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Oyo 2023 Between Makinde And Makinde, APC’ll Soon Experience What Happened To Us—Oduyoye

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Chief Babatunde Oduyoye is the Special Adviser on Strategy and Political Matters to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. He speaks on the performance of the administration in the last three years, the challenges of the governor amid reports of defections from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and his chances ahead of the 2023 governorship election.

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In about two weeks, it will be exactly three years since Governor ‘Seyi Makinde was inaugurated in Oyo State. It is about time that this administration begins to take stock of what it has achieved in the last three years to measure the chances of re-election. Looking back so far, will you say the ground is set for the re-election of the governor?

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Yes. Before now, some members of the party, who had high enthusiasm, tried to jump the gun by coming up with the 4 + 4 slogan, proclaiming that the governor must go for a second term. By that time, we had just reached the mid-term of the first tenure of the governor and some of us felt it was inappropriate at that time and the governor equally felt he had to wait to take stock and be convinced.

As of now, going by the INEC regulations and Electoral Act 2022 as amended and having embarked on an assessment of the governor and what he has done, the good works he has embarked upon, especially the projects, which have timelines and most of which have been met, I can tell you that the governor is ready. The people and the party are also ready. As you may be aware, the governor has, through his weekly newsletter, declared he is going for second term. Forms have been collected and submitted; so, he is good to go.

As the Special Adviser on Politics and Strategy, would you say, on the strategy level, that the governor has justified the confidence reposed in him on March 9, 2019 and that what he has done is enough to justify his seeking re-election?

I can tell you it is more than enough, because right from the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium [formerly Liberty Stadium] venue of the inauguration, he kick-started one of the four main pillars of his government, which is education, and the results are there now. Today, there is serious improvement in the quality of education in the state. In terms of results in public examinations, Oyo State has moved up from the 26th position in 36 states to 11th position.

In the area of security, we have been getting things right but since Oyo State is part of the larger picture of Nigeria, there are still challenges. It is an ongoing thing.

But the impression out there is that the Makinde government has failed woefully in the area of security, with the opposition elements already turning this to a major campaign point…

No one expects anything different from opposition elements, but the Makinde government has done well on security, though there is room for improvement. There are many novel things the governor has done. He reintroduced the SRS, introduced Amotekun together with other states in the South-West.He also secured a Mobile Police Base, which is strategically located in Oke-Ogun. Recently, additional 100 vehicles were purchased for the Amotekun outfit.

When kidnapping was rampant, he had to go to Abeokuta and had a joint security meeting with the Ogun State governor, and in that axis, we now have relative peace. So, I will give him the pass mark. Compared to other states, Oyo State is peaceful and the proof of this is the high influx of people from other states and improvements in terms of upsurge in businesses in Ibadan. Most people want to come to Ibadan. We have seen that youth corps members now see Oyo as a choice state to come into. But as I said earlier, there is room for improvement, and I can only assure you that we will do things better.

As it is, things appear to have fallen apart in the PDP with the centre no longer holding, the Deputy governor is rumoured to be on his way out, while many chieftains have defected already…

I don’t think so. Politics is that of contestations, where you have two or more people chasing the same goal, there is bound to be conflict and that is where the ability of the leader or the party to settle some of these conflicts comes in.

Already the ruling party has lost Hon. Mulikat Akande Adeola, Alhaji Olopoeniyan, Senator Kola Balogun, the only serving PDP senator in the state, Hon Muraina, a three-term House of Representatives member, Hon. Yemi Aderibigbe. Upon that the rumoured defection of the Deputy Governor started spreading, yet, you said things have not fallen apart?

Actually, there have been issues over the months or for some time now and some of those you mentioned have left before now. The only person who recently left the party was Senator Kola Balogun and an aspirant in the Ibadan North-East/South-East, Omo Iya Eleja. My good friend and Special Adviser on Local Government Matters, Yemi Aderibigbe, resigned his appointment a long time ago. But the PDP also gained big. You have a chunk of ADC members joining the PDP and also we got the gubernatorial aspirant of the APC in 2019, Mr. Joseph Tegbe. That’s a big fish.

