The race to Agodi Government House has become hotter since the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu won the presidential election in Oyo State. Tinubu’s victory has shored up the chances of the APC governorship candidate, Sen. Teslim Folarin, putting the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and the incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde under pressure, writes Southwest Bureau Chief BISI OLADELE
The victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Saturday’s election in Oyo State seemed to have thrown the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the state into turmoil.
Tinubu polled 449, 884 to beat his closest rival Atiku Abubakar of the PDP who polled 182, 977. Labour Party came distance third with 99, 110 votes, Accord had 39,514 votes while the NNPP scored 4,095 votes. The APC also won the three senatorial districts and a good number of the 14 House of Representatives seats in the state.
The National Assembly candidates who lost the election and their supporters are angry. They believe that their defeat is unacceptable, being members of the governing party.
Hitherto, Makinde and the PDP family were fully confident of victory in the election, relying on the governor’s performance, particularly in the areas of workers’ welfare, infrastructures and huge achievements in the higher education sub-sector.
For instance, the governor succeeded in securing sole ownership of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso and also completed the upgrade of Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo to a degree-awarding institution. He also established the state security outfit codenamed Amotekun as part of the Southwest regional security approach to plugging the inefficiency of federal security agencies.
Not just relying on the above, Makinde embarked on a large-scale campaign, engaging critical stakeholders and meeting people in every local government in the state.
But, the outcome of the presidential election jolted the PDP in the state, fuelling fears that the March 11 governorship may follow the same pattern.
Riding on the wave of the success, the APC governorship candidate Sen. Teslim Folarin has appealed to voters to repeat the same feat on March 11. He has also begun a new round of consultations and fence-mending moves with other top politicians in the state to swell the ranks of his party and form a more formidable team to defeat the PDP in the next election.
Yet, both Makinde and the Accord governorship candidate Chief Bayo Fela I are not leaning anything to chances. They are all deploying human, financial and material resources to impress voters in preparation for the March 11 election.
Covering 351 wards and a 28,000 square metre land mass of about 8.5 million population who are settled in several communities is not child’s play. Besides, interests, sentiments and needs in the communities are diverse, which they are promising to address if trusted with the mandate.
In Oyo State, the 2019 governorship election confirmed the high-level awareness of voters. In the presidential election, the PDP earned a narrow win of about 1,000 votes over the APC. In the election that was held the same day, however, APC swept the National Assembly election with two out of three senatorial seats and nine out of 14 House of Representatives seats. PDP won only four seats and Action Democratic Party (ADP) won one seat. He has since decamped to the APC, swelling the ranks of APC to 10.
But, in the governorship election that was held just two weeks later, voters shifted completely to the PDP to demonstrate their understanding of the game. The PDP candidate Seyi Makinde polled over 500,000 votes to defeat his APC rival Adebayo Adelabu who polled 351,000 votes. It was a rounded defeat for APC which enjoyed the privilege of incumbency at the time.
How the candidates stand:
Makinde, who is the PDP candidate is the incumbent governor. He stands tall as the candidate to beat in the election because his name and most of his policies still resonate with the public. Incumbency power is sure to give him an edge. For instance, 68 local government chairmen are expected to deliver their local governments. Political appointees and party leaders who have been rewarded in the last four years are also on their toes to deliver their constituencies for the governor. So are National Assembly and State Assembly members.
In addition to those mentioned earlier, Makinde constructed roads in Oke-Ogun and Ibadan and also cited a campus of LAUTECH in Iseyin, a feat previous governors were unable to achieve.
His policy on workers’ welfare is popular while his support for the regional security outfit codenamed Amotekun is also being commended. Besides, he is an Ibadan indigene, the city with 45 per cent of votes in elections.
But, the governor’s candidature also has its dark side. Makinde did not embrace most of the elders in the cities who are largely regarded as gatekeepers. He boasts always of redefining political leadership and governance system in the state, hence he shut out some influencers who hitherto determined the outcome of elections. It is not clear if the elders will not gang up against him in the coming election.
