The battle for nomination between Governor Ibikunle Amosun and incumbent Senator Lanre Tejuoso, who recently claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari prevailed on him to stay back in APC, promises to be an interesting one, KUNLE OLAYENI reports
Governor Ibikunle Amosun certainly wants to rewrite the history of political transition in Ogun State. Apart from relentlessly pursuing his plan to install a successor in 2019, the governor is also interested in breaking the second term senatorial jinx in the state by returning to the Senate after completing his eightyear tenure.
In the Gateway State, political power has always shifted from one political party to another. From 1999 to 2003, Chief Olusegun Osoba of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was in power and he eventually handed over to Otunba Gbenga Daniel who became governor on the platform of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Daniel, who ruled between 2003 and 2011, also handed over to Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who contested as the standard bearer of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The ACN later transformed to APC. Now, Amosun may be on the verge of making history if his Ogun West governorship agenda and choice of gubernatorial candidate sail through in the 2019 general elections. If his candidate wins, he would be the first incumbent to hand over to his chosen successor. On Wednesday, last week, Amosun announced his intention to run for Senate in 2019. It was at a stakeholders’ meeting of the party in Abeokuta.
The governor spoke just as the party resolved to adopt consensus in selecting all its candidates for the poll. However, the party added a proviso: to go for direct primaries if the consensus option failed. Amosun said it was important for the state chapter of APC to consolidate on its performance and take a position following the directive from the National Executive Committee (NEC). He debunked claims that he was afraid of direct primaries. “By the benevolence of God, I want to say I am running for Senate in 2019,” he told his audience which incidentally included the current senator representing Ogun Central, Dr Lanre Tejuoso.
His declaration, of course, laid to rest the speculation surrounding his interest in returning to National Assembly. For close to two years now, the governor’s senatorial ambition has loomed on the political radar and posed a threat to the calculations of others interested in the Ogun Central seat.
The Ogun Central zone comprises Abeokuta North, Abeokuta South, Odeda, Obafemi-Owode, Ewekoro and Ifo local government areas. For 2019, the aspiration would pitch him against his longstanding associate, Tejuoso, who is also interested in returning for a second term.
Signs that all was not well began when Tejuoso moved to defect from the APC, citing alienation from the party in his home state. He announced his defection alongside 15 senators on the floor of the Senate. Amid the attendant drama, Tejuoso made a U-turn 24 hours later and announced his return at a meeting between 43 APC senators and President Muhammadu Buhari held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. But it appears the feud still persists. During Amosun’s declaration, Tejuoso was practically given cold shoulders by some chieftains loyal to the governor.
At the meeting, the senator engaged in war of words with the state APC chairman, Chief Derin Adebiyi, over his membership status within the party. An obviously enraged Adebiyi dared the senator to go back to Abuja and secure his senatorial ticket for 2019 if he was not ready to respect the party hierarchy. Drama started when a party leader from Abeokuta South Local Government, Olawale Azeez aka Willy Kay, drew the attention of the gathering to the presence of Tejuoso at the meeting. Following Azeez’s observation which was seconded by another stalwart, the state chairman asked Tejuoso to clarify his status, apologize or leave the meeting venue.
An embarrassed Tejuoso countered him, saying he was duly invited to the meeting via a text message by the party secretary. The senator insisted that there was no time he formally communicated to the party that he had defected. But after some altercation, Tejuoso complied with the order by the chairman to apologize, saying: “To all our people in APC that feel offended that I was trying to express myself, I apologize.” While the altercation lasted between Tejuoso and the chairman, Amosun, who was in attendance, did not speak. He would later declare his interest in the senatorial seat to the shock of the incumbent. If elected in 2019, Amosun would join the league of governors who have found the Senate as a retirement hub. Being one of the governors that are very close to the president, the possibility of clinching the ticket is quite high. In 2003, Amosun contested for Senate on the platform of PDP. He succeeded Femi Okurounmu who occupied the seat on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD). In 2007, Amosun contested the governorship of his state as candidate of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). But he lost to Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Undaunted by his heavy loss, both at the polls and in the courts, Amosun kept his ambition alive. On April 26, 2011, his perseverance paid off as he won the governorship election. He won with 377,487 votes, beating his main rivals, General Adetunji Olurin (rtd) of PDP and Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) to second and third positions respectively.
Seven and half years in power as governor, Amosun is gradually coasting home to another historic victory if his candidate emerges as successor. The governor has held tenaciously to the party structure in the state and consolidated his hold power with his loyalists taking various party positions in virtually all of the 236 electoral wards and 20 local government areas. This may make it difficult for his adversaries to have their way. The battle for nomination between Amosun and Tejuoso, who recently claimed that President Buhari prevailed on him to stay back in APC, will be interesting. But if either of them emerges as candidate and wins at the polls, analysts posit that the second term senatorial jinx in the state would have been broken.
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