With the dust yet to settle over his role in the presidential and National Assembly elections in Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde has firmly turned his attention to his reelection bid under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A member of the dissident G-5 governors of the main opposition party, Mr Makinde seemed to have stood arms akimbo as the All Progressives Congress (APC) swept into comprehensive victories in the presidential and federal legislative elections in the state on 25 February. Now, he faces a big battle against the APC candidate, Teslim Folarin, and Accord party’s Adebayo Adelabu to keep his own job on Saturday.
Thirteen other candidates are also seeking the blessings of the 2,761,421 voters who have collected their PVCs to participate in the governorship and state House of Assembly elections. The state has a total of 3,276,675 registered voters.
The other candidates are Ajekiigbe Lateef of AA, Akinwale Tawfiq of LP, Popoola Olukayode of the NNPP, Okedara Mojeed of AAC and Ajadi Bamidele of ADC.
Also on the ballot are Yusuf Akim of ADP; Adeshina Adewale of APGA; Adeniran Adeyemi of APM; Yinusa Kazeem of AAP; Okunade Tunde of BP, Adegboyega Raymond of NRM, Micheal Lana of SDP and Euba Aduragbemi of YPP.
However, all eyes are on the governor and his two main challengers, Messrs Folarin and Adelabu.
Odds from presidential election
Mr Makinde will this Saturday bear his own cross after helping President-elect Bola Tinubu win big in the state. The confusion of fusing the support for Mr Tinubu with the partisan aspirations of PDP members cost the party a huge loss in the last federal elections. Undoing the intertwining was not what local voters found easy to grapple with.
The PDP spokesperson in Oyo, Akeem Olatunji, told PREMIUM TIMES after the elections that voters in the state were carried away by their desire to vote for Mr Tinubu, whom they had adopted as their candidate for the presidency.
The result is that the APC won the three senatorial seats and eight federal constituencies out of the 12 where elections were concluded. Elections in two constituencies were declared inconclusive. Mr Makinde’s PDP lost in the following constituencies: Ibadan North; Afijio/Atiba/Oyo East/Oyo West; Ido/Ibarapa East; Saki East/Saki West/Atisbo; Ogbomoso North/ Ogbomoso South/ Oriire; Egbada/Ona Ara; Akinyele/Lagelu and Irepo/Olorunsogo/ Oorelope.
The two federal constituencies where elections are pending are Oluyole and Ibadan North East/Ibadan South East. The elections were declared inconclusive due to irregularities.
The PDP, however, managed to secure Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Kajola/ Iwajowa; Ogooluwa/Surulere; Ibarapa Central, Ibarapa North; and Ibadan North West/ Ibadan South West, which is four out of 14.
Makinde’s G-5 Burden
A schism occurred in the PDP after the party’s presidential primaries. This gave rise to five governors refusing to support the Atiku Abubakar ticket. The so-called G-5 governors are Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
The governors eventually could not agree on which presidential candidate to offer their support to instead of Atiku. Mr Wike, who led the onslaught, after dilly-dallying to the dying minutes, leaned towards the APC candidate, along with Mr Makinde, while Mr Orom supported Labour Party’s Peter Obi. Their support was reflected in the results of the presidential election in their respective states.
In Oyo State, Mr Tinubu polled 449,884 votes to defeat Atiku who scored 182,977 votes and Mr Obi who had 99,110 votes.
There is a claim of an agreement between Governor Makinde and Mr Tinubu for the APC to reciprocate the governor’s support by backing his reelection bid. This claim emerged after Mr Makinde hosted Mr Tinubu after the latter’s campaign rally in Mapo Hall in Ibadan on 16 February. A rumour also had it that the victories of the APC in the Senate and House of Representatives elections were a trade-off.
But the APC in the state has denied the speculations. The party’s spokesperson in the state, Olawale Sadare, said “those behind the wicked rumour” were “unscrupulous elements whose motive is to mislead the public and attract undue sympathy from certain quarters outside the state.”
Mr Makinde’s role in the G-5 had also pitted him against loyal PDP leaders in the state who have vowed to punish him for anti-party activities by working against his reelection bid. One such PDP leader is Hazeem Gbolarumi, a former deputy governor and the coordinator of the Atiku presidential campaign in Oyo State.
With Mr Gbolarumi are party leaders such as a former Minister for Mines and Steel Development, Wole Oyelese, and Femi Babalola who had earlier declared that Mr Makinde was on his own when he chose to work for the APC in the presidential election.
They may express their grievances against the governor at the poll on Saturday.
“Some of them may decide not to come out to vote on Saturday, others may not say anything but would refuse to work for the party for the same reasons,” Musliudeen Adebayo, an Ibadan-based journalist, said.
