There is no doubt and any ambiguity that the incumbent governor of Oyo State Engineer Seyi Makinde is one of the power brokers today in the South West of Nigeria particularly in the main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP.
Makinde who is mentioned everywhere is actually using his position as the governor of Oyo state to the fullest, which has made him a force to be reckoned with, both in the region, his political party the PDP and even, the entire Nigeria, because most of his unusual actions have made him to be on the lips of political opponents and friends.
Recent events in the party and the region have not confirmed his stake to leadership of the party but has announced him a potential national leader. He has been able to subdue all the forces against without much ado.
True to his words, immediately he assumed office as governor that he would not mind stepping on toes, as long it is for the sake and benefit of the people, he has been keeping fate with his statement and acting accordingly.
What first made his name to be loud among his colleagues in Nigeria, was the way he dealt with those who ensured his victory in a bold manner and even the way he dealt with the notorious and lords of the National Union of the Road Transport Workers in the state.
That singular bold steps drew attention, as someone actually ready to step on toes and not minding the consequences, if at all there would be any.
Makinde, from humble background who also derives his popularity through his populists programmes, one of which was the subtle encouragement of hawking. He backed his action by letting the people know that he too was a product of hawking, when he had to move about hawking bread, which he did to support his parents for their up keep.
Thus, the harassment of street hawkers by Oyo State government officials ended. His profile continued to rise politically through his job and wealth creation initiatives and youths empowerment programmes.
From the onset, it was glaring that Makinde, an Electrical Engineer from the University of Lagos, would make it with the way he navigated through the oil and gas sector, to establish his own private outfit in the industry from where he was able to oil his political career.
Right from the very day he entered politics, he started big and his mission was very clear to him and he did not relent since 2007 when he contested the Oyo South Senatorial seat, under his first political platform, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), but he lost to Kamaru Adedibu, the son of the strong man of Ibadan politics late Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, who was still alive then and had the control of the political machineries of Oyo state at his disposal.
Makinde coming out to dare the Adedibu showed his bravery and doggedness as a man ready to fight. Then, he moved to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, where in 2010 he contested again for the same Oyo South Senatorial District seat, which he equally lost.
Ordinarily, people thought Makinde would be discouraged with this failed second attempt, but to him, as one of his associates said, “those failures were the tonic of encouragement and challenges that made him to move on.”
Not done yet, and with all the previous political moves, his profile politically had risen, he was regarded as a young up-coming politician and a role model for the youths.
With his intensified youth empowerment initiatives, and popularity, he was emboldened to come out in 2015 to battle for the governorship ticket of the PDP which he lost as well.
With the complaint that he was rigged out of the contest in PDP and for the fact that he already felt that his profile and popularity would see him through for the governorship, he moved straight to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) where he contested the governorship for the first time but lost as usual, to late Governor Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who then, was the first man to have a second bite at the governorship in Oyo State.
After losing the governorship in 2015, Makinde already had a strong structure and when the Senator Ahmed Makarfi led caretaker National Chairman of the PDP moved to reconcile all aggrieved members, Makinde was one of the ex-members that was wooed back to the PDP.
He was in in the party still the Uche Secondus led Executive came and that was the period he struggled to gain the control of the party from the former governor, and leader, Senator Rashidi Ladoja.
It was a real battle which raged for a long time and which led to elder statesman Ladoja and his supporters moving out of the PDP to the Zenith Labour Party, while another wing led by Senator Femi Lanlehin moved to the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
In 2019 Makinde having got the Control of the PDP became its governorship candidate but with the power that be on ground and Late governor Ajimobi who had used his eight years in office to entrenched the APC, Makinde needed support and he had no option than to have a rallying point of other political parties, who were already fed up with the dominance of the APC under Ajimobi.
Ladoja as a leader and father to all, magnanimously provided the platform for which other political parties formed an alliance with the PDP, to ensure that APC was flushed out of Oyo State.
Makinde knowing what he wanted used his position as governor to entrenched himself nationally.
