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#NigeriaDecides2023: Heavyweights that will determine Ogun governorship Poll

The battle for the Ogun State Governorship appears to close to call among the top three contenders in the race – Dapo Abiodun of the…

The battle for the Ogun State Governorship appears to close to call among the top three contenders in the race – Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress, Ladi Adebutu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and ‘Biyi Otegbeye of the African Democratic Congress (ADC). our Correspondent in Abeokuta takes a look at the major factors that would determine where the governorship pendulum will swing on Saturday.

OUTCOME OF PRESIDENTIAL/NASS POLLS

The ruling APC swept all the three Senate and nine House of Representatives seats in the February 25 election. Just as it delivered the state emphatically for Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the presidential ballot.

The APC’s feat remains a pointer to what may will play out on Saturday. In 2019, opposition parties had three House of Representatives seats and in 2015, late Buruji Kashamu was elected Ogun East Senator on the platform of PDP, same as Ladi Adebutu and Adesegun Adekoya (Attacker) respectively elected into the Green Chamber. Adekoya who is the last man standing PDP Rep lost re-election on February 25.

Some analysts, however, feel Saturday’s poll would be a different kettle of fish. Unlike in the presidential election when APC leaders buried their hatchets and pushed for Tinubu’s victory, the ruling party will be going into the Saturday’s poll divided. Former Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, is strongly backing ADC’s Otegbeye against Abiodun. Like Amosun, some dissident APC members especially those who lost the party’s ticket are likely to work against Abiodun during the election.

However, some observers say the Tinubu factor, sentiment and the need for the state to be on the same page with the government at the central, will also play a huge role in the governorship poll.

ALLIANCES/ENDORSEMENTS

Many elections have been won on the strength of alliances. In the last two weeks, there have been aggressive political “signings,” endorsements and validation across the political lines. Strange bedfellows are coming together to form an alliance to unseat the ruling party, just like the APC is strengthening its fold by poaching some players from the opponents’ camp.

Abiodun has been the greatest beneficiary of the political realignment and what pundits have termed “procured endorsements.” From traditional rulers, religious leaders, union leaders, transport unions’ groups, students, market women and different groups of non-indigenes, the governor has enjoyed validation. His country home in Iperu-Remo has turned into a Mecca of sorts where he is receiving political defectors and endorsers on a daily basis.

Last week, Johnson Fatoki, the Ogun State coalition agent for the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubabar, during the February 25 election, joined Abiodun’s APC. Apart from Fatoki, other chieftains of the PDP who joined APC, include Segun Seriki, Otunba Femi Osifade, Alhaji Saula Adegunwa, Ralph Olaosebikan and Mr Tola Mebude.

Others are the former Financial Secretary of PDP in Ogun State, Bola Odumosun, Chairman of the Elders Council, Alhaji T.A. Olatokunbo, Alhaja Fatimo Sonibare, former chairman of Ijebu East Local Government, Michael Agbolaade and former House of Assembly member, Akeem Salami. The governorship candidates of the smaller parties have equally declared their support for the governor.

The PDP’s Adebutu has equally enjoyed support of some candidates like the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Tony Ojeshina, who stepped down and backed Adebutu. He also collaborated with about ten parties and groups recently, while admitting that it would be an uphill task to defeat an incumbent with alliance. Findings revealed that the PDP is strongly working in collaboration with the New Nigerian Peoples Party and candidates of the Labour Party to strengthen its fold.

Perhaps, what has added more glamour to Adebutu’s camp was last week’s truce with Segun Showunmi, one of the PDP’s governorship aspirants who has been battling the flag bearer over the party’s ticket. Showunmi was featured on a live Radio programme last Thursday when Adebutu made that unexpected call and appealed to him. Showunmi agreed and he has been one of the leading voices campaigning for Adebutu.

Interestingly, ADC’s Otegbeye believed the electoral body and the BVAS do not recognize endorsements at the poll as only valid votes would be counted.

POLITICAL BIGWIGS

Findings have revealed that major political bigwigs will also determine the outcome of Saturday’s election.

All the three former governors in the state, Aremo Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, and Senator Ibikunle Amosun are members of the ruling party. While Osoba and Daniel are in Abiodun’s camp, Amosun is backing the ADC candidate “with his full chest.”

Apart from the former governors, the Lagos West Senator, Olamilekan Adeola, who was recently elected to represent Ogun West, is also a factor in the election.

Serving Senators, House of Representatives and Local Government Chairmen will largely determine voting patterns in their respective areas. The ruling APC still controls a large number of these seats in the state.

