The jostle for Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s seat has begun in earnest two and half years to the end of his tenure in Ogun State, writes KUNLE OLAYENI
The choice of who succeeds Governor Ibikunle Amosun in 2019 is subtly heating up the polity of Ogun State.
Across political divides, stakeholders are scheming for vantage positions with the attendant intrigues, permutation and power play in the build-up to the next general elections.
In the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the succession race appears to have split the party and renewed the camp rivalry that once threatened its corporate existence. The fight over who clinches the coveted gubernatorial ticket has inevitably pitted Amosun against certain forces within the party.
Former Lagos State Governor and APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as well as erstwhile governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, have also joined the fray.
The duo are believed to have rallied their loyalists behind the governorship bid of Senator Solomon Adeola, popularly called Yayi. Adeola hails from Ogun West, a zone that had yet to produce governor since the Gateway State was created 40 years ago.
He currently represents Lagos West Senatorial District in the National Assembly. Amid the behind-the-scenes horse-trading, Amosun has tactically set the tone for what to expect on the state’s political turf.
At an Ogun APC stakeholders meeting held in Abeokuta penultimate Friday, he made a declaration that he knew those that will not succeed him come 2019.
Saying he would determine his successor, the governor noted that seven aspirants who have indicated interest in taking over the baton are not qualified.
The governor also said though he would never play God on any matter, he would unveil his successor when the time was ripe, adding that the “lucky candidate” will be acceptable to the generality of people of the state.
“For us in Ogun State, I cannot tell you quickly this is who our governor will be, but we know those that will not be governor…I had all my education here and I know, with all our elders, even those that are apolitical, I know those that will not be governor and I know that at the appropriate time, we will get our people together and present our sons and daughters; we will pick and whoever we pick will be governor,” he said.
Although Amosun did not reveal the identities of the seven aspirants that would not succeed him, many people believed his comment was essentially directed at Adeola.
His verdict has since provoked wide reactions, with Adeola himself coming publicly to pooh-pooh the governor’s submission. Adeola argued that only God and the people can determine the next governor.
He vowed to throw his hat into the ring for the governorship no matter whose ox is gored. “I have been contesting for about 20 years and I have been winning,” Adeola told teeming party faithful that gathered at a Christmas get-together organised in Sango-Ota by a former Commissioner for Community Development and Cooperatives during Amosun’s first term, Chief Samuel Aiyedogbon.
The senator added: “If I have not been doing good things, it wouldn’t have been possible. I am therefore assuring you that I will continue to do the good works for which I am renowned.
All that you have lost will be restored. When you go to the local governments (in the state), there is nothing there again. All your losses will be restored when I emerge as the governor.
“Some people said certain seven people have come out and approached them, that they don’t have leadership qualities.
I have the belief that it is only God as well as the entire people of Ogun State that have the right to determine who is fit to become next governor.” Expectedly, the ensuing war of words raised the political tempo of Ogun State.
It also showed that the battle line had been drawn, with the prospect of the crisis that rocked the ruling party before the last general elections being re-enacted.
Before the 2015 poll, the Ogun APC suffered serious implosion resulting from the feud between Amosun and Osoba.
It was a fight that almost ruined the governor’s re-election bid but for the covert support he reportedly got from Tinubu and the then APC national leadership headed by former Osun State Governor, Chief Bisi Akande.
Watchers of the unfolding political events in the state posit that Adeola’s ambition could set a new wedge between Amosun and Osoba.
Sunday Telegraph recalls that the governor and his erstwhile predecessor have a chequered history of political relationship in the state.
In the run-up to the 2003 elections, Osoba, who was then the state governor elected on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD), wanted to seek re-election.
However, the bid was truncated as Amosun teamed up with Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who ran on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to defeat the incumbent. Osoba subsequently went on ‘political exile’ during the PDP’s eight-year rule.
