BY TUNDE ADEBISI
Some group of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirants in Oyo state stirred the hornet’s nest recently when they brought politics to the base level of sectional interest in their struggle for the party’s gubernatorial ticket. Granted that politics is about interest and pursuance of such, yet it could be least expected that gladiators in a party that seeks to wrest power from the incumbent All Progressive Party (APC) government would indulge in a flagrant and undignified course of action.
The gladiators, rising from a meeting in Ibadan hosted by one time Minister in Abacha administration, Elder Wole Oyelese, declared that the party must turn its search light on Ibadan to pick a governorship candidate for the forthcoming 2015 elections. Those said to be present in the meeting include Sen. Teslim Folarin, Alhaj Haseem Gbolarunmi, Prof Soji Adejumo, Prof Taoheed Adedoja, Dr Azeez Adeduntan and Engr Seyi Makinde.
In a swift reaction, another group, under the aegis of Ibadanland Forum, sharply criticized the aspirants for their meeting, describing it as a gang up and conspiracy.
Even though the position of the aspirants has been criticized, it is in the interest of the people to analyse the political parameter of the state vis-a-vis Ibadan. How justified is the position of this group of seven aspirants? It should be noted that Ibadan land comprising of 11 of the 33 local government areas in Oyo State has over 67% of the state population. This is an unassailable fact. It goes therefore that where Ibadan goes, Oyo state goes. The city holds the ace; even when the other sectors in the state such as Oyo, Ogbomoso, Oke Ogun or Ibarapa decide to come, in an election, with a bloc vote. This was the clincher in the 2011 election that saw Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the APC emerging: but for the Ibadan curtain raiser- votes, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala of the PDP would have had a roller coaster to victory with his Ogbomoso bloc vote.
Another index that has always worked in favour of Ibadan is the unwritten alliance with the Ibarapa zone. There has been primordial socio-political relationship between them. Of course, Ibarapa, with its five local government areas, provides an added fillip for Ibadan votes.
Those in the group of Ibadan-must-produce-the-next-governor surely have been befuddled by this political fact to think a gang-up would intimidate other aspirants. But they have lost sight of the fact that a tree does not make a forest. The pursuance of interests must not be taken to the level of an assault on the sensibility of the people or derogation of the bond of unity that exists among the various constituents in the state.
Most importantly, the above factors may not decide who emerges the flag bearer of the party.
Adept watchers of the state’s politics will not agree less that factors such as the popularity of the aspirants, the acceptability of the aspirants to all the stakeholders and, of course, the party structure, would play a dominant role in deciding who emerges the flag bearer.
If we take the first factor as given, the second and the third would most likely swing the pendulum greatly. Surely, an acceptable aspirant would not be limited to Ibadan; but would have the support of political deciders in Oyo, Ogbomoso, Oke Ogun and Ibarapa sectors before he could be said to be a winning candidate at the polls. This is where the gang up would not really work for anyone even where indeed the reality supports an Ibadan man tackling incumbent Ajimobi – we have to bear in mind the fact that Ajimobi rode to power on the crest of the Ibadan force. Therefore, the seven gladiators have shot themselves in the foot as their pronouncement can only be seen as an unnecessary gang up against other parts of the state who equally have the right to produce the next governor. If they had their way they would have succeeded in re-enacting the pre-2011 election scenario of no love lost among leaders of PDP.
A gang up of aspirants smacks of fear of the unknown or, of facing a primary election – what they could not get in the open they want it from the back door. Already it is being speculated that it is borne out of the fear of the towering figure of Alao- Akala, the former governor who lost the 2011 election.
Political observers say the former governor may be confronted by the second term jinx. In Ibadan, it is an unwritten rule that a leader should not lead or rule for more than once, hence the popular (famous) saying that Ibadans don’t serve someone twice. An understanding of the underlying philosophy and the historical antecedent of the metropolis would make anyone to disagree less with the proponents. To be a leader in this part of the country is a privilege and Ibadan people do not shy away from the fact that they serve their leader for him to serve them.
Yet the factor of party structure in deciding who wins the primary must not be treated with levity. The PDP structure in Oyo is an amalgam of candidates of the various factions that fought for the party’s ticket in 2011and the incumbent party executive committee was the product of the reconciliatory efforts of 2013. As such, except opinions have shifted, it could not be said to be controlled by any particular faction: therefore it could be expected to be neutral in the event of a primary election. Yet the executive can still wield some influence in deciding the flag bearer for 2015.
Given the development and the sharp criticism that followed the gang-up, the political calculation within the party has nonetheless been affected. It is becoming a reality now that the state PDP stakeholders should look for a neutral candidate who could command the respect of all sections of opinion and build bridge between the disparate gladiators –vis-à-vis G7 and Alao Akala. They should be looking for a candidate that would yet be acceptable if the party would win the 2015 election.
Some observers say Seyi Makinde or any of the other five except Teslim Folarin would have suited the purpose but for their involvement as active participants in the gang up which betrays them as sympathizers of a faction in the old crisis of the party. Could it be that Alao Akala’s weight has been a threat to them? It is being said that their gang up may continue into the elections if a non-Ibadan man, which is likely Alao Akala, emerges as the flag bearer.
Going to the 2015 election a divided house would mean a repeat of the 2011 waterloo for the PDP in Oyo. This is where the statement of the PDP Ibadanland Forum is quite instructive It stated inter alia: “We have passed through this stage, as similar gang ups and conspiracy cost us the mandate of the people of Oyo in 2011. It is only a mad person that would continuously tread the same route to a goal and expect to get to a different destination”.
However, political watchers are taking note of the fact that out of the notable aspirants of Ibadan origin, only Kehinde Olaosebikan was not part of the “gang up”. Could that have been deliberate or circumstantial? Could it have been born out of adroit politics or divinely arranged? Whatever is your gestimation; one would say that the aspirant has been singled out as the likely joker by providence that only a discerning political mind can realize. By the way Olaosebikan belongs really to a class of new breed with progressive political inclination and has an appeal that cut across women, youths and artisans. He may represent the change we desire in the state.