebutu.

“My people, no more war. I am pleading with you to go back home and work for PDP. The first election was tribalistic, it was vote for Yoruba agenda. This coming election is for what concerns you and I. This coming elections is for Hon. Ladi Adebutu. He is friendly and accommodating. Do whatever you can do to ensure PDP emerges, there’s no crisis again.”

Speaking at the event, Adebutu said the journey to secure the party ticket as the Governorship candidate has been tough, explaining the party just received the 8th Supreme Court Judgment which now paved the way for him to contest the elections.

He raised alarm that moles within the party have been working against the party to favour the opposition.

The governorship candidate disclosed that number of his loyalists who recently joined forces with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have all along being a burden, adding that their exit is a big relief for the (PDP) family in the state.

Adebutu who expressed optimism of winning the governorship poll, disclosed that the alleged moles used resources of PDP to garner votes for the APC at the recently concluded Presidential election.

“Some moles within the Peoples Democratic Party, who are pretenders used our resources to work for All Progressives Congress at the just concluded presidential elections. They are burden to us and we try to manage them, offer them financial support every month’, he said.

“Their exit is now a relief for us, and they cannot last more than 90 days, thank God we know them earlier enough and strike them out.

“PDP is now free. My mission to become the Governor is to repair the state”, Adebutu emphasized.

Marginalization against Ogun West?

 

The Ogun West Senatorial District’s wait to occupy the number one position in the state may still have to tarry much longer, at least for the next electoral circle if the other senatorial districts do not snap at the chances again.

Information at NewsClick Nigeria’s disposal has it that prominent people from the District have championed the course for the emergence of an Ogun West Governor at different political dispensations to no avail. The closest the District has gone to realization of that dream is the Deputy Governorship position which many political pundits describe as mere ‘compensation’ for the long years of marginalization of the District.

NewsClick Nigeria gathered that the late renowned revolutionist and politician, Dr Jeremiah Olatunji Otegbeye whose two sons (Dr Leke and Biyi) are now archrivals in the state’s political space was one of those that championed the struggle in the state’s early days for the emergence of a governor of Ogun West descent to no avail.

“It still boils down to the South West’s politics of bitterness particularly in Ogun State. Ordinarily, common sense should have prevailed (even without a written or signed document) that all the Districts take their turns at the number one seat in the state for fairness, equity and justice as has been practiced in other states of the federation. It could be for a straight two-term or intermittently – whatsoever the agreement is. Ogun East and Central have had their turns more than once. I understand that political power is dialogue and fought for not necessarily as an entitlement, but politicians in this part of the world do not respect nor value agreements. The immediate past Governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun played a crucial role in the 2019 poll. He was at loggerheads with his party and then governorship candidate, Dapo Abiodun when the APC ticket did not favour his godson, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade who was then a member of the House of Representatives and notably from Ogun West. Akinlade would have been the first Governor from the District and credit would have deservingly been in Amosun’s favour,” a popular political commentator told NewsClick Nigeria in an interview.

Media mogul and son of the soil, Kayode Odunaro in an opinion/open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari published in Tribune Newspapers in September 2016 called the attention of the President to the marginalisation suffered by the district.

“…We have no lack of eminent and qualified people to hold positions at state and federal levels. But surprisingly, since the creation of Ogun State over 40 years ago, no indigene of this district has been appointed or elected to govern the state with resultant lopsided and skewed development against the people of the area as will be acknowledged by any objective observer in relation to the two other senatorial districts of Ogun Central and East that had been rotating the governance of the state between them. And the neglect of Ogun West development is continuing. Infrastructure, particularly those structures in the area, are in a perilous state.

“Over the years, the marginalisation of the people of the district in the state in terms of equal chances in governance and civil service has been compounded by denial of appointments of key officers of the Federal Government and its agencies. Key and top federal appointments from the state as with the governorship of the state have been from the two senatorial districts of Ogun Central and East. Since 1999, no person from Ogun West has been appointed a minister of the Federal Republic. The last time we had a minister was under the military administration of General Sani Abacha when Mrs. Iyabo Anisulowo was appointed Minister of Education. Many federal appointments also ended up by act of omission or commission in the hands of the people of the other two senatorial districts further relegating the people and development of Ogun West to the backwaters,” the opinion reads in part.

