As preparations for March 11, 2023, gubernatorial elections gather momentum, Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), may likely face certain hurdles in his quest for a second term in office.
Although the incumbent is said to have successfully crossed one hurdle of getting the party’s re-nomination ticket in a manner many aggrieved members described as a ‘stage-managed governorship primary’ when he contested and defeated his only opponent, Hazeem Gbolarunmi, a former deputy governor of the state, pundits believe there is more work to be done in reconciling disenchanted groups within Oyo PDP. They deplored the solo show Governor Makinde seems to be doing in the preparation for the 2023 governorship contest, claiming that the governor looks more like a lone ranger since almost all the critical stakeholders that worked for, or with him in 2019 to become governor have defected to other platforms. They accused Makinde of running an exclusionist style of leadership.
Another hurdle he may likely face is the possibility of not getting any external support or sympathy as he goes into the race. It is believed that Makinde’s loyalty to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who contested but lost the PDP presidential primary to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom he (Makinde) allegedly shunned during his (Atiku) visit to Oyo State to woo party delegates, may also not work in the incumbent’s favour.
The governor is also alleged to have had frosty relationships with other PDP stakeholders before, during and after the PDP presidential primary, such that he will need more reconciliations and fence-mending to do outside the state, to get support.
Recall that Makinde is one of the PDP governors that encouraged Dr. Abdul Azeez Adediran, aka Jandor, PDP’s governorship candidate in Lagos, in his bid to upstage Tinubu’s political machinery in the state. The Oyo State governor is therefore likely going to be on a head-on collision with the national leader of APC, who may want to do everything possible to have Oyo on his side in the coming general elections.
However, the biggest headache that may undermine Makinde’s second term bid, is the ongoing move to impeach his deputy, Engineer Rauf Olaniyan. Political observers opined that the move is capable of affecting the governor’s re-election ambition adversely if it is not properly managed since it might cut off a large chunk of votes of Muslim communities in Oyo State. Olaniyan is a devout Muslim and religious sympathy may sway in his favour when the campaign starts.
It is also said that the legal battle that will follow the impeachment process is not what Makinde can resolve between now and Mach 11, 2023 when the governorship election will be held. Reference was made to how Governor Rotimi Akeredolu found it impossible to impeach his deputy, Ajayi Agboola, who, like Olaniyan, defected to another party before the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State.
With less than nine months to the 2023 governorship election, the crisis affecting Oyo PDP is festering. On April 30, after the majority of the critical stakeholders in the party left PDP in droves to join APC, the incumbent Deputy Governor, Olaniyan hung on. The deputy governor and Makinde had been at daggers’ drawn and things came to a head recently when they could no longer cover their differences.
Not long after the 2019 gubernatorial election, members of the coalition that worked to bring the incumbent into office began to disengage from PDP on the grouse that Makinde did not honour the agreement upon which they supported him to win.
While Makinde kept saying those speaking ill within the ruling PDP in Oyo were requesting that he should use the state’s resources to feather their nest, they dismissed the allegation, saying that contrary to what was initially agreed before he secured their support to win, “Governor Makinde completely jettisoned the interest of those who brought him into office by refusing to give them necessary appointments and or government slots due to them.”
It was also alleged that Makinde continued to run a one-man show to the detriment of the political interests of his supporters and political godfathers. In the midst of the allegation and counter-allegations, the party’s national headquarters set up a reconciliation committee headed by former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki but the committee could not resolve the crisis.
Some leaders in the Southwest zone like the former governor of Osun State, Gen. Olagunsoye Oyinlola (retd) and erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George also made concerted efforts to reconcile the warring factions to no avail.
Recall that the incumbent Deputy National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Taofik Arapaja spent almost all the time he used as national vice-chairman, Southwest zone, trying to resolve the internal squabbles in Oyo PDP. Last year when the party held its congresses, the crisis in Oyo PDP had worsened. It held parallel congresses where Makinde had a separate executive and the likes of Alhaji Bisi Olopooeyan, who had since defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), had a separate congress where a parallel executive emerged.
In the midst of the crisis, the position of Olaniyan was not too clear. Was he with his principal or taking side with the governor’s foes? In April when Olopooeyan finally dumped PDP, he (Olopooeyan) assured the public that Olaniyan would not contest with Makinde for a second term in 2023. As a matter of fact, Olopooeyan specifically said then that the deputy governor would soon defect as they defected. Unfortunately, both Makinde and Olaniyan kept denying the no-love lost relationship until the deputy governor started accusing his principal of side-lining him in the scheme of things and governance.
And on June 5, almost two months after Olopooeyan’s prediction, Olaniyan defected to the opposition APC. The deputy governor announced his defection while speaking with journalists in his private office in the Ojoo area of Ibadan, saying, the defection does not affect his position as the deputy governor because he is yet to resign. The deputy governor added that he took the decision after consultations with his supporters from across the state.
Olaniyan, who described politics as free entry and free exit, added that all his political supporters prevailed on him to join APC. But in a quick response to Olaniyan’s decision, the party’s executive loyal to Makinde, asked the deputy governor to resign immediately, having abandoned the political party and the votes that produced him on the party’s joint ticket.
The state’s Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Akeem Olatunji, explained that the PDP leadership in the state, Southwest region and at the national levels all intervened at different intervals to resolve whatever the situation fueling the suspected defection plan was, to no avail.
Olatunji insisted that PDP would resist any attempt by Olaniyan and his new party to steal the Oyo people’s mandate through the backdoor after the last ruling party was utterly rejected at the 2019 governorship poll.