But early in the administration, Amosun, who represented Ogun Central on PDP’s ticket, fell out with Daniel. The bone of contention was Amosun’s decision to contest the 2007 governorship against Daniel’s wish to seek a second term of office.
Amosun defected to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), where he contested but lost the 2007 governorship election.
Although he challenged the election result, the courts validated Daniel’s victory. Amosun, thereafter, returned to the trenches to plot fresh strategy to power.
By the time 2011 poll was approaching, the PDP had become factionalised and Daniel’s men ultimately pulled out to join the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN).
While the PDP disintegrated, the major opposition elements consolidated, leading both Amosun and Osoba to pull resources together to install the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in power.
Tinubu reportedly played a key role in the whole arrangement. Osoba was said to have been prevailed upon to forgive Amosun over the latter’s role in the gang-up that denied him a second term in 2003.
The former governor, with some party elders, ceded the governorship ticket to Amosun and allotted the slots for Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly to their own supporters.
The sharing formula upset Amosun, who felt his loyalists that defected from ANPP were short-changed in the scheme of things. His efforts to get the ACN leadership to reverse the decision were rebuffed.
He attempted to defect to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and this forced some power brokers to wade in.
Amosun ultimately won the gubernatorial election, with his party clinching three senatorial seats and eight of the state’s federal constituencies.
The PPN won only one House of Representatives seat. The governor’s party also had a comfortable majority in the state House of Assembly.
When Amosun took control of governance, he found an opportunity to accommodate his supporters.
The governor determined the nomination and appoint-ment of commissioners, special advisers, local government chairmen, councilors, council consultants, boards’ members and other appointees.
Osoba’s loyalists were left in the lurch and they waited to have their pound of flesh, resulting in serious hostilities within the ruling party.
Ahead of the 2015 elections, Osoba and his loyalists defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) but failed to stop Amosun’s victory march.
After about 18 months, the ex-governor returned to the APC at a reconciliatory meeting in Lagos attended by Tinubu, some South West governors and party leaders.
Amosun was absent at the parley and feelers showed that he was uncomfortable with the re-admission of the ex-governor.
Now that Osoba appears to be backing Adeola’s political ambition, the stage is gradually being set for another epic battle within the Ogun APC.
Adeola had wanted to contest for Ogun West senatorial seat in 2015 but his efforts were frustrated by Amosun, who backed Dada.
Sensing that Amosun was not disposed to him, Adeola picked the Lagos West senatorial ticket and the rest became history. But judging from the scenario playing out, Amosun will likely not support any governorship aspirant from the Tinubu/ Osoba camp.
The governor has categorically ruled out the Lagos senator from those that would succeed him in 2019.
Speaking on Wednesday night during a live media chat on the Ogun State Television (OGTV) in Abeokuta, he stressed that he would be part of those God will use to determine the next governor of the state.
Responding to a question from one of the panelists on whether his successor could be Yayi, Amosun retorted: “that one is not even there!”
The governor also ruled out governorship aspirants from Ogun Central Senatorial District, saying he would not endorse their ambitions, apparently because the zone produced him as incumbent. Amosun is believed to be propping up some aspirants to possibly succeed him.
Though the governor is keeping his preferred choice close to his chest, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the “anointed” would be unveiled before this year winds down.
Sources within the ruling party said Amosun is favourably disposed to the aspiration of Yewa-Awori people in Ogun West Senatorial District to produce governor for the first time since the creation of the state. In the emerging permutations, three APC members are said to have been penciled in.
Those reportedly shortlisted include Senator Gbolahan Dada, representing Ogun West; Prince Suraj Adekunbi, the state House of Assembly Speaker; and Chief Tolu Odebiyi, an industrialist and son of late Second Republic Senator, Chief Jonathan Odebiyi.
The trio hail from the Yewa-Awori extraction of the state. Although 2019 is still a long way, political observers reckon that the impending struggle for the soul of Ogun APC and the succession politicking will dominate the politics of the state for much of the New Year 2017.