Two different committees have visited Oyo State trying to resolve the intra-party crisis involving Akande-Adeola, Olopoeyan and some other people. At a point in time, they were referred to as aggrieved PDP members and there was a time they set up a parallel party office in the state. So, nothing has happened newly. What happened recently was that, some people who did not go to NNPP have decided to move to APC for reasons best known to them.

With the whole thing that has happened, to what extent do you think the PDP can survive the mass exodus of leaders or you don’t think they matter to the success of the governor’s re-election bid?

Every vote counts. All politicians have their strongholds or at least their households, not to talk of people who have contested and won elections in the past. But when there are irreconcilable differences and failure of several reconciliation committees, then there are bound to be movements where aspirations can be actualised. Politics is all about interests and service to humanity, though some politicians masquerade personal interests as public interests. But the discerning public should be wise enough to draw the thin line.

If you also look at things critically, the issue of defections is something that is happening nationally, as people are complaining that there is no difference between the PDP and APC.

So, what I am saying in essence is, at this time when elections are about to happen, you will see movement in and out of the major parties. I am still confident some members of the APC will move into PDP as well. For instance, a former gubernatorial candidate of the APC, who almost clinched the ticket in 2019, Mogaji Olasunkanmi Tegbe, is now in the PDP with his followers and a lot of other people have moved into the PDP.

But the general belief is that the defections have whittled down the strength of the PDP. What do you think about this?

The APC is just settling down to find a way of selecting candidates for different elective posts in the 2023 general elections, so what PDP has gone through, the Oyo APC is just about to kick-start. Let me also tell you that it is normal that there would be fallouts and out of this, the PDP will equally have some converts. So, it is something that is normal at this time when elections are very close.

Are you saying that those exits won’t have implications for the PDP in Oyo State?

I won’t say that but I will admit that everything will be plus and minus, as there will be movement in both ways. Somebody’s loss will be another person’s gain. Some of the PDP chieftains who left are quite important in their own rights, notable and powerful, but since there were irreconcilable differences; nothing can be done about that. The PDP is moving ahead and will equally gain more from the APC. We already have Tegbe. I don’t see the APC reconciling, judging by my own assessment.

As a strategist, do you think the achievements of Governor Makinde in the last three years are enough to make the people go with him in the 2023 governorship election?

Going by the wave of infrastructural developments in Oyo State, taking into adequate consideration the ability of the governor to deliver on most of the projects he has embarked upon, I am confident that the people will go with him. When he took office, he promised to complete abandoned projects and that he would avoid the menace of abandoned projects at the end of his first four years, so far so good, most of the projects he initiated have been completed while some will soon be completed.

Have you heard of a perceived ring of conspiracy against the governor, which indicates that the building anger of Ibadan power brokers is because the governor has stepped on toes, especially with his refusal to give the Oyo South Senatorial ticket to Senator Balogun, who is Olubadan’s younger brother?

I have not heard of any conspiracy and I sincerely do not think there is a basis for any conspiracy against the governor.

At this stage, I think I need to correct an impression; I have read a lot of reports in the papers and online media and smiled. At no point did Governor Makinde deny Senator Kola Balogun a return ticket to the Senate. I was part of the committee, which was set up by His Excellency and Senator Balogun attended a meeting only once. He was not at the second meeting and, as we speak, the party’s primary will still hold whether for affirmation or election. Wherever we have more than one aspirant and the consensus option has failed to work, there will be primary.

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Senator Balogun was not told to step down at the only meeting he attended. So in effect, he walked away from the PDP ticket on his volition. The idea was that all aspirants would have a discussion and agree to a consensus or go to primary. But Senator Balogun reported to our committee that his ‘Aburo’ [Dr. Adeniran] refused to step down for him and so they would go to primary. But at the second meeting that Senator Balogun did not attend, Dr. Nureni Adeniran decided to step down and that leaves Mogaji Tegbe and Balogun in the contest.

