Governorship elections in Oyo State always go down to the wire. In 2011, the late Abiola Ajimobi defeated incumbent Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. Mr Ajimobi’s reelection in 2015 made him the only governor so far to serve a second term in the history of the state.
But by 2019, Mr Ajimobi had fallen out with powerful elements in the state and had lost much public support. As a result, he lost his bid to move from the governorship seat to the Senate and candidates of his All Progressives Congress (APC) were routed in many constituencies across the state. His anointed governorship candidate, Adebayo Adelabu, also lost the election.
Although Seyi Makinde who defeated Mr Adelabu in 2019 is seeking reelection, political pundits are saying the governorship poll in the state this year again remains too close to call.
Fifteen political parties have candidates in the election, but it has been billed as a three-horse race, Governor Makinde’s two main challengers are the senator representing the state’s central district and candidate of the APC, Teslim Folarin, and Mr Adelabu who is flying the flag of Accord Party.
Mr Adelabu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), moved to his new party after losing the APC governorship primary to Mr Folarin by 327 to 954 votes.
Mr Adelabu and his supporters alleged fraud in the primary and then left the party in anger.
The three major candidates are well known to the voters and each obviously fancies his chance of winning the March 11 election.
Incumbency, Coalition and Cracks
Born on 25 December 1967 in Ibadan, the state capital and largest electoral block in the state, Mr Makinde started at St Paul Primary School before moving over to St Michael Primary School, Yemetu, Ibadan where he took his first school leaving certificate., For his secondary school education, he attended Bishop Phillips Academy, Monatan, Ibadan.
At the University of Lagos, he bagged a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He also has certificates from the Lagos Business School (now Pan-Atlantic University), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States.
Before venturing into politics, he worked with international organisations, including Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), and Rebold International Limited before founding his own company, Makon Engineering and Technical Services Limited (METS).
Mr Makinde could be said to have struck gold in his professional and business careers as he declared to be worth N48 billion in cash and assets before the Code of Conduct Bureau immediately after winning his election.
His first governorship bid was in 2014 ahead of the 2015 election. But when he could not secure the PDP ticket, he decamped to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to run in the election but came a distant third behind the APC and PDP candidates.
After they fell out with Mr Ajimobi before the 2019 poll, some political bigwigs in the state adopted Mr Makinde as the consensus candidate of a coalition of four opposition parties under the PDP ticket. He won and took office at the end of May that year, becoming the fifth governor of the state in the Fourth Republic.
The coalition that backed Mr Makinde in 2019 included the governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Olufemi Lanlehin; the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Sharafadeen Alli, and that of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Bolaji Ayorinde.
Other prominent figures in the coalition behind Mr Makinde include a former governor of the state, Rashidi Ladoja, and a former Oyo central senator, Monsurat Sunmonu.
However, that coalition began to disintegrate after Mr Makinde’s election as the members fought over the spoils of victory. They accused the governor of failing to honour the agreement reached before the poll.
First to dump the coalition was Mr Lanlehin, followed by the candidate of the ZLP and that of the SDP.
The only PDP senator in the state, Kola Balogun, who represents Oyo South district, also left the party after losing the return ticket to the senate.
Other bigwigs like former House of Representatives Leader, Mulikat Adeola, and an Ibadan political chieftain, Adebisi Olopoeyan, have also dumped the ruling party and have vowed to ensure Mr Makinde’s fall at the poll.
Also, the Deputy Governor, Rauf Olaniyan, who has now been impeached on the grounds of gross misconduct, abuse of office, and financial recklessness, among others, has defected to the APC.
Some other aggrieved members of the PDP in September 2021 had earlier vowed to work against Mr Makinde’s re-election bid. They accused the governor of sidelining them to shower his favour on “outsiders, ” who allegedly contributed little or nothing to his electoral success in 2019.
They described the governor’s alleged failure to satisfy party members as a betrayal of the party’s trust.