FINANCIAL WAR CHEST

Saturday’s poll will also be determined largely by the financial strength of the major actors. What more? vote-buying has become an integral part of Nigeria’s election. Despite the biting cash crunch during the February 25 polls, findings revealed that political parties heavily induced voters who were paid via their banks’ accounts.

The incumbent governor who has control of the state’s resources, perhaps, has the greatest advantage over others who are equally not pushovers.

Adebutu’s father, the business mogul and philanthropist, Sir Kessinton Adebutu, is strongly bankrolling his son’s governorship ambition. Just last week when his son met with some pensioners in the state, the father through a representative announced N10,000 for each of the attendants as a “transport fare.” About 1,000 pensioners were present at the meeting.

Also, the ADC’s Otegbeye will heavily rely on Amosun’s ‘bank’ to finance his election. But one thing is certain, it will be difficult or impossible for him to outspend the incumbent governor.

ABIODUN’S ‘PERFORMANCE’

First time governors rely on performance while seeking re-election in the office. In Abiodun’s case, there is no consensus that the governor has made good of his on electioneering promises to the state, in nearly four years in office.

Under his watch, Ogun debt profile has increased. Lagos, Ogun and Rivers are the three most indebted states, according to the latest data from the Debt Management Office. Lagos owed N780.48bn; Ogun, N241.98bn; and Rivers, N225.51bn.

Insecurity has also increased in the last four years of his administration. Herder-farmer’s clashes, cult war, rape and most especially kidnapping nearly brought the state under it kneels. Hardly a week would pass without a record of kidnapping or killing in the state. Ijebu axis, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Imeko-Ayetoro road, Soyoye community are some of the areas prone to kidnapping.

Cult clashes most especially in Abeokuta, Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode, have claimed dozens of lives. In January 2021, members of the Eiye Confraternity were arrested for allegedly killing 25 persons within a month in Ijebu Ode and its environs.

However, his government made efforts in tackling those challenges including collaboration with neighboring Oyo and Lagos State, establishment of the Amotekun corps and donation of vehicles and ammunition to the security agencies in the state.

His efforts in infrastructural projects like Ijebu-Ode/Epe expressway, Agro -Cargo Airport at Ilishan and rehabilitation of some inner and link roads across the state have attracted applause from the residents.

The governor also failed on workers’ welfare, education, health, sports and the Local Government autonomy which he promised to drive the growth and development of the grassroots. For instance in the health sector, the United Nations Children’s Fund has disclosed that Ogun State recorded the highest number of childrens’ deaths in the southwestern part of the country.

UNICEF stated further that 68 out of 1000 children between the ages of 0 and less than one year died after their birth in Ogun State.

According to the body, Ogun State has also ranked the highest in the deaths of children between 0 and five years with the record of 85 deaths out of 1000 children.

CIVIL SERVANTS AND PENSIONERS

As a governorship candidate, you can only ignore the votes of the civil servants and the pensioners at your own peril. These groups also constitute large junk of voters and losing their support will spell doom.

In nearly four years, civil servants and pensioners have fought Abiodun’s government over the unpaid entitlements.

Last year, Labour Leaders in Ogun State went on strike over what they termed the “pathetic plight” of workers in the State. The workers accused Abiodun of non-remittance of 21 months salary deductions, eight years of unpaid Statutory Leave Allowances and breach of the State Pension Reform Law, 2006 (amended 2013) in the implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme. During the strike which lasted for three days, the NLC lost one of its members.

Also, the senior citizens have protested more than ten times over the backlog of their gratuities amounting to about N68billion. The pensioners have become a thorn in Abiodun’s flesh and they have threatened to work against him because they believe he is not sensitive to their plight despite having retirees as parents.

POWERSHIFT AGITATION

Agitation for powershift to Yewa/Awori, the only region that has not produced the State’s governor since its creation of the in 1976, remains undying.

Otegbeye hails from Ilaro in Yewaland and he is playing on the sentiment to garner votes from the region. Amosun is also flying the kite of “Yewa for Governor”, as part of his “commitment” to yield powers to the Ogun West Senatorial district. He supported Adekunle Akinlade from the region while exiting power in 2019, but his anointed candidate lost.

In what appears to be a twist, virtually all the traditional rulers from the marginalised region have declared their support for Abiodun’s re-election. They argued that Abiodun should be allowed to serve his maximum term of 8 years in order to give the region a better chance to produce his successor.

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