By Oladele Ogunsola Correspondent, Ibadan
As 2015 approaches, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State may be in a serious dilemma over the choice of who to fly its flag in the all important governorship election. The days ahead look stormy for a party which has started seeing itself as the government in waiting. And to say that the battle for the sole ticket will be fierce is an understatement; in fact, it will require the Solomonic wisdom of elders of the party for the primary election contest not to rock its fragile peace to its very foundation. It must be stated in earnest that as at the time of filing this report, none of the names that have prominently featured in people’s mind have pasted any poster or even made a public declaration of interest in the exalted seat. Thus, while we cannot hold any of them accountable on pronouncement, we are relying on body language, gesture and grapevine information to arrive at the personalities we are x-raying. Relatively, 2015 is still a bit far away and there may still be other aspirants yet to feature on the radar.
For now, those contestants either overtly or covertly in the race through our various sources are 10. Suffice to add now that it may be too hasty to classify some as contenders and some as pretenders; that will manifest as events unfold. Some of the top contenders are presented below.
Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin:
The immediate past Senate Leader came into political limelight in 2003 when he was elected a Senator, representing Oyo Central Senatorial District through the political wizardry of the late strong man of Ibadan politics, Chief Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu. The same process produced him in 2007, during which period he became the Senate Leader. Described as a schemer, the political intrigues of the state in 2011 cost him, not only the return ticket to the Senate, but also dashed his then governorship ambition. It would be recalled that his opposition in concert with others to the return of the then governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, for the second term gave the incumbent governor, Abiola Ajimobi of the then opposing Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), a boost at the poll. On the other hand, the crisis that erupted at the twilight of the last administration which consumed the late factional chairman of the state chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), (the uncrowned foot soldiers of the administration) Alhaji Lateef Salako (alias Eleweomo) brought a considerable public sympathy to him as he was wrongly incarcerated by the police until the contrary judiciary pronouncement. An Ibadan chief, he is described as a humble person and possesses university education. However, the news of his ambition has not been well received by the generality of the people, who have been quick to ask what was the benefits he brought to the state while in the Senate and also as a Senate Leader. The role he played in the emergence of the recognized state executive council of the party has not also go down well with some of the leaders of the party. While has been said to be presently mending fences with the aggrieved leaders, those who believe in him have also been making subtle appeal on his behalf that his lack of ‘performance’ while in the Senate was due to the influence of his godfather, the late Adedibu, on him which was said to be too overbearing and enormous. How much his rapprochement can go in swaying support for him among the party members when the time comes will unfold at the appropriate time.
Chief Olajumoke Akinjide:
The current Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is the daughter and first child of the Second Republic Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide, SAN. A lawyer by profession, her appointment as an Adviser by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo during his first term in office launched her into national politics and since then, she has not looked back. She slugged out the Oyo Central Senatorial seat with others in 2011, but lost. Since her current appointment as a Minister, she has used the position to attract a lot of people to herself, especially the women folk through series of empowerment programmes. An opposing pole to her father in terms of generosity, she is well loved by those who have come in contact with her. To some of her antagonists, however, her manner of using her present position has not portrayed her as a broad-minded politician, hence, to them, trusting her with power at the level of governorship would be too much. They are also arguing that Oyo State will not set the pace in the making of a female governor. Like Folarin, she too was seriously concerned about the control of the state executive council of the party and her action, in concert with the former deputy governor in the state and now Ambassador to the Kingdom of Jordan, Taofeek Oladejo Arapaja, produced a factional executive council allegedly being sustained and funded by her till date. Those arguing against her ambition are not comfortable with her abrasiveness and feel she would be difficult to control when she gets there.
Prof. Taoheed Adedoja:
The immediate past Minister of Sports and Special Duties stands tall among them all in terms of experience. A former Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), a former state Commissioner for Education, from where he was nominated as a Minister at the twilight of the last administration, he is a veteran in the governorship race. The former Provost of Federal College of Education (FCE) Special, Oyo began his political journey with the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM) during the aborted transition programme of the late Gen. Sani Abacha. He slugged the PDP governorship ticket out with Senator Rashidi Ladoja, Yekeen Adeojo and others in 2003 and this earned him the SUBEB job after the eventual emergence of Ladoja as the state governor. Curiously, he emerged the then Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in 2007 and came third in the governorship election. Governor Akala later appointed him as Commissioner for Education and later nominated him as Minister. Aside his wealth of experience, the other thing that stands him out is his non-alignment with any of the existing factions of the party in the state. He relates with all the leaders perfectly well. Political pundits have argued that his neutrality in the crisis rocking the party in the state places him in good stead for the ticket at the end of the day.
Currently a law student at the University of Ibadan, he is eminently qualified to be the president of the alumni association of the late Lamidi Adedibu’s Molete school of politics. That is to attest to the fact that he is well groomed in the art, political style, and thoughts of the late strongman of Ibadan politics. For a considerable number of years, he was the late politician’s eyes and ears and it was not a surprise that he was made the deputy governor to Adebayo Alao-Akala after the illegal impeachment of the former governor Rashidi Ladoja in 2006. So, for the 11 months which the interregnum lasted he was second in command at the Agodi Government House. The challenges bothering on his academic qualification which he faced during that time must have contributed to his non-nomination as the deputy to Akala for the 2007 governorship election which he won and also might have informed his decision to go back to school as he’s currently doing.
He has a very wide political experience spanning over years and had been exposed to holding political office since the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) era when he was the state Secretary. He was the immediate past Chairman, Governing Council, Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ido, Ekiti State. He obtained the governorship form during the last dispensation, but, the determination to field the then incumbent governor Alao-Akala for another term made nonsense of that attempt. Aside the snag that he will still be a student next year when election will be held, his political background as a thorough-bred of Molete politics is being considered an albatross for him. To hold state power with such political tendency associated with Molete, in the view of some members of the party, will not likely bring about good governance.