 

Amosun’s new found governorship candidate for 2023

After an unsuccessful attempt at installing his anointed successor in 2019, former Governor Amosun is back in the arena again but this time with another candidate and party, though still from Ogun West Senatorial District. Like he did in 2019, Senator Amosun will support another candidate and political party for governorship but queued behind the APC for the presidential poll.

While he is yet to reveal his reason for backing Biyi Otegbeye of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) rather than Adekunle Akinlade, his erstwhile political godson, Amosun has continually made it clear that the incumbent, Dapo Abiodun will be booted out come 2023.

He made his position known in a recent interview with BBC Yoruba.

Amosun said, “For the presidential poll, I can assure you, both right, left and centre, we are supporting one person (Tinubu). I believe we are supporting one person. On the governorship poll, that’s a different ball game. I don’t belong there.

“For the governorship, that is different. I don’t hide behind one finger to fight. That’s why people say to me ‘don’t say that.’ On governorship, my supporters and I, we don’t belong to that side. I do not support the APC on that side, Biyi Otegbeye is the person I am supporting and ADC is the party.”

However, Amosun’s candidate (Otegbeye) was dealt a big blow after a court sacked him and all the 26 House of Assembly candidates in the state. He would later be restored by the Ibadan Division of Court of Appeal barely 30 days to the commencement of the general elections.

“It gladdens my heart that the Court of Appeal sitting at Ibadan, today ruled in our favour; revalidating my candidacy as the gubernatorial flag bearer of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and that of our House of Assembly Candidates also.

“While the appeal subsisted, we were undaunted by the schemes of our traducers and had no doubt of victory because we have fully complied with all extant provisions of the Electoral Act throughout the conduct of our primaries.

“Thankfully, our prayers were granted by the Court of Appeal. Let me swiftly acknowledge the Nigerian Judiciary as the last hope of the common man. I also appreciate the Court for protecting the integrity of jurisprudence and the sanctity of democratic values.

“It is clear that the ruling APC have run out of ideas and the needed justification to demand the people’s mandate for a second term; hence the desperate effort, at taxpayers’ expense, to take us out of the ballot.

“Unfortunately, they have failed and must now be ready to test their much-diminished popularity and integrity at the polls.

“Our agenda over the next four years is to fix Ogun State and repair the broken systems. The ADC administration will create opportunities for all classes of people, restore the glory of the Gateway State, enhance the dignity of citizens and establish a culture of collective growth and shared prosperity,” Otegbeye said in a statement shortly after the court judgement.

My second term ambition already ordained by God – Abiodun         

No forest reserves were sold by Abiodun's government - Odusile 

Meanwhile, Governor Dapo Abiodun has said his reelection bid is people oriented and ordained by God. The Governor also hit back at his predecessor, declaring that he would fail in his anti-party politics aimed to scuttle his second term ambition.

Abiodun who flayed Amosun for playing “dirty politics” and openly declaring to work for the emergence of a governorship candidate of another party in the governorship poll, said that the former governor would fall once again as he did in the 2019 governorship election.

Abiodun dismissed the former governor’s outburst against him as an “empty threat of a falling man”, adding that “my second term is already ordained by God”.

The Governor noted that it is a pity that the former governor has quickly forgotten how his adopted candidate lost woefully during the last general election, even when he was still in office as the governor.

Abiodun insisted that he is not perturbed by his predecessor’s empty threat, as similar threat in 2019 did not amount to anything,

“The same thing that person did in 2019 and failed woefully, even when he was still the Governor in the state, he is now preparing to fail again and even fall down.

“We are waving goodbye to him now, he is not even a candidate of any political party; he is nothing and he is saying he will stop a Governor that God has ordained, he will definitely fail again by the grace of God,” Abiodun stated.

He noted further that being a governor is not anybody’s inheritance, adding that he is governor today because of the divine intervention of the Almighty God who ensured his victory in 2019.

“Being a Governor is not a family inheritance. I am not a king, I am Governor today because of your support, but there are some people who are hell bent on fighting God. They fought us before the election, they even went to court from May to December, 2019, they still failed. The Almighty God who ensured my victory in 2019 is still on the throne,” Abiodun added.