The vision for Southwest regional integration driven by a single political party has continued to be a mirage with the defeat suffered by All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State. Although the architects of the regional integration argue that collaboration of the six states within the geographical zone was non-political but to advance their economic, social and cultural interests which had its roots from the First Republic when the region was being governed by Action Group (AG) under the leadership of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The dominance of a party continued in the region for a greater part of the Second Republic when Unity Party (UPN) held sway in the Southwest between 1979 and 1983, but it has become tough in the current dispensation for a political party to win all the six states and push the regional integration agenda from the same political philosophy.
Labour Party (LP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled Ondo State for many years, while Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo States had at one time or the other been governed by PDP. With the governorship elections held in Osun and Ekiti States last year, all the six states in the Southwest are now being controlled by the APC, but that will cease by May 29 this year when Engineer Seyi Makinde of PDP will be sworn in as the governor of Oyo State.
A public analyst, Dr. Nureeni Adigun said, “For the purpose of regional integration, Oyo State is key and central because this is the capital of the region, but the governors of the other five states controlled by APC must work harder and show extra love to the new governor of Oyo State who will look like an orphan among them to achieve anything”.
But the question many are asking is, “How did APC lose its goodwill in Oyo State?
That APC lost both the presidential and governorship elections to the PDP was not a surprise to those that have been following the political trajectory of the state especially since 2015 when Governor Abiola Ajimobi won the second term which was unprecedented in the history of the state. However, the governor and his close allies failed to realise that Ajimobi was only fortunate to benefit from the political hurricane of the newly formed APC and President Muhammadu Buhari’s larger than life image in the Southwest and the inability of the opposition to come together which gave him 30.1 per cent of all total votes cast in 2015 to retain his office.
But instead of working on that diminishing popularity compared to the margin with which he won in 2011, the praise singers and sycophants went to town and nicknamed him Koseleri (literally meaning one who achieved what never happened) governor. Ajimobi began to see himself not only as a colossus but an emperor who has absolute power to achieve whatever he considered the best and took joy in referring to himself as “constituted authority”, a sobriquet he assumed while addressing students of LAUTECH that protested against several months of industrial action embarked upon by the teaching and non-teaching staff of the university.
Ajimobi’s performance and prudent management of resources was not in doubt, but his alleged arrogance and inability to control his tongue became a political tool that dwarfted his achievements in redefining governance and running of an unusual government.
But the sign of the impending disaster, which was not averted, became public with the parallel congress held last year by the party. That APC was polarized shortly after he won the second term was not in doubt. Ajimobi, who rose to power through the political structure of the former governor of the state, Alhaji Lam Adeshina, had built another structure known as SENACO and the bitter war of attrition between the two groups led to the weakness of the party structure in the state.
While the LAMISTS cried out that they were being marginalized in terms of political appointment and patronage, APC members in SENACO were allegedly grabbing all opportunities and priviledges from the government. Ajimobi and his aides denied this allegation and failed to readjust and extend the goodies to the disgruntled members.
This continued till the party held its primaries, which the group saw as payback time. It took them little efforts to merge forces with the Mandate Forum to form a formidable force against Ajimobi and his SENACO group. Although Ajimobi had his way but the cracks within APC structure made it vulnerable and many enemies within the party worked against its success.
Many of the disenchanted members defected to African Democratic Congress (ADC). But what surprised many observers was the unperturbed disposition of Ajimobi for losing a chunk of party leaders with grassroots supports. But all these were unknown to the national leadership of the party, which trusted Ajimobi so much that he was made a peacemaker to other states where there were internal crisis.
His face-off with the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu was said to be poorly handled. Although many have argued that the Minister, who rose to the position through his personal relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, has “no electoral value” but keeping him as an enemy within the party was strategically wrong for a party that wanted to win an election. Shittu publicly declared that he would work against his anointed candidate, Bayo Adelabu and he did.
