2019 gubernatorial elections: Oyo state and an excess of choice

Watching PDP’s primary elections on Sunday swept a wave of nostalgia over me. I still remember clearly, watching the PDP primaries in 2003, which was contested between former president Olusegun Obasanjo, late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, and Sen. Barnabas Gemade of Benue state. I remember a particular delegate blurting out the names of the contestants, “Oh-bah-san-jo, Oh-bah-san-jo, Oh-bah-san-jo, Rimi, Oh-bah-san-jo, Rimi, Gemade, Oh-bah-san-jo, Oh-bah-san-jo…” in an unmistakable Hausa accent as he sorted their respective votes. It was my first election experience ever, and even though I couldn’t vote – I was too young then – I savoured every moment of it.

Asides the presidential elections, which President Olusegun Obasanjo went on to win, this period was also my indoctrination into Oyo state politics. At the time, a relatively unknown Rasheed Ladoja of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) challenged the incumbent, Alhaji Lam Adesina of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He won. This was also around the time I began to get acquainted with the major bigwigs and names in Oyo state politics. Names like the present governor, Sen. Abiola Ajimobi (a senator representing Oyo South senatorial district then), Alhaji Yekini Adeojo, former governor (2nd republic) Omololu Olunloyo, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, and Hon. Demola Omotosho – who, quite surprisingly, is running for the seat of the member, federal House of Representatives, Ibadan North federal constituency, under the banner of the PDP in 2019 – were etched into my memory.

Fast forward four years later in 2007, after which the incumbent governor, Rasheed Ladoja had been impeached and reinstated, but still lost to Chief Adedibu’s anointed candidate, Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala – his former deputy governor – for the PDP ticket. Akala won the elections against Ajimobi of ANPP and Taoheed Adedoja of AC. 2011 was a sharp deviation from what was already becoming the norm, as PDP lost their foothold in Oyo state, owing largely to Chief Adedibu’s – and despotic godfatherism’s – death, and a major ACN wave in the southwest. Sen, Abiola Ajimobi won the keenly contested election that seemed, in a number of ways, to be similar to the 2007 elections – a powerful PDP structure behind Alao-Akala, Ladoja and his hordes of sympathizers, and the dreamy Ajimobi and his promise of progress.

The 2015 elections had the usual suspects at it again. Only this time, a dark horse, Seyi Makinde, who many thought should have clinched the PDP’s party ticket, defected and ran under the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He proved a serious contender to the Ajimobi – Akala – Ladoja triangle of power. At this time, the PDP party structure which had been depleted and flung between the other parties fielded the former Senate minority leader, Sen. Teslim Folarin, who performed rather poorly at the polls.

But 2019 comes with an interesting twist. Most of the gubernatorial candidates that I have mentioned earlier are mostly career politicians whose business and other interests before politics are not clearly stated. Undoubtedly, the biggest political parties in Oyo state right now are the APC, PDP, ADC, AD and ADP. While now, only one of the “old order” is still contesting for governor – Alao-Akala, who defected to ADP about a week ago – the other faces are relatively newer, and arguably, more refreshing to see.

For a state that had to endure years of endemic corruption, insecurity, thuggery and strife under successive governments, it is a huge relief that we’re having politicians and technocrats in the mould of Adebayo Adelabu of APC, PDP’s Seyi Makinde, Sen. Olufemi Lanlehin of ADC* and Dr Akin-Onigbinde** (SAN) of AD coming out to run for governor.

Now, more than ever, the fencist has a less chance of saying that “the candidates aren’t good enough.” Wherever you stand in the sociopolitical or ideological spectrum in the state, there is a candidate for you.

Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, the incumbent All Progressive Congress’ candidate for the 2019 gubernatorial elections was the immediate past deputy governor, operations, of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a first-class accounting graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, a fellow of the Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and an associate member of the Institute of directors of Nigeria and the United Kingdom. His professional career spans across organizations such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers, an international firm of chartered accountants and management consultants, First Atlantic Bank, where he worked as the financial controller and Group Head of Risk Management and Controls, and later as the Group Head of National Public Sector Business. He later moved to Standard Chartered Bank, where he worked as the West African Regional Head of Finance and Strategy and First Bank, where he became an Executive director/ Chief Financial Officer in 2009, at the age of 39. He is currently 48 years old.

Seyi Makinde is an engineer and entrepreneur and serves as the group managing director of Makon Group Limited, an indigenous oil and gas company in Nigeria. It is an offshoot of his first oil and gas private business, called Makon Engineering and Technical Services (METS) which he started in 1997. He was 29 years old then. He worked with Shell Petroleum Development Company and Rebold International limited between 1990 and 1997, before setting up his own private oil, gas and engineering company in 1997. He contested for the Oyo south senatorial seat in 2007 and the governorship role in 2015. He lost both, but he was a formidable contestant in both elections, garnering hordes of supporters – some of them, stalwarts – along the way. He is 51 years old.

Senator Olufemi Lanlehin served as a senator representing Oyo south senatorial district between 2011 and 2015. He started his career as a lawyer in Gani Fawehinmi’s (SAN) chambers in 1978 and established his own law firm, Olufemi Lanlehin & Co in 1980. In 1992, he ran for and won the seat at the federal House of Representatives, representing Ikeja federal constituency of Lagos state and he held the position until 1993 when the military aborted the third republic. In 1998, he was appointed as the Commissioner for Special Duties and later, Special Adviser to the then Lagos state governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He returned back to his home state, Oyo state, for active politics in 2002 and he served on different boards before he was elected as a senator in 2011. He is 65 years old.

Dr Akin Onigbinde (SAN) is a seasoned legal practitioner and academic. After his bachelor’s degree in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, he went on to obtain an LL.B, M.Sc. and PhD in Law, International Relations and International Humanitarian Law, respectively, from the University of Ibadan. He is the principal partner of Akin Onigbinde & Co. (AOC Solicitors) which he established in 1987. He is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), among others.

Looking back at the times when Oyo state indigenes and residents repeatedly had to choose between successive terrible candidates, I daresay that in 2019, we are spoiled for choice. While I am not even sure of who I am going to vote for out of the candidates I have outlined above, I know that there’s no excuse to say that the candidates aren’t good enough, and there’s no excuse for anyone in Oyo state not to vote. We’ve got it good this time; or in colloquial terms, “we’re eating good in 2019.”

*Senator Lanlehin’s ADC nomination isn’t definite yet.

**Dr. Akin Onigbinde’s nomination is being contested by another caucus in the party.

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