Since the release of the timelines for the 2023 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerians have been inundated by deluge of declarations of intent by the aspirants seeking for elective offices at all levels of government. In Nigeria, governance has become an all-comers’ affair. Everybody now seeks access to power to have a good bite of the national cake which no one is genuinely prepared to partake in the baking.
In Ogun State, the contest for the governorship is getting hotter by the day. According to available reports, Jimi Lawal, Ladi Adebutu, Segun Showunmi and Modele Sarafa-Yusuf have declared their intentions to join the race. While the number of contenders and pretenders continues to swirl, some people have been wondering why Governor Dapo Abiodun has not caught the declaration fever. The point is that no one changes a winning team. Prince Abiodun being the Captain of the team in this case cannot but keep his focus on how to deliver on his electoral promises to make the state an envy of all. Doing so is a huge task that demands deep thinking, resourcefulness, sharp focus and purposeful leadership. These are the characters that define an executive with a track record of performance from the private sector background as against crass political opportunists who seek access to power as a means of self-enrichment.
To be sure, this administration still has about eleven months and some days before the next governorship election. So, why the need for hurried declaration of interest when there are still more works to do? As a wise man, he knows fully well that the people who gave him the mandate in the first instance will be the ones who would examine his scorecard and then, return it with an affirmation at the end of the tenure in an appreciation of a job well-done. In other words, it is given that the people already know that he has the constitutional rights to run for his second term. And as Yoruba would say, “One good turn deserves another.”
For now, Abiodun’s major preoccupation is to justify the confidence reposed in him by his election and he is not going to rest on his oars until he achieves his desires to make the state great for the good of all. That is the covenant he signed when he took the oath of office on May 29, 2019. So, no one can hoodwink the electorate not even in a state like Ogun with enlightened citizenry. In a democracy, sovereignty belongs to the people and they alone will decide what to do with their votes. By the time the elections are over, not only the political adversaries of the governor will be put to shame; those who have entered into the race just to play the ‘spoilers’ role’ will also be kept appropriately where they belong.
Already, there is a loud whisper that Lawal is coming to wrest power from Abiodun with the strong backing of his bosom friend, the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. They want to use him to test their grit or settle some political differences. They will meet the good people of Ogun State at the poll who will tell them that blood is thicker than water. No one has said that it is a crime for anyone to aspire to the highest office in the state. But when the desperation for power has gone to a level of inviting a Fulani stalwart to come and fight a course in Yoruba land, it becomes a dangerous political voyage indeed.
It is an engrossing historical irony that a true son of Yoruba would contemplate such an unholy alliance. The handshake has obviously gone beyond the elbow. That individual needs to be recalled forthwith. He needs to be taught some lessons of history with particular reference to the genesis of the rivalry between the descendants of Afonja and Alimi in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.
That is by way of digression anyway! Now, let’s go back to the basics. Let’s take a quick peep into the antecedents of the aspirant concerned. Until his recent defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lawal was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). While in the party, he was and still is a close associate of erstwhile governor Ibikunle Amosun. They both enjoy a convivial relationship and still in alliance even though on different platforms. In his latest political adventure, Amosun wants to use him to wrest power from Abiodun in the same way he did when his anointed candidate for the 2019 gubernatorial election, Hon Abdulkabir Adekunle Akinlade, defected from the APC to the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to pick the ticket of the party to slug it out with the APC candidate (Abiodun).
The alliance, it is evident, is bound to fall flat again like a pack of cards, just in the same way it crumbed in the 2019 election in the face of overwhelming support of the electorate. That acceptance has even gone a notch higher especially now that they have seen the good work of the administration and it can only get better.
Another factor that will likely truncate Lawal’s ambition to be governor of the Gateway State is the albatross of being a former Managing Director (MD) of the defunct Alpha Merchant Bank. There are so many myths surrounding his stint as the boss of the failed bank. At the height of the ensuring trial, he had to run out of the country to escape the long arm of the law.
Ogun State people who are known for being an embodiment of the Yoruba ethos of Omoluabi (good virtues) will certainly not want to take a gamble with their historical peculiarity as the land of nobility.
Beyond that, there is also the question of trust. The image Lawal is currently carrying within the PDP is that of a mole. In fact, some stalwarts of the party have already called on the state and national bodies to be cautious of his acceptance into the fold, warning that El-Rufai might be using him for some hatchet job. In 2019, Lawal ran for the APC gubernatorial ticket in Ogun and came last. They are asking that he should be rejected for being what he is. What a way to treat an unstable character?