Being the only PDP governor in the South West, helped in building up his influence and pedigree in the PDP, as he was able to use that advantage to the fullest than the former governor of Ekiti State Ayodele Fayose who too, was in that situation as the only PDP governor in the South West.
In fact, the supremacy battle Makinde had with Fayose who was reluctant in relinquishing the leadership of the party in the south west, was sort of a booster to the rising profile of Makinde.
It was a battle fought to the last and which at the end subdued Fayose, after Makinde ensured that his (Fayose’s) candidate was defeated during the South west Chairmanship election of the PDP.
The former deputy governor of Oyo state, Alhaji Taufeek Arapaja who was Makinde’s candidate eventually emerged and Fayose at the end, had to admit that Makinde being the only governor in the South West, was his leader as then the only the PDP governor.
As the leader of the party in the South West, Makinde ensured that he was not left out of the scheme of things, both in the region and at the national level of the party. This informed his roles in the elections of other candidates of the party in the states outside his zone.
The role he played in the Kogi governorship election where he was allegedly attacked could not be easily forgotten.
As the chairman of the PDP campaign Council in Ondo State in the last governorship election that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu won, for the second term, Makinde’s performance was tremendous and he piloted the election that eventually gave the APC a narrow victory which was challenged up to the Supreme Court, with a land mark minority judgment.
As the South west PDP leader, he teamed up with his colleagues, especially with Neyson Wike of Rivers State, to ensure that the party’s Candidate in Edo State Godwin Obaseki won the election despite, the might of the APC federal government.
The latest of his action which got him into to the books of the mighty and power brokers in Nigeria was how he again made sure that Arapaja, who he singlehandedly made the South West chairman of the PDP, also emerged as the Deputy National Chairman South of the party, at the just concluded National Convention.
Arapaja defeated the most popular opponent, former governor of state, who was once the National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola in a manner still described as controversial.
It was believed that Makinde’s high influence in the party and alliance with his colleagues, made that possible. Ordinarily, if it were for any other person, Oyinlola’s defeat could not have been that very easy and treated lightly after the Congress.
It would be recalled that even former governor Fayose, during the contest for the South West chairmanship of the party in Osogbo, Osun state, remarked that though Makinde looks gentle and soft, he is tough inside and uncompromising as no one can predict what he can do.
On the rising profile of Makinde, the former director of Publicity for his 2019 governorship campaign Prince Dotun Oyelade said that his political rise did not just come overnight but what he actually worked for over the years.
Also his colleagues in Rivers Wike described him as a reliable, dependable colleague and friend, who has always worked towards achieving result.
Chief Bayo Lawal, a Chieftain of the PDP in Oyo state and presently Chairman of the Oyo state housing corporation, in a recent review said, Makinde’s leadership has helped the growth of the PDP in the South west and at the National level.
Despite the fact that he has been receiving commendation from the likes of the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and other national leaders, some of his enemies at home sees him as a dangerous person, who believes in himself alone and careless about others. They also believed that he is power drunk.
For instance, all those who were aggrieved in the PDP like, Alhaji Olopoeyan. Alhaja Mulikat Akande-Adeola, Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi and Mogaji Nureni Akanbi, regarded Governor Makinde as a man who does not keep to his words and who could not be trusted.
According to them, he betrayed all those who helped him to rise to the present position, which he is now using to fight them.
Others outside the party, especially some of the political leaders in the accord that brought Makinde to power, like Senator Femi Lanlehin and Alkaji Sarafadeen Ali who at the early stage of his administration backed out of the accord they had with him before the election in 2019, said they came out of the accord because Governor Makinde reneged on the agreements they had with him. They described him as a man who does not honour his own words.
But the spokesperson of the PDP in Oyo State, Akeem Olatunji debunked all the allegations against Makinde, saying that his rise to stardom was due to his hard work and the love he has for the masses.
Well, the performance of the Party in the governorship elections coming up in Ondo and Osun States next year, would put to test, his credibility and leadership of the PDP in the South West.
It would also show whether his profile will continue to rise or diminish. The two elections would as well be a prelude to what will happen to him when he comes out for a second term in Oyo state in the 2023 governorship election.