With the myth that no democratically-elected governor serves two straight terms in Oyo State, Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s bid to re-occupy the Agodi House, Ibadan come May 29, the gubernatorial election in Oyo State, is expected to be tough and fascinating.
It will be tough because apart from Mr. Ajimobi trying to break the second term jinx, three of the four candidates contesting the governorship poll are from Ibadan ancient city.
It will be fascinating because all the four candidates are not only experienced, but also have the political sagacity and structure to take over the Agodi House.
While Mr. Ajimobi is seeking re-election on the All Progressives Congress, APC, platform, former governor, Rasheed Ladoja, is running on the Accord Party, AP ticket, while former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, is clutching the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, flag.
The immediate past governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala is the candidate of the Labour Party, LP. He is the only candidate outside the gates of Ibadan.
Unlike Lagos and other states where godfathers largely decide who becomes anything, Oyo State seems to be different since the demise of Lamidi Adedibu, the famed proponent of “Amala” politics.
But one cannot rule out the influence of heavyweights like former Justice Minister, Richard Akinjide; Second Republic governor, Omololu Olunloyo; Ajibola Afonja, among others in determining who becomes the governor of the state.
Created from the former Western State in 1976, Oyo State has 33 local government areas with an estimated population of 6,617,720. Out of the 33 local government areas in the state, 11 are in the Ibadan zone where three of the candidates come from.
While the incumbent, Mr. Ajimobi hopes to return because of the popularity of the APC in the South West as well as his achievements, analysts believe his disapproval outside Ibadan zone may work against him.
Mr. Ajimobi’s choice of cabinet members and his romance with different peer groups in the state are smart moves that could place him on a higher pedestal than the other candidates. But his chances may be narrowed if Mr. Ladoja and Mr. Akala, who was once his (Ladoja) deputy, form a coalition to fight the APC.
With the votes from the 11 council areas in Ibadan zone shared between the incumbent, Mr. Ladoja and Mr. Teslim, a coalition with Mr. Akala from Ogbomosho, who is also said to have a firm grip of Oyo North Senatorial District, could decide the winner of the election.
Apart from having immense popularity in his senatorial district, Mr. Akala has a foothold in Ibadan zone having served as deputy governor and later governor of the state. So all things being equal, he will get quality votes from the zone and could spring a surprise on the PDP and APC which are considered more popular in the state.
Mr. Akala had contested the PDP primary but when the ticket went the way of the former Senate leader, he immediately switched to LP, where he was readily handed the party’s flag.
The Ogbomosho-born politician rode to power on the back of late Mr. Adedibu when he emerged as deputy to Ladoja in 2003. He became governor in 2006, following the impeachment of his boss but was sacked through a court ruling which nullified the impeachment. The “Baba of Amala politics” however, bulldozed the way for him to return as governor in 2007, only to be stopped by the single term myth in 2011.
One major challenge facing Mr. Akala is the platform on which he is standing for the election. Before now, the LP had considerable followership in the South-West but as the election approaches, some of the prominent members including Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko; former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, among others, defected and joined the PDP where they had originally belonged.
Apart from the fact that the Ogbomosho strongman is facing corruption charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, observers insist that his poor relationship with some prominent traditional rulers in the state could be exploited by his opponents to scuttle his chances at the polls.
The emergence of Mr. Folarin at the PDP primary was a surprise because many had thought Mr. Akala would emerge.
Before the primary, the former Senate leader, who is considered the least popular candidate in the race, had boasted in an interview with Tribune newspaper that he worked against Mr. Akala’s re-election in 2011.
Making such a claim in a run up to an election has the tendency of alienating a politician from the electorate more so, because Mr. Folarin is contesting against former governors who have followership across the state.
Pundits are of the opinion that Mr. Ladoja and Governor Ajimobi are the frontrunners in the race. The former governor who is also a national leader of the Accord Party has a vibrant political movement which has drawn immense support across the state. It was through the same political structure that the Accord Party won eight state assembly and four House of Representatives seats during the 2011elections.
Mr. Ladoja has also been able to attract a number of top politicians from the PDP; most of who served in Mr. Akala’s administration. Some of the top PDP members who have defected with Mr. Ladoja to the Accord Party include the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Taofeek Arapaja, ex council chairman of Ibadan North, Demola Omotosho; Ibadan North East; Ademola Ige and Ibadan South-East, Gbenga Adewusi.
The former governor has also pulled a serving senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Femi Lanlehin, to the Accord Party, a move that many believe is a sign that Mr. Ladoja has secured the support of political stakeholders to return to power.
He has also spread his tentacles beyond his Ibadan base to other zones including Ibarapa, Oke Ogun and Oyo/Ogbomosho, where the two children of the late Samuel Akintola, the premier of the defunct Western Region, have joined the Accord Party.
One cannot also forget the role of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, in the politics of the state. In fact, the NURTW is believed to have been used by politicians in past to ensure victory during elections.
Mr. Ajimobi’s refusal to patronise the union leaves the members open for patronage by any of the other candidates.
With a total of 2,415,556 voters in the state, zoning and religion will be the least consideration for who will occupy Agodi House, come May 29. The April 11 election in Oyo State will never be won on a landslide. At best the result will be very close to call.