OYO101: The Big Debate— Can Makinde Really Win 2023 Elections? | Muftau Gbadegesin

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    Defeating an incumbent Governor in Oyo state is not entirely impossible. In 2011, the late Abiola Ajimobi shocked the world by beating two experienced politicians in one of Nigeria’s most keenly contested governorship elections: incumbent Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala and former Governor Rashidi Ladoja. In that pulse-pounding contest, Ajimobi’s victory underscored the salient point that the powerful when studied carefully might not be as powerful as people think they are or the incumbent, when observed closely might not be as politically formidable as people might assume them to be. With a united opposition, tearing the incumbency factor into shred becomes a lot easier but not quite simple. Interestingly, long before late Abiola Ajimobi’s breathtaking victory against the strikingly popular Otunba Alao-Akala was the electoral face-off between Senator Rashidi Ladoja and Alhaji Lamidi Adesina in the 2003 gubernatorial poll.

    With the covert support of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo and overt endorsement by prominent political gladiators in the state, Senator Ladoja’s victory against Alhaji LAM Adesina opened another exciting yet intriguing chapter in the anal of state politics: if you are an incumbent, you can be flogged – immunity does not stop electoral defeat! As examples from the previous defeat of sitting Governors have shown; it is noteworthy to understand that pummeling a Governor takes more than sweat and sweet talks. In fact, such undertaking requires strategic planning, critical thinking, a deep pocket, heavy presence in the rural areas and hinterland, and importantly, flawless execution of an action plan. Speaking of a deep pocket, an inevitable requirement in politics, one study finds out that winning the gubernatorial election in Nigeria requires nothing less than a mind-blowing five billion naira in the purse – only opposition with a deep pocket can match an incumbent, cash for cash. Once the money debacle is solved, next is rallying the disenchanted and displeased opposition figures and perhaps the public under a course. When combined, financial war chests and grass root mobilization have the tremendous capacity to turn the table and change the course of history.

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    In 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde did just that. Having lost in the 2015 gubernatorial poll by a wide margin, Governor Makinde confidently came into the race armed with experience and exposure. He entered into the contest as one of the contenders, top dogs, not the usual underdog, pretender that was a victim of Buhari’s ‘tsunami’ in 2015 – a tsunami that helped Late Ajimobi break the second term jinx. Instead of waiting for the party primary to slug out the ticket with others, Governor Makinde went through the backdoor to snatch the coveted crown – insiders observed that had a proper primary election been conducted, it’s unlikely the Governor would make it to the ballot. In a way, while other aspirants were snoring, the business tycoon was already sketching the outlook of his coronation as the PDP flag bearer.

    He’d already become the choice of the party bigwigs – at Abuja. In the race for the party ticket, the business magnate went many steps ahead of others. By the time others woke up to the reality, Governor Makinde had begun his version of reconciliation and negotiation with the aggrieved. In the end, angry party members agreed to sheath their swords in the interest of the party. The result was the triumphant entry of Governor Seyi Makinde into the government house on the 29th of May, 2019. Curiously, the question of who becomes the next Governor in 2023 is hard to crack. It’s hard to say without batting an eye. In fact, it is safe to tarry a while before making a prediction that may hit the brick wall or fall by the wayside. Forget about latter-day election forecasters and snake oil poll predictors. As far as this election is concerned, it’s still pretty difficult to hand over the victory badge to a candidate.

    While the contest for the Agodi secretariat remains a three horse race, Governor Makinde’s inability to manage the spoils of the last election made this poll an open contest. He exhibited crass indifference to the plights of aggrieved members. As a matter of fact, he watched with pride as top party members teamed up with the opposition. Had the Governor managed the crisis well, he might have to be warming up to rule for eight years. But it is always easy for a sitting governor to have something to campaign on. And in the case of Governor Makinde, prompt payment of salary, investment in road infrastructure, and cancellation of imposed levies on school pupils among others are some of his campaign strengths. But the perception of his administration is different across the state’s various zones. In the Ibarapa zone, Governor Makinde is a contentious, polarizing figure. His improper handling of the farmers/herders clashes which left many dead and others homeless remain a dangerous political tactic that can be exploited by opposition parties.
    Apart from his inability to calm fraying nerves at those tough, heightened times, the general feeling in the zone is that Governor Makinde has practically abandoned them in infrastructural development. You don’t need a soothsayer to tell you the intention behind the Governor’s choice of Ibarapa as a take-off ground for his campaign. In Ibarapa, the cost is unclear on who wins the vote. Around Ibadan, it is hard to give Governor Makinde a convincing lead. His promise of spreading prosperity is seen as a ruse.

    Instead of turning the state and importantly Ibadan into another economic hub that would benefit from the trickle-down effects of Lagos and Ogun states, Governor Makinde has rather turned the city into one of the dirtiest in the world. For those that looked forward to a clean, safe city to live in, re-electing Governor Makinde is seen as a drawback. For them, the argument is simple: three years should be enough to demonstrate your best – running a clean and livable city. The feeling is different among taxi drivers. With the way PMS boys have caused notoriety, many drivers and commuters believe that voting for GSM is a nudge for exploitation and extortion. Up till now, the billions of naira revenue generated by PMS is still shrouded in secrecy. Ibadan is still sketchy.

    In Oyo, Governor Makinde has made appreciable imprints in the ancient town. The construction of the GGedu-Oroki-Sabo-Asipa road is seen as a game changer. His relationship with power brokers is also seen in a positive light. The most important factor that will swing people’s votes would be the general acceptability of the next Alaafin of Oyo. Should Makinde lord over his preferred candidate on the people; they might collectively express their displeasure through their votes. There may be a protest vote from the town. The death of former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala has made Ogbomosho a prized asset that’s up for grabs. Governor Makinde’s strategic choice of Oyo North Senatorial district candidate is instructive.

    By choosing from Ogbomosho, the Governor has made it clear he wanted to win the zone. Ogbomosho is crucial to winning at the poll with its intimidating voting bloc – no candidate worth its name would toy with the zone. But many in the town still considered the choice of a US-based Pastor as the next Soun of Ogbomoso as an affront. For now, the game is still on. Finally, in Oke-Ogun with its ten local governments, the completion of Saki township road, reconstruction of OYSADEP, and the ongoing reconstruction of Saki-Ogbooro-Igboho road are all seen as gains for the Governor; there’s a tendency the town may massively vote for the Governor.

    In Iseyin, the removal of Deputy Governor Rauf Olaniyan has unsettled many in the town. But the choice of Iseyin as the site of the LAUTECH satellite campus can be a turning point for the Governor. While Governor Seyi Makinde hasn’t touched and toured some local governments since winning the last election, he has made both Saki and Iseyin his preferred towns in the zone. The reason is not far-fetched: the voters’ turnout is impressive. To answer the question that formed the subtitle of this column: can Makinde really win the 2023 election? Well, the answer is more complicated.

    OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s Opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via @TheGMAKing on Twitter, muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850

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