By Funmi Branco
In the coming months, preparations for the 2023 general election will enter the critical phase. Already, aspirants eyeing various positions have begun subterranean moves to undercut their potential opponents and tilt the pendulum in their favour. It is taken for granted that most of the things that would happen in the build-up to the general election would happen in 2022. As aspirants mobilize and prepare for the forthcoming primaries, inter and intra-party alignments and realignments would take place. And winners and losers will also emerge in 2022. As gladiators for presidential, governorship and National Assembly elections make their case, there are indications of the shape of things to come. And Ogun, the Gateway State where Prince Dapo Abiodun holds sway as the fifth democratically elected governor, is no exception. Indeed, talking about political intrigues and, until very recently, violence, Ogun ranks high among the states with the most drama. Within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in-fighting and internecine conflicts are indicative of the seriousness with which the major camps view the 2023 contest.
Gradually, though, Governor Dapo Abiodun is becoming the rallying point for APC faithful and fortunes in the state even though his predecessor, aware of the shift of power away from his base, has been deploying every trick in his political book to achieve a paradigm shift. Observers seem to be quite agreed that what has been giving Abiodun leverage over Amosun is his character and Omoluabi principles. They point to how the Iperu-born prince has been able to manage the complex party issues that have arisen since May 29, 2019 when he took over the Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, top office. Nigerians are well aware of how he came to office amid bottlenecks and barricades. Having lost out at the governorship primary, the then Governor Ibikunle Amosun nurtured his succession plan through another party. During his campaign, Abiodun’s posters were destroyed and his convoy pelted with stones. The situation was in fact so terrible that when President Muhammadu Buhari took his re-election campaign to the Gateway State, he was pelted with stones by people believed to be supporters of the then governor. And even after Abiodun won, a barrage of court cases came up, over which he ultimately triumphed.
And while some gladiators were reported to have canvassed a fire-for-fire approach that would have made it difficult for the former governor to even visit the state, he chose the path of peace, believing that he was duty-bound to demonstrate his Omoluabi credo. Indeed, until recently when he was apparently provoked by the political violence that took place in the state, it had been difficult to draw him out into the political arena. Indeed, the events of Saturday, October 16, when the former governor and some of his aides were fingered in the crisis that occurred at the palace of the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, during a factional congress of the APC were disturbing. The police paraded about six suspected thugs who were said to have revealed the sources of the ammunition found on them. While the Ogun State chapter recognized by the National Working Committee of the party held its congress at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, the faction loyal to Amosun held a parallel congress at the Palace of the Alake of Egbaland, contrary to the directives of the national caucus of the APC. While the faction loyal to Senator Amosun elected Chief Derin Adebiyi as the chairman, the Abiodun camp produced Chief Yemi Sanusi. Apprised of the violence at the Ake palace grounds and the arrest of the perpetrators, Abiodun had to come out and read riot act to political desperadoes, warning that he would not allow anyone to throw the state into chaos.
One highlight of Abiodun’s strategic build-up to 2023 is the quality membership he has been able to attract to the party. Among many others, he has been able to bring former Speaker Dimeji Bankole, former Governor Gbenga Daniel and his arch rival, Gbeyega Nasir Isiaka, into the APC fold. Given the place of the new recruits in the Ogun political calculus, there are many who hold the view that Ogun has effectively become a one-party state, and that the re-election bid of the Iperu prince would be smooth-sailing, as he is not likely to face serious challenge in getting the APC ticket. The story is that having built a solid political base, Governor Abiodun can count on his allies to deliver the coveted prize. Beyond the political structures, many have pointed to the governor’s strides in various sectors, including education, roads, housing and agriculture. They point to road projects like the 10-lane Epe/Ijebu expressway, the floating of tech hubs to drive youth engagement in the Ogun economy, the massive enrolment in schools following the abolition of tuition, the repositioning of the state’s tertiary institutions and the massive promotion and reward of outstanding teachers with cars and houses.
Analysts also point to his two-time recognition by the Nigeria Agricultural Award as Governor of The Year in agriculture, having initiated landmark projects like the cargo airport, given over 10,000 farmers fertilizers, palliatives and continued support across the state; supported young farmers with over 900 hectares of land preparation in 17 locations, with some 2,500 unemployed youths and farmers engaging in cassava production; and set up strategic partnerships with international development partners and farmers in large-scale cultivation of rice and cassava in 36 locations in 11 local government areas. Abiodun is also credited with empowering 54 pilot youths in broiler production with each making a profit of at least N150,000 per cycle for three cycles. Observers point to the linkage of 4,462 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N700m in the cassava value chain, the linkage of 1,065 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N300m in the rice value chain; the linkage of 800 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N360 million under the Ogun State Government/Federal Government/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), with 394 maize farmers, 54 rice farmers and 21 poultry farmers benefitting from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) through the CBN; the construction of14 solar-powered water schemes in select local government areas, and the establishment of a rice processing centre in Eggua, among others.
The contention is that anyone who undermines him does so at his own peril, as he seems poised to take the Gateway State to the next level.
*Branco contributes this piece through email@example.com