Those who watched the presidential campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Monday, may have drawn a hasty conclusion that hope is all lost for the party and its presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in Ogun State.
But those with deep understanding of the game of politics would know that all that transpired would paradoxically shore up the interests of the party.
The activities of hoodlums at the MKO Abiola Stadium, venue of the rally, could not have been totally unexpected, given the issues at stake before the event. The noticeable disturbances could not diminish Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s organisational ability and passion for Buhari.
The governor did not leave anyone in doubt of his love and passion for the President when he urged the people unequivocally, to vote for Buhari on February 16.
Although on the surface, given what transpired at the rally, it seemed that the dichotomy in the Allied People’s Movement/All Progressives Congress (APM/APC) ranks was tending to produce a negative outcome, but, indeed, it has served to elevate the fortunes of Buhari in Ogun State in comparison to other South West states.
Amosun has campaigned statewide and vigorously for Buhari, same as Adekunle Abdulkadir Akinlade. The combined efforts might give Buhari the largest votes in the South West. What this means is that the President is banking on the full support of two parties, which is an advantage above any other presidential candidate.
For reasons that verged between Amosun’s sagacity and the People’s Democratic Party’s self-inflicted misfortunes, and the obvious lack of seriousness on the part of other political parties in the state, it does seem that any contender for the presidential seat against Buhari might be holding the shorter end of the stick in Ogun’s political calculus.
For several weeks now, the state has witnessed robust campaign drives by both Amosun and Akinlade. In their avowed commitment to jointly deliver the state to Buhari, the Amosun/Akinlade campaign machinery has been awesome and overwhelming. It is as if other parties and candidates have gone to sleep. In Ogun West and Central, for instance, there is no appreciable showing that competes with Akinlade’s APM and Amosun’s wing of the APC. Even in Ogun East, where Dapo Abiodun, APC governorship candidate, and Buruji Kashamu of the PDP, hail from, the Amosun/Akinlade team has made an impressive showing.
Much as APC’s leadership would have wanted to rein-in the “obstinate Amosun,” his time-honoured relationship with Buhari has been a limiting factor. Although he could rightly be charged for subversive political activities with the emergence of Akinlade’s APM, the intriguing development has been serving Buhari’s interest more and neither Amosun nor Akinlade with their groundswell of support for Buhari can be said to be working either directly or indirectly against the interests of the President.
That was why the President, at the Abeokuta rally, urged the electorate to vote according to their choice and conscience on the March 2 gubernatorial election, which some chieftains of the party have reacted to. But no one should blame the President for he clearly understands the dynamics of Ogun politics and what interest would serve him most. With that deft, non-commital declaration in favour of Abiodun at the rally, Buhari has further wormed himself into the hearts of the teeming followership of Amosun and Akinlade.
The political engagements in Ogun have been a campaign of wits, huge resource armada and tenacity of purpose. Neither Buruji nor Abiodun or even, perhaps, the struggling Gboyega Isiaka can upset the applecart, which Amosun and Akinlade are shouldering.
APM has no presidential candidate, Buhari is its adopted standard-bearer, a fact that Akinlade trumpets to the highest heavens anywhere he goes. Reading his lips, there is little doubt the huge following he has been able to garner within so short a period will overwhelmingly vote for Buhari and he manifestly urges them to do so. It is evident also that, should Akinlade win the governorship contest, he will at once, return to his erstwhile party, APC.
Apart from Lagos, with its huge resources, no other state in the South West has mounted an unprecedented media and publicity campaign in favour of Buhari. However dire the electoral fortunes of Buhari might be in the South West in particular and other parts of the South in general, Ogun is sure to post an impressive showing for the President at the Saturday polls.
The real issue is the fact that the incumbent governor believes that, for equity, justice and fair play, all the ethnic groupings in the state should be given the opportunity to exercise control of power.
Since the creation of Ogun State, Yewa/Awori people of Ogun West have not produced a governor, which has bred rancour and feelings of marginalisation, especially among the Yewa elements. The thinking is that Akinlade’s emergence would placate the people in that axis and also help to address whatever infrastructural deficit they may have suffered over the years.
Although Akinlade, if elected, must not concentrate wholly on his side of the state, it is expected that his emergence would nonetheless enable him embark on projects that would invariably make his people develop a true sense of belonging thus preventing or indeed excoriating the latent and manifest primordial feelings that have been brewing among the Yewa people.
That was the thinking of Amosun, who pitted him against some party bigwigs in APC. Undaunted, he decided to swim or sink with Akinlade, who not only moved to the APM, but has been posting positive and impressive showing in his political hustings across the state.
From a dispassionate observatory, Akinlade looks good to becoming the next governor, going by his unrelenting political drive, compared to the admittedly muted and diminutive campaigns of his fellow gubernatorial contestants.
Having been part of the Amosun administration in the last seven and a half years, the APM candidate will no doubt find it easier to flow with the ongoing capital projects initiated by the current government, if voted into power.
The Amosun administration has achieved a lot of feats in terms of infrastructural development and economic vibrancy, resulting in Ogun State’s internally generated revenue growing from N750 million to N7 billion monthly. Akinlade would never do less but increase the tempo of work.
Despite the fact that Amosun has thrown his weight behind the gubernatorial candidate of another party, the governor has, however, made it abundantly clear to the world that he is in support of and working for the re-election of Buhari.
Campaigning for Buhari, Amosun, the APC senatorial candidate for Ogun Central, said: “From 2015, Buhari has focused on delivering on his three major campaign promises: security; curbing corruption, and the economy. Buhari has systematically plugged leakages through which enemies of our country siphoned our resources. We all know that there are many who are ‘uncomfortable’ with the current environment as it is no longer ‘business as usual.’ ”
The unfolding Ogun elections will serve as an intriguing case study for political pundits now and in the future.