The recent gubernatorial election in Ekiti State seems to have sparked off a frenzy of political activities in the Southwest geopolitical zone, especially against the background of the fact that virtually all the governors in the zone, but one are serving out their maximum two terms in office.
In Osun State the processes for getting Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s successor are in high gear, just as gladiators are taking positions for the showdown in Oyo and Ogun States.
Although alliances and realignments, including defections are being engineered in the zone preparatory to next year’s poll, the recent dramatic about-face by Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola concerning his gubernatorial ambition put Ogun out as a place to watch.
Adeola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) hails from Ogun State, but is the Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial district in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
As one of the political godsons of a national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it was not known whether his aspiration to govern Ogun received the former Lagos State governor’s blessing or was his solo dream to test the waters.
But the speed at which he jettisoned his ambition and the prompt support APC leaders in Lagos West mobilised for his reelection to the senate in 2019, set tongues wagging.
One of the leaders who spoke in confidence to The Guardian said: “To run for the senate in any state is not a tea party, in most cases the position is always used to settle political IOUs.”
The source said that despite all the ‘billions of naira’ Adeola must have sunk into the guber project, such that he was able to mobilise large number of followers that are currently branded as political dissidents by the Ogun State APC and the Senator’s sudden withdrawal leave much to the imagination.
“Do you think Adeola would have ventured into Ogun politics twice, as incumbent Senator and in 2014/2015 when he represented Alimosho federal constituency with Lagos mandate on two different occasions without the say-so of his political patron, Tinubu?
He recalled that Adeola himself declared that his return to Lagos, after several months of politicking for Ogun guber race, was in demonstration of his unflinching loyalty to the party’s authority.
However, another chieftain who saw the entire power play from a different perspective wondered whether there were no other qualified persons to represent Lagos West after Adeola had on two occasions shown affinity with Ogun, his home town.
“To me his action shows that the mandate given to him in Lagos is worth less than what he aspires to be,” he said.
Observers maintain that Adeola’s botched gubernatorial adventure in Ogun could not have been without Tinubu’s imprint.
His withdrawal to seek another term in the Senate for the Lagos West district could be compensation as a result of political armistice between Tinubu and Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who had on several occasions declared that Adeola would never succeed him in 2019.
Were both leaders using Adeola like a pawn on the chessboard?
Last Sunday at the Radison Blue Hotel GRA Ikeja, members of the Lagos APC Governor Advisory Council (GAC) and thousands of its faithful gave their nod to Adeola’s senatorial ambition.
The occasion had in attendance, allegedly on the orders of the leader, serving federal and state lawmakers, chairman of the zone, Chief Rabiu Oluwa, immediate past state chairman, Chief Henry Ajomale, former senator representing the area, Mr. Ganiyu Solomon, Dr Abayomi Finnih among others.
The significance of Adeola’s endorsement is that it laid to rest speculations about his involvement in the 2019 Ogun gubernatorial poll.
Furthermore, the development also put to rest the rumour that the outgoing governor of Osun State, Aregbesola may return to run for Lagos West senatorial election in 2019.
Also, Adeola’s endorsement dispelled rumours that Tinubu is prompting former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who recently joined APC from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to contest the senate seat of Lagos west.
Talks about Obanikoro’s likely interest in the senatorial contest followed the shouting match between the former minister’s supporters and those of Adeola during an event organised early in the year by the zone to endorse Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for reelection in 2019.
Supporters of the two politicians bombarded the event with placards bearing messages such as: ‘Obanikoro for 2019 Senate’ while Adeola’s faithful countered with slogans like “No vacancy in Lagos West’.
It took the intervention of the leaders of the party present to quell the fracas.
The Guardian gathered that some party leaders, who were not favorably disposed to Obanikoro’s easy assess to APC senatorial ticket after joining the party less than a year, prevailed on Tinubu to drop the idea.
Moreover, Adeola’s return to Lagos was said to be part of the conditions Amosun gave to Tinubu for cessation of hostilities.
Adeola, Tinubu and Amosun
President Muhammadu Buhari had early this year nominated Tinubu to reconcile all aggrieved members of the party before the next general election.
But in Ogun, Adeola’s ambition to contest the gubernatorial poll was giving Governor Amosun sleepless nights.
Oluwa said it became necessary to reconsider the incumbent senator because “if not for him and Tinubu, APC would have lost the Lagos West senatorial election in 2015.
We lost some areas not because non-indigenes outnumbered us or that the opposition party was stronger, but infighting among us as at then.
This is what we are trying to guard against now.”
But, while the development may have solved the face-off among Tinubu, Amosun and Adeola, it is however having a numbing effect on the Senator’s supporters in Ogun State, who feel not only abandoned by the lawmaker, but also left at the mercy of the governor.
Again, some Yewa indigenes are worried that Amosun may renege on his promise to support any governorship aspirant from their zone again, just as some Adeola’s loyalists are making plans to defect to another party to avoid witch-hunt by the governor.
Yet, beyond the fanfare and glamour that surrounded his endorsement, there are strong indications that Adeola may still need to calm a lot of frayed nerves in Lagos west, especially those who are still uncomfortable with his venture into Ogun politics despite being in the Senate representing the district.
One of the APC leaders in the district, Mr. Bolaji Ariyo, said although Adeola offended some people, the senator’s venture into Ogun politics was not a unilateral decision.
He said: “Our senator was sent on an errand to Ogun State, but since the power that sent him also asked him to make a u-turn, it is imperative for us to forgive him and support him for reelection.”
The lawmaker representing Badagy Federal Constituency, Mr. Joseph Bamigbose, who moved the motion for Adeola’s endorsement for second term, said it was not as if the senator came to beg to re-contest.
“It is not a sin for him to have expressed interest in contesting for the gubernatorial election in Ogun and as a matter of fact he can still express interest, but for now those aggrieved with that can join hands to support his reelection in the coming senatorial election,” Bamigbose declared.
In his remarks, Adeola recalled that when “I was directed to return to Lagos to re-contest for senate, I heeded the party’s directives and to say the least, I am back in Lagos for good.
There is no more distraction, I am ready to continue to give good representation to my district in the upper chamber and come 2019, I would like to run for second term.”
He also said in spite of the challenges of representing the largest senatorial district in Nigeria in terms of population of over 12 million constituents, he has delivered on the major functions of a legislator in law making, oversight and representation.
“With 15 bills sponsorship, 12 of which are constitutional amendment bills with two of them passed by the National Assembly as part of the 23 passed Constitutional Amendment bills of the 8th National Assembly, I am one of the senators with the highest bills sponsorship.
I have moved at least three motions that had led to investigation following Senate Resolutions.
And in the area of empowerment, I have done two major empowerment programmes with another one coming up in September,” he stated.
Tinubu’s game plan in Southwest
No doubt, Tinubu must be displaying great political foresight and ability to plan ahead.
The Ogun game plan is not yet foreclosed, because the agreement was necessary now to stave off crisis in the party.
It was alleged that President Buhari’s intervention in the issue of Adeola and the rift between Tinubu and Amosun must have brought about the brief truce.
There are indications that the senator might after all, re-contest Ogun guber in future on the order of his boss.
Conversely, it would redound to the political advantage of Tinubu if he succeeds in planting his loyalist in Ogun State House, which shares border with Oyo and Lagos on the land and on the coastal region along Epe with Ondo.
A source explained the game plan this way: “What Tinubu tried to achieve when he invested massively in the Appeal Court rulings that secured the Ondo State governorship seat for erstwhile Governor Segun Mimiko before the duo fell apart, can now come to fruition.”