Until his death in 2020 after suffering from COVID-19 complications, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi once boasted of having the highest numbers of political gladiators in his pouch. He said the influx and defections of those heavyweight politicians into his fold showed the extent to which his brand of politics and policy thrusts have been widely accepted by all and sundry.
The former Governor made that visceral declaration after the duo of Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala and Senator Teslim Folarin dumped their party, PDP for the APC. What the former Governor didn’t mention, because it would ridicule him and his pride, as the ultimate reason for the cross carpeting of those politicians is the fact that politicians of his ilk are drawn largely to a party because of what they would take, rake and harvest from their new shelter and not what they would give in return to the people as dividends of democracy.
Given the eventual defeat of APC at that 2019 gubernatorial election, it seems the cost of managing and massaging the egos of political bigwigs far outweigh its benefits. In addition, it also seems more than anything else, the relative peace, stability and unity enjoyed by the party in the build up to the last election turned out to be short lived. In part because of the clash of interests and irreconcilable differences of various political heavyweights. For years even under Senator Ajimobi, Oyo APC’s bitter polarization continued to be its own undoing.
But right after Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s transition, the buck of the party leadership among other contenders and pretenders, fell on the desk of former Governor, Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala. Though a defector, the party constitution had already stipulated transparently clear that only a Governor or an ex-Governor is eligible to lead the party in a state. From that moment therefore, the affairs of the party became the affairs of the former Governor.
Until everything abruptly ended just twelve days into 2022! To say the sudden and unexpected death of former Governor, Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala is devastatingly mind blowing and has created an existential threat for the opposition APC in Oyo state would mean to underestimate the touchy-feely reactions from both his friends and foes. Just like the death of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Otunba Alao-Akala’s death shocked, heart wrenched and sent shiver down the spines of politicians not just in the state but across the country at large.
Not surprisingly, the vacuum created by that unexpected death is becoming the next big thing in the opposition APC. Who leads after Akala remains the quiet but hot question on the lips of party members – and even the general public. Answer to that question will either make or mar the cosmetic peace and stability left behind by the ex-Governor while alive.
Similarly, it is not just the leadership question that’s going to greet the afterlife of Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala; added to that is the vulnerability of the party and the susceptibility of its members to the whims and caprices of the ruling party which can, if clever enough, exploits and swings the next game in its favor – since APC is lacking a substantive leader who can bring warring factions under one roof!
Incidentally, the various attempt to placate and appease disgruntled party members after the last year disputed state congress is likely to suffer a huge setback. In a sense, the only state congress which produced Honorable Isaac Omodewu as the chairman, and which was rejected by majority of the party members is expected to expose the underbelly of party faithful in coming days. In other words, Oyo APC will never remain the same again in the aftermath of its overwhelmingly popular leader’s death.
In essence, the greatest threat to Oyo APC as we approach next election won’t be PDP per se, but its ability to stay strong, united and indivisible in the face of existential threat occasioned by the death of its prominent leaders. To answer the question of who leads after Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala. It helps to look at the array of the party bigwigs. First, there are two former deputy Governors. One is Mr. Iyiola Oladokun, Late Lam Adeshina’s deputy and Otunba Moses Alake Adeyemo, immediate past deputy Governor to Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
None of these politicians apart from being former number two in the state, have the political clouts or financial war-chests to rally round warring factions in the party.
Plus they didn’t command huge respect and followership during their time in the office. In other words, it would be risky for the party to put either of the men forward as its next leader.
In addition, Mr. Iyiola Oladokun has not been seen in most of the party events, a case of relative political obscurity. In his place, Otunba Adeyemo has been up in the party affairs aligning himself with the ‘National headquarters to the rescue camp’ thus earning a spot as the secretary of APC National reconciliation efforts.
Away from that, the two serving APC senators from the state can as well step up to this leadership challenge and stanch the continuous bleeding of the party. Senators Fatai Buhari and Teslim Folarin are quite popular in their various districts and in the state at large.
Though both now eye the party governorship ticket, the current reality may not dance in their favors. Plus the two belongs to a separate camps. The coming together of duo would have made them strong and formidable.
As the state representative in the Federal Executive Council, the Honorable Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare who hails from the same country home as the late Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala can as well take up that leadership gauntlet and lead the party from the front. Same way the Chairman of NCC board of commissioners, Professor Adeolu Akande. And even the governorship candidate of the party in the last election, Oloye Adebayo Adelabu.
But when looked at from the lens of the coterie of prominent and high profile personality in APC, one may be tempted and quick to conclude that each of the party bigwigs has the capacity to lead the party out of the wilderness to the promised land.
Unfortunately, none is widely accepted. And most lack that political artistry and creativity to band disparate camps together in a sustainable and lasting way. For now, the party needs leaders and not just a leader who will work for the interest of all and not that of the selected few.
Who leads Oyo APC after the sudden and unexpected demise of Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala will be the defining step for the party as race to Agodi Government house gather steam.
OYO101, Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion on issues affecting Oyo State, is published on Saturdays. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and 09065176850.