He is an Engineer and into oil business. He has not held any political office in the past. Before now, he had tried to go to the Senate, using the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) platform, but did not win. He’s said to be seriously preparing for the exalted seat this time around and confident that if finance plays any role, the game would be a walk-over. Political observers are of the view that with his experience as an oil company worker, he would have been thoroughly exposed managerially to give a good account of himself in office as a governor if he’s given the party’s ticket and he eventually wins the general election. They are however quick to add that his level of wealth may be his albatross in office as he is likely to be full of too much of himself. Again, it is argued that his popularity in the party for now, in comparison with those he will be contending with is low and that may seriously work against him.
The Fiditi in Afijio Local Government Area of the state-born engineer is the only person outside of Ibadan among the aspirants so far. He is known much as a business man than as a politician. Until during the last dispensation, when he was actively involved in the execution of some of the administration’s projects and the platform upon which he actually came into limelight, not much could be said of him politically. His became a household name with his featuring in the on-going trial of the former governor of the state, Alao-Akala and Senator Hosea Ayoola Agboola, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegation of financial recklessness. Observers are of the view that governorship for a starter like him may be too much, coupled with the fact that the low voting contribution of his immediate constituency to the electoral victory of any governor may put him at a great disadvantage.
A journalist from Oluyole Local Government area of the state, he came into politics in 1999 with his appointment as the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the late former governor Lam Adesina. He contested for the House of Representatives seat of Oluyole Federal Constituency in 2003 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) but lost to the PDP candidate, Depo Oyedokun. Thereafter, he crossed to the PDP where he had since remained. He was among the local government chairmen sworn-in by the former governor Rashidi Ladoja just before he left office in 2007, but, who were sent packing immediately the former governor Alao-Akala was sworn-in. He was however re-appointed as the caretaker chairman of the same Oluyole Local Government area of the state, a few months to the end of the last administration. He has since then relocated to Abuja, coming home as occasion demands for consultations on his governorship pet project. Considered young and vibrant, he’s seen as a starter and lacked the high level of network, necessary to warm him to the hearts of the people. Besides, he’s seen as an aspirant without the necessary financial muscle to confront or prosecute governorship project.
Prof. Soji Adejumo: An academic in politics, he was the immediate past chairman of SUBEB in the state and, perhaps, that’s the only thing known about him politically. Nothing about him in politics either before the appointment by the former governor Alao-Akala or since his exit from the office about two years ago. Observers are quick to point out that his tenure at SUBEB was not as eventful as that of his predecessor when there was mass employment of teachers for the primary schools in the state.
They even recalled that it was during his period that employment forms were sold without public knowledge of when interviews were conducted for the applicants and when appointments were made. It is also being argued that if there were any benefits derivable from that office while he was there, they could only have been for his person and his cronies. Another snag about his ambition from the views of observers is that the name, in the political circle does not ring bell like some of his co-contestants and this may be a big minus for him at the appropriate time.
Elder Wole Oyelese: Perhaps, the oldest of them all, he’s been around politically for quite some time. A former Local Government Chairman in Egbeda Local Government Area of the state during the aborted transition programme of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), he became a Minister during the regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, serving firstly in the Ministry of Power and later as Special Duties Minister. His meteoric rise in politics has since stalled with the ministerial appointment. The Erunmu-born Seventh Day Adventist devotee has been nursing the ambition for quite some time. Described as opportunistic by those very close to him, he’s said to have been calculative in his desire to govern the state, hence his cautious approach to it over the years. While his supporters are of the view that his political maturity, coupled with his age and experience, stands him in good stead for the exalted position, his antagonists are of the view that his absence in active political office over the years has placed him in a very disadvantaged position for the office and that he should leave the stage for the younger elements.
Ambassador Taofeek Oladejo Arapaja:
The immediate past Deputy-Governor of the state, his rise in politics has been meteoric and steady. He started as local government chairman in Ibadan South-East and he served there for a considerable number of years from where he was elected member, House of Representatives. After his tenure, he became the deputy to the former governor Alao-Akala, the office he held for four years. He was appointed Ambassador to the Kingdom of Jordan where he is presently. A strong member of Molete political school under the tutelage of the late Adedibu, there is still confusion in the political circle on his governorship ambition in view of his relationship with the Minister of State for FCT, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, another aspirant. The relationship between the two of them became pronounced during the last state congress of the party. It was then that the group, Jumoke Akinjide/Arapaja group emerged and the group midwifed the Yemetu, Ibadan faction of the party. Since then, they have become six and seven politically.
It is based on this outlook that there is the thinking that if truly the two of them are genuine and sincere political associates, they should not be nursing the same ambition. It is however being held in some quarters that what the FCT junior Minister is doing on the governorship project is for Arapaja since he is most of the time not around due to his ambassadorial assignment. The veracity of such claim will manifest in due course. While the supporters of Arapaja are boasting of his experience and network as factors to see him through, those opposing him are of the view that his being out of the country on ambassadorial appointment has shut him out of the race already. Since his appointment as an Ambassador, he has been doing everything possible to forge unification among all the various shades of opinions in the party in the state and this has warmed him more to the leaders of the party in the state.
Other aspirants may well enter the race in the later stage, but given the crisis rocking the party, a rancorous primaries, according to observers, may worsen the situation and make it difficult for PDP to pose a major threat to the second term ambition of the incumbent, Governor Abiola Ajimobi.