Ladi Adebutu is another front runner in the governorship race. He represented the Remo Federal Constituency on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). In 2015, he was elected again into the House of Representatives using the banner of the PDP. For him also, there is a strong feeling of alienation which is further accentuated by the fear of the stakeholders in Ogun West (Yewa-Awori) that if the ticket is giving to any aspirant outside the Senatorial district, it will truncate the zoning arrangement the Abiodun administration has put in place to enable one of their owns to become the next governor after the expiration of his second tenure.
They believe that if Adebutu, who is from Ogun East, clinches the ticket the possibility of Ogun West occupying the exalted seat in 2027 might be doomed. Ogun West is the only zone which has not produced any governor since the creation of the state on February 3, 1976. Abiodun’s succession arrangement is an antidote for breaking the jinx.
So far, Sarafa-Yusuf is the only aspirant who has risen up in the APC to challenge the re-election bid of her former principal, Abiodun. She simply doesn’t have the structure to displace the incumbent governor. So, if anybody is going to unseat Abiodun it certainly can’t be a Lilliputian, taking in its literal sense.
To say the least, the achievements of this administration in the last three years are far too evident to contemplate such a radical change. Governance is not a tea party.
Since Abiodun came into the saddle, he has won several laurels despite all distractions from his political enemies who aimed to slow down the good work of the administration. His commitment to the ideals of democracy and good governance started immediately he took over the mantle of leadership in the state. First, he shocked his political adversaries when he announced the reabsorption of well over 1,000 graduates Amosun employed at the twilight of his administration and also retained 18 Permanent Secretaries (PS) hurriedly elevated without undergoing due process. It was meant to be a booby trap for the administration to fail but he used it to win the hearts of the good people of Ogun State. It shows the mindset of a man who appreciates the fact that human is the means and end to development. The People have not forgotten it.
Having escaped the landmine, he then began the task of infrastructure building. Today, Ogun State has become an investment destination of choice as a result of the aggressive policy of road network infrastructure, currently housing the largest manufacturing companies in the West Africa sub-region.
Top of it all is the Cargo Airport which the governor has assured that it would be ready by November this year. He gave the assurance in his speech in Ijebu-Ode during the recent meeting of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in Ogun East senatorial district. According to him, the construction of the airport which commenced in March, 2022 would probably be the fastest constructed airport in the continent. By this pronouncement, he has wittingly opened the flood gate of accolades from concerned stakeholders in the agro-allied industries for an anticipated dawn of a new era.
As already projected, the project when completed would provide no fewer than 25,000 jobs for the people of the state. “The impact of the agro cargo airport will affect positive effects on hotels and warehouses being constructed in the area. Nigeria Customs and the Nigerian Air force are coming there. We estimate that in the first eighteen months, we will create a minimum of twenty-five thousand jobs in that airport. This is not a power point airport,” he said.
Advancement in agriculture value-chain is the key reason for consistent construction of the airport. And already, the state has been chosen as a major location of the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone Programme (SAPZ) by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB). When all this comes into fruition, it will not only boost employment generation, but will also enhance self-sufficiency in revenue generation. In addition to these, the project will also open up the state, deepen the development process, and also provide an alternative to the congested Lagos port facilities.
For the road network, the major infrastructure the administration has to its credit include, among others, Raypower, Navy-Osi-Ikola roads (Ado-Odo/Ota LGA), Fajol-Ajegunle-America Junction-Alogi road and American Junction-Unity Estate road, which cut across Abeokuta South and Odeda Local Government Areas, and as well, Ejirin-Mobalufon- Oluwalogbon road (Ijebu-Ode LGA) and Ilaro-Owode road (Yewa South LGA).
Others are Joju road (Ado-Odo/Ota LGA), Lantoro-Elite-Idi-Aba road (Abeokuta South LGA), beautification of NNPC Mega Station road (Abeokuta South LGA), Somorin-Kemta-Idi Aba Road (Odeda LGA), Imasayi-Igan Okoto-Ayetoro Road (Yewa North LGA), sectional rehabilitation of Papalanto-Ilaro road (Ewekoro LGA), the asphalting of Lafenwa-Rounder road (Abeokuta North LGA), palliative works along Sango junction-Ojuore road (Ado-Odo/Ota LGA) and the construction of City Gate monument at Sagamu Interchange (Obafemi-Owode LGA), construction of Journalists’ Estate, Arepo (Obafemi Owode LGA), the construction of an internal road linking Ifo General Hospital and renovation of Ifo Fire Station, rehabilitation of both Olowomore-Sanni, Olowomore-Brewery roads (both in Abeokuta North LGA) and a 2.1 kilometres Lantoro/Idi-Aba road, in Abeokuta South Local Government Area, Abeokuta.
With this scorecard, one can only sit back and watch how any unknown quantity from nowhere will unseat the incumbent Governor Abiodun, who has a burning desire to do more.