As usual, there are many aggrieved PDP members in the state. While many of them have defected to the NNPP and APC, many others have chosen to stay in the PDP but work against him. The same factor was one of those that worked against the APC in 2019. But no one can determine the amount of damage the aggrieved members can do to Makinde’s candidacy in the March 11 election, particularly with the new set of defeated National Assembly candidates and their supporters.
Makinde also carries the burden of supporting hoodlums under the cover of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who were perpetrating violence until their leader Mukaila Lamidi (aka Auxilliary) was arraigned for such acts.
Tinubu’s victory in the presidential election may attract opposition politicians to form an alliance with the APC in the journey to the March 11 election this time.
Folarin, a three-time senator is gradually succeeding in winning voters. Backed by core politicians in various communities, Folarin’s team is not taking anything for granted, working with the reality that it is a herculean task to defeat an incumbent governor. The team is displaying unbelievable confidence about winning.
A member of the team who spoke to The Nation in confidence said: “Remember that Folarin has won the election thrice. And this was not just in Ibadan but the constituency cuts across Ibadan, Oyo and Ogbomoso. The people that surround him are politicians of proven records. They understand the communities and are grassroots mobilizers. Those doubting us will be surprised that Folarin will emerge the next governor.”
With Tinubu’s victory, three new senators and several House of Representatives elected on the platform of the party, the number of vote canvassers in all communities has increased for Folarin. Should Tinubu makes it to the presidency before this week, Folarin’s campaign will be made easier.
It is expected that more politicians will be happy to port to his side before the election thereby swelling his chances of winning.
Yet, critics of the APC candidates are quick to declare that he has no achievements to campaign with. They also stress that he has succeeded in chasing away most core progressives from the party, raising fears that the voters who have always preferred the progressives will not be swayed by Folarin’s candidacy.
It is noteworthy, however, that regardless of people’s perception, Folarin is running a strategic campaign, meeting people at their doorsteps to sell himself. His campaign messages on billboards are anchored on the fact that he will listen to the people, and that he can be trusted.
The advantage of running on the platform of a strong party, which is governing at the federal level, is also sure to help Folarin in the election.
Accord is the new bride in Oyo State for aggrieved APC members and a few other aggrieved in other political parties. Virtually all those who fell out with the Folarin group moved to Accord with Adelabu, thereby swelling the party’s membership in the state. Adelabu, who polled 351,000 votes as the APC governorship candidate in the 2019 election, lost out in the primary to Folarin. Alleging rigging, he moved to Accord with others who lost out in the National Assembly and State Assembly primaries. Since then, the party has been making waves as it did during the 2011 elections.
Adelabu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is engaging people in all the communities. The party also threw up young senatorial and House of Representatives candidates as a shift from the norm though they lost in the Saturday National Assembly election.
Adelabu has all his investments in Oyo State which employed over 400 residents. His foundation has been empowering youths and women for years.
A source within the APC said: “Conservatively, 60 per cent of our vote canvassers have moved to Accord.”
However, the party and the candidates have a lot of work to do if they are determined to defeat the two big parties – APC and PDP.
Olukayode Popoola is a first-time contestant. He and most other NNPP members defected from the PDP after falling out with Makinde. The party has structures in most communities in the state. It has a number of vote mobilisers.
But, the party performed poorly in the presidential election.
It is not clear if the party will join forces with one of the two leading opposition parties in the state to enjoy a good showing in the governorship election.
Both Accord and NNPP are still building party structures or operating on fragments of APC and PDP structures. It is a lot of work for the party leaders, though they are recording some success.
Commenting on the situation, a political juggernaut in the state, who spoke in confidence with our reporter, said: “Two major factors will determine the next governorship election in our state. First, Governor Makinde stands a better chance to win due to his perceived good performance. He has performed fairly well enough in the estimate of the people. Our people’s expectation of government is minimal – build some infrastructures, fix hospitals, be friendly with civil servants, and pensioners and be fair to all zones. Once you do all those, you are judged to have performed. That is why Makinde may be rewarded with another term.
“But the presidential election may have changed the game almost completely. Moves are beginning underneath for each party and candidate to consolidate. As we move nearer the election, things are likely to get clearer.”
In all, none of the candidates is leaving anything to chance. They are directly engaging people to sell themselves. The state is in for another interesting exercise on March 11.