Disappointed by comments credited to the deputy governor after officially announcing his defection, PDP cautioned against what it called selfish motivation. It said such a move amounted to daylight robbery of the people’s mandate.
The party cited Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees freedom of association of any person. It added that the deputy governor ought to be enlightened by the same Constitution when it stipulated that the ticket upon which he (Olaniyan) contested the 2019 governorship election alongside Governor Makinde as a deputy was not an independent candidate ticket.
PDP cautioned Olaniyan that failure to follow its advice and adhere strictly, it shall not hesitate to immediately deploy every constitutional means to prevent the daylight robbery. And to live up to its threat, the PDP-controlled Oyo State House of Assembly, on June 16, started the process of impeachment against Olaniyan following the signing of a petition against him at the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Adebo Ogundoyin. The allegations included gross misconduct, abuse of office, financial recklessness, abandonment of official duty and insubordination, among other offences.
Ogundoyin said the petition and notice of allegation against the deputy governor were in line with the constitution. He said a letter of notice would be served on Olaniyan after which he would be given seven days to respond to the allegations. The seven days ultimatum elapsed last Wednesday.
But before the Olaniyan issue started, there had been insinuations that the Executive Chairman of Oyo State Housing Corporation and former Commissioner for Justice in the state, Barrister Bayo Lawal has been acting in the capacity of deputy governor. It was even rumoured some time ago that Lawal had been selected as Olaniyan’s replacement.
And no sooner had the state Assembly served Olaniyan a notice of impeachment, than Chairman of the PDP in Oyo State, Dayo Ogungbenro, announced that Lawal, who is also from Oke Ogun Oyo North like Olaniyan, was to replace the embattled deputy governor.
The governor, at the meeting held at the Presidential Lodge of the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, said following consultations with party leaders, he has picked a running mate from Irepo/Olorunsogo/Oorelope Federal Constituency, where his incumbent deputy hails from, to ensure balance in the power configuration.
However, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) faulted the impeachment move. The human rights organization called on Muslims in the state to vote out the governor for his anti-Muslim activities.
This was contained in a statement issued by the director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The statement reads in full: “The Oyo State House of Assembly last week served an impeachment notice on the deputy governor of the state, Engr Rauf Olaniyan. We reject this move. We are aware that there has been no love lost between Governor Makinde and his deputy. But the governor himself knows the true motive of wanting his deputy out of the way.
“We put it to Makinde that his desire to remove his deputy is religiously motivated. He wants his deputy removed because the latter is not on the same page with him in his Christianisation agenda in Oyo State. Impeachment is therefore a ruse, Christianisation is the agenda.
“The new Muslim running mate will also be used and dumped like Olaniyan. Makinde cannot stomach the company of a deputy who does not share his vision of exclusionism targeted at Muslims. The new running mate will also be benched when the governor is done with him and it is the same feeding-bottle lawmakers that would be used to get rid of him.
“Makinde intends to run an Alpha and Omega system where Muslim deputies will be changed at will. This is his own way of protecting his anti-Muslim policy where the evangelisation of the school system will continue unchallenged with undue preference given to Kollendar crusaders to access the state schools and students indiscriminately.”
Intrigues Of Impeachment
WHILE it looks like the odds are against Makinde ahead of 2023, the governor must have also done his homework and come to the conclusion that removing or sidelining Olaniyan and those who left PDP would have no negative effect on his return bid.
In terms of popularity, their amiable look Makinde appears to endear him to many of the grassroots people, especially market women. The women believe that the aggrieved stakeholders were only trying to hold the governor to ransome.
An opinion taken across some major markets in Ibadan does not indicate that the masses hate Makinde. The only grouse few of them have is the excesses of members of the Park Management System (PMS) that have created some security breaches in Ibadan.
For instance, the governor may be playing on the data that Oke Ogun, which comprises of 10 local councils, where the incumbent deputy comes from is responsible for just 18 per cent of all the votes in Oyo State whereas Ibadan has the largest vote of between 49 and 51 per cent depending on the turnout. Oke Ogun where the deputy comes from and particularly the Igboho axis, his area is one of the least populated.
A member of the party told The Guardian that Makinde has neglected the deputy from day one. “The allegation of gross misconduct and financial recklessness lacks substance and could be challenged in court because this is a man that does not sign any voucher. There is no ministry under him, he has no vote or allocation; so what gross misconduct would anyone accuse him of? He has never absconded from coming to the office despite all the ill-treatments. If you say he left your party for APC, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar left PDP for AC in 2007 and it was challenged in court and PDP failed. The effort to impeach Olaniyan will only make him popular and richer because he will challenge it in court and make reference to Atiku vs Federal Government.”
The party source also said Makinde is having a free day now because APC is not really addressing the issue. “If the opposition is that viable, PDP wouldn’t have even thought of impeaching Olaniyan at all. The best he could do is to relegate his office as former Governor Rasheed Ladoja did to his deputy, the late Adebayo Alao-Akala.”
On whether Olaniyan will add any political value to APC, the party source said, “One is a big factor in politics. So, Olaniyan joining APC as a deputy governor is a big plus. But he may not have added any impact to APC.”
On the impeachment, he said, “To impeach him, you need a two-thirds majority to get that done. Interestingly, some of the legislators that have written their names on the impeachment notice are opting out now. Some of them are saying they were not consulted. With about seven months to the general election, it may not be possible to get him impeached before the election. So, Makinde is only attracting unnecessary distractions for himself.”