The 1979 election ushered in the polyglot, Chief Ajibola Ige as the first elected Governor of Oyo state. As a staunch disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo; Ige ran the state in manners akin to the heydays of the late Premier of the Western region – with a firm grip. Despite having the National Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief Adisa Akinloye from Ibadan, the state capital, the Unity Party of Nigeria went all out determined never to lose any of its stronghold to the party at the center, hence, alongside other Western states, UPN rode briskly to victory, planting Lateef Jakande at the heart of Lagos, Bola Ige into the belly of Oyo, Olabisi Onabanjo on the rock of Ogun and Adekunle Ajasin into the bowel of Ondo.
As fondly called in the latter part of his life, Uncle Bola Ige would go on to consolidate on the gains and the legacies of his mentor, spreading free education across the state length and breadth with modest pride. As of the time Uncle Ige ruled over the affairs of the pace-setter state, Oyo was one of the biggest in the country with landmass snaking and spiraling towards the present-day Osun state.
Despite his numerous achievements, the Cicero of Esa Oke as he’s dubbed in some quarters was later to be yanked off the government house by the victorious caravan of Chief Victor Omololu Olunloyo’s political bulldozer in the 1983 election; thus kick-starting the firmly held mysterious belief that Oyo people don’t serve sitting governors twice. In a way, after just three months in office as the Governor of the state, Chief Olunloyo’s four-year tenure was also cut midway, paving the way for another military junta led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Tunde Malik Idiagbon. Laid quietly on the threshold of history, the political jinx of no second term for a sitting Governor in Oyo state would take three decades of intrigues, plots, and meticulous planning before being shattered; this time culminating with the defeat of the ruling People’s Democratic Party at the center, by the opposition All Progressives Congress, a feat that was utterly unimaginable in the country’s democratic and political trajectory.
Late Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s electoral fortune of 2015 rose gingerly in the political anal of the state; having shattered the second term jinx; Abiola Ajimobi’s era witnessed unprecedented feats in areas of infrastructural development and security. His tenure was praised and criticized in equal measure, the same way he was loved and despised in the same proportion. His defeat at the poll as a Senatorial candidate lifted the veil in the people’s eyes of his mortality. The song against his leadership style grew louder; drums drummed against his high-handedness and his tongue usually became stronger. In essence, the cries and hues against his reign would later signal the end of his political era, the defeat of which could only communicate in a whisper.
To say Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s mishandling of the second term booty marked his undoing would mean to strip the events that led to his party’s defeat of its rightful word. His party’s electoral misfortune would eventually pave the way for the emergence of the incumbent Governor, Seyi Makinde who rode into power on the premise of a new dawn in the state policy and politics. Between 1979 and 2015, power brokers rose with huge political clouts and war-chest. The wind and direction of those gladiators became potent, their influences metastasizing beyond the state’s curves and contours. Right from its creation in the 70s, Oyo has always enjoyed the patronage of political bigwigs.
As it is in other states of the federation, the movers and shakers of power cut both ways, with each testing their mettle in the wee hour of the electioneering period. Despite the unpredictable nature of the masses, the power brokers knew when to flip the coins and which horse should be backed to win the race.
Admittedly, the most relevant example of the clash of political titans in the state was in the 2011 gubernatorial election. It was a contest that shook the state to its core. While Oyo APC scampered for survival in the 2019 election, for example, the opposition party found a common ground and unites to defeat a common foe. The result was the electoral victory of the current administration. Unfortunately, the synergy that propelled the opposition to queue behind Governor Seyi Makinde has dissolved. The Governor has obliterated his benefactors.
He has quietly banished the remaining bigwigs into oblivion – crowing himself the emperor of the state.
Perhaps, this is the first time in recent times people are left to decide for themselves without a real and solid power broker. And in retrospect, opposition hardly unites to flush out a common foe in Oyo but the example of 2019 has shown that in matters of interest, anything is possible.
Despite being the ruling party in the state, Oyo PDP is as weak as it was before political heavyweights decide to pitch their tent with the Governor in the last election. Those in the corridor of power know this.
They are acutely aware that Governor Seyi Makinde’s greatest and most costly mistake is letting go those who rallied around him in the time of need at the middle of another political storm. As Abraham Lincoln enthused: the ultimate test of a man’s character is by giving him power. Once in power, the true test of a man’s character began to unravel.
OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s Opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and 09065176850