The result of the presidential election where Atiku Abubakar polled 366,690 to defeat APC’s Presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, who scored 365,229 and the senatorial election where Kola Balogun of PDP scored 105,720 to trump Ajimobi, who recorded 92,579 was a referendum on some of the policies of the governor who fought many elites in Ibadan, including the monarch of the town, Oba Saliu Adetunji, over the review of Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration that led to multiplicity of monarchs in the ancient city.
While the governor had argued that it was a development necessary for the city seeking a creation of Ibadan State, many believed otherwise. This led to a bitter acrimony and legal tussle between him and the monarch. The court ruled in favour of the monarch but the state government appealed against the judgment.
The controversy did not favour Ajimobi’s political ambition, who is now being seen as an outcast in the city. It is so bad that a traditional group in Ibadan disowned him as an Ibadan indigene and traced his lineage to Oshogbo. They alleged that it was Agboluaje family that rehabilitated his father. They even went to the extent of politicizing how his younger brother, Wasiu, rose from Mogaji to Jagun and placed him above his seniors within a year, a situation they said Olubadan will certainly review after May 29.
Ajimobi’s battered image was further dented by the demolition of the Music House of the juju gospel artiste, Yinka Ayefele; it also housed his radio station. The state’s Commissioner for Information, Toye Arulogun, had accused the radio station owner of allowing too much of opposition elements to criticize the government. While the arguments ensued, the government gave the radio station demolition notice, alleging that the station was flouting physical and environmental laws. Before the radio station could defend itself, the government rolled in caterpillars to demolish a section of the building, even when the matter was in court.
This singular act, described as intolerance of the opposition by Ajimobi’s administration, further heightened negative sentiment against his government. Feeling the heat, the government made a dramatic turn around and reconciled with Ayefele while the building was reconstructed.
One of his critics, Kehinde Salami, said, “We all knew his government has ended the day he demolished Ayefele’ radio station. When he lost face in the public he went to rebuild it. So, what Ajimobi said was illegal just became legal without court pronouncement. He spent public funds to demolish it and still expended public funds to rebuild it. You can see what has come of Emperor Ajimobi. Oyo state is too civilized for this kind of behaviour”.
Also, Oyo State APC could not fly in the governorship election because Adedibu, who quit his job as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to give the governorship election a shot, strongly relied on the ability of Ajimobi to win election for him. Many in the state said the grandson of the successful Ibadan parliamentarian, the late Chief Adegoke Adelabu, had even seen himself as governor-in-waiting immediately he won the APC primaries.
His campaign rode on Ajimobi’s back with visibility of his own before the presidential election. This would jolt him into the stark reality of his precarious position. His attempt to carve a niche for himself and distance his campaign from what many described as “bad fortunes” of Ajimobi came too late to have any impact in the society that had written off APC. It was a case of throwing away a child with bath water.
However, observers are of the opinion that Ajimobi’s “sins” might not have been strong enough to cause APC that election if the opposition parties had not closed ranks and worked together to confront APC.
With the result of the presidential election where PDP won majority votes for its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, other opposition parties including, ADC, Social Democratic Party (SDP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and African Democratic Party (ADP), led by former Governor Christopher Adebayo Akala, went into alliance with the aim of forming a unity government and wrestling power from APC.
While the negotiation was going on, APC national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, met with Akala and the former governor, who was the convener of the opposition parties against APC, decided to form alliance with the party.
Although details of the meeting of the Akala and Tinubu were not made public, it was alleged that the former governor had been promised to be let off the hook of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) that had been trying him for alleged fraud and other financial considerations. Akala did not only work for APC but also denied Makinde from using his radio station based in Ogbomosho for live broadcast of his campaign.
But former Governor Rasheed Ladoja provided the leadership for the opposition parties and convinced Senator Femi Lanlehin (ADC), Sharafadeen Alli (ZLP), Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SDP) to drop their governorship ambitions and join Makinde to get a resounding victory for the PDP. Makinde received 515, 621 votes to defeat his closest rival from APC, Adelabu, who polled 357, 982 votes. The margin of defeat is 157,639 votes.
Besides, PDP won in 28 out of 33 local councils while APC won in five. ADP won one local council.