The activities of PDP Vanguard, a pressure group within the party in the state, support Mr Adebayo’s predictions. Last week, the group in its Twitter handle, @pdpvanguard, declared support for the APC candidate, Mr Folarin, claiming that it’s over 190,000 members would vote for him. Mr Folarin, through his media aide, Yakeen Olaniyi, welcomed the development, urging other political parties to take a cue to rescue the state from Mr Makinde.
However, Mr Olatunji said Saturday’s election will take a different turn and witness massive voting for PDP candidates. According to him, Oyo voters love the governor and were aware of the need to vote for their own person as president. He said the APC took advantage of that situation to commit irregularities in the federal legislative elections. “We will be challenging those irregularities in court and at the end will win back some of the seats they claimed to have won,” Mr Olatunji said.
The Teslim Folarin Challenge
With the presidential victory in its kitty, will the APC allow its governorship candidate to fail in Saturday’s election? Mr Folarin’s tested political sagacity draws inspiration from the famed amala politics of Lamidi Adedibu. He is a ranking senator and was once the Leader of the Senate. He is one of the leading candidates and for his followers and supporters, this is his best chance to win and become governor.
The bandwagon current may move the votes in his direction on Saturday. With the APC winning the presidential election, the expectations are predictable.
Mr Folarin however has to deal with the internal wranglings in his party in the state.
He will also have to cancel out the loss of Mr Adelabu, who was accompanied out of the APC to the Accord party by a good number of members whose influences cannot be underrated.
Insiders said Mr Folarin’s role in the crisis during the party congresses will haunt him on Saturday. A source close to the party informed PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Folarin’s capture of the party’s structure and the governorship ticket has made party members not trust him.
“Most of them only came out to campaign because of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. They are not prepared to give him their support for the governorship,” the source said.
It has been gathered, however, that Mr Folarin made good efforts to reconcile aggrieved members of the party which led to the withdrawal of litigations against the party over its primaries. With that achievement, he looks confident to give the incumbent a run for his money on Saturday.
Even more stirring for the APC candidate was the booster he received from a former governor, Rasheed Ladoja, who endorsed his ticket. Mr Ladoja had galvanised the coalition that brought Mr Makinde to power in 2019. Although he had been passive in the build-up to Saturday’s election, he told his supporters to vote for Mr Folarin. It is however left for Mr Folarin to weave the necessary sentiments around this boon in his quest to score the highest number of valid votes on Saturday.
A rematch for Adelabu
Mr Adelabu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, lost to Mr Makinde in the 2019 governorship election when he ran on the platform of the APC. He polled 357,982 votes while Mr Makinde scored 515,621 votes in the election contested by 42 candidates. This time, he lost his bid for the APC ticket and moved over to the Accord party.
He has greatly benefited from the post-primaries crises in both the PDP and the APC, with some chieftains crossing from the two parties to join him in his campaigns. However, there are doubts about the structure and strength of his new party.
His followers believe that he would have won in 2019 but for the coalition of opposition parties that backed the incumbent governor.
READ ALSO: 2023: Wike canvasses votes for Makinde, says relationship with Tinubu’s APC has ended
“That coalition is no longer there for the governor,” Bolaji Tunji, a former APC member who also crossed to Accord, said. “He is likely going to win sympathies this time and win convincingly.”
Mr Tunji, who also speaks for the party, argued that the APC candidate is also not a threat to the party’s candidate, as the victories secured on Saturday were attributable to the bulk votes for Mr Tinubu.
Mr Adelabu’s experience from the 2019 election would definitely count for him. But he will be affected by the absence of the support of the APC powerhouse which he enjoyed in the 2019 election.
Incidentally, the three leading candidates have their roots in Ibadan. The five urban local government areas in Ibadan have a total of 987,548 registered voters, about 30 per cent of the state’s total. The councils are Ibadan North, Ibadan North East, Ibadan North West, Ibadan South East, and Ibadan South West.
There are also six semi-urban councils in the capital city. These are Akinyele, Egbede, Ido, Oluyole, Lagelu and Ona Ara. They have a combined voting population of 790,594, representing 24 per cent of the state’s voting population.
Coming tops in these 11 local government areas could determine who becomes the next governor of Oyo State. The three major candidates claim popularity and the foretaste of the presidential election is certain to set the stage for the outcomes on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Oyo State has urged politicians to play by the rules and also charged INEC “to correct all anomalies reported during the last election on February 25, 2023, and ensure the gubernatorial poll is better organised with the expected outcomes to be free, fair, transparent and credible.”
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