For over a year now, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun has been expressing a desire to hand over power to a man or woman of Ogun West extraction in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), come 2019. His sentiment, he has continually argued, is engendered by the clamour of the people of the area to produce the chief executive of the state just like the other two senatorial districts, Ogun East and Central have done over the years.
There has been a lot of stories in the media detailing Ogun State political journey since its creation of 1976. Some writers have argued that it was agreed between the old Egba and Ijebu Provinces to be rotating the governorship seat. Since 1979, it has always been a rotation between the old Ijebu and Egba Provinces.
Ijebu, of course has its Remo minority, while Egba has an Egbado minority, which they now call Yewa or Yewa/Awori. But Egbado remains the constitutional designation of the people of Ogun West until they came up with the idea of changing Egbado to Yewa/Awori without official gazette. Since this aberration was incorporated into Ogun State, it has been confusion. In all fairness, the agitation for an Egbado Governor might have been a product of insensitivity of the political class in the majority Egba, who did not cede the governorship seat to the minority Egbado when the opportunity came in 2011.
In the words of a scion of late Chief L.A.K. Ogunwoolu, former Principal Organising Secretary, Unity Party of Nigeria (1979–1983), Prince Akinyele Sharafadeen Ogunwoolu, “Amosun’s pronouncement on a choice of successor from Yewa remains the major cause of the unpredictable situation of the Governorship Election in 2019. His assertion is selfish and of no substance in the politics of Ogun State,” underlining what many have come to believe is a Third Term bid by Amosun. Ogunwoolu explained that after the tenure of Chief Olabisi Onabanjo, an Ijebu, it was Chief Olusegun Osoba, who filled the slot for the Egba Province. “It was the turn of the Ijebu Province in 2003 with Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who is from Shagamu in Remo, duly filling slot,” he said.
According to the Abeokuta-born politician, “Amosun’s intention to pick his successor from Yewa is just a gimmick to cause confusion as Ogun State never has the record or agreement of sharing Governorship among three Senatorial Districts as most baby politicians are clamouring. The provisions of the amended 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 71 has clearly without mincing words, clarified the purpose of creating three Senatorial Districts per State and do not change the Ogun State Politics.
Ogun State was created on the 3rd day of February, 1976 out of the merger of two old provinces of the Western State, that is, the Abeokuta/Egba Province and Ijebu Province. In accordance with the report submitted by the Justice Ayo Irikefe Panel on creation of states, and upon the memorandum submitted by the first Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the state capital was to be located at Sagamu. But unfortunately on the 3rd day of February, 1976, Abeokuta, capital of Abeokuta/Egba Province became the capital of Ogun State.
He pointed out that one of the major factors that favoured late Chief Bisi Onabanjo from Ijebu to serve as governor, before soldiers truncated that Republic in 1983, was the need to compensate the Ijebus as the first elected chief executive of Ogun State, because the capital was taken from them. “When democracy, or half of it, resurfaced under Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Olusegun Osoba, an Egba, became governor.
By 2003, the Ijebu allowed Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a minority from Remo, under Ijebu to run, he became governor, served two terms and it was time for Egbado. This was the time all hell broke loose. Therefore, anybody who has been following Ogun State politics for a while would conclude, without any fear of contradiction that Amosun’s position is nothing more than what it is – a wish,” he said.
Observers agree that 2011, when the pendulum of Ogun State Governorship swung back to the old Egba Province, was Egbado’s turn, if the leaders of the Province had followed the good step of Ijebu leaders, who conceded the ticket to the Remo, being a minority in the division. A highly placed official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, being a member of the state cabinet, observed that, “we are confused ourselves here, because we know Oga should not have come in after Akinrogun (Osoba) has just left. I know the argument on our side is that the Yewa did not show unity, thus giving away the Governorship, but we should have stood on the moral high ground and insist that none of us from Abeokuta should contest. That would have been honourable for us.”