If Mogaji Tegbe had not been in the picture, Senator Balogun had already informed the committee that after a private meeting between him and Adeniran, they could not reach a middle ground. So, Tegbe came into PDP as an aspirant and not as a candidate, because there was not any direct move by the governor to impose Mogaji Tegbe. I stand to be corrected on this. The Electoral Act 2022 as amended is clear on this matter, if you have purchased a form and submitted, you will go for the primaries either for affirmation or contest. If Senator Balogun had stayed in the PDP, submitted his form and decided not to agree to a consensus, there will be a primary and a winner will emerge.

But the Senator has gone to the APC and there seems to be wagging tongues that the Olubadan throne is offended that he was denied a return ticket to the Senate. What do you have to say on this?

How and why? Luckily enough, the current Olubadan of Ibadanland, our father, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lekan Balogun, was in the National Assembly in 1999 along my humble self and we worked closely together. He is well-grounded in party politics and understands the nuances, norms and other things that go around party nominations. Royalty and party nominations are two poles apart.

If you talk about respect for the Olubadan throne, what else could the governor have done after giving a befitting burial to the late Olubadan and he was instrumental to ensuring that we had an amicable settlement on the crisis of ascension to the throne of Olubadan? Governor Makinde holds the Olubadan in high esteem and he would not in any way do anything that will be tantamount to ridiculing the Olubadan stool.

He was instrumental, alongside former Governor Rashidi Ladoja, in solving the impasse as regards ascension to the throne. For the coronation, he set up a committee that did wonderfully well and the event was well-attended, colourful and it upgraded the status of Ibadan. So, I think Makinde has proven to be a true son of Ibadanland, doing everything to uplift everything that is of Ibadan.

But, I think some people are trying to whip up sentiments to have a replay of what happened in 2019 when there was a crisis that made the Olubadan have issues with the then governor and some people felt that was why their party lost. They want to re-enact that now, but it is a different scenario. Makinde is not meddling in the Olubadan chieftancy system, neither has there been any demand from the Olubadan insisting that his brother must be given an automatic ticket. So, I don’t see where and how the governor has offended the Olubadan.

Even, let us see what will happen in the APC that he has gone to. Though rumour has it that Senator Balogun now has an automatic ticket from the Villa, there is the son of High Chief Kola Daisi in the race for Oyo South Senatorial District, there is also Sarafadeen Alli and the likes of Soji Akanbi and other people. Will all these aspirants concede to Senator Balogun? Let us wait and see what will play out there.

Again, Dr. Balogun in 2019, moved from the APC to ADC and when he got to the ADC, after several meetings between the Unity Forum and the PDP, the coalition came on board. But by that time, the PDP had already held its primaries and Chief Bayo Lawal had been duly elected as the candidate of the PDP for Oyo South. He conceded the ticket to Senator Balogun because of the coalition agreement. However, this time round, we have not even got to that stage, because no primary has taken place; nobody has the ticket as of now, but Senator Balogun has abandoned the party that brought him to power.

But he said the ticket given to him in 2019 was a dead ticket, which no one was willing to touch…

It was a dead ticket to him, because it was an election coordinated by Governor Makinde. It was Makinde and his team that won the election. He was just a beneficiary.

While some people say that the 2023 election for Makinde is to win or lose, others are of the view that he is fighting too many battles at once and that he has betrayed some people who brought him to power. Your name also came up on the list in one of the publications. Have you been sidelined and betrayed?

The truth is, I wear two caps; one as the political adviser and the other as special adviser on strategy. At the early part of this administration, when we had no commissioner and the Executive Council was not yet in place, I had many responsibilities entrusted to me and I was highly visible, representing the governor at one place or the other. But the moment we had commissioners, special advisers and a lot of appointments were made, I got more involved in the work of my office, which is basically meant to strategise along ministerial line for the government.

I represented the government in the EndSARS panel and that took some time, as I was a member of the panel for close to 11 months. It was such an important assignment given to me by His Excellency. During that period, I was less visible as well, because I concentrated more in ensuring that everything went well in the panel. But recently, I was actively involved in the process of forging consensus arrangements for aspirants, because the governor spent close to 10 working days in ensuring that we achieve close to 100 per cent consensus, and the areas we don’t have consensus, we will go for primaries.

