By Onabanjo Odurombi
If one tells a resident of Oyo State to go and spend some time at Agodi, they are likely to quickly retort “God forbids.”
This is because there is a medium security prison at Agodi, and the government reserved area has become the sobriquet for the correctional facility.
This dreadful facility competes in popularity with the Governor’s Office that sits adjacent it and some people have argued that it is more popular than the seat of government.
But this write-up is not about those who will be spending time with prison warders at the facility, but about the politicians aiming to occupy the Agodi Governor’s Office in 2019.
These men and woman (?) are high in number, but only five of them are the leading candidates for the job.
They are Adegoke Adelabu of the All Progressives Congress, APC; Seyi Makinde of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Adebayo Alao-Akala of the African Democratic Party, ADP; Olufemi Lanlehin of the African Democratic Congress, ADC; and Sharafadeen Alli of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP.
All the five candidates have begun an earnest campaign for the job, and have adopted catchy campaign slogans to capture the hearts of the people.
For Adelabu, he says his young hands are ready to serve. Makinde is promising a rain of ‘Omi tun tun’ ‘Fresh water’.
Lanlehin wants to restore the glory of Oyo State, while Akala insists that the progress of Oyo State is the most important.
Aside these slogans, the candidates’ colourful campaign posters and billboards dot the entire state.
These posters are so beautiful that one cannot help looking closely at them, with the candidates’ chubby faces smiling benevolently at one.
Also, the airwaves are being crowded with campaign adverts and jingles by these leading candidates. But the ‘Koseleri’, Governor Abimbola Ajimobi has dismissed the chances of any of the opposition candidates to succeed him.
In his address to party faithful during the flag-off of Adelabu’s governorship campaign at the party state’s secretariat at Oke-Ado, he said the schism in the opposition parties in the state won’t allow them victory at the polls, and added that the crises were the work of God, since he had chosen Adelabu, whom he called David, to succeed him.
While one may dismiss the governor’s statement as mere political grandstanding, there is however some shade of truth in it.
It is no lie that members of the opposition parties in the state are at war with each other.
The major opposition party in the state, the African Democratic Congress, ADC, was recently splintered when the erstwhile leader of the party in the state, Chief Rasheed Ladoja, left with his supporters to the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP after complaining of being marginalized by the party.
Since his departure from the party, the ADC has not been the viable alternative party it once was.
The other opposition parties have also suffered similar losses, with each loss tilting the odds in favour of the APC.
But despite this, the opposition candidates remain upbeat.
Lanlehin, for instance, while commenting on the exit of his estranged political godfather from the ADC, said he would win the governorship election without the support of the former governor.
He said what was important was the support of the people, and not that of an individual. His admirable confidence notwithstanding, the former senator has lost an irreplaceable ally, and this has put his ambition in serious jeopardy.
He may need more than magic to triumph at the polls.
In the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, its candidate, Seyi Makinde is sanguine and has boasted that this would be his easiest election.
For a man who has never won an election, this statement could be ironical. His party suffers from a lack of adequate political structures across the state, caused by the hemorrhage of notable politicians from the party.
But what might work in his favour is his philanthropy, as Makinde is famous for being open-handed, and this has won him many admirers.
Also, since this is his third attempt at getting the job, he is sure to get some sympathetic votes. It is, however, doubtful if the votes will be enough to get him the coveted job.
Adebayo Alao-Akala, the African Democratic Party, ADP’s, candidate needs no introduction.
He, alongside his late political benefactor, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, bestrode Oyo-State politics like a colossus. He was, and still is, a firm believer in ‘stomach infrastructure’.
Since he began his campaign to return to the office he vacated in 2011, he has been telling the people that they had more food on their tables and more money in their pockets when he was governor than they do now.
He is, therefore, promising a return to what he calls the ‘prosperous era’, but it is difficult to tell if the people of the state want a repeat of his ‘share the gala, share the booze’ era.
The Zenith Labour Party, ZLP, and its candidate, Sharafadeen Alli were latecomers to the governorship race.
Alli, who was the secretary to the state government when Ladoja was the governor, switched allegiance to the ZLP when he lost the ADC governorship ticket to Lanlehin.
He was quickly adopted as the party’s governorship candidate, and not long after, he was reunited with his political godfather, Ladoja, who left the ADC for the ZLP after he found himself on the fringe of the party.
Alli, however, does not have as much political clout as the other four politicians.
It is very doubtful if he can win an election in the state on his own clout. But he enjoys Ladoja’s unalloyed support, and he flaunts this at every opportunity.
His campaign posters and billboards bear the image of the Osi Olubadan.
But some residents believe that Ladoja is a spent politician and a tired political horse on whose back Alli cannot ride to power.
There is however no doubt that the septuagenarian remains an issue in Oyo-State politics. But can his political influence do for Alli what it couldn’t do for him in 2015? Only time can tell.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bayo Adelabu is the grandson of late Chief Adegoke Adelabu, the leader of opposition in the defunct Western Region.
Adelabu graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University with a first class degree in accounting.
The former Central Bank of Nigeria deputy governor won a keenly contested primary election to emerge as the party’s candidate, but his political opponents alleged that he paid 10 million dollars to Governor Ajimobi to clinch the ticket.
The governor has however denied this allegation, saying Adelabu’s young age was one of the qualities that worked in his favour.
The former banker is anchoring campaign on continuity. He says Ajimobi’s ‘good works’ deserve to be continued.
However, since opinions are divided on the governor’s performance in office, Adelabu’s will carry the burden of Ajimobi’s achievements or lack of it to the polls. His election will be a referendum on the governor’s accomplishments in office.
But Adelabu believes the governor has done enough for the state to get the party reelected at the polls.
The governor, too, a naturally proud and conceited man, said at Adelabu’s campaign flag-off that what he had done in almost eight years in power would get Adelabu elected.
He boasted that none of his predecessors in office did more for the state than he had done.
Whether the governor and his godson are right in their self-assessment will be revealed at the polls. But whoever will spend the next four years at Agodi must take the state to a new height.
This opinion piece first appeared on Guardian Newspaper and contributed by Onabanjo Odurombi