So far, the 2023 presidential election has proved to be a lofty box of intriguing surprises for candidates and stakeholders, leaving many sleepless and jerking them to make a reassessment of their strategies.
The Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, an engineer, is topmost among those whose political positions are threatened as the country prepares for the March 11 governorship and state assembly elections.
Coalition forces still on the menu
Governor Makinde, who is seeking to return to the Agodi Government House in Ibadan, is presently facing the arduous task of navigating through the possibility of coalition plans amongst his opponents, such as Teslim Folarin of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bayo Adelabu of Accord Party (AP), Olukayode Popoola of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and others. Indeed, coalition is not an impossibility because pundits are already touting the idea ahead of the next elections.
Like the previous elections, especially in 2011 and 2019, the 2023 exercise also promises to be a semblance of what played out in those years when a coalition of political parties and strange bed fellows amongst politicians coalesced structures to wrest power from incumbents. Those affected by this development were the late Adebayo Alao-Akala of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who lost reelection as a sitting governor, and the late Abiola Ajimobi, who was the first governor to rule the state twice but failed in his bid to install Adelabu as successor in 2011 and 2019 respectively.
Ultimately, the threat of an alliance between other contestants may be heightened as Folarin is already consolidating on his party’s success at the just concluded polls. In his congratulatory address to the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Folarin encouraged Oyo residents to replicate the February 25th feat during the governorship election, saying, “It is indeed going to be a new dawn for us in Oyo State. A government of the APC at the centre led by Asiwaju Bola Bola Tinubu and Oyo State under the party led by me is the best as this would give us the much desired greater state.”
The Folarin camp is leveraging on Asiwaju Tinubu’s success and those of the victorious House of Representatives APC members to fine-tune this project and run a fierce battle to send the governor packing from the Agodi Government House.
Likewise, Adelabu of the Accord Party is not resting on his oars even after his party suffered a massive defeat in the last weekend elections.
He has not declared an alliance nor stepped down for any of the two gladiators, instead, he is speeding up his campaign prowess. However, we must not be caught unawares as politicians are very unpredictable and there is still time to make ample choices.
The wounded lions
It is believed that for Makinde, navigating through coalition is not as worrisome as sailing through the waves of internal rejection that awaits him in Oyo PDP, which could endanger his political standing in the governorship election.
A former Majority Leader the House of Representatives, Mulikat Akande-Adeola, contested the Senate for Oyo North under the Social Democratic Party but lost. She is now routing for Folarin. Others who have been embroiled in the crisis of attrition are Alhaji Adebisi Olopoeniyan, who is now a chieftain of the NNPP; Chief Nureni Akanbi; Mr Femi Babalola and a host of other PDP leaders in the State.
It is said that “If one’s death doesn’t come within his residence, external forces would not be lethal,” so Governor Makinde would ultimately need the backing of the state PDP, many of whom he failed to establish a solid romance with before the elections. As a result of his self acclaimed policy of redefining political leadership and governance in the state, he has lost grace with many PDP elders and stalwarts. Some of them, like a former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi, former Minister of Special Duties, Elder Wole Oyelese, among numerous others, have either decamped to other parties or remained passive towards his course.
In the just concluded presidential poll, Tinubu polled 449, 884 to beat his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP who polled 182, 977. Labour Party came third with 99, 110 votes, Accord Party had 39,514 votes, while the NNPP scored 4,095 votes. The APC also won the three senatorial districts and a good number of the 14 House of Representatives seats in the state. Indeed, the successes could be a harbinger of his fall. There are allegations that some of the National Assembly aspirants whose victories were botched are fuming and threatening to work against Makinde, who they perceive as being behind their ordeal.
Unlikelihood of APC/Makinde pact
A very hot conversation had ensued between Makinde and the APC gubernatorial flag-bearer during a debate at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, few days before the presidential election. At the climax of the argument, Makinde threatened to reopen the Eleweomo murder case after he had implied that Folarin had a hand in it. Folarin, on the other hand, dared him to reopen the case.
Also among the source of confrontation was the issue of local government autonomy and the Park Management System (PMS) policy of the state government, a situation that pointed to the belief that there was no political synergy between both gladiators before the elections.
The altercation happened a week after the successful hosting of the APC presidential candidate and now president-elect, Bola Tinubu, at the state government secretariat, where Makinde, a prominent G5 member, warmly received the former governor of Lagos, a benevolence he denied Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.
Makinde had also refused to publicly campaign for any of the two presidential candidates: Atiku and Tinubu. He had, on many occasions, encouraged the citizenry to “vote for equity, fairness and the unity of Nigeria” at the presidential poll. When he eventually told people to vote for PDP candidates from “top to bottom,” just 24 hours to the election, it was not regarded as a serious advert for his party.
It is believed that Makinde’s actions could have been sponsored on the premise of the G5s disapproval of Atiku based on tribe, which Tinubu applauded. There could be a combination of other factors. But the likelihood of entering a pact with Tinubu or the APC is arguable.
In fact, the APC Presidential Campaign Committee (PCC) has debunked the insinuation that Tinubu’s visit to Makinde was not an endorsement; rather, it was in fulfillment of one of the party’s campaign programmes. Nike Ajagbe, a member of APC’s PCC, stated in clear terms that Tinubu would not support Makinde at the expense of Folarin because he (Tinubu) was a party man who cannot joke with the success of his party across the country, especially in the South West, which is regarded as his stronghold.
The road to reconstruction
Premised on the omoluabi (gentlemanly) sentiments, Makinde could be applauded, especially after his subtle accreditation of Tinubu has become more pronounced than the overall efforts of the state’s APC factors. But analysts have argued that his omoluabi gesture has rather endangered his political chances come March 11.
With the successes recorded by his major opposition, Makinde’s body language seems to have changed. Presently, the PDP is increasing its media awareness campaign on how to identify and vote for the party.
He is rechanneling his energy in coordinating alliances and fence mending with aggrieved PDP House of Assembly candidates who lost out in the election.
It is also noteworthy that no congratulatory message has emanated from his quarters, more than 24 hours after Tinubu became president-elect.
On paper, Makinde looks good to retain his position because of a number of landmark achievements and the recent display of omoluabi gesture, which appeals to the sensibilities of the common Ibadan man, but the outcome of the March 11 polls could still be as unforeseen as a surprise.
It is believed that the remaining elections would be won on the power of negotiation, fence mending, bridge building and other weighty factors.