At the last count, no fewer than 15 indigenes of Oyo State across party divides have covertly or overtly declared their intentions to succeed Governor Abiola Ajimobi in 2019.
The list includes but not limited to the Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu (APC); Engr. Seyi Makinde (SDP); former Minister of Sports, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja; ex-Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, and an Ibadan-born legal luminary, Adeniyi Akintola (SAN).
It is also instructive to note that the incumbent governor is an Ibadan indigene and that may have also explained why there is no love lost between the incumbent and the Oke-Ogun born minister of communications, who is believed to be mobilising support for the office of the governor to move out of Ibadanland.
With the coming to an end of the eight-year uninterrupted tenure of Ajimobi in 2019, the thinking within political circles in the state is that the Oke- Ogun axis of the state which has never produced a governor should be given the chance to produce the governor.
But with the array of gubernatorial aspirants from Ibadan and its voting strength put at over 55 per cent, it is doubtful if the unwritten arrangement would be respected, or may be Oke-Ogun should also pray for a ‘divine intervention’ just as it was the case of Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala from Ogbomosho.
While the other aspirants are going about their aspirations without ruffling political feathers, that cannot be said of the activities of Shittu.
The no love lost between Shittu and Ajimobi dates back to the governor’s first term contest, wherein the Oke-Ogun-born legal practitioner contested the governorship seat against Ajimobi in 2011 on the platform of the defunct CPC and lost, went to the tribunal and also lost.
But their political path was to cross again, when the idea of a mega party was being muted by the erstwhile leadership of the ACN. It was therefore, natural that the two combatants would once again, display their might and wit, in an attempt to control the structures of the party, prior to the 2015 general elections.
The outcome of the merging process did not go down well with Shittu.
The Ajimobi political machinery dealt a devastating blow on Shittu and his CPC conglomerate during the state congress of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The outcome of the party’s congresses fell short of Shittu’s expectations as he was roundly beaten and boxed to the corner by Ajimobi’s men and the party primaries became a walkover for Ajimobi, who later clinched the sole ticket of the party in 2015.
It was based on this scenario that Shittu refused to campaign for the re-election of the governor, but rather chose to campaign for the then presidential candidate of the party, General Muhammadu Buhari. Prior to the composition of the Buhari-led administration, attempts were made to reconcile the duo, but the peace effort did not see the light of the day.
Developments within the party, before the constitution and inauguration of the now contentious local government caretaker committees across the state and the furore it generated in the state, was said to have been capitalised upon by Shittu to publicly declare his governorship ambition for 2019 in a recent interview.
The party leadership stated this much in its reaction to the Shittu’s interview. In the interview, which was transmitted live, Shittu accused Ajimobi of exhibiting dictatorial tendencies by imposing caretaker members on the party without due consultations with elders and leaders of the party in the state, vowing to challenge the action of the governor which he described as an “act of impunity”.
The minister condemned the continued appointment of hand-picked people to serve as caretaker chairmen.
He noted that the governor’s refusal to conduct council elections was not only “a disservice to the people of the state, but also a disservice to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The governor does not even deem it fit to invite me to the stakeholders’ meetings.
This issue of impunity must be checkmated,” Shittu had said. The constitution of the Caretaker Committees for the 33 local governments and Local Development Centres (LCDs), provided the opportunity for Ajimobi and his men to take their own pound of flesh on Shittu.
The governor did not pick anybody that has anything or link with Shittu. The governorship ambition of the minister is said to be causing discomfort within the state chapter of the APC.
His call for the office of the governor to be zoned out of Ibadan is receiving some attention from higher quarters. Unconfirmed report has it that Ajimobi and his SENACO group are deeply worried with the news making the rounds that President Muhammadu Buhari with some powerful Abuja politicians, were plotting to make Shittu the next governor of the state.
They based their arguments on two main planks. One, Shittu was a member of Buhari’s defunct CPC, two, the need to instil justice, equity and fair play in the zoning of the office of the governor.
The battle for Ajimobi’s successor is sure going to be a fiercely fought political battle, and it would only remain to be seen how the minority zones in the state would be able to turn the age-long political equation against the majority, that always offering them the position of deputy governor and the speakership position.
•Umanah is an Ibarapa-based public analyst