As activities for the governorship election in the country gather momentum, Ogun State remains one of the hotspots. Political parties presenting candidates in the April 11 election are already strategizing to outdo each other ahead of the poll.
Among the major contenders for the governorship seat are the incumbent, Ibikunle Amosun, who is running on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC; Gboyega Isiaka of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Akin Odunsi of the Social Democratic Party, SDP; Rotimi Paseda of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN; and Simeon Olabode of the Labour Party, LP. Their posters now adorn strategic corners of the towns and cities in the state.
Mr. Amosun got the party ticket at its congress as a sole aspirant, while Mr. Isiaka got his way through a controversial primary election following a friction between the national leadership of the PDP and state chapter of the party over the ticket. The national leadership of the party had initially suspended the primary election while it was in progress. Days later, it bowed to pressure and recognised Mr. Isiaka, who has since been presented with the flag.
While Mr. Odunsi, a serving senator, secured his party’s ticket through an in-house arrangement, which was rancour-free, Mr. Paseda was picked at the UPN congress as its consensus candidate.
Mr. Olabode, who is the Labour Party State Chairman in Ogun State, allegedly got his party ticket through the backdoor having sidelined a prominent member of the party, Sina Kawonise, believed to be in a position to clinch the ticket.
Besides the incumbency advantage, Mr. Amosun is formidable and is seen as the common enemy of the opposition who are bent on unseating him.
A former senator, he became governor on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in 2011 with the assistance and support of one of his predecessors, Olusegun Osoba, who is also a founding father of the party.
However, midway to his tenure, he fell out with Mr. Osoba and some of the former governor’s supporters. The development forced Mr. Osoba and his men, some of them members of the National Assembly, to abandon the party. The defectors teamed up and revived Social Democratic Party, SDP, which today has become grown popular.
Mr. Amosun seemed unbothered by the departure of the aggrieved members. He has repeatedly boasted that he will win the election. The governor was the first candidate to launch his campaign.
Mr. Isiaka is another frontline candidate, whose chances of winning election are bright having been in politics for sometimes now. This is not the first time the chattered accountant is be giving a shot at the governorship seat. He had contested under the platform of the defunct Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, in 2011, but lost to Mr. Amosun.
The PDP candidate’s journey into politics was influenced by a former governor of the state, Gbenga Daniel, who himself has returned to the party months after he left for the LP. Analysts believe that Mr. Daniel would use his influence to secure votes for the candidate.
However, the crisis and power tussle within the party leadership, if not resolved early enough, might affect his chances. The party is in tatters. The exit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the PDP will certainly affect the fortunes of the party in the elections. Mr. Obasanjo’s followers might vote for other candidates even though the former president practically became indifferent during the primary election of the party. The former Nigerian leader had shown little interest in the party largely because of his disdain for the leadership style of President Goodluck Jonathan as well as his rift with a stalwart of the party, Buruju Kashamu, who he described as a drug peddler.
One thing that could work in favour of Mr. Odunsi is his root. The senator is from the Ogun West Senatorial District, which has not produced the governor of the state since its creation 39 years ago. While the first civilian governor, Mr. Olabisi and Mr. Daniel hail from Ogun East (Ijebu-Remo), Messrs. Osoba and Amosun are from the Central District. The party tactically conceded the governorship slot to the zone. Thus, this factor might help fetch him votes particularly from his zone.
Though new, the SDP has surprisingly become relevant and a force to reckon with in the state, thanks to its leader, Mr. Osoba. Before its official campaign launch, the party had penetrated the grassroots to intimate voters of its emergence on the political scene.
Another advantage for Mr. Odunsi is the influence and involvement of Mr. Osoba, who is the leader of the party. The former governor is respected by residents of the state.
Of the lot, Mr. Paseda is considered a paper weight politician. The American-based businessman is unknown politically, in the state. His decision to run for governor is seen as an attempt to be relevant in the politics of the state in readiness for future contest, particularly in 2019.
Regardless, the UPN candidate is not taking things for granted. He is about the only candidate who is taking his campaign into bedrooms of the electorate with aggressive jingles on both radio and television stations. The glamour he has brought to his campaign via the jingles as well as his intimidating billboards mounted in strategic locations in the state has made him very popular among the electorate. Whether this will be transform into victory is another thing entirely.
In the estimation of the watchers of the politics of Ogun State, Mr. Olabode is a “political clown”. Some members of the party are still agitated over the manner he got the governorship ticket.
Indeed, it is being suspected that he may step down soon and ask his supporters to support one of the more popular candidates in return for patronage after the election.
Even if he decides to go ahead and contest the poll, the LP candidate may not spring any surprises. Since the exit of Mr. Daniel from the party, its fortunes appear to have dimmed.
The governorship election in the state might witness a lot of melodrama and surprises, as the electorate await them at the poll. But it might also produce surprises.