An old politician from Abigi, Ogun Waterside Local Government, Chief Bashiru Ogundaini, said, “In 2003, none of the two major political parties fielded a candidate from Ijebu, leaving the political scene for the Remos alone. It was the same process in 2007, despite the emergence of late Otunba Dipo Dina (AC) and Alhaji Sefiu Adegbenga Kaka (DPA). We, Ijebus, told them through our votes it was not our turn, and both men lost seriously. The only political party that could be described as a major one after the then ruling PDP was the ANPP, which fielded Senaator Ibiunle Amosun. Ijebus are honourable, because we always stand by any agreement, no matter what is in it. I wonder why these other people are not doing the same thing.”
Foremost 2019 governorship aspirants of Yewa extraction in Ogun State APC include Lagos West Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (Yayi); Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Tolu Odebiyi; former House of Representatives member, Hon. Biodun Akinlade; Ipokia/Egbado South House of Representatives member, Hon. Kehinde Akinlade; and Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Suraju Adekunmbi. It is not clear if Yayi is still in the race as he was conspicuously absent at the recent State Congress of the party in Abeokuta, but it appears a protégé of Mr. Governor, Odebiyi, is the most favoured by Amosun to get the ticket. But all the others were at the Congress with their supporters in tow.
From Ijebu, it appears only the duo of Commissioner for Finance, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, and Senior Adviser/Counsellor to the Kaduna State Governor, Otunba Jimi Lawal, are left in the race from an initial list of nine aspirants following the controversial selection of Ashiru as the consensus Ijebu aspirant. The initial Ijebu list included former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Adegbega Kaka; 2015 deputy Director General of Buhari Campaign Organisation, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora; and Ogun State Commissioner for Culture, Hon. Muyiwa Oladipo, who is from Remo. Ashiru, according to a source has been cautioned twice by Amosun to desist from his ambition or resign from the cabinet if he is not prepared to support a Yewa candidate.
“That is why Otunba Bimbo Ashiru did not attend the State Congress of APC, which was held in Abeokuta recently. Mr Governor has told him to prepare for the deputy governor position, because there are two of them in the race. The second person being considered as deputy governor from Ijebu is the former Deputy Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Tola Banjo, who is also from Ijebu Ode like Ashiru. But it is very likely that Banjo will be considered given the fact that he is Amosun’s boy,” the source said. Otunba Jimi Lawal, who remains the only APC governorship aspirant across the divide that has gone round the 20 local government areas of the state selling himself to APC stakeholders was at the State Congress, where Amosun welcomed him warmly. It appears he is also the only APC gubernatorial aspirant with campaign secretariats in the three senatorial districts of the state.
Alhaji Ramoni Ogunleke, from Ilaro, who described himself as a former APC member but now without any political affiliation claimed he is peeved with Amosun over what he said is the governor’s desperate bid for a Third Term in office using a Yewa as stooge. “If the governor genuinely wants a Yewa to be there, we should be the one to determine who the person is. Our paramount ruler, the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, was mistreated because of his support for Yayi.
Go through the whole of Yewaland, there is hardly anybody of importance that does not support Yayi, because we believe he will not be a stooge to anybody. But because Amosun has a Third Term Agenda he does not want any independent-minded Yewa person as the next governor. If that is the case, he is not fighting our cause, he is only pursuing a personal agenda using Yewa people as crutches. That is why I left the party.”
Although the paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, who is very close to Amosun, has not openly expressed anger about the governor’s preference for a Yewa candidate, it is an open secret the king firmly believes it is the turn of the Ijebus to produce the next governor. During the New Year prayers for Ijebuland by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in his palace, Adetona openly distance himself from Ashiru as the consensus Ijebu aspirant, in a move that a credible palace source said was informed by his belief that the process of selection was done to please Amosun, who wanted an Ijebu as deputy governor. Adetona described the leading lights of the consensus arrangements as persons of questionable values who were only interested in what they could benefit and not the actual interest of Ijebus.
The palace source concluded that, “Nigeria has many Senatorial Districts apart from states and so on. But the only arrangement for rotating The Presidency remains between the old Northern Region and Southern Region. Nobody has ever talked about states or senatorial districts as they are saying in Ogun State today. We are waiting for APC to miss it so that they will know where we stand.”