Oyo APC primary: How the pendulum swung towards Adelabu
The series of permutations, calculations, consultations, conversations and campaigns regarding who would fly the flag the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 governorship election in Oyo State formally came to an end at about 3.30am on Monday, October 1, 2018, when a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Adebayo Adelabu, was elected candidate at the primaries of the party held at Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, Ibadan. The race which began with over thirty persons on the starting blocks, about three weeks ago, down to seven aspirants who reached the home stretch, did have its several curves before Adelabu breasted the tape.
As announced by the chairman of the Oyo APC primaries committee, Demola Seriki, under halogen lights, Adelabu was the party’s candidate having polled 4,889 votes as against the 65 votes garnered by former governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala and former Oyo Commissioner for Health, Dr Azeez Adeduntan, who had seven votes. This had been preceded with the announcement by four aspirants: Mr Joseph Tegbe, Dr Olusola Ayandele, Dr Owolabi Babalola and then Mr Niyi Akintola of their withdrawal from the race, right at the venue of the primaries. Akintola’s withdrawal was, however, delayed and filled with lamentations when he said that he took the decision against the wish of his family and felt cheated that his years of working for the progressives were not rewarded.
However, the coast actually had become clear for Adelabu on Sunday morning when, after several consultations and communication with stakeholders of the party, within and outside the state, leader of the party in the state, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, bought into the candidature of Adelabu as best for the party in the 2019 governorship elections. The saying that “twenty-four hours is too long a time in politics” did come to play as the pendulum swung towards Adelabu, only hours before the primaries, as against the candidature of Tegbe which gained momentum in the weeks preceding the day of primaries. Though Adelabu finally emerged with little or no opposition, several factors did play up his candidature as best for the APC.
The 48-year old Adebayo Adelabu of Oke-Oluokun compound, Kudeti area of Ibadan, is a grandson of the articulate grass-roots politician of pre-independence Nigeria, Chief Adegoke Adelabu, popularly called “Penkelemesi”. The late Adelabu is renowned as a smart individual with literate qualities which he put to use in his several agitations and opposition against perceived societal disorders. Imam of Oke-Oluokun, Alhaji Amidu Oluokun, described the late Adelabu as a man of the masses who was loved across the country for his brilliance.
According to Oyo APC chairman, Chief Akin Oke, the party had to cash in on the “Penkelemesi” legacy which resonated with Adebayo. To this end, the party had to canvass for Adelabu’s candidature to ride on the back of the “man of the masses” legacy that the late “Penkelemesi” stood for. This apparently edged out one of the aspirants, Mr Joseph Tegbe, who faced an identity crisis. While some said Tegbe was an Itsekiri man, others argued that he was from Labo compound in Ibadan. In the light of this, the Tegbe campaign organisation, for weeks, floated various videos to remove the cloud over the Ibadan citizenship of Tegbe, but the tag, “ki i se omo Ibadan (he is not an Ibadan son)” remained. Therefore, Ibadan people were not likely to vote for him, and by extension, the party. Though observers note that Ajimobi was keen on having Tegbe as candidate, leaders and party leaders warned of the consequences of Ibadan not voting for a Tegbe whom they do not consider as their true son. Tegbe had missed out in getting the ministerial slot of the state hence Ajimobi’s desire to have him get the party’s governorship ticket. Political analysts note that the individual himself amasses over 30 percent of votes which the party complements. The party would have had to expend efforts on tackling identity crisis which will be played up by the opposition. So, those odds were against the perceived governor’s favourite, Tegbe.
Bearing in mind the narrow escape that the APC had in emerging victorious in the recently concluded Osun governorship election, the party leader, Ajimobi, like several other leaders in the state, was indeed in a state of dilemma, till the morning of the primaries. According to observers, the party was wary of the consequences of choosing a wrong candidate. On the morning of the primaries, Ajimobi still continued consultations to be sure that Adelabu was the right decision. He, for the last time, met with state executive council members of the party, and some of the aspirants and party leaders at government house. In fact, the governor’s convoy was enroute the Adamasingba stadium, at about 12.30pm, only to turn back just before the Mokola bridge, as Ajimobi again had some consultations around Chief Bode Amao’s house, before the convoy finally left for the stadium at about 3pm. The worry for Ajimobi was that the party paraded aspirants who had rich curriculum vitae capable enough to be the party’s candidate. Ajimobi had persistently maintained that he had no preferred aspirant.
According to one of the aspirants, Dr Owolabi Babalola, the aspirants could not reach a compromise because no one could question the capability of the other aspirant and they had to throw the task back to the party. At this point, the party had to commit the aspirants to signing an agreement to subsume their interests and support any candidate that the party chose.
Irrespective of the agreement, two aspirants — Alao-Akala and Adeduntan — had the day before the primaries announced a boycott of the primaries, noting that the exercise was already tilted to favour a candidate, Tegbe. They further argued that Ajimobi was bent on imposing a candidate on the party. Special Adviser to Ajimobi on Communication and Strategy, Mr Bolaji Tunji, had described the position of Alao-Akala as surprising, noting that he was a party to the agreement to support any aspirant that emerges. Consequent upon the withdrawal of four aspirants and boycott by two others, Adelabu smoothly emerged.
For Oke, the fact that Adelabu emerged without crisis showed that the party took a popular and most acceptable decision. Some other party members, in various conversations at the venue of the primaries also noted that if Adelabu had not emerged, the party would have faced an uphill task in the governorship election. This optimism was echoed by Ajimobi, who after Adelabu’s emergence, avowed that the APC was in good stead to win the governorship election.
In his remarks just after his election, Adelabu sought the cooperation of other aspirants to ensure the party’s success in the general election. Declaring “No victor, no vanquished”, Adelabu assured of forming a formidable government and pledged to build upon the strides and achievements of the Ajimobi government.
“The hardest of the job has been done by Governor Abiola Ajimobi who has laid the foundation for good governance. The kind of transformation we have witnessed is unprecedented but I believe we are just starting. Your legacies will last longer than you can envisage. I pledge that the good works of Senator Abiola Ajimobi will be projected, developed upon. The work has just started but I know that we have all that it takes to win the general election. We have a leader who has never lost any election, and with his support, we will win the 2019 election. We must start preparing for the general election. I will use this mandate for the development of Oyo State and Nigeria, in general. I want to thank my leader, the architect of modern Oyo State, the most successful politician of Oyo State. He has given me a privilege which must not be misused. I thank my fellow aspirants. We have not won, we have not lost. Today, we have not won or lost an election, there is no victor, no vanquished. We have seen the profiles of the aspirants of the APC and this has not happened in the history of the state. All the aspirants have what it takes to be the governor of the state and that was why it was difficult for us to arrive at a candidate. I don’t envy the leader of the party who had challenges in endorsing any candidate. He said he believes in our capabilities. All we have done is giving the task of forming a formidable team for the next government to the youngest of the aspirants,” Adelabu said.
Though Adelabu has emerged candidate of the APC in the 2019 governorship election, the main race of who occupies the Agodi government house, after Ajimobi, is only about to begin.