OPINION

How Not to Play Devil’s Advocate in Ogun by Femi Ogbonnikan

In the nation’s polity, nothing compares to having credible leaders that can walk the talk. The advent of the Christian Missionary, led by Rev. Thomas Birch Freedom, a Methodist, in Abeokuta in 1842, and in other parts, resulted in the speedy growth and development of the state. Though the major preoccupation was to evangelise and win more souls for Jesus Christ, but much emphasis was placed on education and this made Ogun State a leading light among the comity of states. It widens the horizons of the people, a savoury development which made them blaze the trail of excellence in all professional callings.

No wonder, education forms the core investment of the state and it has remained the educational capital of the country. This has helped, in no small measure, in producing Ogun State’s great icons and pioneers (the living and the late) who have put their footprints in every sphere of human endeavours.

Since the creation of Ogun State on February 3, 1976, different administrators, be it military or civilian, had made their marks in the sands of time, while contributing significantly to the growth and development of what is now known as the ‘Gateway State’

Following the abatement in military interregnum in 1999 and the birth of the fourth Republic, the assemblage of various bed fellows that fused into different political platforms, at that time, clearly presented a rehash of the intrigues that often characterised the nation’s home-grown democracy.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP) held sway as the only veritable platforms with national spread, across the six geo-political zones.

In Ogun State, the political development wasn’t worse off. Aremo Olusegun Osoba started on a sound note; initiated and implemented rural development programmes and projects, as his administration’s major thrust of governance and as the only panacea to uplift the people out of penury.

As part of rural development initiatives, electrification of villages, without elements of bias, but cutting across board, made the administration acceptable by all and sundry in a bid to integrate the dwellers into the mainstream of governance. But the administration was short-lived, while the dream became shattered. The administration was thrown out of office, following the outcome of the 2003 general elections which declared Otunba Gbenga Daniel (aka OGD), winner and Osoba couldn’t return for a second term.

OGD made an in-road in fast-tracking growth and development with his welfarist and populist programmes and projects which impacted positively on the lives of the people.

He spent eight years (from 2003 to 2011) in the saddle, but his reign wasn’t a smooth sail, without opposition from his arch-rival, Amosun. This senator, who was a bosom friend while on the same political platform of the PDP with OGD as Governor, at the formative stage, couldn’t hide his disdain for the latter. Despite Amosun away in Abuja as Senator, representing Ogun Central at the National Assembly, he was always in Abeokuta to wage war of attrition against his estranged friend.

But, in his desperate and subtle bid to clinch the Number One seat ticket of the state, Amosun dumped the PDP and defected to the All Peoples Party (APP) which subsequently morphed into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). When his governorship dream couldn’t be realised in 2007, he worked and cringed his way into the heart of a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who later became the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for a soft-landing. Through the interventions of the incumbent helmsman (Abiodun), Tinubu and some other notable chieftains of the Action Congress (AC) in 2010, Osoba, who was then the state leader of the party, was adamant to accept and allow Amosun fly the party’s ticket in order to wrest power from OGD, on account of his alleged antics, boiling down to alleged vindictiveness, penchant for deceitful acts, likely insubordination, arrogance, amongst other negative traits.

Following several entreaties, Osoba bowed to the popular wishes and demand to allow him, being a strong politician with clout, to slug it out squarely with the anointed godson of, and a successor to OGD, GNI, in the 2011 general elections. True to type, with the deployment of arsenals, especially financial muscle, at the disposal of the AC, he drubbed the candidate of OGD, Isiaka, who jostled for the governorship ticket on the platform of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN).

Having assumed the mantle of leadership, he started out on a sound note, with various developmental projects and programmes which had made many people to believe he had come on a rescue mission, as reflected in his administration’s popular slogan, “Mission to Rebuild Ogun State” (MITROS). Worrisome was the next stage that was set in his political career. He unleashed political vendetta on perceived enemies and arrogated the office to himself. He governed the state like a one-man show. At every elective office, during contest, he had no regards for the leaders and elders of the party, because he unilaterally decided and drew the lists of those he wanted.