So, at no point will I agree that I was sidelined. I have a very warm relationship with the governor and we have mutual respect for each other. If that picture being painted were to be true, I would have taken a walk as a gentleman and I would have honourably resigned from this government.

Alternatively, if the relationship between the governor and I were frosty, the governor who has the power to hire and fire, would have asked me to leave the government. So, I want to affirm and confirm at the same time that I know where the insinuation that I was sidelined or betrayed is coming from, because the word ‘sidelined’ is recurring, and those who are interested in creating a wedge between the governor and I are only wasting their time.

Makinde didn’t betray me; there is no basis for that allegation at all and I am surprised that my name was included on the list of those considered to have been betrayed by Governor Makinde.

On what basis? Was there any agreement that he reneged on with or terms not met and who were those privy to such terms when I have not complained to anyone? So, for my name to have been included, shows the insincerity of the writer/author.

As an adult and with my level of exposure and the little I have attained, I can say it boldly that I cannot be used to fight anyone or be dragged into any unnecessary conspiracy. As of now, I still find the governor worthy of a second term in office and I am prepared to work for him. If all these people are interested or looking for ways to either create a misunderstanding or use me or my name as a tool to further the disaffection they have with Governor Makinde, I think they have got it wrong.

I have not complained to anybody and I am old enough to take care of myself and chart a way for myself or take my destiny in my hands. If I want to fight, I know how to fight and I don’t need helpers. Anyone who wants to fight the governor should do so directly but should not involve my personality. I don’t see myself as a threat to anybody and I don’t think I am available for anybody to be wooed into working against Makinde, neither am I available, for now.

The agenda they are trying to pull through did not just start today, they have said a lot of things behind my back and at different levels.

Maybe the writer/sponsor think they are fighting for you…

There is no need to fight and if you know what my background is, from my student union days to my days in the Alliance for Democracy (AD), where I decided not to cross to any other party because I am of the Afenifere stock and also later decided to stay off politics over 10 years, then you will know that I am not attracted to any office by what it offers. The first day I saw Engr. Makinde, I saw him as someone who was ready to uplift the standard of governance in Oyo State. The moment I said yes, I have not looked back and he also said this at my last birthday lecture. As of now, we are working towards his re-election.

As an adviser, it has always been said that there are no bad leaders, but bad advisers. With all these wars the governor is fighting on the political front, some people are saying that it is the failure of your office to live up to expectations. What do you have to say about that?

Well, I think it was Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that said it while he was swearing-in his advisers at one point in time, that they had the right to offer him advice but that taking to such advice was at his prerogative. The buck stops at the desk of the governor, but due to my own background, I will always speak truth to anybody in power, because at the expiry of whatever tenure, which is time-bound, I will have to answer to God. Count me out of those who would not give qualitative, truthful advice to His Excellency. We have had cause to disagree but we always disagreed to agree in the course of having a very robust argument or discussion, and on the way forward on quite a number of issues. I don’t think, at my age and with the level of my exposure, I should imbibe sycophancy; and because of what I intend to benefit, give a bad advice to my principal, the governor. Some people might not like me for that and they might not like my style and they might be uncomfortable with my approach, but I am who I am and I cannot be another person.

What are the governor’s chances in 2023?

It’s too early to postulate on this. But the critical questions are: Who are the opponents? Under which political parties? What are their manifestoes, which will be juxtaposed with what the good people of Oyo State have witnessed in the last three years of Makinde government?

Governor Makinde knows what he and his team did three years ago, and now as an incumbent, he knows what to do to win, unless he’s not interested in having a second term in office. But since he has already thrown his hat to the ring, I can boldly say that in Oyo State in 2023, it’s a Makinde vs Makinde election.

With what he has achieved in the last three years; with the projects he will still harvest in terms of completion before the election and the support of workers, pensioners, teachers and the good people of Oyo state, I have a very strong feeling that the Governor will win the next election.

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