Published On: Wed, Dec 27th, 2017

Akala, Folarin, others rekindle old rivalry over Ajimobi’s successor

OLUSESAN LAOYE

Former Oyo State governor Adebayo Alao-Akala

The battle for a successor to Governor Abiola Ajimobi in 2019 seems to have already begun with the declaration of interest by some heavyweights in Oyo politics. The state presents a certain political uniqueness as the only one with some former governors still eyeing the top job.

Already the field seems to be crowded with the likes of former governor Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala, former Senate leader, Teslim Folarin, and former deputy governor of Oyo state under Akala, Ambassador Taufeek Arapaja. Others are former secretary to the Oyo State government, under Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, Mr. Ayodele Adigun, former Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Asimiyu Alarape.

There are also other notable politicians in Oyo State, especially those in the House of Representatives and the State Assembly. This presents a historic moment for the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress, (APC), which will pose a special challenge in handle the selection process.

The presence of these number of bigwigs in one party vying for the same followed the decampment of heavy weights moving in one swoop and on the same day to a political party, which some of them had vowed never to have anything to do with it and which they had castigated along with its leaders, at one time or the order, while pursuing their political ambitions.

What also made their decampments unique is the fact that they were people who had held big political offices, either in the state or at the federal level from their various political parties. Looking at the pedigree of those who decamped, one would agree with the leader of the APC Senator Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu that the APC was lucky to have them in their midst.

Indeed, APC was fortunate, because the emergence of these political juggernauts into the APC came at the time when the people have started losing faith in the party and its leadership, both at the state and federal levels.

Although, the majority are from the former ruling political party, The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State and at the federal level, which was rejected by the people for the APC, one significant effect of their joining the APC is that it would boost the morale of the people of Oyo state, who have been looking for alternatives and who have been yearning for some of them to come back as governor, and pressurizing others to contest.

The background of these people who joined the APC is also interesting. Akala, the leader of the group, who claimed to have been instrumental to bringing both his old allies and foes together  to be in one political party once again, all served under the PDP although some from different blocks of the party.

But political ambition, caused the separation of these notable politicians, who were in the same political party and they all went their different ways.  The impeachment of Ladoja which saw Akala becoming the governor, led to Adigun’s exit from the PDP because he went with Ladoja to the Accord party, where he was before decamping to the APC after Ladoja had moved back o the PDP.

Akala too, after holding sway in Oyo state as the Chief Executive, during the impeachment of Ladoja and subsequently, elected governor for four years, fell out with the PDP when he could not get the ticket of the party to contest in 2015. He went to the labour party where he came a distant third in the election.

In his own case, the former Senate leader, Folarin though never left the PDP till his recent decampment to APC, was the major reason why Akala left the PDP. The ticket of the party was given to him after a hot contest between him and AKala. Teslim was favoured by the power- that-be in the presidency of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Akala who had been assured earlier felt disappointed and angrily left the PDP to join the labour party, which was not known in Oyo State. He used his influence and brought the Labour party to be a force in the state with his followers.

The fear now being expressed is, how would they not bring their past political rivalry into their new political party?  Although during the ceremony last Saturday at Mapo Hall in Ibadan, they all pledged that they would be law-abiding and respect the rules of the APC, there were strong indications that since they had all nursed the governorship ambition of the state at one time or the other, and none of them has given up, there is the likelihood that this ambition which separated them before may be rekindled if the motives of their coming together were not well defined or clearly laid out, before they all agreed to come together once again.

Judging from the body language of Akala, Folarin, and Arapaja, they are all still interested in ruling the state.  Akala and Arapaja fell out immediately they both lost the 2011 governorship election to the incumbent, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. Akala then believed that he was betrayed by Arapaja to foster the Ibadan agenda which deprived him of a second term to rule the state. Since then, they were at logger head until last Saturday when they both joined the APC.

Even the attitudes of their supporters at the venue of their declaration were pointers to the fact that they still nurse the ambition of becoming the governor of Oyo State. Their supporters carry banners and fliers which portray them as aspirants for the 2019 governorship race.  The supporters of all the politicians, who spoke with journalists, did not mince words and they were categorical that they were at the venue to show-case the interests of their principals and create public awareness about their intentions to contest in 2019.

Although this could be the picture being painted to the general public, political analysts were of the opinion that since the leaders of the APC were  aware of the political antecedents of all of them, they would have worked out an arrangement that would accommodate them in the political scheming in 2019.

Based on the feelers available from reliable sources, it was learnt that AKala who is known to be very popular and cherished among the people may have been penciled down for the governorship, since the agitations now in the state is for the Oke Ogun to have the slot as it was believed that the Ibadan have dominated the governorship seat for a long time.

Alhough Akala is not from Oke-Ogunproper; he belongs to the same Oyo North Senatorial District along with the coreOke-Ogun.  The notion therefore is that if Akala gets the ticket of the APC and win the election, the governorship would have been back to Oyo North.

The feeling also is that the core Okeogun people would see Akala as their own because of the strong relationship which he had with them when he was the governor. Again they would be pleased that the Governorship seat has fallen out of the Ibadan people who have been dominating them.

Other considerations, which we learnt that came in favour of Akala were his electoral values, especially his strong base Ogbomoso, where he always come out with large votes which could make the APC win the governorship in 2019. Although, there is no gain saying that Ibadan as a whole controls the largest votes in the state, it has always become difficult for even an Ibadan man to use the advantage to win out rightly.

Whoever contest in Ibadan always rely on votes from OkeOgun to win.  The cases of Chief Kolapo Ishola, Rashidi Ladoja, Akala, and even the present governor Ajimobi attest to this scenario.These are the factors the APC leaders may have put together in wanting to give the governorship ticket to Akala.

Although the ticket would not be an automatic thing, the style of the Progressives especially the APC is that they always adopt direct and indirect primaries to pick their candidates.  The approach always favours whoever they want and if Akala is truly their choice to give them victory, he would emerge as the candidate, whether, direct or indirect.

Senator Folrin, it was learnt may have settled for the senate as it was being speculated that he is likely to contest the Oyo central senatorial District, while it was learnt that Arapaja may settle for the Oyo South Senatorial District. The snag with that is that, there are speculations that Ajimobi intends to  go to the Senate, he may want to contest the Oyo South Senatorial seat which he had before he became the governor and there is no way Arapaja could wrestle the senate ticket of the party from Ajimobi.

As for Adigun who had also showed interest in the governorship, it is likely that he may be offered the position of the secretary to the state government while others who decamped with them must have bargained for what suited them at the federal and the state.

Whatever the case may be, the notion and the fear is that the PDP men should not allow their political ambition, which caused the disintegration of their former party to manifest in APC.

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