Their meeting, held at the Jogor Events Centre, off Liberty Road, Ibadan, ahead of the party’s state congress, was attended by members drawn from the 33 local government areas of the state, including Mrs Akande; a former deputy governor of the state, Hazeem Gbolarumi; Nureni Akanbi, and Femi Babalola amongst others.
Mr Makinde also garnered more enemies within the party over his antagonism of the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar. Mr Makinde is a member of G5, a group of PDP governors who are opposed to their party’s presidential candidate. They are also calling for the removal of the National Chairman of the party, Iyorcha Ayu.
Some voice recordings obtained by our reporter from a PDP meeting showed that many PDP members in the Oke Ogun area are in support of their party’s presidential candidate and are also opposed to the second term of the governor.
However, despite all the challenges, Mr Makinde still enjoys the goodwill of many residents of the state, especially in Ibadan.
Yet, the governor may not have it easy on election day as the same script acted to pit the majority of voters against his predecessor, the late Mr Ajimobi, seems to have been adopted against him
But the governor’s body language shows he is not perturbed by the situation.
It should be noted that out of the five PDP governors opposed to Atiku, only Mr Makinde is seeking re-election.
A source in the government of Oyo State, who demanded their name not be mentioned for the fear of reprimand, told our reporter that the governor is not bothered about the developments against his second-term ambition because he and other members of the PDP G5 may endorse the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, who enjoys considerable support in the state.
The source said Mr Makinde’s move may instead weaken the support base of Mr Folarin, as the ambition of the APC governorship candidate may be traded off to get the incumbent governor’s support for Mr Tinubu in Oyo State.
Mr Folarin is a foremost Ibadan politician and a three-term senator. He was elected in 2003, 2007 and 2019.
Born in 1963, Mr Folarin is the head (Mogaji) of his family house and a ranking traditional chief in Ibadan land. He is the Laguna Olubadan of Ibadan land.
He attended Nigeria’s premier secondary school, Methodist Boys High School, Lagos before proceeding to the University of Ibadan for a B.Sc degree in Political Science. He also has a diploma from Harvard University, USA.
Mr Folarin is a man of different public images. Some consider him a well-read politician judging by his vast certification and exposure, but others perceive him as a power-hungry politician with an army of enforcers.
In 2011, he was arrested for alleged conspiracy in the murder of a former leader of the National Union of Transport Workers (NURTW), Lateef Salako, aka Eleweomo.
Mr Folarin was detained for 10 hours and charged with two counts of conspiracy and murder. He was not found guilty of the charges.
His Chances in 2023
Mr Folarin is from Ibadan where the governor and Mr Adelabu also hail from. While it is likely that the votes from Ibadan will be shared among the three major candidates, other regions like Oyo town and Ogbomoso are APC strongholds, while Mr Makinde enjoys more support in the Oke-Ogun/Ibarapa areas.
The presidential candidacy of Mr Tinubu is also expected to work in Mr Folarin’s favour. The presidential and National Assembly elections will be held two weeks before the governorship, and the result usually influences the outcome of the latter.
Hence, Mr Tinubu can only be a major plus to any gubernatorial candidate if he wins his election.
The Accord Party governorship candidate was born on 28 September 1970, into the Aderibigbe Adelabu family of the Oke-Oluokun compound, Kudeti Area in Ibadan. His grandfather, Adegoke Adelabu (aka Penkelemesi), was a famous politician in Ibadan before his death shortly before Nigeria obtained independence.
Mr Adelabu attended Ibadan Municipal Government primary school, Agodi Ibadan from 1976 to 1982 and Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan from 1982 to 1987. He had his first degree at the Obafemi Awolowo University where he studied Accounting. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and an Associate Member of the Institute of Directors of Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
He was runner-up to Mr Makinde when he contested under APC in 2019. Many believe he could have won on his own popularity but was punished by voters because he was late Mr Ajimobi’s candidate.
It is a popular belief that he will get a good share of votes in the state capital, which has the largest number of voters compared to the other regions of the state.
However, his Accord Party does not have a strong structure and war chest to wrest power from the two major parties.