These ambivalence and maverick stance played itself out when he decided to field his anointed godson, Hon Abdulkabir Adekunle Akinlade, as successor, without recourse to party’s guidelines, preparatory to the build-up to the succession processes in mid-2018. Internal democracy wasn’t allowed to take its full course, but subject to a one-man show in determining who took or got what from the polity. Despite overtures by concerned stakeholders to make the National leadership of the APC intervene and axe him for the brazen display of anti-party activities, he still had his way, because he had taken cover under the Presidency.

He played the role of a devil’s advocate in a bid to rock the boat when he entered into a secret alliance with a factional leader of the PDP in the state, Hon. Ladi Adebutu, an Iperu-Remo kinsman of Governor Dapo Abiodun.

By and large, the truth spoke for itself at the poll, as the electorates, in their right frame of minds and senses, cast their votes for the Iperu-Remo born APC candidate as Governor in the March 9, 2019 general election.

In retrospect, even when Amosun almost ran the state aground and the AC which subsequently changed to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and soon afterwards, All Progressives Congress (APC) was near comatose, Amosun who had stepped on many big toes, namely Osoba, Senators Gbenga Kaka, Gbenga Obadara and Akin Odunsi, Dr Razaq Remilekun Bakare, amongst others, in the build-up to his second term re-election bid in 2015, ate the humble pie and ran to his bosom friend, Abiodun, now estranged, and curried for his unalloyed intervention and support. With the party in disarray, Abiodun swiftly came to the rescue; brought his clout to bear and injected a huge sum of money, including procurement of campaign (Toyota Hummer) buses, motorcycles and other logistics to ensure his friend returned for the second term, when his former leaders he had offended had dissolved into the Social Democratic Party (SDP) who were satirically labelled, “Ma t’agba M’ole” (meaning, “Don’t step on elders’ foots). With the unalloyed support, he won in a landslide victory and returned to office.

When some personages in society claim to be wiser than others because they have unfettered access to power itself or to the corridors of power by any means, or they control huge resources and have human capital in their fold because they call the shots, they revel in the supposed feeling of the whole world bowing at their feet.

And in the process, they throw the tricky cards of playing on the sensibilities of the people in the hope that such pranks would help them build and sustain political patronage for as long as they desire. But there comes a time when the people will read the political treachery correctly, rise and push for their rightful place in the scheme of things. And that time is now for the people of the state to burst the bubble.

As a promise-keeping administration, as reflected in the provision of qualitative governance, Governor Abiodun is towering larger by the day.

His political base is also waxing stronger in every leap and bound, because he sees the entire state as an indivisible family unit, with due respect to the interest for the principles of equity, justice and fair play. As an attestation to his popularity and acceptability, his political base is shored up, with the declaration of support of erstwhile notable PDP chieftains like former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Chief (Mrs) Iyabo Mathilda Apampa, Sen Olamilekan Adeola (aka Yayi), Chief Waliu Taiwo, Alhaja Salmot Badru, Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (aka GNI), Apostle Dave Salako, High Chief Ibukun Ojosipe, Otunba Funmi Aina, Rt Hon (Mrs) Titi Oseni, Mr Bukola Olopade, Dr Remilekun Bakare, Alhaji Bakai Ajao Okedara, Chief Foun Abiola, Hon Tayo Adekoya, Pastor Kolade Segun-Okeowo, ACP Lamidi Odulana (retd), Hon Kunle Adeshina, Engr Fatai Bodunrin, Chief Dele Odulaja, and a host of others, who have dissolved into the mainstream structure of the APC in the state.

A gang-up or any alliance against the incumbent governor, in whatever form to unseat him, preparatory to the 2023 governorship contest in the state, can’t stand the test of time, going by the giant strides he has made within a short period of two years in office, in the provision of laudable projects and programmes, with prudent management of resources. Lofty projects, like good roads network, affordable housing, healthcare delivery service, agriculture, procurement of patrol vehicles and other gadgets for security agencies, amongst others, are on ground to speak for themselves.

• Ogbonnikan writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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